Graduation Party Ideas — Celebrate on a Budget!

Entertain, Party

It's that time of year again…GRADUATION! Celebrate your graduate in style with these graduation party ideas. We’ll help you stay on budget and maybe even earn you the “coolest parent of the year” title.

Graduates holding graduation caps up in the air, from Fun Cheap or Free

College, high school, kindergarten, law school, nursing school… whatever it is, this is the time of year to commemorate surviving it! Woo hoo!!

All around the world, hopeful graduates are awaiting that famous day where they will don their cap and gown and proudly take hold of their hard-earned diploma. They will officially close the door on one chapter of life and look to the future and what’s ahead. The only question is, what to do now? Well, we have an idea… CELEBRATE!

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You’ve prepared and taught them all they need to know… Now, take the time to celebrate with the BEST affordable graduation celebration EVER! (We do still have financial goals to stick to, after all!) Use these awesome graduation party ideas to help you stay on budget AND throw an awesome celebration your graduate will thank you for. Let’s do this! 


When it comes to planning a graduation party for your very special someone, you want everything to be perfect to commemorate the moment. After all, this is something they have been working toward for a loooong time! Unless you are planning a surprise graduation party, ask them what type of party they would enjoy.

Do they want an intimate family gathering, or would they enjoy celebrating with their closest friends as well? While they probably won’t get to call all the shots, getting their input will give you a great starting point.  


Friends using confetti poppers to celebrate graduation, from Fun Cheap or Free

There’s no denying it—parties can be expensive! Here are a few ideas to help you keep the cost low and stay on budget.

  • Join Forces – Share the expenses with another family or two. Go in with your graduate’s close friends and throw a joint party. You’ll share expenses and duties, making it easier on you. Make sure you are all on the same page with the budget so there's no overspending! 
  • Keep It Small – One of the best ways to keep cost low is by keeping the guest list down. You may feel compelled to invite alllllll your distant relatives, but keep it low-key instead and you’ll save a bundle on food. 
  • Make it Come and Go – A come and go party is basically like an open house. Guests are free to come late and leave as they please. This will greatly reduce the amount of food you will need to supply—all you’ll need is snacks and finger foods! This is a great solution if you have a lot of family members who want to come and show support. 
  • Skip the Fancy Venue – This one is a no brainer, right? Staying home and hosting yourself will save you BIG. 

These tips are sure to lower your costs and help you stay on budget!


Sometimes life happens and it might be difficult to have the fun and exciting graduation party you've been dreaming of! Here are a few ideas to help you celebrate, regardless of the circumstances.

  • Have a Social Distancing Party – Invite your graduate's closest friends and family over, but have them keep their distance outside. Set the special grad up in the garage or on the porch where they can still see and talk with their friends and family without getting too close.
  • Have a Drive-By Parade – If the thought of having people hanging out around your house is too much to handle, no worries! Organize a parade where all of their loved ones drive past your house. It's so fun to see all the lights flashing, the fun “Congrats!” signs, hear all the crazy honking, and wave at those most special in their life. They can stand near the house or somewhere in the driveway or sidewalk where they can easily see everybody and talk to them.
  • Have an Online Party – Set up a digital party for your graduate! Decorate their background where they'll be sitting so everyone can see. Then you can use Zoom, Google Hangouts, or FaceTime (just to name a few!) and let the party begin. Bonus points if everyone else decorated their backgrounds or has fun signs for the graduate to see!
  • Stick to Your Family Unit – It's also perfectly okay to just celebrate at home with your family! Make it as special as you can for your graduate (using the graduation party ideas below) and they're sure to love it. Maybe you can postpone a big party until later when everybody is healthy and able to be around other people.

When you're in a situation like this, your graduate will be so happy and pleased that you were able to treat them in this special way!


tacos on a plate, from Fun Cheap or Free

Food can make or break a party budget. It’s often the MOST expensive aspect of a gathering! Here are our best graduation food party ideas that are fun, festive, and CHEAP!

