Planning a Party on a Budget
If you have something to celebrate, then there is no reason why you can’t celebrate it with a party. If you feel as though finances are stretched after christmas for a January birthday, or you are just looking to save instead of buying things you’re only going to use once: our party budget guide is here to help.
There are many different ways you can cut back and still have a great time for you and your guests. You can still have a disco and a DJ, still enjoy great food and still impress your guests. Check out our lowdown on how to keep to a strict party budget:
Saving on the disco & DJ
Be your own DJ
Step 1: Get some PA and a mixer
Some PA systems are relatively cheap nowadays: they may not perform like a line array system at the O2 but they have the potential to chug out the tunes. If you are going for a cheap PA system, pair it with a simple mixer to get a cleaner sound and reduce any tinny, gritty noises that interfere with the music.
A simple DJ controller is enough for managing a small disco. You can pick up a decent controller by Numark, Behringer, Hercules, and other noteable DJ equipment brands for around £40 – £80. If you are into mixing yourself, it’s worth buying this type of DJ controller to get into the controls. If you are more experienced, more advanced controllers are available for around £150 – £200.
Some good examples are Hercules Instinct, Numark DJ 2 Go, Numark Mixtrack series, Gemini FirstMix, Behringer CMD: google the market.
Step 2: Plug into a PC or laptop.
Controllers such as Numark DJ 2 Go and Hercules Instinct plug straight into your laptop using USB and have installation DJ software ready to set up when you plug in. Then you can feed your PA through the laptop as well. Have a good supply of iTunes and MP3 playlists to get DJing straight away. This is a simple, inexpensive way of DJing for yourself.
Get some free DJ software on your laptop
It may not be the actual live mixing environment you’re looking for, but there is plenty of free DJ mixing software you can nab by giving it a google (such as Virtual DJ and Mixxx). Using this and linking your laptop to your home Hi Fi system will give a unique edge to your song playlists.
Gather good tunes and roll out a playlist
Maybe you have a music-savvy maniac for a friend who is itching to burn a party CD and is just waiting for you to ask them. Or, why not just make your own playlists using iTunes or Spotify? If you hire active speakers; you can connect your iPhone, Android or Tablet to the speaker itself and kick out the tunes from there.
Or just use a good pair of PC speakers/monitors with a subwoofer if you have them already. In short: make use of what you have already and add to it if necessary and inexpensive.
Saving on the food & catering
Enlist the help of friends & family
Have a friend who loves to bake? A family member who likes to think he is a culinary genius? A guest itching to make hors d’oeuvre that they made for their family wedding? A mixologist that can snap up cool cocktails? Harness the talent and hobbies of your guests by getting them to make the food for you! Do not shy away from asking for help: you may find that they are more eager than you were expecting.
Go for buffet and snack food
Try getting some ready made frozen party platters instead of trying to buy the separate ingredients or fresh ones. With frozen foods you can also get your party food way in advance: so if your finances are anticipated to stretch three months down the line, you can prep and freeze groceries for a long time.
Try these simple, cheap ideas for party snack food:
- Frozen yoghurt pops
Small plastic cups, favourite yoghurt dessert, crushed hobnobs. Crumble and crush hobnob biscuits, mix with a little melted butter and compress at the bottom of the cup. Fill with favourite yoghurt (strawberry, peach, passion fruit, cherry) and put a wooden lolly stick into each filled cup. Freeze for 4 – 6 hours, press lightly to turn out into popsicles.
- Chocolate fondue
Melt good quality chocolate in a bowl over boiling water until there are no more lumps. To keep it liquid on the buffet table, use a crock pot or fondue heater. Alternatively, you can try a make-shift heater using a china bowl and candle. Serve with fruit, madeira cake pieces, marshmallows, bananas etc.
