Entertaining on a Budget

Sometimes, money is tight. It can even be tighter during the holidays, special occasions, and birthdays. However, you don’t have to give up entertaining your friends and family at home if you’re worried that it would be too expensive. If you don’t have a big budget and you love to host, don’t cancel the idea of a festive shindig. Here are some tips for entertaining on a budget for your next party:

Keep it simple.

Not every get-together needs to be epic, over-the-top, or “the party of the year.” One of the easiest ways to ensure that you don’t overspend is to keep it simple. Most of the time, a simple get-together with your friends or family is enough for the guests to enjoy time together. Doing activities like games using game boards or cards you already have or simply catching up and laughing about stories shared is enough to make a party fun and memorable.

Also, you don’t always have to pick a theme. Themes bring expense by needing to buy items that you don’t have at home. Reduce the pressure and stress of hosting a party by not setting a theme that your decorations, costumes, food, and activities need to focus on. A theme-less party where everyone is simply gathering to break bread is just as nice.

Pick a food theme.

Not having a solid theme keeps things simple, but having a theme for your food can help reduce expenses and keep the menu budget-friendly. For example, parties, where you serve just pizza and chips or just desserts can cut down the number of ingredients you need to buy. On the other hand, if you want to serve a complete meal, consider brunch because breakfast food is often more affordable. It will also decrease the size of your cocktail menu and simplify your drink offerings.

Limit your guest list.

The old saying goes, “the more, the merrier,” but that’s not the case for a budget-conscious host. If you’re on a budget, it’s just practical to keep the guests to a minimum. Invite just a specific group of people, like one side of the family, college friends, couple friends, or co-workers. When you’re on a budget, it’s not the time to host a grand party where you invite lots of people who do not know each other. Keep it small, and your wallet will thank you.

Plan ahead.

When you host a last-minute party, it’s easy to overspend. Since you did not have the time to scour markets and stores for the best deals, you will be tempted to get items and food that you can get right away – and convenience comes with a price. If you plan, you can develop a menu based on ingredients in season, and you can have time to cook them yourself instead of ordering out, which will surely cost more. If you also plan early, you can find the best deals if you need to buy new supplies and buy food and drinks when they are on sale.

Use your own flatware and dishes.

If you own enough flatware and dishes, there’s no need to spend extra money on a party. While disposable plates might seem more convenient to use for cleanup, these are simply an added and unnecessary expense, especially if you’re hosting a party at home where a kitchen sink is available. Don’t worry if everything doesn’t match – it will add charm to your party. If you don’t have enough, then borrow some from family or friends, or ask some of your guests to bring a set and just ask them to come earlier so you can set it up for the party.

Buy neutral, reusable dishes and flatware.

If you really need to buy so, you can have proper and enough serving plates, dishes, and glasses – opt for simple and neutral ones. All-white pieces are affordable, and they can elevate even the simplest meals. Neutral partyware can be used at every event, so buy them instead of red-and-green plates for a Christmas party or a maple leaf-shaped platter for Thanksgiving. You can’t make the most out of themed dishes and serving ware unless, of course, it’s okay with you to use a Thanksgiving-themed platter on, let’s say, your son’s birthday in March. If you often entertain, it’s best to buy a neutral set so you can use them on all occasions.

Keep an inventory list.

As you build your stockpile, it’s vital to keep track of your purchases. First, create an inventory of the things you buy so you know what you already have on hand and what you still need to buy. This will keep you from buying two of the same items, allowing you to stay on budget.

Product
Visual
Where to Buy
3-Tier Classic Rectangular Serving Platter - Three Tiered Cupcake Tray Stand
Porcelain Serving Platters Rectangular Trays White Serving Platters
DOWAN Large Serving Platters - 14 Inches Oval Serving Plates
Premium Food Serving Trays (Set of 3) by 55Kitchen Stackable BPA
HIC Harold Import Co. HIC Kitchen Porcelain Rectangle Platter

 

Platters and serving trays

Product
Visual
Where to Buy
Amazon Basics 6-Piece White Dinner Plate Set
Corelle Square Pure White 9-Inch Plate Set
amHomel 12-Piece Advanced Bone China Appetizer Plates
Anchor Hocking 8-Inch Presence Glass Salad Plate
Dessert Plates White - Small (7 inch) Appetizer or Salad Plate

