Money-Saving Party-Planning Tips


By: , SparkPeople Blogger

Think you can't afford to throw a party? Think again.

Use these tips to save money and throw a great party for your friends and loved ones!

Use smaller dishes. For most parties, leave the dinner plates in the cupboard, and use salad or dessert plates instead. Of course, if it's a sit-down dinner, you can use full-size plates.

Plate food instead of serving it buffet style. You can control the portions, which means you can save money and calories. People who serve themselves are more likely to overfill their plates, thus leaving excess food that will go to waste.

Use real dishes. People will be less likely to return for multiple helpings if they see few plates are left. Sure, you might have to wash dishes or run the dishwasher an extra time, but you won't have to buy disposable plates and silverware or create excess waste by throwing them away.

Serve soups in coffee mugs or serve an appetizer of pureed soups in shot glasses or juice glasses.

DIY buffets. Chili bars, taco buffets, DIY pizza parties are all great money-saving party dishes. The basic dishes are cheap, and people can dress up their food as they like.

Instead of a dinner party, invite friends for brunch, coffee in the afternoon or dessert. Having a party at an "off" time means people won't expect a full meal.

Try a progressive dinner party with your neighbors or nearby friends. One family serves appetizers, another serves dinner and a third serves dessert. You can get elaborate and add more courses, too.

Stone soup party: Assign each family or guest an ingredient to bring for a certain dish (ex: beef and vegetable soup, chili or chicken burritos). You provide the main ingredient, but everyone else brings something to accompany it.

Wild card party: If you like to cook, ask friends to bring surprise ingredients. Pair into teams and create dishes based on the ingredients they brought.

Learn to stretch an expensive item. Instead of serving steaks, serve a salad with steak strips, beef stew or stir-fry. Serve shrimp as an appetizer instead of a main dish. Lobsters prices are down right now, due to an excess supply.

Think pasta! Pasta is a great way to feed an army on a budget. You're only limited by your imagination. Ditch plain old spaghetti for a fun shape, like fusilli (twists), pappardelle (wide, long noodles), farfalle (bows), orecchiette (ears), or rigatoni (short, thick and hollow). Swap plain old tomato for a new sauce like clam sauce, pesto, lemon, or anything else you'd like.

Host a potluck: While you shouldn't expect your guests to bring everything, you shouldn't feel obligated to provide everything. Select a theme, then ask everyone to bring a side, salad or beverage to accompany the main dish.

Go simple with drinks. For one night, your friends can drink water or juice. If you must buy soda, stick to one regular and one diet variety.

BYOB: Keep some beer and a bottle each of white and red wine on hand. Let guests know they should bring their own alcohol.

Do you have a money-saving entertaining tip?

Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
  You will earn 5 SparkPoints
Got a story idea? Give us a shout!
NEXT ENTRY >   List 3 Wishes and Resolve to Make Them Come True


  • 49
    Oh, wow, great ideas here! - 5/15/2017   11:29:24 AM
  • 48
    In relation to #44's comment on the glasses being swapped... Where I grew up we called that "Yankee Swap". The only differance that I can see is we start with one person, and they pick an item. The second person picks an item, then if the second person wants to, they swap with the first person, if not they keep that gift and it goes to the next person. The last person has to take the remaining gift, that is the only one to swap with the first person. Because all the gifts are different, it be really terrific.. - 1/5/2009   7:30:19 AM
  • 47
    Good suggestions. - 1/1/2009   2:05:28 PM
  • 46
    I have hosted sushi parties- I make brown and white rice and provide the seaweed wrappers and have friends bring veggies, fish, and other things to put in the sushi rolls. Lots of fun and interactive making new creations. Besides it is easy to control my portions and choose healthy options. - 12/31/2008   6:39:36 PM
  • 45
    I just thought of another thing to do that is a hoot; if you have a sharp crowd and there is a lull in the fun! Put a movie in the player, turn the sound OFF, make up a different plot than the original one, then have people make up words and mouth them !! Get guys to take the woman's part and bring their voice up a few octaves!! Too funny!! The older the movie the better!! - 12/31/2008   4:38:17 PM
  • 44
    NO more parties for me on ny eve, ( I have to get up at 4 a.m.) but the poster who mentioned about bowls reminded me of parties I used to have.. In summer I had Chinese Auction glass parties,, we had a BBQ, guests had to bring a colorful or festive mug, cup,etc appropriate for the party.. get out a deck of cards, give everybody a card, then put the glasses in the middle of the deck, lawn,etc, when your card got picked from the deck, you picked the glass you wanted to take home!!
    This went on until all glasses were gone,, you could steal from each other, until the end!!
    I did the same for Christmas, having wrapped gifts, even WHite Elephant gifts wrapped,
    If you did not bring a drinking utensil, you had to bring the makings of a drink, then drink yours out of the house glass, leave it there.
    We got quite a collection of neat mugs, glasses. cups,etc over the years,, you can change things to suit your party, group or occasion,,
    ANother fun things was, I bought a watermelon, cut it out, then the guests each brought a fruit to put in it if they wished.. we then made homemade ice cream,, in summer..

