‘Tis the season for fun family get togethers and having friends over. Don't blow your budget on it! Use these great tips for entertaining on a budget and enjoy the time you spend together with your loved ones!
Where are all my party people at?! Holla! The holidays are coming up, and you know that means it's time for a few get-togethers. I'm talking Thanksgiving, Friendsgiving, Christmas parties, or even a New Years' Eve party. If you're planning on throwing a party or two, then I know you want to be the hostess with the mostest! However, you're going to need some tips for entertaining on a budget so you don't go and blow your budget on all these fun parties.
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We love to host friends and family, but we definitely DON'T love to go over budget on them! It has taken us a few years, but we've finally perfected the entertaining-a-crowd-on-a-budget thang. And now it's time to share that with you, the Freebs Nation!
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You see, now you know there's a way to throw an amazing dinner or party on a budget without sacrificing any quality or fun! Let's go over those tips to really get them lodged into your brain. 😉
SET AN ENTERTAINING BUDGET
This is probably obvious… but it's such an important tip! You can't entertain on a budget if you don't actually have a budget, right? It actually makes it easier to have people over if you're prepared for it. You don't feel guilty and you'll have a better time if you plan for your entertaining.
TRACK YOUR BUDGET
Once you've set your entertaining budget, make sure you track it so you can stick to it! Can you guess how I'm going to tell you to track your budget? The same way that I tell you to track your normal weekly budget and your holiday budget.
Grab an envelope and label it with whatever you may need for your party. Usually, you'll need a “food” column and a “decor” or “miscellaneous” column. Write your budget for the whole party at the top of the envelope. Then, decide how much of that budget is for food and how much is for the other column.
When you go to the store, subtract food, plates, or decor you may need from each amount. Keep your receipts in the envelope in case you need to return anything, and you're good to go!
SET THE MENU
Now you know your budget, you need to set the menu. My biggest tip for this is to consider the time of day you're throwing your shindig. We have a whole post over cheap party food ideas that you definitely don't want to miss! It'll help you to figure out what you should be serving (snacks versus full meals) depending on what time of day your party is. You can plan the timing of your party according to how much money you have in your party's food budget.
PLAN A MENU THAT WILL FEED A CROWD AFFORDABLY
Once you know what time of day you're going to have your party, plan a meal that will feed everyone you're inviting without spending your whole budget. For example, rather than serving every guest their own piece of meat, break up the protein.
A taco bar or baked potato bar will go a lot farther than feeding everyone their own steak. Protein is still part of the main course, but it's not the hero. It will still fill everybody up, but it won't break the bank while doing so!
START WITH FOOD YOU ALREADY HAVE
When you're planning your menu, start by using the food you already have on hand! This allows you to use up some food that may otherwise go bad and it keeps you from being wasteful! Shop your own pantry, fridge, and freezer before going grocery shopping. (Keep a kitchen inventory so you can easily see what you have to use.)
If you're feeling awkward about giving your guests a half-eaten bag of pretzels to munch on, pour it into a bowl and they'll be none-the-wiser! Just save the original container, so you can put whatever food is leftover back into it.
ASK FOR HELP WITH THE FOOD
Once you've set your menu, don't be afraid to ask your guests to contribute and bring food with them! Make it a potluck dinner or have them bring extra snacks or desserts. Your guests will probably be more than happy to help out and bring something!
I usually ask people to bring something when I send them an invitation. If it's a small party, I'll just ask them to bring a side or dessert that goes with what we're having. If it's a larger party, I'll break it down by last name so we don't have 30 people who all bring drinks and no sides. Here's an example of how I would do that:
- A-G: Drinks
- H-Q : Sides
- R-Z : Dessert
Doing it this way allows people to contribute and you're only having to spend your money on a portion of the meal versus the whole thing!
Pro Tip: Take the last name into consideration when you make your list. If you have 10 families coming who all have a last name that begins with “A” and only 2 from the “R-Z” letters, then rethink how you ask them to bring things!
DON'T THROW OUT YOUR LEFTOVERS
This is a big one! Once your party is over, keep all of your leftover food. You can repurpose it into food that your family will use, even that half-empty soda bottle! We have tons of tips to use up that leftover party food creatively!
FOCUS ON HOW YOU SERVE YOUR FOOD
One super inexpensive way to make a big impact when you're entertaining on a budget is to focus on how you serve your food! Follow these tips and you'll feel super fancy without spending very much money.
SERVE FOOD ON PLATTERS
This is one sure-fire way to make the most inexpensive food look really fancy. I used to buy the cute, seasonal platters, but I came to realize that they're really not the cheapest since I had to have different ones for every holiday.
I wised up real quick and learned that all-white platters and dishes were the way to go! I've slowly built up my stockpile over the years and they are definitely worth the investment.
USE SERVING UTENSILS
Rather than using plastic forks to serve the food with, get some fun serving utensils to make your guests feel a little bit fancier. They're a great one-time investment that you can use again and again for all of your future parties.
KEEP YOUR TABLE DECORATIONS SIMPLE
Tablecloths and cloth napkins can really fancy up a table. I like to buy basic, solid colors that can be used at any time of the year. Stay away from the seasonal stuff because that's just more money to spend and more things to store!
I also like to put chargers under plates to make it a little bit extra. You can find them on Amazon, but I got mine from the dollar store over 5 years ago and they've held up great! I put a ceramic white plate on top of mine, but you could also put paper plates on them to fancy them up a bit.
BONUS PLACE SETTING TIP
I've always had a hard time keeping up with the proper places for the fork, knife, and spoon for a place setting. Here's my handy dandy way to remember that! The word “left” has four letters. The word “right” has five letters. Anything that has four letters goes on the left, such as fork. Anything that has five letters goes on the right, like knife and spoon. The knife always goes closest to the plate. So easy, right?!
SHOP YOUR HOUSE TO DECORATE YOUR TABLE
Rather than going out and buying a lot of new items to decorate your table, see what you have in your house that would work first! I can almost guarantee you have plenty of decorations in other parts of your house that would help to beautify your table without having to go spend a dime at the store.
You can also send your kids outside to find things to decorate the table with! Pinecones and leaves make for some great fall or winter decorations. Flowers would be great spring or summer decorations! Use what you've got outside and be amazed at how good your table looks!
So there you go, you've got my best tips for entertaining on a budget! I hope they give you the courage to open up your home and throw a party this holiday season and to fill your home with the people you love. Let me know what your favorite tips are in the comments below!
Need more help with your budget? Check out Budget Boot Camp! It's a super fun online video program that I created to help make understanding money easier.
I'm so sure that you'll love it that I even have a 100% money-back guarantee! So really, you've got nothing to lose. 😉 Use the code FCFBLOG for 10% off at checkout.
Looking for more?
- Learn how to budget for holiday expenses.
- Make the world's best homemade caramel for your party!
- Clean your house before your party using this tips.