Entertaining at home, hosting your own events and self catering your parties is a great way to save money. Here are some tips to help you throw frugal parties on a budget.
When I got serious about saving a $90,000 house deposit (you can read about that here) one of the first things I changed was how I entertained. For the most part, I stopped going out for coffee, drinks, dinners and parties and started hosting events instead. At first, I found this really scary, but practice makes perfect. Now I love throwing events. From casual coffee catch-ups, to dinner with the girls to NYE parties with lots of guests. I love it all. It’s fun, its cheaper and it means that I’m always in charge of who attends – no more small talk with frenemies from high school. Plus you’re always invited and you’re never the one stuck waiting on an expensive Uber home.
Below are some general tips for hosting events, with tips for saving money below them.
- Create a FB event / send a group message and make sure to include the start time and parking situation. Once you hit adulthood people need AT LEAST a months notice but appreciate two.
- A slightly less awkward way to set an end time is to say “I’ve promised the neighbours music will be off by x time”. Then at x time turn the music off. People should take the hint.
- I always put a courtesy letter in my neighbours mail box telling them I’ll be having people over for drinks. Especially now that I live in an apartment. I let them know what time they can expect the music to be off by. Then I set an alarm in my phone to remind myself.
Money saving party tips
1. Your friends want to help – let them!
When I host events people always ask if they can bring something. I used to say no, but now I realise that people generally only ask if they mean it. Many people feel more comfortable showing up with something in hand. Often I ask guests to bring low cost items like:
- A small item for the grazing board (more on this later)
- An item I would like to borrow for the party (portable speakers, cake stand, extra chairs, drink dispensers, plates etc)
- A cool decoration item they had at one of their events (fairy lights, chalk board etc)
This really adds up! Every dollar counts when you’re saving.
I am ALL for a free location. I hosted the party at my apartment which was free (obviously). Some other free options are:
- Local parks.
- Local beaches.
- At a friend or family members house.
- Some function rooms have free venue hire. They usually require you to spend a set amount on catering or drinks at the bar though so research wisely. These can be worth it though, if you have enough guests to easily cover the minimum spend.
Food can be a HUGE cost if you don’t plan it well. Some people find cooking really stressful so I totally understand the appeal of paying for catering. No judgement if you want to do this! I would also suggest asking everyone to bring an item and sharing it all family style.
However, sometimes that catering responsibility falls 100% on you. I think an epic grazing board is a crowd pleaser, it’s budget friendly and a less stressful way to cater for a large group of people. They also allow you to cater for dietary requirements and tastes without too much effort, which is a big advantage. There is always something for everyone!
You can also pick your items to suit your cooking skills and budget. Plus, a good grazing board removed the need for a separate dessert, saving you even more money and time. Just put some sweet items on the board and you’re good to go.
Once the party is over grazing boards are so easy to clean up! Just put any left over items in the fridge, put a few items in the dishwasher, wipe the bench and you’re done!
To help with a party budget I suggest using napkins with a grazing board and small plates you already own. If you do decide to buy plates either get plastic ones and wash them for the next party, helping your wallet and the environment. If there is no way you’ll be washing plastic plates (understandable but unrelatable for me personally) get the $1 Kmart paper plates (or similar) that are compost friendly and cheap!
Here is how I plan a grazing board.
- Consider dietary requirements. For my latest party it was allergies to sesame seeds, peanuts, hazelnuts, pine nuts and almonds. Plus two vegetarians were attending.
- Take stock of what you already have to save money. Grazing boards are a great way to use up what you have in the house. At my recent event I used items that were hiding at the back of the fridge / pantry like crackers, a jar of olives, frozen pastry, wrapped sweets left over from Christmas, eggs, pickles, popcorn kernels, tomatoes, red onions and more. NOTE: These items were not included in the total party cost at the end of this post.
- Plan your main food features. To ensure everyone goes home full and satisfied I believe that grazing boards need around 2-3 “main features” that are filling and delicious. Keep it simple and stick with foods you feel confident in cooking, that can be prepared in advance and that are cheap to buy. To save money try to base these foods around what you already have in the house. It’s best to choose foods that taste good hot or cold and don’t require cutlery. On our latest grazing board we had
- Vegetarian spring rolls (Coles brand = cheap).
- Vegetarian / chicken rice paper rolls.
- Vegetarian / bacon quiche.
- Three types of cheese.
- Fill the space with filler foods. The secret to budget friendly grazing boards is budget friendly filler foods. If you look at the ones on Pinterest you’ll see they they are mostly filled with cheap foods with one or two stand outs. Pick your stand outs – we went with nice salami and some (budget friendly) cheese. Then fill with cheap yummy filler foods that people will graze on all night. Pick your filler foods based on what is in season and what you can find on sale; Our grazing boards cheap filler foods;
- Vegetables (carrots, capsicum, cucumber, celery etc)
- Fruit (grapes, watermelon, pineapple, strawberries, kiwi etc)
- Chocolates (wrapped because of the nut allergies)
- A variety of crackers
- Cut up bread with olive oil / balsamic
- Potato chips
- Dips. I just get whatever is on sale / the cheapest. Or I make my own.
