Graduation season is coming, and whether you have a child who is graduating from elementary school or middle school, a student who is finishing high school, or a soon-to-be college graduate, you may be hoping to throw a fun and welcoming party without spending too much money. While throwing a graduation party isn’t required, especially when your child is young, it is often appreciated. It can be truly special to celebrate your child’s hard work and accomplishments, and having a graduation party is a great way to do so.
If you want to save money though, you will have to stick to a budget. You also may need to limit the amount of guests or extras you want to include, and to try to save money in other ways as well. Like any celebration, graduation party spending can get out of hand, but you can plan a great party on a budget, too.
1. Set a budget
The very first thing you need to do if you want to save money on graduation party costs is to set a budget. If you don’t set a budget, you will be too tempted to go overboard buying whatever your child wants. Determine specific amounts for food, entertainment, activities if you want them, and so on. Try using a party planning worksheet to keep you on track. Some of your decisions will depend on your guest list — if you have a large guest list, you will need more food. If your child is young, you might need to include activities for the kids. Your teenager might appreciate live music or other entertainment, but your college grad might prefer a smaller get-together in your backyard.
Talk to your child about what he or she wants, but be sure to set limits. You can show appreciation for your child’s hard work without spending lots of money. One good way to set limits is to give your child choices. For example, if your high school student wants an after-prom party and a graduation party, he or she might have to settle for a smaller graduation party, or just pick one or the other.
2. Have the party at your house
While you could rent out a local reception hall or throw a huge party at some fancy restaurant, if you have the party at your house, you can potentially save money and have more in your budget for food. If you really want to stay on a budget, it makes sense not to pay for a location when you can have the party for free at your house. Most of your child’s friends should already be familiar and comfortable at your house, which will help.
Outside parties (in your backyard or at a park) can also be a great way to save money. Many people enjoy being outside, and if you set up seating, much of the afternoon or evening can revolve around just talking and relaxing. You also can avoid cleaning your house if you do this (or only cleaning the path that guests will take to the bathroom.)
3. Ask a friend for help
Joint graduation parties have become very popular; many teenagers in particular like them because they can help plan the party with their friends. If it’s okay with your child, ask a parent (that you like and get along with) if they are willing to co-host with you. Hosting together will take some of the pressure off of you, and you can share the costs and responsibility. One of you can be in charge of food, one can be in charge of entertainment, and so on.
Even if you really don’t want to host a joint-party, you can still enlist friends or family members to help. If you know someone who plays music, consider hiring them at a reduced rate as entertainment for the party. Or if you have a friend that is great at baking, enlist their help. Family members can also be very helpful by providing ideas.
4. Do it yourself
Cookie grams and other expensive invitations are certainly impressive, but you don’t need them. Consider using a website like evite to send invites online. You can also send photo invites through photo sites like Shutterfly, as photo cards are popular but not too expensive. Pinterest has many ideas for making your own graduation invitations as well. If you have the time, making your own or sending your own invitations online can save a lot of money.
You should also consider making as many decorations and as much food as possible yourself. The more you can do yourself instead of paying someone, the more money you will save. Most people have things they are good at (crafts, photos, baking, cooking, etc.) so utilizing your skills is a great way to save money.
5. Make it a drop-in party
Making your child’s party a drop-in affair can save you money. Rather than needing to plan for entertainment or serve a large meal, if you plan to have the party in the middle of the afternoon, or later after dinner, you can indicate on your invitations that the party is a drop-in party. That way guests will not expect to be entertained for a full afternoon; they can come and go as they please. This also takes some of the hosting pressure off of you, as your child still gets to be a star for a few hours, but he or she will have more time to say hello to a few people at a time instead of having to play social butterfly nonstop among dozens of people.
If you want to have a separate party for close family members, you can do so. You could even plan to end the party with a family dinner. That way, your child can be truly comfortable and appreciated by the people that are closest to your family as a whole after celebrating with friends and acquaintances.
There are many other ways you can save when planning a graduation party. If you choose to use paper serving ware, stop by a dollar store to pick that stuff up. Also consider setting a limit on the number of guests at the party so that you don’t have to purchase as much food. Finally, don’t get caught up in the competition game. If your daughter’s friend is having a huge party with one hundred people, that doesn’t mean you have to.
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