How can you entertain on a budget?

Throwing a party is one of the best ways to enjoy time with your friends and family.

But if you aren’t careful, entertaining at home can quickly get expensive.

While hosting parties can be expensive, there are a few steps you can take to avoid overspending on your next get-together.

Try these simple tips and tricks for entertaining on a budget.

Here’s a breakdown of what’s discussed in this post:

  • How to Budget for Entertaining
  • How to Set Up An Entertainment Budget Envelope (if you like the cash envelope budgeting system)
  • How to Save Money on your Party Menu
  • What are the Best Budget Friendly Entertaining Ideas
  • Where can you find Cheap Entertaining Supplies
  • What are the Best Party Entertainment on a Budget Tips
Entertaining on a budget plan

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How to Budget for Entertaining

One of the best ways to ensure you don’t overspend as you put together your next party is to set a budget for the event.

Taking the time to outline a budget for your party and track your expenses will ensure you don’t spend too much on your celebration.

But if you’ve never created an entertaining budget before, you’re probably wondering where to start. Follow these steps for setting up and sticking to a budget for your party:

1) Set a budget.

The first step to creating any budget is setting your spending limit.

So, before you can even start creating your budget plan, you need to know how much you have to spend.

Go through your monthly budget to figure out how much money you can spare to host your event and put that figure at the top of your budgeting spreadsheet.

2) Create a spreadsheet.

Once you know how much you have to spend, it’s a good idea to create a spreadsheet or use a budgeting worksheet to help you stay on track.

Create a column to track your expenses and a column for the amount you spend on each item.

You can also consider adding a column to your budget to take note of where each item was purchased and any notes you need to write down regarding your purchase.

These notes can make it easier to know where to buy supplies for your next get-together, making shopping easier for your next event.

Entertaining on a budget

3) Pick your categories.

On your spreadsheet, create a list of spending categories and designate a dollar amount to each category.

There are a variety of budget categories to consider as you plan your event.

And the categories you include in your spreadsheet will depend on your event.

They could include:

  • Food and drink
  • Decorations
  • Tableware
  • Flowers
  • Party rentals
  • Music and entertainment
  • Venue rental

While not all categories will be needed for every event, it’s a good idea to break up your overall budget into the categories you’ll need for your party to make tracking your spending a little easier.

Just pick the budgeting categories that you’ll need for your event, then designate a portion of your overall budget to each category.

4) Estimate your costs.

As you’re planning your expenses, try to estimate the costs associated with each category.

This will help you know how much money you need to allot to each category and help you stay on budget.

If you’re unsure how much you need to spend on an aspect of your party, do a little research online or in store to see the prices of the items within that category.

5) Track your expenses.

When you have an idea of how much money you’ll be spending in each category, it’s time to start shopping.

Every time you buy something, make sure to add it to your spreadsheet and deduct the cost from your budget.

Continue tracking each purchase until you have everything you need or you’ve reached your spending limit.

6) Include entertaining in your household budget.

If you plan to make entertaining a regular activity, it’s a good idea to add an entertaining category to your overall household budget.

Including a line item for entertainment expenses is a great way to set aside money for entertaining on a regular basis.

And it makes putting together your next party easier because you’ll know exactly how much money you have to spend before you start planning.

Set up an Entertainment Budget Envelope

While tracking your budget and expenses on a spreadsheet is a great way to stay on budget, it’s not the only option for keeping yourself from overspending as you plan your party.

If you’re a fan of the envelope budgeting system, try using the same concept for your next celebration.

Create an envelope for your event and add enough cash to cover all your expenses.

And after you run out of cash, that’s it! No more spending.

If you don’t have a cash envelope system yet for your family, this budgeting envelopes planner is a great option.

How to host a dinner party on a budget

If you want to DIY, here’s how to set up an entertainment budget envelope:

1) Write down your categories.

First, get the envelope you want to use.

Use your cash envelope to keep track of your expenses by writing down the amounts you spend right on the envelope.

Create a column for each budgeting category, then designate a portion of the budget to each category.

At the top of each column, write the amount of money allotted to that category at the top.

