Frugal Party Planning – Let’s Party!

By Sally Pyle (aka Frugal Sally)
Frugal Party planning is easier than you think. I recently hosted a baby shower and I had to put my thinking cap on to make it a frugal baby shower and impress the guests. Some of the ideas I came up with can be used for just about any party or gathering such as a frugal back yard bbq, wedding, birthday, retirement or graduation party etc. Staying under budget all starts with the planning.  Below are some ways you can host a frugal party and not break the bank.
  • Theme

Having a colour and theme in mind will keep you focused and help you to brainstorm ideas. The theme for the baby shower was rubber duckies. You could even have a color theme, such as yellow and blue or pink and purple. The last wedding I helped with had a green and lavender theme and it was stunning. By having a theme it keeps your eye tuned to watching for ideas that have that theme. Making a list of items you need are also important so you are only purchasing the items you will use and not overspending on items you won’t use.

  • Time

If possible give yourself enough time to plan the event and to shop for it. When your time frame is longer it gives you the opportunity to shop for sales in the weekly flyers or look for deals at your local stores. You may also find offers and sales on-line and have them shipped to you without even leaving the comfort of your home.

For the baby shower I needed a bunch of rubber ducks for decorations. I found them in bulk at oriental trading company at a fraction of the price I would have paid in local stores. I also had canvas bags made for a wedding for out-of-town guests through vista print. I had the time to wait for sales and the time it took to ship them to me.
I also used coupons to make many of the table decorations such as the diaper cake and diaper babies. It took 120 diapers to make the cake and another 16 diapers for the “diaper babies”. I used coupons  together with sales to get the best deals on the diapers and stocked up little by little.
  • Invitations

You can find many on-line companies that will custom make invitations for you at a fraction of the cost. I found a great deal on-line through one of the photo companies to make my invitations. The company had an excellent sale on invitations and I had some credits to use, so I thought why not. You could also print or make your own invitations if you are the DIY type or person. I have seen scrapbook paper that you could use to make your own invitations. You could also buy a  DIY kit at a craft store to design invitations the way you want them, which are also popular.

Think outside the box and you can come up with unique ways to ask guests to attend a party or event. I designed a wedding invite for a beach destination wedding that was very unique and worked out well.  I started by locating some small bottles that I filled with a little sand a few tiny seashells. We then printed invitations on parchment paper and either ripped on burned the edges. We then rolled them up like a scroll and placed them in the bottles and sealed them with a cork and wax. This was going to be a small wedding so we only had to make 12 bottles so the cost was minimal but the impact was huge. You could also do e-invites. There are several sites that offer them including Facebook.
  • Timing Is Everything

What time you plan the event is also very important if you are trying to stay within a tight budget. If you plan an event or party at noon or mid-evening, people are going to expect to be fed a meal. If you plan the party for mid-afternoon, say around 3:00 pm then you can get away with finger foods and snacks. A wedding would be around 2 o’clock and you could do a cake and appetizer reception. Always put that on the wedding invitation too so guests are not disappointed that it isn’t a meal (example: A cake and punch reception to follow). If you are on a tight budget then you always want to plan for a time of the day that the food will not take up the bulk of your budget.

  • Let Them Eat Cake

Food is usually the most expensive part of any party. It is wise to plan ahead and plan well. Call in the talents of friends and relatives to help with this. Do you have a friend or can you decorate cakes.  If not try something a little easier like doing cupcakes instead. Maybe you or someone you know loves to cook or bake. It is always worth asking for help, even if you have to pay for it.

We did a beautiful fruit basket that was shaped like a baby carriage all the way down to the baby (made of fruit) inside. We found the idea on-line. You could easily make a fruit bowl or basket from a watermelon. Use in-season fruit to make it less expensive. Finger sandwiches are also a big hit at any party. You can use cookie cutters to cut them into shapes or simply cut the crust off and cut them into 4 pieces. We were lucky enough to have my son-in-law who has a small BBQ business furnish us with BBQ sliders for the party.

I stocked up on candy after Easter for the baby shower. Pretty pastel candy to put out in bowls on the table. I also found some cute little foil wrapped ducks that were perfect for the party….all half priced!! We did the same for my daughter’s wedding, we stocked up on candy after Valentines day. Heart shapes and the pretty reds, pinks and purples were perfect for her wedding candy buffet that she wanted.

Going to big warehouse stores is another great place to find deals on food like appetizers, rolls, prepared salads, candy, baked goods and on and on. If you don’t have a membership, ask a friend who does to take you as a guest. This is also a fantastic place to purchase bulk serve ware, disposable plates, napkins, cups and utensils. For larger functions (such as weddings) we also use the warehouse stores to purchase the aluminum trays for cooking and serving. Keep the food and drinks simple such as Tea, punch and/or lemonade covers just about everyone.

  • Decorations

With time you can search sites like Pinterest and come up with all sorts of ideas that you can do yourself. Take the theme or color scheme and start a notebook of ideas. I know that each week in the paper there are coupons for a craft store that I shop at. I can buy 1 item at a discount (if it isn’t already on sale). So little by little I stash away the things I need for decorating the party including table centerpieces and flower arrangements, all at a discount.

Check out YouTube also for instructions and ideas on just about everything. Don’t be afraid to try to make something you have never done before. Even if it isn’t picture perfect, the guests will never know and will likely be just as impressed. My daughter made huge tissue paper puffs that we hung from the ceiling for the party. It gave the impression of lanterns swaying in the wind. It was the talk of the party, yet she didn’t like the way they turned out. I thought they were wonderful.

  • For Family Gatherings

My grandmother taught me that you never attend a  party or gathering empty-handed. You always bring a hostess gift, a gift or a covered dish. For the family gathering, it is always best to bring a dish. If we are hosting a party we cover the main dish and ask everyone to bring a side or dessert.  Everyone now has “signature dishes” that are expected at these family dinners or a get-together. One of these days I want to put together a recipe book of all our favorites and give it to the family as a gift.

Well, I hope this helps you plan a frugal party and keep it within your budget. A party is a celebration of friends and family…it should never be a strain or stress financially.  Let’s Party!

Guest Post By: Follow Frugal Sally on Facebook or her blog Being Frugal Sally.

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