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How to Throw a $1,000 Party for $200

By Melissa Green | Citizens Bank Staff

With the warm weather upon us, friends are officially out of hibernation and actually willing to do things! If you're the person in the group who organizes things, you're well aware of how expensive hosting can be. But a party doesn't have to be expensive to be memorable, even if you're kicking it up a notch for a special occasion.

Learn how to upscale your next event for $200 or less.

Venue

Figure out where you’re having your party. If you have the ability to host at your home, you’ll be able to save some money on venue costs. Depending on your location, renting a private room at a restaurant or bar could cost $50-$250 for the space — plus the food and beverage costs.

Your house is free. It'll take some time and arguably more effort, but you'll be saving a considerable amount of money.

Pro tip: Whether you're indoors or out, make sure you include this important detail in the invitation. For example "We'll be outside, so dress for the weather!"

Invitations

Group texts and Facebook groups have their purposes, but when you’re stepping up your hosting game you’ll want to establish the tone right away with your invitations. 

Take a look at these free examples you can create on free websites like Evite or Canva:

According to Thumbtack, the average price for custom printed invitations is $140-$200. Save money (and a tree) by sending digital invites to your guests. You can find plenty of templates to choose from, and managing RSVPs within an app or site makes organizing your guest list easy and seamless.

Pro tip: If you live in a housing complex that rivals a labyrinth, it might be a good idea to include instructions on how to find your front door.

Food

For many, the food can either make or break your party. It’s also where most hosts tend to overspend. Recent surveys show that party hosts spent an average of $81 per person! If you go the catering route, you’re looking at about $250 for a small party. Food is an important part of the party, but that’s no reason to break the budget.

Here are a few creative ways to save on food and impress your guests. 

1. Recipe exchange:

Since we're talking upscale events, we'll skip over the traditional potluck idea. Instead, let's call it a recipe exchange. Ask guests to bring food dishes appropriate to your theme (maybe seafood, Cinco de Mayo, or comfort food) and have them display the written recipe next to their culinary creation. It creates great Instagramable moments. 

2. DIY bar:

Another creative food option is a sleek taco bar. If you’re a savvy shopper, you can get everything you need to feed 25 guests for under $80.

When it comes to a DIY bar, presentation is everything. Shop for or DIY taco holders and condiment containers online or at your local discount store. You probably won’t need to spend over $20.

Drinks

Alcohol is notorious for breaking the budget of a good party. Hiring a bartender is a nice touch, but it can cost from $150-$200, and the cost goes up from there. BYOB doesn’t exactly say upscale, but you can get away with it with a creative spin. For example, consider a tasting party. Direct your guests to bring their favorite bottle of wine for a “taste-and-vote party.” You can even DIY score cards and offer a small prize for the guest who brought the winning wine. Feel free to substitute another type of alcohol to fit your event theme — think tequila tasting on Cinco de Mayo!

To get the party started, shop budget-friendly wines online or at a wholesale retailer. Depending on where you live, you may be able to snag a 1.5 liter bottle of wine for as little as $10. Grab a handful of whites and reds so that guests can be offered a drink as they arrive.

Décor

Even if you’re not a professional decorator, you can create a great-looking space your guests will enjoy. Think about what you already have that you can repurpose for your event. Furniture, linens, and even Christmas lights can help liven up a space. When shopping for décor, try to keep your purchases to a minimum; it’s easy to rack up a tab in the party supply store. Additionally, craft and thrift stores will almost always have low-cost gems that won’t look cheap.

Entertainment

Now that your party is shaping up, it’s time to think about entertainment. Great music can help maintain your desired party vibe, but the average cost of a professional DJ is $500, which will put you over your $200 budget. Instead, think about free playlists you can download or stream. Hooking your laptop or phone up to a speaker will help keep the party going. 

Additionally, you can always bring a few board games outside, or take advantage of the free games on your smart devices. Alexa and Siri definitely know how to keep the party going. 

Budget roundup

Before you start putting things in your cart, you'll want to create a budget. Try to estimate how much things will cost before you make any purchases. This will help prevent overspending by showing you where your money is going, as well as where you can cut costs if necessary. Take a look at what we've spent so far on a party that could total up to $1,400:

  • Venue: $0 
  • Invitations: $0 
  • Food: $100 
  • Drinks: $50 
  • Décor: $25 
  • Entertainment: $0
  • Total cost: $175

What to remember

Whether you’re celebrating a graduation, engagement, birthday, or hosting a just-because event, spending responsibly will allow you to enjoy yourself even more. So turn the music up and raise your glass to a memorable celebration!

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