    - 12/31/2008   4:32:27 PM
  • 43
    Thanks for the awesome tips! - 12/31/2008   1:24:11 PM
    Wow. These are great ideas. I will try some of them. They will work not only for New Years, but everytime you have a party. Thanks. - 12/31/2008   12:02:31 PM
  • 41
    Will have to keep thses ideas for next year's party. Thanks for sharing. - 12/31/2008   6:19:33 AM
  • 40
    Before we had kids New Years Eve was a huge party that went for about 24 hours. But now with kids and working days and nights both we normally just sit at home and watch the countdown with dick Clark. If we make it til midnight is amazing. Some years though we go to the local casino and see if we can win on the big year end luck yet though. - 12/30/2008   5:44:48 PM
    I love the Stone Soup idea, in particular. You could design a whole fairy tale theme around it...maybe even make it a Renaissance-style masquerade where the guests wear masks of their favorite fairy tale characters, etc. Making notes in my calendar for New Years 2010.

    Most years, hubby and I celebrate quietly at home and this year is no exception. No party, no crowds...just the two of us trying to stay awake until midnight. (LOL..yeah, we're old.) Our menu this year consists of home-made French Onion Soup with toasted French bread and a small topping of Gruyere, a port-wine cheeseball and some slices of extra sharp Cheddar cheese (the low-fat variety, of course!) with reduced fat crackers, veggies and horseradish dip, and for chocolate martini. - 12/30/2008   5:16:56 PM
    we are doing fondue and everyone has to bring something to dip. Enough for 10 people. We are providing the chocolate fountian - 12/30/2008   2:06:04 PM
  • 37
    These are fun ideas! i have been part of progressive dinners in the past and they are alot of fun, sometimes I don't want to leave cuz we get in the greatest conversations, but we have to move on! Stone soup is fun too...especially if you use the story book for kids. I always thought there was a real stone in my soup! - 12/30/2008   12:44:06 PM
  • 36
    New Years eve was my dad's b-day we always did a big dinner party..
    He has been gone now for 2 b-day's so I will not do daughters b-day is new years day so I will do her b-day party.. New Years eve is not the same for me any more..Just another day for me now - 12/30/2008   12:18:45 PM
  • 35

    .•*´¨ ) ..•*¨) -:¦:-
    (. ;.•.♥HAPPY NEW YEAR SPARKPEOPLE ♥.•*¨) ♥.•*!-:¦:-. ;.•.♥
    {¸.•HAVE A GREAT DAY!´{¸ ;.• .•*¨}.•

    - 12/30/2008   12:00:31 PM
  • 34
    My food money is limited for New year's Eve, so that night will be a simple meal with my family and games, possibly my brother and SIL!

    Thanks to the person who mentioned their "bring your own bowl" parties, that sounds SOooo cool and I really want to try that sometime! - 12/30/2008   11:53:39 AM
  • 33
    Years ago we used to go out dancing and really do it up right. My husband was a military man so the Mess always had a beautiful dinner and dance with a levee the next day. It was party the night and day away. That is certainly not the case anymore. I could surely do the dancing bit. I love to dance. But DH has MS and can't do that anymore. Now we do dinner with friends and most of the time we are in bed long before midnight. This year we will be having Chinese food at friends and we will do a big Brunch at a local hotel the next day. I will really have to be careful of my portions. And extra exercise, of course. Smile. Happy New Year all. Merilyn - 12/30/2008   11:24:53 AM
  • 32
    We are hosting a BYOF party for new years eve...bring your own fireworks! And, I'm just going to get a few decorations and a cute new years cake. Fun! Fun! - 12/30/2008   11:05:28 AM
  • 31
    These are great ideas - looking forward to trying them at my next party! - 12/30/2008   10:35:08 AM
  • 30
    Another great idea that my husband just did for me for my 30th birthday party - which was yesterday was a mashed potatoe bar. He went to KFC and bought a 1/2 pound of mashed potatoes and then bought toppings. The mashed potatoes were served in martini glasses to add the flare. It was great. I had seen it done at weddings and is a great cost reducer compared to baked potatoes.

