Ah, the pomp, the circumstance, the feeling of optimism! Graduations are always joyous affairs and they demand an equally-joyous celebration. But whether you’re planning a graduation party for your soon-to-be middle schooler or have just received a bachelor’s degree, a full-blown bash can become expensive pretty quickly.
Especially, that is, if you ignore these easy tricks for how to save money on your next graduation party.
Set a Budget and Plan
Picture it: You go to the supermarket and see an adorable ice cream cake that you have to buy. Then you see the beverages and you stack up on multiple flavors. On the way home, you pass the balloon store and get talked into buying a pricey arrangement. Before you know it, you’ve spent far more than you can afford on party props and snacks. What went wrong?
Lack of planning, of course. The most obvious-yet-overlooked rule of saving is to build a budget. That means, sitting down and listing all the things you’d like to feature at your party along with their estimated costs. Make adjustments until you have set a specific dollar amount that you are willing to spend. Then stick to it. You can always improvise once you arrive at the store as long as you are staying within the budget.
Host at Your Place & Make It a Drop-in Party
Unless you’re expecting a few hundred guests, the best way to save money is to host the party at your house. That way, you won’t have to pay for a venue and tip employees. And if you don’t have a great space for hosting, consider a public park. (Just be sure to abide by local rules for gatherings).
Additionally, specify on your invitations that it will be a drop-in party. That means your guests can wander in at any time between the specified hours and they’re not obligated to stay for too long. With guests meandering in and out, you won’t have to worry about any kind of big meal to feed everyone.
Snacks and small plates will do just fine at a drop-in party. And if you are throwing the party for your young one, a drop-in also means you don’t have to pay for some kind of big entertainment event. As soon as the children get bored, their parents can take them home.
Make It a Potluck
A potluck isn’t just a good way to save money on food and catering costs. It can be fun for everyone. Ask each of your guests to contribute their own homemade dish to the table. Plus, in the likely event that not everything gets eaten, there will be leftovers for at least a few days.
Of course, if you want to avoid a large amount of leftovers, be clear with your guests about what to bring. Pre-arrange who’s bringing which dish. Not everyone wants to bake a casserole, but most people are willing to bring a box of cookies or a bowl of spinach dip.
Ask for Help
You don’t have to be the only host. After all, graduations are about community — an entire class of students taking the next step together. So ask if a neighbor, friend, or classmate’s family is willing to lend a hand. This lets you delegate responsibilities; for example, one person can be in charge of food while another is in charge of invitations and a third handles party favors. That will keep the social and financial pressure off any one person.
Additionally, play to the strengths of your social circle. “If you know someone who plays music, consider hiring them at a reduced rate as entertainment for the party,” advises Siena Beard of Showbiz CheatSheet. “Or if you have a friend that is great at baking, enlist their help. Family members can also be very helpful by providing ideas.”
Remember, at the end of the day, you are celebrating a huge accomplishment. Focus on that feeling of pride and community, not on party extravagances.