Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Party Planning on a Budget

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So you are planning a party but don't want to empty your wallet to do so. Whether it is an informal get together or an extravagant birthday bash there are several ways to go about party planning that don't have to break the bank. Every party is unique in it's own way and will involve different techniques when it comes to planning but something all parties have in common is a budget. Setting, knowing and sticking to your party planning budget is very important. It doesn't matter how big or little your budget is, it is very important to stick to it. Setting a budget helps make party planning less stressful, purchasing items easier and it helps eliminate impulse buys due to knowing ahead of time what you can/can't spend money on. After you have set your budget it is time to start planning your party. I have created a list of tips to help cut back on cost and stay within your budget. Keep in mind that every party is unique in it's own way so requires different things. This is just a basic list, geared more toward Birthday Parties but works for party planning in general! By following all or some of these tips, hopefully you will be able to cut back on some of the cost and have an awesome party without breaking the bank!

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Plan Ahead:

Start planning your party ahead of time to avoid buying last minute items and impulse buys. By planning ahead, you can set a budget, figure out exactly what you want/need for the party, compare prices and shop the sales. Planning ahead also allows you to book a location and your entertainment for the date needed without chancing them being totally booked and stressing to last minute because you don't have a place.

Double the Party, Double the Fun - If your child's Birthday falls close to a siblings, friend or parent's Birthday, consider having a joint party. This way you can share the cost or save money by only throwing one party. 

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Pick a Theme:

Who doesn't love themed parties, especially children. Picking a theme will help you stay on track when it comes to planning a party. It will allow you to know exactly what colors, wall decorations, cake, etc... you need to get without over doing it and buying everything that catches your eye. A theme also helps keep your party organized and will leave a greater impact on your guest than a bunch of misc party decor. Your theme can be as simple as the color pink or more extravagant like Minnie Mouse's pink Bowtique. Most children already have a theme in mind so don't forget to ask them what they would like!

If you need help coming up with a theme, I recommend using Pinterest. It has millions of different ideas and you can easily create inspiration boards to help plan your party.

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Location:

Look for a free or cheap location for your party. You don't have to rent out the most expensive party room in town to throw an awesome party. A party that is fun and keeps the guest entertained is more likely to be remembered than a boring party at an expensive venue. Keep in mind that your house and your backyard are a FREE location to host your party at. 

***Birthday Party Location Ideas Blog COMING SOON!!!***

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Set a Time:

I usually set my parties for 3:00 p.m due to nap time but the best time to throw a party is between 1:00 p.m and 5:00 p.m. Why you may ask? This time frame falls after lunch but before dinner so your guest most likely won't be expecting a full coarse meal meaning you can save money on food by supplying you your guest with a few appetizers or snacks to hold them over during the party.

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Guest List:

The guest list depends on what kind of party you decide to throw. If you rent out a party room or have it at your house you can invite more people than you could if you had it at Build a Bear or a Bowling Alley. When coming up with your guest list keep in mind that you will be paying for food and entertainment for the guest, plus the more people, the bigger the mess you will have to clean up so choose wisely. I recommend inviting people that will appreciate the invitation and avoid inviting the people that tend to be bossy/negative/all about them. This will help keep your guest happy. Also keep in mind that just because someone invites you to a party does not mean you need to return the invite, especially if you are not close to them.

For children's parties, the general idea is to invite their age plus one. Example: Your child is turning 7 so they can invite up to 8 friends. Children often already know who they want to invite or feel the need to invite everyone in their class so this guideline is often ignored. If that is the case you can recommend an alternative of bringing cupcakes into their class so nobody feels left out and only inviting a few of their close friends to the actual party. 

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Invitations:

I recommend going digital, that's right you heard me, DO NOT spend money on paper invitations. Sending out paper party invitations is very time consuming and it can add up fast. You have to buy your invitation, envelopes and postage then you have to fill out the invitations and address the envelopes by hand, can you say hand cramp... Why go through all that hassle for something that is just going to get thrown away in a few weeks? By going digital, you can easily design your own invitation or find a free template online and send it out via e-mail or social media - Facebook message or event, etc. If someone isn't on social media/e-mail then you can print out an invite and mail it to them or hand it to them the next time you see them. I've created and sent out all my party invitations electronically since 2014.