2) Track entertaining expenses on the envelope.

Keep a running tally of your expenses so you know exactly how much money you have left to spend.

Every time you make a purchase with the cash in your envelope, write down the total amount spent in each category.

Then, subtract that amount from the total to see the amount of money you have left to spend in that category.

3) Stop spending when you run out of money.

The key to using a cash envelope system is to keep from overspending by only spending the money you have in your envelope.

So, if you run out of money for your party, don’t add more cash or use a credit card for additional purchases!

Saving Money on Your Party Menu

One of the biggest expenses of any party is the food.

That means you’ll need to use a few tips and tricks for saving money as you plan your menu.

These simple ideas are a great way to entertain on a budget, without making it seem like you’re cutting corners.

1) Consider the time of day.

Before you ever plan the menu for your event, start by thinking about the time of day you’ll host your party.

Throwing a party during mealtime will force you to serve a full meal to your guests, which can quickly get expensive.

But hosting an event during mid-afternoon will allow you to serve snacks and drinks instead.

Or throw your party in the evening after dinner and offer your guests appetizers.

By simply changing the time of your event, you can help cut your food costs in half.

2) Host lunch or brunch.

If you are forced to host a party during meal time, choose to throw a lunch or brunch party instead of a dinner.

The food served at the mid-day meals are often less expensive than dinner items.

And you’ll be able to serve smaller portions, allowing you to stretch your event’s food budget a little bit further.

3) Check your guestlist.

Since the amount of food you serve will depend on the number of guests at your party, keeping your guestlist small is another easy way to save money on food.

When planning your party, work at keeping your guestlist short to avoid overspending on food and drinks for your event.

4) Shop your pantry.

There’s no reason to spend a ton of money at the grocery store if you have a fully stocked kitchen already.

Instead of coming up with recipes for your party and shopping for the ingredients, try shopping your pantry first.

Take a look at the food you have at home, then come up with party recipes based on the food you already have.

In addition to helping you save money on your party’s food, this method will also help you use up food in your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer that’s about to go bad.

5) Get creative with serving dishes.

As you shop your kitchen, you may notice that you have some great food items to serve your guests, like chips and dip or snack cakes.

But if those packages are already open, you may feel strange about setting them out for your guests to enjoy.

Instead of giving your guests open containers, try adding the already-open food to serving bowls.

How to throw a dinner party on a budget

You’ll be able to use up those snacks and your guests will never know they came out of a half-eaten package.

6) Go meatless.

Meat can be one of the biggest expenses at any get-together.

Leaving meat off the menu will give you a chance to create a budget-friendly meal without that big expense.

Find delicious meat-free meal ideas, snacks, and appetizers to help you save money without sacrificing flavor.

7) Serve just desserts.

Another great way to celebrate without spending a ton of money on food is to serve just desserts to your guests.

Everyone loves a sweet treat, making a dessert party a popular option when entertaining on a budget!

Bite-sized desserts like petite fours and macaroons are perfect for a party, allowing you to serve beautiful treats on a small budget.

8) Host a potluck for your dinner party.

Sometimes, you have to host a party during a meal.

And if you don’t think you can’t afford to make an entire meal on your own, try hosting a potluck instead.

A potluck dinner is a great way to feed a crowd without spending a ton of money on the menu.

When planning a potluck dinner, make sure your guests know that they should bring a dish to the meal.

Typically, the host makes the main dish and the guests bring a side dish or dessert.

9) Serve a single drink.

Serving alcohol to your guests is a big part of many parties.

But serving drinks to the guests at your celebration can get expensive, which may cause you to go over budget.

To avoid overspending, consider creating one signature cocktail to serve your guests instead of trying to cater to everyone’s tastes.

Or grab a nice bottle of wine to serve with dinner instead of offering a variety of drink options.

10) Bring your own drinks.

Similar to hosting a potluck, asking your guests to bring their own drinks is another easy way to save money on your menu.

This simple tactic will help you save money on alcohol costs and allow your guests to bring their favorite drinks to the celebration, ensuring everyone enjoys their drinks as they mingle.

entertaining on a budget food

11) Build your own bars.

