How to Lower your Party Costs

how to lower your party costs

Every year the Saturday after Thanksgiving I throw my annual Christmas party for my friends from middle school and high school. Sometimes we watch A Muppet Christmas Carol, sometimes we play board games, but everybody always brings a batch of cookies and we always spend about 2 hours singing around the piano. It’s a good time.

This year, I’ve sucked at budgeting. I’m highly considering making it a goal for myself to only spend $500 in January (which sounds like an interesting experiment in itself), that’s another story though. I knew when I started planning that I was going to have to cut down on my costs from the previous years. This is how I did it.

Reevaluate the alcohol options

I’ve been hosting this party since I was 14 years old. The year I turned 21 was the first year alcohol was introduced to the party. Since then, I’ve been buying between 4 and 6 bottles of wine per party, which comes out to about $40. This year I did an experiment and decided to buy a case of beer (I wish I could say instead, but I was too nervous to chance it the first year), for which the cost was 24 bottles for $16 (for Yuengling nonetheless) and people drank that instead. It worked out pretty well. Next year I think I’m only going to buy 2 bottles of wine, which will save me a few dollars.

Reconsider the food options

Some things are not worth changing. For example, I always buy 3 loaves of stuffed breads and that is always an awesome decision – but some things are work reconsidering. I used to make a puffed-pastry-enclosed baked brie with craisins, onions, and brown sugar. The first few years it was a big hit, but the last few years I’ve always had a lot left over. This past two years I decided to pass on that and to make jalapeno popper dip, which we completely devoured. Granted, the total cost of ingreidents came to $23 including the chips, but I would guess that the brie came to about $35 when I was done buying dippers. This could have been done for cheaper by doing a 7-layer dip, spinach dip, bean dip. Maybe next year. Or maybe I’ll make a buffalo chicken dip instead.

Keep it minimal

Last year I went above and beyond and decided to buy everybody tins from Michaels to take cookies home in at the end of the night. It went very well and was a cute idea, but this year I just bought snow-flake zip lock bags and called it a day. Most people just ended up putting the cookies on the tray they brought their cookies on anyway, so it turned out alright. Think about the motivation behind your decisions – I was trying to come up with an easy way to have people take cookies home and was making it way more complicated than it needed to be.

Use what you already have

Every year I bake two batches of cookies – just in case we don’t have enough – which never ever happens, but that’s besides the point. Last year I got pretty fancy and made dulce de leche cinnamon sandwich cookies, which were pretty gosh darn delicious, but I had to buy a lot of ingredients. The year before I made triple ginger cookies, which were delicious but involved buying candied ginger, which is never cheap. This year I looked around the house and saw that my mom had far too many sprinkles (so I made Joy The Baker’s Vanilla Bean Confetti Cookies) and far too much coconut (so I made these Chewy Coconut Cookies). They were both delicious, it saved me some money, and my mom was glad to be rid of a few things.

Rely on your friends

Remember that the purpose of the party is to bring people together, not to drive you crazy or empty your wallet, people are always willing to help. Every year I rely on my friends to bring a batch of cookies each, and every year they do. This definitely takes care of dessert, which is awesome. My friend Mary Beth always plays the piano to provide entertainment – and sometimes she brings A Muppet Christmas Carol, my friend Tom usually brings board games, and Chris usually brings some extra alcohol. Everybody adds a little something in his or her own way. It’s a joint effort.

After all this is said and done, I do want to tell you that I also splurged a little bit and bought stuff to make ‘smores to bring a new tradition to the party. I bought way too many bars of Hershey’s chocolate, which I would cut down on for next year, but that was a pretty fun and cheap way to add a little something to the party. You can apparently assume one ‘smore (is that the singular?) per person if there’s a huge buffet of cookie options on the table, good to know. Not only that, but you can mass produce them using your broiler. I like to call that winning.

Also, I really do need to get better at taking pictures from this event, because somehow these are the only 3 pictures I ended up with (one of which I clearly didn’t even take – photo credit to Lindsay) at the end of the night.

2014 Christmas Party

What are some of the ways that you cut down on party costs?

PS. Don’t forget that this week you can use the code SNAILMAIL to get 30% off the Chrystina Noel shop and if you can type POSTME in the notes section you get free postage on any postcard you buy.

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  • I also employ the byob option on the invite. I still buy a bit of alcohol but not as much as if i was supplying it for everyone. Also I use co-hosting whenever possible, it splits the cost and the stress. These tips are great!! So. Many. Ideas!

    • Oooh, co-hosting. I’m going to have to consider that in the future.

  • I neeed this post at the start of October in advance of my Halloween party! The last two years, I’ve picked themes that I felt like needed their own decor and lots of specialty items. This year, I did a Dia de los Muertos thing and about 85% of the decor I used was stuff I already had. What I did buy, I can use next year for a more general Halloween theme.

    I always do a bad job of budgeting with food and drinks. I always want to have plenty and go overboard…and I feel bad asking people to bring stuff. Something to work on!

    • I also always feel bad asking people to bring stuff. I’m such a go big or go home person and I love doing things for people, which doesn’t help. Props to you for using the same decorations though, and I bet you could find another theme to use those same decorations next year with just a few little tweaks. (Spray paint, anybody?) I’ll let you know if I discover any more tips for keeping things cheap as I go.