Manage Your Debt - Let's Explore Your Options


Penny Wise Parties

Penny Wise Parties

I love parties, don’t you? With the holidays coming, my calendar seems to fill up quickly with parties and dinner engagements. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to host a great party – the keys are planning and creativity.

The first and most important step in saving money with a party is in the planning process. I don’t mean just planning the party itself but planning your parties as far ahead as possible. If you like to give parties, it is a good idea to sit down once a year and create a party plan for the year. List all the birthdays, holidays and theme parties you want to host for the next twelve months. Identify tentative dates for each party and a general theme. This will allow you plenty of time to shop when things are on sale and heavily discounted. Then create a budget for each party and stick to it! You are ready to go.

Get creative with some of our Penny Wise Party Tips from the staff here at AFS:



  • I love giving homemade gifts like baked goods with recipes attached, starts from houseplants potted nicely in painted pot with ribbons & homemade care tag.
  • We keep gift bags neat and recycle them.
  • Have friends take pictures with their digital cameras and at the end of the day you can download all the pictures on a computer and give everyone a disk (vs. hiring a professional photographer).
  • Frame your family picture and use as your gift or Christmas card.
  • For Christmas parties instead of “everyone” buying a gift for “everyone” the group puts their name in a hat and draws one person to buy for.
  • For Christmas parties, put a cap on the amount of money each person spends on a gift.

The staff at AFS leave you with the most important of all – have fun entertaining without going broke. Parties are not about impressing, they are about enjoying.

  • Potluck; everyone make a dish!
  • Use what you have in your pantry/garden/freezer.
  • Cook from scratch, it’s cheaper and people prefer it.
  • Check for ideas and cakes you can make yourself, using the internet.
  • If you know someone who makes cakes or provides pony rides, see if there is anything you can barter for. For instance, if Mary Smith down the street is famous for her neat cakes, see if she would trade you a cake for some other service that you can provide her in turn. You never know unless you ask. And you might make a new friend in the bargain.
  • Don’t pay $30 for party platters; make them yourself with whole vegetables at the grocery store. I can make a large veggie platter for $10.
  • A good presentation can even make potato salad look good!
  • If you’re serving adult beverages, go cheap…boxed wine, canned beer. (They can enjoy the expensive stuff at home!)
  • Cook a whole ham, turkey, brisket and let people help themselves.
  • Serve inexpensive sides so people don’t fill up only on the meat part of the meal (baked beans, pasta salad, stuffing, potato salad, baked potatoes, etc).
  • Hit the bread thrift store for buns/rolls.
  • When we want adult beverages we use the BYOB (bring your own bottle) rule.
  • Collect napkins, plastic cups, plastic plates, etc. at garage sales where they go for cheap. Who cares if things match?
    • DOLLAR STORE! Decorations galore and they are inexpensive!
    • I always check with family members and friends who might have left over birthday party items like invitations, plates, napkins, decorations and games.
    • Shop thrift stores for things you can reuse or remake, I have made up some great games with things I found at a thrift store for next to nothing.
    • Our family plans scavenger hunts for birthday parties; it keeps the kids busy and they have a great time.
    • The Dollar Store has tons of cheap decorations for theme parties.
    • I just went to a “paint party” and everyone helped paint the family’s house and they fed us BBQ’d hotdogs. A lot cheaper and faster to get your house painted!
    • Have a work party to get large and expensive home maintenance projects done and feed the guests.
    • Have your party at a private residence or park instead of reserving a location for money.
      Let the kids create the cake. Frost any flavor of cake and make another batch of frosting in a variety of colors. You can also bake a batch of cupcakes and leave them unfrosted. Get some plastic figures from the Dollar Store. The kids will have a blast and other games may not be necessary. You can let the kids take a hunk of cake home with the figures as favors.
    • Good music and candles make even a modest meal special.

Published Sep 12, 2008.