When planning your party menu, think about simple ways you can stretch your budget.

Build your own bars are fun party options that are also budget-friendly.

Taco bars, baked potato bars, hot dog bars, make your own pizza spreads, and s’mores boards are all great ideas for your next party menu.

12) Keep the leftovers.

When your party is over, don’t forget to package up those leftovers!

Leftovers can be repurposed in other meals or enjoyed for lunch the day after the party, allowing you to stretch your food budget a little bit further after the party is over.

Budget Friendly Entertaining Ideas

Once you have your menu under control, it’s time to start thinking about all the other aspects of your party.

Entertaining at home requires a few essentials, including tableware and decorations.

But purchasing décor for your party can get expensive quickly, if you aren’t careful.

These entertaining tips can help you save money and make your party look amazing at the same time.

1) Keep it simple.

One of the easiest ways to ensure you don’t overspend when entertaining is to keep your parties simple.

Not all events have to be huge and over the top!

Most of the time, a simple get-together with friends is enough for your guests to enjoy time together.

2) Plan ahead.

When you host a last-minute party, it can be easy to overspend.

That’s why it’s important to take the time to plan ahead when it comes to entertaining on a budget.

Starting your planning early will give you time to find the best deals on your supplies, purchase food and drinks when they’re on sale, and develop a menu based on seasonality and sales.

3) Clean your house.

If you’re hosting your party at your home, the first thing you should focus on is a clean house.

Your beautiful decorations and delicious menu won’t mean a thing if your guests only see your dirty home.

And since cleaning your home doesn’t cost anything, it’s a great way to ensure your party looks amazing without spending a dime.

Take the time to deep clean your house before hosting any get-together to ensure your guests enjoy time together without worrying about dirt and grime.

4) Purchase neutral, reusable partyware.

While paper plates and plastic tablecloths are often cheap purchases you can find at the dollar store, they don’t make the best impression at your celebrations.

Instead, consider investing in neutral partyware you can use at every event. Work on collecting different pieces over time to avoid overspending by purchasing everything at once.

To create a stockpile of reusable tableware, consider purchasing:

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5) Keep an inventory list.

As you build your stockpile, it’s important that you keep track of your purchases.

Create an inventory list of the things you buy so you know exactly what you have on hand and what you still need to purchase.

This will keep you from purchasing multiple items, allowing you to stay on budget and buy the things you need over time.

6) Keep your list on hand.

Make sure you have a copy of your inventory list on hand in case you come across a good deal on something you need.

With your list, you can keep an eye out for sales on things you still need to add to your stockpile, allowing you to know exactly what you need to purchase at any given time.

If you’re worried about carrying and losing loose sheets of paper, consider putting your list on your phone by taking a picture of it or putting it on your email (if you can access your email app using your phone).

7) Shop your house.

Before you head out to buy new decorations for your party, take the time to look around your home to find décor for the event.

Grabbing items from different rooms in your home to dress up your party is a great way to redecorate without spending money.

You can also dig through seasonal decorations to spruce up your party.

Neutral Christmas lights are perfect for setting the mood.

How to entertain a fete on a budget

Candles can dress up a plain table, for example.

Christmas entertaining on a budget

8) Use natural elements.

Another cheap way to decorate your table for entertaining is with the help of items from nature.

Grabbing things from your yard, like flowers, branches, nuts, and pinecones to create a centerpiece can help you provide a natural look for your celebration without spending any money.

9) Dress up budget flowers.

There’s no need to spend tons of money on fresh flowers when you can purchase budget-friendly bouquets at the grocery store.

Grab some fresh flowers from your favorite store, then create your own floral displays by picking and choosing the best blooms from the bouquets and putting them into pretty vases.

entertaining on a budget ideas

10) Borrow supplies.

Instead of purchasing new items for your party, reach out to friends and family to see if they have any party supplies and dinnerware they can loan you.

Just be careful when you’re using the borrowed items to avoid breaking or staining the partyware before you can give it back.

Where to Find Cheap Entertaining Supplies

The key to saving money on entertaining is creating an entertaining stockpile filled with decorations and supplies you can use over and over again.