 

White plates

Product
Visual
Where to Buy
Sweese 101.001 Porcelain Bowls - 10 Ounce for Ice Cream Dessert
Y YHY Pasta Bowls 30oz, Large Salad Serving Bowls, White Soup Bowls
DOWAN Ceramic Soup Bowls, Cereal Bowl, 22 Ounce Bowls Set, Chip Resistant
28 Ounces Porcelain Soup Bowl Set with Serving Stand Large Bowl for Cereal Soup Salad
MITBAK 10 Ounce Porcelain Dessert Bowls | Set of 6 Diamond Shaped White Serving Bowl Plates

 

Individual bowls

Product
Visual
Where to Buy
TGLBT 55oz Porcelain Salad/Soup Bowl- 3 Packs,Serving Bowls
DOWAN 9.5" Large Serving Bowls, 2.8 Quart Big Salad Bowls, Porcelain Pasta Bowl Set
Large Acrylic Mixing And Serving Bowls, Great for Serving Salad
Porcelain Serving Bowl Set with Handles 3 Packs Ceramic Mixing Bowl Set
Sweese 105.401 Porcelain Bowls 10-18-28-42 Ounce Various Size Bowl Set

 

Serving bowls

Product
Visual
Where to Buy
STORi Clear Plastic 64-ounce Pitcher with Lid
Bormioli Rocco Hermetic Seal Glass Pitcher
Youngever 2 Quarts Plastic Pitcher With Lid, Clear Plastic Pitcher Great
DecorRack 2 Large Water Carafes, Bottles with Flip Top Lid, 50 Oz Each
Party Bargains Clear Plastic Pitcher | Premium Quality & Heavy Duty Water Containers

 

Clear pitchers

Product
Visual
Where to Buy
Hiasan Ivory Tablecloth for Rectangle Tables
Kadut Rectangle Tablecloth (60 x 102 Inch) White Rectangular Table Cloth
DriftAway Ryan Tassel Rectangle Decorative Table Cloth
Melodieux Diamond Jacquard Tablecloth Check Pattern Table Cover Water Spill Proof Wrinkle Free
Vinyl Rectangle Tablecloth 54x78 inch Waterproof Oil-Proof Spill-Proof Tablecloth Grey Table Cloth Table Cover

 

Neutral tablecloths

Product
Visual
Where to Buy
Amazon Basics 20-Piece Stainless Steel Crown Flatware Set
Tribal Cooking Silverware Set - Stainless Steel Flatware, Utensil, Cutlery Set
20 Pieces Silverware Flatware Set, Stainless Steel Cutlery Forks Spoons Service
Serving Utensils Include Large Serving Spoons Slotted Serving Spoons Serving Forks Serving Tongs Soup Ladle
Gourmet Basics by Mikasa Kaylee 8-Piece Stainless Steel Hostess Serving Utensil Set

 

Silverware and serving utensils

Product
Visual
Where to Buy
Gold Floral Charger Plates –13-Inch Elegant Chargers – Set of 6
Caspari Rattan Round Plate Charger in Dark Natural Brown
RoRo Large Classic Wood Charger in Oak Stain, 14 Inch
U'Artlines Indoor & Outdoor Round Cotton Placemat, Perfect
Occasions 20 Pieces Pack Pressed Vinyl Metallic Placemats / Wedding Accent Centerpiece Placemat

 

Neutral chargers

Product
Visual
Where to Buy
Classic 24-ounce Premium Quality Plastic Tumbler
Classic 8-piece Premium Quality Plastic Tumblers
Amazon Basics Stemless Wine Glasses (Set of 4), 15 oz
Amazon Basics All-Purpose Wine Glasses, 19-Ounce
KooK Premium Clear Glass Champagne Flutes, Thin Stem

 

Clear glassware

Shop your pantry and fridge.

If you’re on a budget, home-cooked meals are the best option. Scan your pantry and see what you can make with the things you already have on hand. Things like pasta, canned goods, and crackers can transform into some mouth-watering dishes. Plus, it’s a nice way to clean out your cupboards to make sure nothing expires and goes to waste.

Check out your freezer. You may find a pound or two of ground beef or some frozen peas and carrots. Make a dish around those ingredients, then buy what you lack. This way, you lessen your expenses for the party.

