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Throw the Best Dinner Party Ever! (On a Budget, Of Course)

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Jessica
06.18.13

Throwing a party is all fun and games … that is, until you see the bill. Between the decorations, groceries, beverages and cleaning supplies, parties can be a budget-breaking way to have a good time. But don’t cancel the shindig just yet!

With a few tweaks to your party-planning style, you’ll be able to throw a soiree for the books and save a little cash.

Before the Party

Pick a theme. Who said “dinner party” has to mean white tablecloths and five courses? Throw a few blankets in the backyard and invite your friends to a picnic under the stars or set up a few tables on the deck and serve your food potluck style. Either way, a clever theme can save you serious money on decorations and food costs.

Do the math. Invite your friends in advance (we recommend six weeks ahead), so they have plenty of time to RSVP. Extra food, too many drinks and a few too many chairs will mean money out of your pocket.

Once everyone has responded, do some calculations. If your dinner party is finger-food only, follow this rule of thumb: three hors d’oeuvres per hour, per guest. If you’re serving a sit-down meal, plan your menu down to every last detail. Then make a shopping list. When you head to the store, follow your list – no impulse shopping!

Buy in bulk. Food costs add up, so plan ahead and buy your party food in bulk. Once you’ve finalized your guest list, head to your local Costco (or other wholesale distributer) and load up. Tip: While you’re at it, buy these items in bulk, too. Once you’re in the wholesale-shopping habit, you’ll start seeing serious money-saving results.

The Day of the Fête

Decorate on a budget. It’s fun to dress up your house for a party, but going overboard on decorations can give you a financial hangover. Avoid party stores – they tend to be overpriced. Instead, peruse your local thrift store. If you’re planning a picnic, grab a few colorful blankets and throw them on the lawn. Also, see if you can rustle up an old vase or two and fill it with fruit, colorful candy or flowers from your garden.

Think outside the chairs. If you’re going the seated-dinner-party route, chances are you need to add a chair or two to your dining room table. Instead of renting chairs and paying per seat, use an old bench (if you don’t have a bench handy, try asking a friend or checking thrift stores). Clear chairs away from one side of the table and place the bench. Not only will you have plenty of seats, you’ll have some wiggle room if Uncle Joe decides to bring an unexpected friend to the bash.

After the Festivities

Make your own cleaners. So, the party is over and your guests have left a big mess. Save a bundle of cash by skipping the store and making your own cleaners using common household items. From dish soap to detergent to floor cleaner, homemade options work just as well as their store-bought counterparts. For a list of helpful recipes and ingredients, check out this eco-friendly cleaner infographic.

Maximize your leftovers. If you overdid it on food (even with your careful calculations), think of it as buying ahead for the week’s dinners. Take the time to organize the food currently in your fridge, and then audit what you have. Find recipes with those ingredients – even chips can be used in casseroles – and then stick to it. Make a game of it. How many extra meals can you get out of your party? Note: Just make sure you store your leftovers safely

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