Monday, May 11, 2009

Plan An Inexpensive Party

Saving Money Tip #136 - Plan An Inexpensive Party. Keeping parties inexpensive is no different than keeping costs low for other activities, it all comes down to planning. The more you do in advance, the less things will cost. When planning a party, come up with an itinerary to follow. Most parties will follow the same sort of schedule. For example, a kids’ party will consist of:

--Small Activity waiting for everyone to arrive – this can be coloring pages or dress-up
--Craft or main activity of the day – this can be painting, beading bracelets or something similar
--Game or activity – treasure hunt, party game, trivia game, etc.
--Cake and Snack
--Wind-down – could be reading a book or something similar
--Departure – Hand out goody bags

You could easily change things to suit your needs. Some people open presents at the party. That could be done prior to departure. Others don’t do lunch but have cake and ice cream only. If it were a boys’ party, there probably wouldn’t be a craft but maybe two activities and a game.

The key is to have an order to the party with activities to fill each time slot. You should always have an extra idea or two to fill the time in case things don't take as long as planned. In general some food and games or crafts are all children need to make a party successful. Sometimes they like free play, but having things planned works best and can always be ignored if they would rather play on their own.

For adult parties, some snack foods and drinks are good to have on hand as guests arrive. Most adult parties will consist of talking and then eating a meal or appetizers. But you could easily do theme parties, too. If it is a celebration of something such as a retirement or a special birthday, it’s nice to personalize the event with a few words about the guest of honor or a game or activity in honor of the person.

Buying what you can in advance helps tremendously. Buying sodas, paper goods, shelf-stable foods and any prizes or gifts in advance will help you save money. Foods such as fruit or deli meats need to be bought at the end. You can be flexible in this regard so as to be able to take advantage of last-minute specials. All it takes is a bit of planning, a good itinerary, and you should be able to pull off a successful and inexpensive party.

In Real Life (IRL) –
I seem to hold a lot of parties – whether it is for my children’s birthdays or a special anniversary for my parents, I hold at least 3 per year. I feel like I have gotten the routine down pat. As I mentioned with the kid’s itinerary above, I usually do a craft, lunch, an activity, and cake. I often add in a few other things such as make your own sundaes – which is always a big hit, and if it’s nice out - free play in our backyard because we have a big playset. Also, we have a moon bounce that I once bought at a thrift store for $25. That is a big treat for the children. Items for goody bags are often bought throughout the year on clearance. I am flexible with food I serve. I like to have fruits or veggies to serve the children. This week strawberries were on sale, so I cut up strawberries and bananas to serve with the kids’ lunch. Had grapes been on sale, I would have served them.

For adult parties, I come up with a menu in advance – again being flexible on certain things. If I am having deli platters and roast beef is on sale, then I would buy more of that than turkey, for example. We often do an “adult” game for adult parties. One of our favorites is “How well do you know the person of honor?” For example, if it is my mom’s 70th birthday, we have a list of about 20-30 questions about my mom’s life. Where was she born? Where did she meet my dad? What is her middle name? The first person who answers a question correctly gets a Tootsie Roll or a Hershey’s Kiss or something similar. Whoever has the most Kisses (or Tootsie Rolls) at the end, wins the game and gets a prize. This always makes the party a bit more fun and adds a personal touch. We’ve also done personalized Bingo, which is a bit more work. Rather than having numbers on the Bingo Board, we have things the person of honor likes, her friends, places she’s been, etc. Again, it’s always fun and adds a nice touch to a party. Plus everyone comes away knowing the guest of honor a bit better and often leads to good conversations.

I’ve always had people tell me how much fun my parties are. And I really don’t do anything special other than spending a bit of time to come up with a course of action, buying things in advance on sale, and having a good mix of food and activities. And that’s all it takes to have an inexpensive, successful party. Anyone can do it.

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