Party hacks: for a big bash on a budget
Parties are fun, planning parties is not so fun. For those of us with massive families, where it feels like there's a birthday or an engagement or a baby or a wedding or an anniversary every other week, party planning becomes an outright chore – not to mention a huge expense.
But taking the thrifty approach to parties can easily lead to disappointed little ones who didn't get the birthday of their dreams, so keep everyone happy no matter how often you celebrate with these simple tips.
Start simple – spend a little more on something you can use time and time again, rather than picking up cheap, disposable supplies. Ditch the paper plates and head to Party Pieces to pick up some colourful but low-priced plastic tablewares, like these simple bowls. Do the same for glasses and serving dishes too, rather than using your own – if they break, you don't have to spend money replacing them.
If you think your kids are the type to moan about having the same party things as they did last year, or the same things as their siblings, you might be surprised – re-using familiar decorations can feel like a tradition, getting the kids excited as soon as the party stuff comes out of the cupboard.
A great tip not just for parties, but for the weekly shop if you've got a bigger family – a membership at a wholesaler like Costco may cost £25 a year, but it'll pay for itself with the savings you can make. Pizza, huge birthday cakes, and drinks in bulk make catering an affordable breeze.
Most importantly of all, if you're able to take a little more time with the planning, never buy something that you can make, cook, or craft yourself.
There's no need to buy decorations when making your own is so simple. Pinterest is full of amazing tutorials for creating your own party decorations, whether it's simple paper bunting or a more sturdy fabric variety, tissue paper pom poms, a papier-mâché piñata, or floral table centrepieces. Or you could make fairy lights a little more exciting with nothing but some paper or plastic cups – here's how.
Other party essentials can be done on the cheap, too – don't buy big bags of ice to keep the drinks chilled if you've already bought balloons, for example. Just fill them with water, place them gently in the freezer so they don’t spill, and leave overnight. Then just leave them in a container with your bottles to keep everything cool.
How about entertainment? If you're heading outdoors for your bash, or don't have much in the way of a sound system for the party tunes, you can actually make surprisingly loud speakers for a smartphone out of nothing but a cardboard tube and some paper cups. Find out how here.
After a karaoke party? This YouTube channel provides the backing tracks and lyrics – you'll just have to belt it out without a mic. Which we think will definitely be a lot more fun.
Go all-out for themes!
Keeping things cheap and making bits at home doesn't mean you can't still throw big themed parties – you just have to get creative! Check out these amazing Harry Potter-inspired recipes on Buzzfeed, or the great tips from Party Delights' guide to superhero parties – complete with print-at-home decorations.
Plan awesome activities!
Party bags for kids parties are a little bit retro (in a bad way) these days anyway, so instead of buying something for the little ones to take home, get them making! Arts and crafts activities go down great with creative kids, and you can even tie them in with your theme. Pinterest once again has all the best ideas, with crafty tips for young fans of Minions, Star Wars, Frozen, or Pirate Crafts.
Go cheap, but cover it up!
Buying cheap ingredients for a party isn't always a great feeling – but putting even a simple twist on a low-cost basic can get them party-ready with ease.
Cheap wine tastes rubbish, but Sangria made with cheap wine still tastes amazing! Some juice and chopped fruit will have even the £2.99 tasting great. Does the internet have a good Sangria recipe? No – it's got loads.
If you're barbecuing, ditch the steaks, gourmet burgers or chicken breasts. Keep it simple with your standard cuts and chicken legs, but mix up sauces and marinades to bring them to life - another great tip for infusing flavour is sticking some herbs on the coals.
It's all about atmosphere!
Any great party is more than just the ingredients in the food, or how the decorations are made – it's about the atmosphere. When you're on a budget, it can be easy to feel down about having to choose the cheaper options – and guests, especially younger ones, can pick up on that. Focus on giving them a memorable and fun occasion, and how much you spent on the dips or napkins won't matter.
Check out our blog for more money saving tips.
Remember, do not buy what you can’t afford, and think carefully before taking out a loan for any non-essential purchases.