How to Throw a Party on a Tight Budget

Your party budget is small or nonexistent but you still want to celebrate, and you can! Throwing a party on a tight budget isn’t just possible; it’s a time-honored tradition! From ‘rent parties’ thrown to keep artists and young professionals living indoors to charity smokers thrown to raise money to help pay someone’s hospital bills, people have been throwing low cost parties for as long as there have been people.
The following cheap party tips can help you to have plenty of fun with friends and family without breaking the bank to do it:


Just because you’ve invited people over to your place doesn’t mean you have to spend hundreds of dollars on alcohol and soft drinks. Most people are used to the initials B. Y. O. B. (for ‘bring your own booze’) and are happy to comply. If your party is large, make sure all the invitations spell out the fact that drinks will not be provided and then stick to that provision.

Throw a Potluck Dinner

Most potluck events end up with so much food that people have to give it away at the end of the party. If you decide to throw a potluck to save money, offer to provide something: the space, the silverware, punch, plastic plates and napkins. It’s also a good idea to ask specific people to bring various dishes so you don’t end up with a table full of 20 kinds of gelatin salads and six pans of brownies. Divide up the meal into main dishes, side dishes, salads, and desserts and assign each person a specific category. People who can’t cook can be assigned chips, dips, or raw veggies.

Meet at a Public Park

Lots of public parks have grills and picnic tables that can be reserved in advance at no cost and many have shelters and restrooms available as well. Make sure you check out all the rules and restrictions before the party, and make these clear to all your guests. If no alcohol is allowed, then you must take responsibility for enforcing that rule should any of your guests decide to bring booze anyway. If you are cooking out, ask everyone to pitch in $5 for meat and bring their own drinks and a side dish.

Organize a Progressive Dinner Party

A progressive dinner party is one in which the dinner guests move to a different house for each course. So the drinks and appetizers might be held in one home, the salad course in a second, the main course in a third, and dessert and coffee in the final residence. This gives everyone a chance to show off their best dishes and their homes without any one person having to carry the total dinner expense. Progressive dinners are so popular in some neighborhoods they become an annual or even a monthly tradition.

Have a Movie Party

Renting a few DVDs is inexpensive and popcorn doesn’t cost much either. Ask guests to bring drinks and any other snacks they’d like to share, and make a night of it.
Theme movie nights are lots of fun too. You can host triple feature monster movie nights, sci fi nights, film noire nights, or Marx Brothers nights. Use your imagination and encourage your friends to get involved in the planning. Movie parties can become a monthly or even weekly tradition among groups of friends and family and it costs very little money to host one.

Get Together to Can, Quilt or Cook

A generation or two ago, it was common for people to get together to can tomatoes, applesauce, or peaches, or to quilt, or to cook large quantities of bread, cookies, or pastries to share. Not only is it a lot of fun to get together to work towards a shared goal, at the end of the day everyone goes home with more than they came with. This kind of party not only doesn’t cost much, it actually saves all the participants money. Other activities that can be shared this way include painting, remodeling, and erecting sheds and garages. The person hosting should provide coffee and soup or chili, and participants can be asked to bring their own materials.

Card Parties and Board Games

Back in the 1950s and 1960s the image of a family gathered around a Scrabble or Monopoly board was a common one in advertising and in reality too. Today, with video games, movies, and electronic music so accessible, board games and card games have gone the way of the dinosaur. Getting six to eight people together to play a board game or penny poker costs almost nothing and can be a lot of fun. Ask guests to B.Y.O.B. and provide nibbles like chips and dip.

Make Garbage Stew

This outdoor cooking endeavor involves a huge pot, a chunk of meat, and the request that everyone bring a vegetable or ingredient. It all goes in the pot to cook, and guests bring their own drinks and bread. The host traditionally provides the dishes, flatware, and napkins.

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