    We also served different flavored martini's so we were able to buy one liquor and use different mixes that were relatively cheap.

    Don't forget that crepe paper goes everywhere. We made our own confetti with the shredder we have at home. No need to buy it.

    Our guests just loved the party and I enjoyed myself as well. - 12/30/2008   10:06:07 AM
  • 29
    We don't do a new years eve party, it has always been just me and the kids for new years eve. Then we all crash. But, we thought about going out this year. Then second guessed it. We do, however do a party for the UFC fights. We have found that you tell people, this is what I am making, if you would like to bring something else, let us know. For example this last party this past weekend, we made kielbasa in a bbq sauce, hot wings, I made some grilled asparagas with balsamic vinegar dripped over it. We also made wheat bread and tossed in some lowfat cheese and some pepperonis. Some people brought chips, some people brought beer. We had soda we got at the dollar store. 3 liters for a buck! Everyone had a blast. Oh I also had a tossed salad, the salad and the asparagus were GONE! Still have some kielbasa and a few wings but otherwise the food is gone. :O) - 12/30/2008   10:03:27 AM
  • 27
    My husband and I have a tradition to spend the New year with our niece and nephew. We usually take turns hosting. This year we go to their house as guests. The next year though I will remember some of these tips. Than You for the great blog! - 12/30/2008   9:27:49 AM
  • 26
    Not hosting a party this year, but thanks for the ideas! - 12/30/2008   8:12:44 AM
    I'm with you graygranny!! I figure it will come and go wether I'm up or not , just another day - 12/30/2008   7:29:44 AM
    Thank you for the excellent tips, Stephanie. I would like to take this moment to say how much I'm enjjoying your blogs. They are inspiring and practical. I did listen to you on the DA show. Great job. Happy New Year.
    Nancy - 12/30/2008   7:02:27 AM
  • 23
    When I have a party, I provide all the food since I want to make sure it's healthy food, I have allowed guest to bring drinks! I do go with the smaller plates because it does save on waste! - 12/30/2008   6:28:15 AM
  • 22
    My neice who was born on New Year's Day never has to worry about a party. She doesn't even have to plan one because she is the birthday girl too :) - 12/30/2008   6:27:42 AM
  • 21
    Im having a party with my family. I dont drink alcohol so thats not a problem not even eatting juck food cause thats out of the question!!.. I have veggie trays & healthy dips to munch on.Im healthy & maintaining my weight & not even a party brining in the New Year will blow it!! - 12/30/2008   5:47:29 AM
  • 20
    Why does everyone seem to think they have to drink alcohol on New Year's. I can think of better ways to enter the new year than with part of my brain asleep! - 12/30/2008   2:44:29 AM
  • 19
    I agree with the poster who said serving just water and juice isn't enough... plus, juice isn't any cheaper than soda, anyway. As a rule, I don't think alcohol is a must at parties, but if I was having a Ne,w Year's Eve party, I would definitely serve some drinks. But then, I've never actually had a New Year's Eve party. - 12/30/2008   1:15:09 AM
  • 18
    i bring things werever I go so I have healthy foods - 12/30/2008   1:11:10 AM
  • 17
    We had a big New Year's Dinner for everyone tonight and we had a TURKEY. Yes, got it on sale at the store for 87 cent/pound as they had 4 marked down. It was a Butterball and had been twice that. Guess they were clearing out the case. Now I have a Turkey in the freezer for Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day and Easter. Good bargain. - 12/30/2008   12:36:09 AM
  • 16
    Great ideas. Thanks! - 12/29/2008   11:43:57 PM
  • 15
    I rarely go out on New Year's. I'm in a college town area, and we have too many fatalities and injury-producing road accidents due to drinking on this holiday. It's not by any means all college students, but the combo of drinking and ice on the roads is dangerous. This is one holiday where I prefer to stay safely snug at home, and use the phone to wish my family and friends a happy new year. - 12/29/2008   11:25:35 PM
    Bite-sized foods always work well, especially if you plan to use the smaller plates. Very few people want a big meal when they are mingling with the crowd. - 12/29/2008   10:36:20 PM
  • 13
    Everyone used to look forward to our "Bring Your Own Bowl" soup suppers we had just before Christmas when our kids were home from college. We called friends, relatives and neighbors and told them just a day or two in advance to drop what they were doing, come in their work clothes, bring a bowl and we would have soup. I love to cook so would have huge kettles of vegetable beef soup, potato soup, and chili. The counter was filled with nutritious breads to slice yourself, and some big chunks of cheese. People ate in every room, visited and came back to be sure they had tried every kind of soup. We kept the sink full of hot water so people could wash their bowls before returning home. I made cookies and candies for dessert and the beverage was coffee or tea. (We don't drink alcoholic beverages.) Our ranch style house often saw 65 - 70 guests over a 4 hour period. Fun was had by all and it was a great way for our kids to see a lot of people while on break. The "Bring Your Own Bowl" novelty was very successful. - 12/29/2008   9:27:59 PM
  • 12
    Add soup to the menu. Soups are very inexpensive to make and it allows you to serve smaller entre portions. - 12/29/2008   7:57:24 PM
  • 11
    Potluck is good. I'm probably taking a salad. - 12/29/2008   7:07:38 PM
  • 10
    My family and I we are all grown so well all make a dish or two to bring to all of our family gathering and Mom provides the main dish. - 12/29/2008   6:13:23 PM
  • 9
    Pot luck works too. - 12/29/2008   6:00:02 PM
  • 8
    My husband and I throw a dinner party at least once a month. We are usually the ones that are forking over the money to buy all the food, but our friends are really good about bring drinks. However, we changed it up for new years eve. We have asked that everyone attending bring about $3.00-5.00 in cash to put towards the main meal and then bring whatever side dish they can (if it's possible for them). We are still supplying a side dish as well as some of the drinks, but for the most part everyone is contributing this time. I prefer the use of paper plates, but we only put out a certain amount that way they don't go to waste.