Make sure to include an RSVP number, address location, and the time the party begins and ends. The RSVP will allow you to get an estimate for food and party favors - keep in mind the not everybody will RSVP. Setting an end time for the party lets parents know when they need to pick up their children. You can remind the parents when the children get dropped off as well because you don't want to get stuck babysitting all night. 

NOTE: You should send out invitations for baby showers and weddings.

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Thank-You Cards OR Goodie Bags:


Thank-You Cards - Thank-you cards are always a nice gesture but they are not a necessity. Not only do you have to purchase the thank-you cards, pay for postage and hand write them all out but thank-you cards require you to keep track of who brought what gift which can be hard with a ton of kids running around. On top of that, most people read them and throw them away so is it really worth the extra cost and hassle? Alternatives to thank-you cards are texting/calling/e-mailing your guest to thank them for coming, posting a general thank-you message on social media, thanking guest when the gifts are opened or thanking your guest for coming when they are leaving. All of these are free and get the point across that you are thankful.

NOTE: You should send out thank-you cards for baby showers and weddings.

Goodie Bags - Goodie Bags are a nice gesture but not a necessity. Most guest tend to spend $10-$15 on a Birthday gift, more if they are a closer friend. You are already paying for your guest's food, beverages and a possible activity depending on where that party is at so why spend extra money on gifts for your guest? You don't want to end up spending more money on the guest than the amount of the gifts brought. If you do decide to pass out goodie bags, keep it simple. Don't spend more than $3-$5 on the goodie bags. You can fill the goodie bags with nik-naks you find around the house your children don't use/play with anymore, check out the Dollar Store/Dollar Tree for cheaper items, or check out the clearance aisles. Items such as bubble wands, play dough and coloring books make great "Thank-You for Coming" gifts and cost $1 max.

Some alternatives to goodie bags are:
  • A PiƱata - the candy/toys collected acts as their goodie bag
  • Baked Goods - bake some cookies or brownies and place them in a baggie with a "Thanks for Coming" note attached
  • Stuffed Animal - with an "Adopt a Pet" sign; instead of buying stuffed animals you can use some you have sitting around the house collecting dust or it's a good way to get rid of some of those Beanie Babies
  • Activity - if you pay for everybody to go to the movies, bowling or laser tag, the activity can replace the goodie bag
  • Craft - if you have some kind of craft such as painting mini canvases or jewelry making at your party, the craft can replace the goodie bag
If you decided to write Thank-You Cards or give Goodie Bags out at your party, that is great but if you are on a tight budget, this is something you can nix. You DO NOT need to do both, one or the other is fine.

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Decorations:

When it comes to decorations and buying party supplies, there are several ways to save money and stay within your budget.

Shop Sales/Clearance - Shop at the sales and clearance aisles at stores such as Walmart, Target, Dollar Tree, etc... for your party supplies. I'm not saying you can't buy anything from a party store but in my experience party stores tend to be more expensive. 

Use Coupons - Stores such as Hobby Lobby and Michael's almost always have coupons you can use and the best thing is you can re-use their coupons if you come back a different day. Or you can just have your spouse by an item then you check out after with another item, both using the Hobby Lobby's 40% coupon. Two 40% off items are better than one!

Shop Yard Sale Sites/Thrift Stores - Facebook usually has yard sale or mom's groups you can join. Join them and keep a look out for party supplies or post asking if anybody is selling what you are looking for. Most people only use their party decorations once then store them, trash them or try to sell them and make a few extra bucks back so it's always worth a shot.

Ask a Friend/Co-worker - It never hurts to ask. Several moms are more than happy to get party decorations out of the way so they will most likely let you borrow them or even give them to you.

Do It Yourself (DIY) - If you have the time, you can save tons of money by making your own party decorations. You'd be surprised what you can make with some paper, markers, scissors and glue. If you aren't a very crafty person, Pinterest and Google have several tutorials on how to make decorations.

Party Supplies - Buy plain cups, plates and utensils. Plain/Solid Color party supplies tends to be a lot cheaper than buying decorative and themed party supplies. You can even decorate the plain party supplies with paper, markers, tape, etc...  if you have the time. Re-use what you can from past parties and save the left over supplies for future parties. If you bought plastic cups you can run the used ones through the dish washer and save them for a future party. 

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Food & Beverages:


Food 

Food plays a big roll in every party. Sometimes it can help make or break the party. Every party is unique and requires different types of food but here are a few ways to help lower the cost.

