You don't have to empty your wallet or set up a special savings account just to invite your friends over. Whether you're planning an informal get together or a fancy dinner party, there are more than a few ways to get the job done and have a great time without spending loads of money. Here's how.
The last thing you want to do while you're having a good time or playing host to your friends is to worry about what the bill will be. If you don't have the cash for a Gatsby-style extravaganza (and honestly, who does?), there are ways to do it on a budget without skimping on the good stuff.
Enlist Your Guests To Bring A Favourite Dish Or Drink
The first money-saving tip is simple: ask guests to bring something. That doesn't mean you can't supply some of the food or the drinks yourself. It just means that, in the case of booze, if your friends are going to hover around your home bar (which, we would hope, you have well stocked), they should at least make a small contribution such as their preferred liquor, a bottle of wine, or a case of beer. Just tell your guests to bring their favourite drink and you'll make sure they get it at the party.
I often tell my friends to bring their own liquor to contribute to the communal bar, and even though I like to keep things well stocked, they'll show up with their favourite rum, whisky or beer anyway. Serve it out, or let them serve themselves -- when the party's over, you'll have restocked your bar without having to spend anything. If you don't want to tell them to bring alcohol, consider coming up with a "signature drink" you want to make for the party (like an Old Fashioned, a Manhattan, or a simple gin and tonic) and only stocking your bar with the makings for that drink.
You can also ask your friends to bring something to eat, too (We'd suggest one or the other, or else this turns into one of those office party things, where people have assignments and no one remembers to bring the plates.) That approach sure there's always enough to eat, and it removes the burden of cooking and buying the food from the host. Of course, you'll still need to round things out by making a contribution yourself.
Buy In Bulk Or On Sale
If you live near a bulk supply store such as a Costco, you can potentially save a lot of money by purchasing supplies in large quantities. Even if you don't, keeping an eye on specials at your local supermarket can make it much cheaper to acquire party supplies. The same goes for alcohol: if your favourite is on special, stock up.
Change The Time Of Day
Another way to save a few bucks without sacrificing the party atmosphere is to alter the time of day. Instead of having a dinner or all-night affair, consider a lunch or brunch party instead. That aporoach inherently requires less fuss than a massive dinner party or an all-night event.
As well, moving the affair earlier in the day gives you the ability to turn your get-together into something it might not otherwise have been. Try hosting a chilli cookoff in the afternoon, or a lunchtime barbecue. You'll still need some drinks, but you won't spend the same amount of money.
Choose Affordable Ingredients
If you plan to do most of the cooking, you can save a lot of money by picking the right ingredients, or figuring out what you can make to serve your guests with the things you already have in your pantry. You don't have to plan an expensive trip to the grocery store just to entertain a few people. Even if you do need to head to the supermarket, save money by buying ingredients that are in-season or on sale.
Know Where To Save And Where To Spend
A while ago, we highlighted a few quick tips to host a party on a budget, but one thing that rubbed us the wrong way even then was the idea of holding a barbecue and then asking your friends to bring the meat. Sure, you can save a lot of money that way, but there's a line between being frugal and essentially asking your friends to bring the party to your house instead of you hosting the party.
Remember, you want to be a good host, and if the effort your guests have to put in to the party implies they'd be better off staying home, no-one will be happy. Remember, the goal is to have fun, not put your friends to work. Save money, but don't be cheap.