    ***Energy Saving Tip***
    For New Years Eve we leave up the Christmas tree and we decorate the inside of the house with some of our strands of christmas lights. We use this for lighting rather than having our big lights on. It gives the house a warm glow and cuts down on the amount of electricity used with all those people in the house. - 12/29/2008   5:12:43 PM
  • 7
    Small plates don't work with my friends. They would just grab an extra plate! A friend already tried that one this year for his annual Christmas party. We usually just have each person bring a dish and their own alcohol. - 12/29/2008   4:25:37 PM
  • 6
    I usually bring a dish to the New Year's Eve party that I am attending. - 12/29/2008   1:52:32 PM
  • 5
    We do a New year's day afternoon open house. We serve chili, soup and punch, and it is a popular party--people are ready to stop big holiday eating, and welcome a simple get-together with a focus on fellowship rather than eating. - 12/29/2008   10:43:40 AM
  • 4
    I live in a small mobile home - so don't do parties, but try to help out the friends who do. As for New Year's eve - my friends have become old foagies and generally sit around w/ their grandkids or go to bed. Once my children got 'too old' to ring in the new year with their mother I decided that's movie night. I take myself out to the movies - which can be pretty crowded and watch one or two of the latest flicks. Then I say I spent New Year's eve with the lead actor ;o) Two different years I was with Johnny Depp! Now that's the way to start a new year off right!
    Happy New Years everyone! - 12/29/2008   10:00:22 AM
  • 3

    "A Prince's New Year's Eve Party ..."

    " For one night, your friends can drink water or juice." True, they can, but... somehow toasting the new year with water doesn't bring up images of a prince's New Year's Party. How about an inexpensive punch?

    I do love some of the other ideas though. Small plates. Real plates. Potluck. - 12/29/2008   8:10:50 AM
  • 2
    I guess I am an old-foagy..........usually in bed before the clock strikes 12 and if I am real lucky,,,,those that do party will forget my number and not call and wake us - 12/29/2008   6:30:15 AM
  • 1
    These were good ideas...I just wanted to add another idea.
    We do a New Year's Eve party for kids...we serve water with fun shaped ice cubes (like '09), we assign each kid to bring a favorite fruit or veggie...and we have the kids make their own homemade flatbread pizza. The kids dance to music, and bang pots and pans at midnight (some years the clocks at 9PM were set at 12 PM). We use shoe boxes to draw and make predictions. We do indoor group games. The cost is minimal. The fun is talked about for years later. - 12/29/2008   2:32:55 AM

Please Log In To Leave A Comment:    Log in now ›