- Presentation. The presentation of grazing boards is so easy because you can get so much inspiration online. If you don’t own serving plates, don’t go out and buy them. Instead, I would suggest putting down a layer of baking paper and placing all items on top of it. Its hygienic and easier to clean up later. Place your main feature foods first (or at least the platter they will be served on), then the larger items. Now fill the gaps with filler foods – done! I stick to a few general aesthetic rules
- Your serving platters / bowls don’t all need to match! Don’t go out and buy brand new serving wear- use what you have and save $$$
- Bread sticks in an old glass jar / pretty glass
- Dips out of the plastic containers
- Roll up sliced meats into little tubes
- Place filler items in lines (see photos)
- Pile foods close together, The less gaps the better.
- Ensure there is room around the cheese to cut it / place a cheese knife.
- Spread out each item all around the grazing board. Don’t put each food type in it’s own section.
- Don’t put wet items near crackers.
When I hold events with a grazing board I often ask people to bring one “platter item” that they love. These can be placed on the board as guests arrive. People generally bring some cheese, a dip they like, some fruit, chocolate etc. It’s great because it helps increase the variety on your grazing board and saves you money.
I am a HUGE believer in BYO. This is an instant way to save your self so much money.
It is nice to provide cold water / glasses / glass wear for guests. I always use my glass wear at events and if I’m short I ask a friend to bring some. You can also buy it super cheap from an op-shop. I do have some plastic disposable cups. After parties I wash these and store them for the next event. It’s better for the environment and your wallet.
I like to provide crowd pleasing, cheap and non-alcoholic drinks for everyone to share. A friend, who was not drinking on the night, actually provided mocktails for this particular event which helped my budget.
I have also hosted events where everyone is asked to bring the ingredients for one cocktail and then makes it for all the guests. This is fun because you try multiple new drinks and don’t stay sober for long. I wouldn’t say it’s very frugal though because everyone has to buy multiple spirits. Still great fun though!
I LOVE decorations but it’s an easy way to turn a budget party into a pricey event. First things first, take stock of what decorations you already have at home or can borrow off friends.
Set a theme for decorations. I personally always have a silver / brown paper theme for my parties. That way I can reuse the decorations I have- saving me money. Then I supplement this with specific things if needed. Pink balloons at a friends baby shower, fairy lights on NYE etc, red ice cubes on Galantines. I try to limit this to what I can borrow or buy second hand.
I think the best decorations at parties are photos! These can be printed at Kmart for 10c a photo. Not only do they look good but they’re fun and a great ice breaker at parties. Plus they’re cheap! You can present them by sticking them to walls, creating a photo board or using them as bunting (like I did). Get this bunting at Kmart and reuse it.
Another way to decorate on a budget is to make your presents part of the decorations. For example if you buy flowers as a gift put them in a vase at the party. If you wrap a present use wrapping that matches your other decorations and set it up on a cute gifts and cake table.
Finally a great ‘decoration’ is a grazing board and a drink station! I put glasses on a cute tray, put the mocktails into plastic see through jugs, slice lemons into a bowl and fill a large jug with water that had fruit in it. It looks super cute, is functional and costs (almost) nothing
Professional made cakes, cupcakes etc look AMAZING! If that’s what you want to do I’m all for it.
But I personally always make my own cakes as it’s a great way to save money. If you already have lots of baking ingredients at home it’s probably cheaper to make a cake from scratch. If your pantry isn’t stocked It’s likely cheaper to buy a box cake mix.
Keep it simple. Make lots of icing. Then pick some nice toppers and decorate it- less is more. Even if your cake isn’t Pinterest perfect, people will appreciate the effort. I really think there is something special about a homemade cake.
Buy some neutral candles for the cake and reuse them to save! Just give them a rinse, store them away and they will be all ready for your next event.
Total catered party cost for 17 guests: $71
|Location||$0||At my apartment|
(So much left over)
A friend provided the sushi pictured so its cost is not included here.
|Drinks||$0||I drank drinks I already had and a friend provided mocktails for everyone to share|
|Decorations||$10||Kmart: Photo bunting $8|
Reject Shop: ‘Happy Birthday’ banner $2
|Cake||$14||Coles: Two mud cake box mixes (50% off)|
Kmart: Cake topper and serving board
How do you save money when you host events? Let me know in the comments below and good luck with hosting your own frugal event!
| This post was all about how to host a party on a budget. |
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