Frugal Parties: Lots of Fun for Little Cash

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If you love to entertain and get together with friends, but feel you can’t afford it with the economic downturn, take heart. Here are eight ideas to create low-cost gatherings that will help you have fun without spending a fortune.

1. Organize a Progressive Dinner

Get together with a few of your friends and plan a progressive dinner where each hostess provides one aspect of the meal at her home. Consider appetizers, soup and salad, main course, dessert, and coffee. This will involve five homes and require five hostesses. You can adapt this as needed, but the idea is that each hostess prepares only her portion of the meal.

Guests gather at the “appetizers” home. They enjoy the food, fellowship for a few minutes, then move to the “soup and salad” home where they do the same. The dinner progresses around the circuit, ending at the “coffee” home from which everyone departs. Both the cost and the hostess work is minimal, but this is a very enjoyable party for everyone involved.

2. Throw a Potluck

While there was a time when the hostess was required by etiquette to provide everything, and that may still be true for certain settings, having guests bring a dish is a totally acceptable option for entertaining. You can set a menu or take true potluck, whichever you choose. The focus is on friends and fellowship, after all, not on elaborate meals.

3. Keep it Simple

Want to do it all yourself? Then opt for something inexpensive such as grilled hot dogs and chili, tacos, homemade pizza, spaghetti and salad, etc. Add a dessert and coffee, and you’ve got it made.

4. Host a Morning Brunch or an Afternoon Tea

Who says a party has to be held in the evening? A Saturday morning brunch or afternoon tea may better suit your needs and either one can be less expensive than an evening meal.

Opt for nut breads, fruits and a simple quiche if you’re doing a brunch; or cookies and a variety of flavored teas for the afternoon. Either of these options work especially well for women’s groups. Decorate with romantic lace and vintage tea cups. You can even ask everyone to wear white gloves.

5. Play Dress Up

IWho says costume parties are only for Halloween? Almost everyone loves to dress up, so host a costume party any time of the year! Make it even more fun by choosing a theme centered around a holiday or special event. For instance, have everyone dress in patriotic costumes for the Fourth of the July, or only in green for St. Patrick’s Day.

6. Have a Come Exactly as You Are Party

Have fun and share some laughs by hosting a “Come Exactly as You Are Party.” Send out invitations that include the date for your party, but don’t tell anyone the time. When the day arrives, call your guests and say “It’s Time to Party!” Guests have to come exactly as they are right then. They can’t change clothes, add make-up or even comb their hair!

7. Split the Costs

You can go beyond a simple potluck by splitting all party costs with another family, or even two or more families. Everyone can pitch in and share all expenses involved and you can throw a really nice shindig without breaking anyone’s piggybank. This is especially nice for sports teams, clubs, and similar groups, though it’s a great idea for friends or family as well.

8. Ask for a Carry-In Dish Instead of Gifts

When a friend and her husband who were going through some tough financial times wanted to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary recently, they invited everyone they knew to bring a dish for the reception rather than a gift. After 25 years of marriage, they certainly didn’t need the gifts, and the food made for a great party with very little expense.

There are a lot of ways you can celebrate without it costing you a lot. Use some of these ideas or get creative and come up with your own. But don’t let a small budget stop you from entertaining and having a party!

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