Use your household items as décor.

Since you probably already have decorative items that you love in your home, like candles, plants, and home accents – these items can be used to create beautiful centerpieces for entertaining. Rather than spending extra money on party decorations, use items that you already have in your home. Look around to find décor for the event, and only choose to buy if there’s nothing you can use.

You may also want to grab items from different rooms in your house to dress up your party and redecorate without spending much.

Use natural elements.

Another easy and cheap way to decorate your table for entertaining is using elements from nature. Grab items from your yard, like flowers, pinecones, and leaves to create a centerpiece to help you provide a natural look for your party without spending anything.

Borrow supplies and materials.

Instead of buying new items for your party, reach out to friends and family to see if they have what you need. For instance, if you need a Dutch oven, a popcorn maker, a cupcake stand, or a couple more serving trays – ask who has those things and see if you can borrow instead of buying one. Just be extra careful when you’re using borrowed items to keep them in their original shape when you give them back.  

Go easy on the meat.

Meat is the most expensive part of any meal. Serving lots of meat can get costly, so pick a main dish that stretches your meat or uses little meat at all. You may also want to go meatless for a change. There are many satisfying and delicious vegetarian recipes you can find online that are friendly for the wallet and looks gourmet. You can also make a budget-friendly meal that’s tasty by cooking in your slow cooker. You can use less meat, but the flavor is still melt-in-the-mouth delicious.

Here are some meal ideas that capitalize on things other than meat:

  • Beans and rice
  • Baked potatoes
  • Pasta dishes
  • Breakfast for dinner
  • Casseroles
  • Soup and bread

Make it homemade.

While there’s nothing wrong with buying store-bought dishes, going for homemade dishes made from scratch is always cheaper if you want to save money. Here are several things you can make from scratch to save some money:

  • Dips (guacamole, salsa, ranch, French onion dip, etc.)
  • Salad dressings
  • Bread (tortillas, pita, loaf bread, etc.)
  • Beans
  • Pizza
  • Barbeque sauce
  • Chicken or beef stock
  • Spice mixes (Italian seasoning, Cajun, taco seasoning, etc.)

When you make these items at home, you can control every ingredient to suit your tastes. Plus, you can make a batch based on the quantity that you need. When you buy these things from the store, a bottle can cost more, and you’ll have lots of leftovers.

Host a potluck.

The best way to spend less for a party is to host a potluck where everyone brings something. People love potlucks – it’s like a restaurant buffet for free! Instead of preparing everything yourself, let your guests bring a dish or drink instead. By making one or two dishes yourself and have guests bring other items along, you can save on the cost of food and cooking supplies. A potluck will not only help you save money; it ensures that everyone can eat a well-rounded, diverse meal. Better yet, ask everyone to bring their specialty dish to the table, so everybody will be enjoying each other’s special creations.

To host a successful potluck, coordinate with your guests to ensure you get everything covered – appetizers, main dish, desserts, drinks, etc. For example, you don’t want to have three cakes and two sweet pies but no pasta or meat dish.  

Pare down your menu.

You don’t need to serve a fancy menu for your party. When people talk about comfort food and good memories, everybody would love homemade meals. However, if you’re on a budget, it’s not the time to experiment on an international cuisine you have not yet tried to do on your own –ingredients are costly, and you may not get it right, or when you do, people may not eat them because they are not familiar with it. It’s best to serve your guests as you would your family.

For example, you may want to serve a pot roast, or a casserole served right from the pot, a big bowl of soup with crusty bread, then roast chicken served with mashed potatoes. Next, add a vegetable side, which isn’t too much of a cost. Then, make your specialty homemade pie for a filling dessert.

Keep drinks simple.

The bar may be one of the most expensive items in your party budget. To keep costs low, you can ask guests to bring their own booze. Stocking your home bar for a party would be an added expense, so generally, you may want to offer one kind of wine and one kind of beer, with sodas to keep the price way down. You may also stick to serving one festive cocktail, like a rum punch, hot toddies, mulled wine, or sunset margarita.

Freeze ice in advance.

Instead of buying big bags of ice on the day of your party, you can save a bundle by making your own ice. Ice from convenience stores is overpriced – it’s just water, only frozen. It’s so easy to make on your own. Use your ice maker in the fridge to make it in advance, or use ice trays and start several days in advance.