Ok, a party might be a bit of a strong word – this is definitely entertaining on budget rather than having a humongous party. I’m not a massive party animal – I like to be in my PJs by 6pm if at all possible, and I’m a natural introvert. That being said, I do like to fill my living room with my friends (and family if they promise to behave)and have a lovely time, filled with food, music and prosecco. When you’re on a budget, though, it can be a bit of a strain on your wallet.
Personally, I like abundance to be the theme of my gatherings. I want people to feel free to fill and refill their plates and glasses as much as they want –nobody wants to go to a party where they worry about taking the last slice of pizza (usually nobody will claim in and then you’ve essentially wasted pizza. Grr.
I’ve compiled a list of ten super simple ways you can entertain without having to panic about the financial impact. Hopefully, they’ll be of help. If you have any more tips, please leave a comment.
1. Preparation is everything if you’re entertaining on a budget
If you know you’re having a party at say, Halloween, start saving now. Tot up how much you think it’ll cost you, add 10% more, divide it by the number of weeks/months you have left, and that’s how much you have to save each month. This is termed a sinking fund, and they’re awesome. We have sinking funds for Christmas, the car and its unquenchable thirst for repairs, and road tax. If you like to throw parties regularly, it might be worth working it into your budget.
2. Start stockpiling booze
If your supermarket has a deal of wine/beer/spirits stock up (as long as you won’t be tempted to drink it all). Booze is always the most expensive thing, so if you stock up, it won’t hit your bank balance so hard. Also, consider serving cocktails or making sangria. Mixers are cheap! Get some cheap drink decorations and you’re golden!
3. Get a lot of cheap food
I’m not a fan of dinner parties. I like a relaxed atmosphere – we have people sat at the table, some on sofas and some on the floor (having to keep the rabbits out of their dinner is a nightmare). My food is equally casual (and cheap). Think bowls of olives piled high, baked potatoes, salad, crisps. Sometimes I’ll do a big pot of chilli. Food that’s filling and tasty. My friends aren’t interested in fancy schmancy food – they come to chat, dance, and stay up till 4am watching Pokemon on Netflix.
4. Double-duty decorations
Fairy lights. Candles. I love to create a sparkly, bright atmosphere with a tonne of fairy lights (I like these ones to plug into the mains and these battery powered ones). I also use battery operated fake candles (safety first, plus they’re more ecomonical and are suprisingly realistic). Once everyone’s full and comfy, I dial down the lights to make it a bit cosier.
The best thing about such decorations is that you can rock them all year round, and who doesn’t like fairy lights? For seasonal touches go for things like festive napkins and plates – they won’t cost much and you won’t have to store them all year round. If you have kids (or just if you want to), you could make cookies and ice them with party-specific designs.
Oh, and flowers are always nice, and last till after the party. Nothing too strong, just in case someone has allergies. Lilys, for example, can be an absolute nightmare if the pollen isn’t removed.
5. Hone the guest list
I’m not a big planner and I HATE stuffy, rigid parties. My parties ALWAYS start with me inviting a work colleague round for a glass of wine after work one night. Then I think of a mutual friend we both once worked with and invite her. And her sister’s back that weekend so her too. And another ex-colleague. So then my mum because they get on well and my mum’s even more incredible after a glass of wine and will INSIST we all play Scrabble. Then my dad because he’ll be home alone and it’ll be another man for Dave to talk to. And so on. Basically, you don’t need to worry about invitations or anything like that – ask a few close friends, get them to bring people, and grow the whole thing organically.
6. Keep entertainment light (and free)
I always plan to make a cool playlist on YouTube and then just have that in the background, but stuff just… happens. Like the time one of our company hadn’t watched Game Of Thrones so we watched all ten hours of Season 1 (this is why it’s important to have A LOT of food). Or when we lamented the demise of kid’s party games, so we played That Game. You know, the one where you roll the dice and if you get a 6 you have to put on the hat, the gloves and the scarf and eat a bar of chocolate with a knife and fork. That was massive when I was a kid. Or Scrabble, because my mum.
People get so hung up on ensuring their guests have a good time, but in all reality, people just want to chat, drink and eat.
7. Let people help
A lot of people have a signature ‘something’ they like to bring for parties. Hopefully, it’ll be cake. If someone asks what they should bring, a bottle of wine is best – something they don’t have to stress over. I always take prosecco to parties – it’s cheap and most people like it. I’d rather have ten bottles of prosecco and too much (if that’s a thing) than one bottle of posh champagne that we have to ration. Quantity over quality!
8. Keep it casual
Insist people turn up in comfortable clothes. You don’t want to have the burden of having to get a new outfit if money’s tight, and you don’t want friends turning down invitations because they have nothing to wear. Yes, it’s nice to dress up sometimes, but don’t think it’s a necessity. And everyone can relax more when they’re comfortable.
If the idea of throwing a party to be-jeaned guests horrifies you, why not ask people to wear their favourite outfit, and then make your guests guess why someone’s prom dress is their favourite outfit.
9. Beg, steal and borrow
Not enough glasses? Borrow them from your neighbour. Low on plates? Ask your mum. If you have 20 people coming round, don’t go and buy 20 new place settings. Get people to bring their own if you can, but there’s no point buying something you’ll rarely use. Luckily I work in a restaurant, so I have easy access to extra crockery and glassware.
(Don’t actually steal).
10. Don’t compare yourself to others.
This is your party, and you can do it your way. So your neighbours had a fancy barbeque and invited the whole street. WELL DONE THEM. If you can’t afford that, don’t worry yourself about it. As an adult (kind of) I relish the kind of parties where you can where what you want, talk to your friends and eat until you’re cylindrical. I’ve never cared that someone’s served the wrong wine in the wrong-shaped glass in the living room rather than the drawing room. TBH, I’ve never noticed.
So, serve chips at your party. After dinner bring out Magnums and Cornettos. Pre-chop all the cheese on the cheeseboard. DO YOU.