Time of Day - The time of day can play a big roll when deciding on what food to supply. Like I said above, 1:00 p.m to 5:00 p.m is a great time to have a party because this time frame falls after lunch but before dinner so your guest most likely won't be expecting a full coarse meal meaning you can save money on food by supplying you your guest with a few appetizers or snacks to hold them over during the party.

Get a Head Count - Hopefully you will be lucky and everybody will RSVP on time, but that's doubtful. You can always send out a remind to your guest saying, "Please remember to RSVP by ...", message the guest you have yet to hear from asking if they can make it to the party or you can just estimate by taking the number that RSVPed and adding a few. By getting a head count you will know about how many guest you need to supply food for. This will help you limit your spending because you know how many people will be there so you can buy just for them instead of buying for everyone you invited and this way you won't be stuck with a ton of leftover food.

Plan Out the Menu - Creating a menu will help keep you from impulse buys.
  • Appetizers/Desserts ONLY Menu: By sticking to one type of menu item, you can save money. The main course tends to be the most expensive part of every meal so by having only appetizers for your guest or only desserts for your guest to snack on will help cut back on cost.
  • Suggest a Pot-luck Alternative: Depending on the type of party, you may be able to suggest a pot-luck, this way you don't have to supply all the food for the guest. You can also suggest that your guest bring their favorite appetizer or dessert and you supply the rest. This way you are supplying the majority of the food but are saving a little extra money by not supplying everything. 
Buy in Bulk/Store Brand - Buying in bulk and buying the store brand instead of the name brand product will help you save money. Yes the store brand may only be fifty cents cheaper but that fifty cents can add up when you are buying a bunch of food for guest that may or may not eat it. Plus if nobody sees the original container, they're not going to know you bought/used the store brand product.

Cake - Make your own cake. It doesn't have to look pretty, it just has to taste good.  There are several tutorials online on how to decorate cakes so find one you like and try it out. You can also replace the ingredients in a box cake to make it taste more like a store bought cake (Replace the water with milk, the oil with butter, and add an extra egg).


Beverages


Supply the Basics - When hosting a party, I usually supply water, sweet tea and some sort of punch. On occasion I will throw in lemonade, juice pouches for the kids, or 3-5 2Liters that I know my family will drink if there is any left.

Bring Your Own Beverage (BYOB) - Make your party a BYOB. Everybody likes to drink something different and there is no way to satisfy everybody. Even if you buy a ton of 2Liters or types of liquor, some will not get opened or some will barely get used and then you will be stuck with a bunch of partially used beverages that you can't return.  I'm not saying don't supply any beverages, just don't supply all the beverages and make sure to specify to your guest that there will be blah blah blah at the party and they are welcome to bring whatever else they'd like; this way you aren't telling them they have to bring a beverage, just suggesting it. 

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Entertainment:

It's always nice to keep your guest entertained but you don't have to go all out to do so. Renting clowns, princesses, a petting zoo, bounce houses, live bands, magicians, photo booths, etc... for your party can be fun but it is also an added cost you can do without. Instead you can entertain your guest for free of cheap. Here are a few low budget entertainment ideas:

  • Ask a friend, family member or co-worker if they would dress up as character for the party
  • Borrow or check out your local Library for free books and movies to watch
  • Play games such as Hot Potato, Charades, Freeze Tag, Musical Chairs, Simon Says, etc. There are tons of free games you can play indoor and outdoors
  • Set up a Scavenger/Treasure Hunt
  • Have a craft planned such as painting a canvas, jewelry making, t-shirt decorating
  • Host a contest such as a drawing contest, dance contest, hula hoop contest, etc...
  • Create your own Photo Booth and print off props or buy cheap props at the Dollar Tree

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Ask for Help:

Don't be afraid to ask your friends and family to pitch in. I'm not saying make them supply all the food or charge the kids admission to the party but you can ask them to do more simple tasks like asking them to help clean up, bring their own beverages, borrow their cupcake stand, help out with a craft or filling water balloons. Almost everybody that has children has been in your shoes and most people are more than willing to help out when asked.

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Party Planning can be fun and stressful at the same time but hopefully these tips can help eliminate some of the stress involved, especially when it comes to budget. I'm sure there are several more ways to cut back on party cost so feel free to share how you save in the comments below. Keep in mind that every party is unique in it's own way and requires different things. This is just a basic list, geared more toward Birthday Parties but works for party planning in general! By following all or some of these tips, hopefully you will be able to cut back on some of the cost and have an awesome party without breaking the bank!


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