  • Taco ‘bout a Future – If you are planning to serve a meal at your graduation party, go for this festive, graduation-themed spin on a taco bar! Taco ‘bout cute!! Beans and rice are cheap and filling and make great additions to the spread. Go all out with all the cheap Mexican foods that fit in the budget. (Pro tip: Mix whole beans and corn with the ground beef to make it stretch for a crowd!)
  • One Smart Cookie – Make it a cookie-themed graduation party and celebrate your smarty the sweet way! Cookies are SO cheap to bake and you can make them with a variety of different add-ins that you already have. Make a lot of different types and display them on a table with cute decorations.
  • Wish We Had S’MORE Time – Have a bonfire and set out supplies to make s’mores. This is a great option for a come and go party, too! 
  • B.Y.O.M. BBQ – You provide the grill, they provide the meat! 
  • Keep It Graduation-Themed – Bake cupcakes and top with graduation caps cut from construction paper, using toothpicks to stick them in the icing. Tie ribbons around Pirouette cookies and you have instant diplomas! Fill a jar with smarties candy and gummy “bookworms” for more education-themed fun.
  • Make it College-Themed – If your graduate will soon be moving on to college, make foods and treats that match those school colors! 
  • Go Career-Themed – Are they graduating from nursing school or trade school? Make their party themed with whatever field they're going to be working in!

Check out more super cheap party food ideas in this post as well! It's a wealth of knowledge.


Graduation party balloons, from Fun Cheap or Free

You don't need to spend a fortune (or even a penny) to make your graduation party look great! We'll show you how to make use with what you have or transform things for cheap with these fun ideas.

  • Photo Backdrop – Create an area to capture the moment on film with a photo booth or a photo wall. Grab a couple of plain-colored curtain panels and hang them for a solid backdrop. Add decorations like balloons and graduation banners. Find those cheap online or at the dollar store
  • Make a Cupcake Stand – Don't have a way to display the cupcakes? This is so easy, you do NOT need to be crafty! Grab a few plates and two old, short candle sticks from a resale shop or the dollar store. Paint to match your party and then hot glue into a DIY three-tiered cupcake stand.
  • Decorate with Memories – Instead of purchasing decorations for your graduation party, use childhood memorabilia instead. Anything from old trophies to medals and pictures of your graduate throughout the years. Go ahead and get that tissue ready, though, because we bet there will be some waterworks! 
  • Decorate with Books – It doesn’t need to be fancy! Grab some books and anything else that relates to school and prop them up on the table as a centerpiece. 
  • Fill your Own BalloonsBalloons are a great, affordable way to fill a room with color and festivity. However, they aren’t cheap when you buy them already filled with helium. Instead, grab a helium tank from Walmart or your local craft store and blow them up yourself. It is SO easy! It may cost you a little more upfront, but you will get WAY more balloons for your money. 
  • Have an Outdoor Party – Don't feel like having a graduation party in your house? No worries! Throw an outdoor party for your graduate and make it as simple or extravagant as you want. You can't go wrong playing those fun outdoor games!

Make it your own and specific to your graduate. It is all about them, after all!


Make the day extra special for them by leaving them with a gift they'll never forget. Set aside an old suitcase or a box of some kind and have all the guests write down a piece of life wisdom or advice for the new graduate. At the end of the party, your graduate can either read them outloud for the guests or read them in private. Again, have those tissues ready!!

Well, there you have it—our BEST graduation party ideas to help you stay on budget without missing out on anything! We bet they'll feel pretty special no matter what you do. What are your favorite graduation party ideas? Share with us in the comments below!

Image with text that reads "graduation party ideas" from Fun Cheap or Free

Check out these other helpful posts, too!

Happy graduation party!

1 Comment

  1. Mackenzie Rodriguez

    Thank you for sharing all these ideas.


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