But purchasing entertaining supplies to host your parties doesn’t mean you have to spend a ton of money upfront!

There are several ways you can save as you create your stockpile. Check out these spots to find cheap entertaining supplies:

1) Yard sales and estate sales.

You can find tons of great deals on household décor and party supplies at yard sales and estate sales.

As you browse the sales, look for neutral colored hosting supplies and decorations that can be used from year to year.

And while it may be tempting to purchase holiday-specific items to use at your next holiday get-together, it’s actually more efficient to purchase neutral items that can be used over and over again for every holiday.

2) Online marketplaces.

Another great place to find used entertaining supplies is though online marketplaces like eBay, Facebook marketplace, and Craigslist.

Check the sites for listings to find great deals on party supplies, like dishes, serving dishes, utensils, and tablecloths.

You can even find great deals on décor by purchasing items from past parties or events, like weddings and showers.

3) The dollar store.

Another great place to purchase party supplies is the dollar store like Dollar Tree.

While the supplies you purchase at the dollar store may not be the best quality, they are great for supplementing your party stockpile.

You can find great deals on common party decorations, like balloons and streamers, as well as paper tableware and plastic serving dishes.

4) Clearance sales.

As you’re shopping at your favorite home stores, always take the time to check the clearance section.

Look for markdowns on white and neutral home décor and tableware to add to your collection.

And when you find something you need, you can make the purchase and mark it off your checklist.

5) Online printables.

Before purchasing paper décor for your next party, do a quick search online to find free printables.

Many websites offer free printable party supplies, like invitations, place cards, banners, and menus that could be perfect for your next event.

Look for themed party printables or blank options to create your own look for your celebration.

Etsy also has a variety of beautiful (many customizable) printable party supplies if you’re willing to spend a little bit extra.

Party Entertainment on a Budget

While food and decorations are two big parts of party planning, there is one other aspect of your event you need to consider in your budget – entertainment.

Although not all parties will have an entertainment aspect, it is an important factor to think about as you start planning.

Luckily, there are several great entertainment options to consider that are cheap or even free!

Try these fun entertainment ideas at your next get-together.

1) Create a playlist.

Although hiring a DJ or band is a popular way to entertain your guests, there’s no reason to pay a ton of money for music.

Thanks to technology, you can be your own DJ for free!

Create a party playlist on your favorite device, hook up some Bluetooth speakers, and host a dance party at your next event without paying a dime for professional entertainment.

You can also get Amazon Music for 30 days for FREE for your playlist. This gives you unlimited access to 50 million songs on demand (no ads). You can cancel it before the 30 days is up so you don’t pay for the subscription.

2) Play board games.

When hosting a party at your house, finding fun and cheap entertainment for your guests is essential.

And one of the best ways to keep your friends entertained at your event is with games!

Grab some of your favorite board games and host a friendly tournament to entertain your party guests.

You could play a traditional game like Chess, Checkers, Yahtzee, or Twister.

party planning on a budget

Or you could play a recently popular board game like Codenames. I played this at a staff party. It’s a strategic word game. It’s a lot of fun!

dinner party on a budget

3) Movie night.

Another cheap and simple option for entertaining at home is a good movie.

Set out some budget-friendly snacks and pop in a movie to enjoy time with your friends and family at your event. To make it extra fun, make popcorn and add butter or fun popcorn seasonings.

how to have a dinner party on a budget

Pick a movie that’s a crowd pleaser, like a popular classic or summer blockbuster, to ensure everyone at your party has a great time.

4) Party games.

When hosting a family-friendly gathering, playing party games is a great choice.

Popular party games, like charades or Pictionary, are a fun way to keep your guests entertained, no matter how old or young they are.

how to entertain on a budget

Final Thoughts on Entertaining On A Budget

Whether you’re hosting a get-together at your house during the holidays or just having friends over for a fun game night, entertaining friends and family can be so much fun.

And if you take the proper steps to prepare, you can have a blast at your next party without worrying about your budget at all!

Taking a few simple steps as you plan can ensure you host an amazing party without going over budget.

Related Ideas for Entertaining On A Budget:

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