- Homemade sausage rolls
Get frozen ready-rolled puff pastry from your supermarket. Leave out to thaw for 2 – 3 hours. Unravel the pastry sheet and cut in half. Cut the skin off pork sausages (defrost frozen ones or use fresh ones) to get the sausage meat. Mix with herbs, apple, dried apricots, chilli: whatever flavour you prefer. Position the meat mix along one side of the pastry strips, egg wash the other side and wrap the pastry over. Cut into small 1” cubes and bake for 20 mins in a hot oven.
- Make your own punch bowl
If you don’t have enough cash to splash out on posh sparkling wine or liquors; try making a punch bowl from what you already have. To make an alcoholic punch bowl, just have one or two types of spirit (gin, vodka, white rum, etc) and mix with fruit juices, cordials and fizzy lemonade. Just do some experimenting with flavours in your own time to suss out which drinks mix.
You can get some funky ice cube shape trays from places like Ikea and whack in some fresh berries for an irresistible touch. Finish with a ladle for guests to help themselves!
- Buy a pre-made cake from the supermarket
These are relatively cheap nowadays and cover most birthday and party occasion favourites (chocolate, fondant iced, etc). Some supermarkets offer a custom design or name to be iced onto a cake as well for a small extra cost.
- Have a “bring your own bake” competition!
A cheeky way of saving money on food is having your guests contribute to the food bank. There are a few sneaky ways around it: perhaps by having a baking competition amongst your friends, or having a food-savvy relative cook their best dishes that they love to boast about.
It’s also a good ice breaker to have your guests involved with food: it’s one way we can all relate to one another and have a foodgasm.
Saving on the venue & decorations
Have the party at home
If the guest list is small and you have the space, deciding to have your party at home can save a lot of money on venue costs, and you won’t have to be ushering guests out of the place by 11pm. There are plenty of ways you can decorate and re-design your home into a party venue: having an outdoor patio heater or going for gazebo hire, for example, is easy and cheap to save the pennies for what matters.
Keep the guest list small & exclusive
Hold back on inviting everyone you know: even though having a full house seems more fun, you have to bare in mind that most people prefer that a party isn’t over-crowded. Perhaps keeping your guest list to 15 – 20 people for a birthday party will save you lots of money on food and having to provide a large, expensive venue.
Make your own decorations
Search engines are your main accomplice with making your own party decorations. There are plenty of party websites with party decoration ideas and ways in which you will not have to spend a penny on materials. Paper chains, cupcake case decorations, ice lolly stick runners: get creative and nimble with your fingers for the next few days. Buying expensive decorations is sometimes just an easy way out!
Try eBay for cheap party decorations
eBay is great for finding bargains on all party decorations. You may find that sellers have party decoration packages and kits or wholesale goods & seconds that are of consumer quality. If you’re willing to wait for 10 – 30 day delivery from eastern regions such as China and Hong Kong: these sellers are sometimes the cheapest way of getting party supplies and unique pieces you won’t find on our British high street.
Go for a fancy dress theme
It may sound like you are spending more money here: but fancy dress doesn’t have to cost too much if you’re smart with recycling your own clothes and building on a theme that will work best for you (maybe you already have a spiderman outfit: so have a Marvel party!) It’s a great way to have a laugh at a birthday party and both kids & adults can join in.
Saving on entertainment & party games
Trending party game apps you need to download
Evil Apples – From the makers of Cards Against Humanity, a free party app. A question card is flipped, each player chooses to fill in the gaps in the sentences with their drawn answer cards.
Heads Up – Or who am I? The player can only ask yes and no questions to work out the name they have been given.
Party Doodles – Pictionary for the iPad or smartphone.
Good old fashioned board games and party games
Not talking about hours of dry scrabble or competitive Monopoly; but a light-hearted game can overcome awkwardness or silent moments at your party. A fantastic ice breaker that gets everyone involved is the ideal party game. Something like charades, who am I, truth or dare: these may give a few sighs but if you initiate them, they usually take off.
We all have to save here and there, but there’s no reason not to party. Being on a budget may actually take a little longer planning to find the cheapest deals on the market, but with hire services at your disposal and lots of chances to save: you won’t be forking out hundreds of quid for a good time. Psst… no one will know you’ve only spent £40!