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Throwing a Baby Shower on a Budget

Throwing a baby shower is a wonderful way to celebrate mom- and dad-to-be while helping prepare them for their little one's arrival. But as with any party, it's easy to get caught up in the excitement of planning and rack up expenses that go well beyond your budget.

"The money you'd spend on an elaborate baby shower would be better spent on more practical things the family may need down the road," says Teresa Britton, founder of MomsWhoSave.com, a frugal-lifestyle blog for families. "When I look back on baby showers that I've enjoyed, what stands out to me are the family and friends who were there to enjoy the day, not all the decorations or food."

The good news is you can plan a memorable baby shower even on a limited budget, and this doesn't mean your celebration will be any less special. All you need is a little creativity and thoughtful planning to make your loved one's baby shower unforgettable.

[See: 12 Ways to Save Money Without Trying.]

If you aren't sure where to start, just follow these frugal party-planning tips.

How to Throw a Baby Shower on a Budget

Host at home. Hosting a party at home not only eliminates any potential venue fees, but also allows you to purchase your own food and drinks -- doubling the savings, says Brittany Anderson, entertainment editor at The Bash, an event planning and vendor booking marketplace. This also gives you more flexibility with scheduling so you won't feel rushed to clean up and clear out as you would at a restaurant or event space.

Don't feel like you have to be sequestered to your living room either. Britton suggests setting up the party outdoors on your patio, backyard or nearby park, as long as the weather is nice. "Other inexpensive options include the clubhouse of your condo or apartment building," she says.

Limit the guest list. The more people you invite, the more you will spend, says Julie Ramhold, a consumer analyst for DealNews.com, a discount shopping site. She recommends limiting the guest list to the expectant parent's closest family and friends. Not only will this reduce costs, but it helps create a more intimate setting that will give mom-to-be more time to spend with each of her guests. Just make sure to run the invite list by the guest of honor first so you don't forget any important people, Ramhold adds.

Go digital with invites. Don't waste money on traditional paper invites and postage. It's faster, cheaper and more convenient to send digital invitations via text and email using HobNob, Evite and Paperless Post. You can find plenty of free templates to customize your invitation or upgrade to a small fee if you want a more elaborate design. These apps and sites also make it easier to manage attendance from your mobile device, as guests can RSVP with a single click.

Time it right. By avoiding prime lunch or dinner time, guests won't expect a full meal, so you can get away with a smaller menu that includes simple appetizers and snacks. A late-morning party is especially budget-friendly, as you can offer coffee and juice and light fare such as fruits and pastries, neither of which are expensive, says Alexandra Fung, CEO of Upparent, a recommendation-sharing site for parents. Just make sure to ask the mom-to-be for her preference before setting the time.

[Read: Best Budget Apps.]

Food and Drink Ideas

Build your own bar. Build-your-own food and drink bars help reduce prep time while cutting costs, as long as you keep them simple. For instance, a taco bar is easy to prepare, light and fresh on taste, and can include plenty of different options and toppings that guests will enjoy customizing, Anderson says. Other ideas include a mimosa or sparkling water bar, rice bowl bar, salad bar and ice cream sundae bar. The options are endless, so have fun with it.

Keep the cake simple. A gourmet cake will look beautiful, but it could set you back hundreds of dollars depending on size, flavors and details in the decorations. According to CostHelper.com, the average price for a cake from an upscale bakery is $4 a slice. Considering you can find lower-priced options without sacrificing the taste, it's best to shop around for other options. "At your local grocery store or wholesale club, you can easily purchase a pretty cake and have it personalized at a fraction of the cost of a high-end bakery," says Trae Bodge, smart shopping expert at TrueTrae.com, a frugal shopping blog.

Decoration, Game and Favor Ideas

Make your own centerpieces. Flowers always add a pretty punch to any party, but they can get expensive if ordered from a specialty florist. Instead, head to a local farmers market or grocery store to find flowers at reasonable prices that fit your color scheme and make your own centerpieces, Anderson advises. You don't have to pick fancy options either -- baby's breath or white carnations offer a simple yet elegant look. Then snag vases on the cheap from the dollar store where you can find a range of sizes and styles.

Print decor and games for free. The internet isn't just a source for baby shower inspiration -- you can actually print supplies, games and decorations right from your computer. Sites like ThePostpartumParty.com and PrettyMyParty.com offer various baby shower printables for free. You can find baby shower bingo cards, favor tags, food signs and much more.

Look for coupons. Whether you're picking up DIY decor items from a craft store or shopping online for party essentials, coupons can go a long way in lowering your overall spend. Both craft retailers Hobby Lobby and Michaels often run new weekly specials and post digital coupons on their sites that you can pull up using your phone at checkout with savings of up to 50%. Bodge recommends downloading saving tools like Slickdeals so you never miss a deal. The tools notify you when a coupon is available for the site you're shopping on, she says.

[See: How to Save Money When Grocery Shopping on a Budget.]

Bake sweets for favors. When it comes to party favors, you can't go wrong with homemade sweets, says Cristy Posten, founder of party-planning blog Pretty My Party. Whether you keep it to a simple cookie or make a more elaborate treat such as a marshmallow rattle pop or chocolate-dipped Rice Krispies square, guests are sure to be pleased and you won't spend a lot of money either. You can find ideas and snag free recipes at sites like AllRecipes.com or Delish.com. "Personally, I would rather an edible favor than something that will collect dust on a shelf," Posten says.

Give gift cards for prizes. If you're planning to play any baby shower games, handing out prizes to the various winners can add a touch of excitement to the festivities. Although a bottle of wine or candle are welcome gifts, consider small gift cards to stores or food establishments that people love, like Target or Starbucks, Bodge says. "People love having money to spend, and you can often save or earn cash back on gift cards on a site like GiftCardGranny.com. Your guests will never know you saved on their favors," she says.

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