I love to blog about all things frugal here – hence the name “The Frugal Homemaker”. I truly am a homemaker at heart who loves all things home – from decorating, to cooking/baking, to entertaining, to cleaning and laundry – ok, well maybe not those last two! I love to make all things PRETTY but I also love to do it very frugally.
Today I want to talk about throwing a party, whether it be a birthday party, a shower, or any kind or party – on a very LITTLE budget. I am mainly going to focus on décor, tableware, and party goods not necessarily food. For the church showers I help with, people bring food to share (pre-arranged) and a 1-2 people donate a few dollars to help with costs which is the only budget I have – so these showers are done with $10 or less usually!
“Pinterest-perfect party” or not
I just have to talk for a minute about “Pinterest-perfect” or Pinterest-inspired parties. I see that term thrown around and honestly it is done in a “bashing” way and it makes me sad. Why do we feel like we need to criticize anyone for what they do or don’t do?
If you are a mom or person who likes to keep things simple or is in a time of life that requires you to keep things super simple and a birthday party for you consists of heading to the park with $5 pizzas, a plastic tablecloth to throw on a picnic table, a store bought cake, and a maybe a few balloons – then DO IT! And don’t feel bad about it!
But if you are someone who loves to “fuss about things” a bit, and go all out, and that is what is works for your family then DO IT! And don’t feel bad about it. The bottom line – don’t feel pressured to be someone you aren’t, and do something that isn’t you – whether that means doing or not doing something. I have a hard time throwing a tablecloth on a table and calling it done, but that is me! Use the gifts, talents, and abilities and the budget that you are blessed with. The world of Pinterest and blogs, and free printables has become an amazing TOOL for those of us that love to decorate and fancy things up a bit. And honestly for those who aren’t creative – just type in your party theme on etsy.com or Pinterest and another creative person probably has your entire theme ready for you to print and throw together for less than just a few dollars.
Look around you and make use of the gifts your friends have too and “trade” with them – let the mom who doesn’t feel very creative but is outgoing and loves games help plan a game or two for your party, and have your detailed/loves decorating friend help you decorate, while you whip up your famous goodies in the kitchen. Let’s celebrate each other and the gifts we have instead of tearing each other down.
Here’s the most recent shower that I helped to decorate for at the church we are currently attending – it was a baby shower for a mom having her first baby – a baby GIRL! I have probably helped decorate for 10 or so showers, but since this church is an older generation church, this is only the 2nd baby shower I have helped with decorating. So my decorations were not very “baby” themed – like ducks and rattles everywhere – because for parties I use many things from my home and I don’t have lots of baby shower themed items in my decor. :) But we did fun baby girl colors like pink, black and white – with polka dots and stripes and a bit of gold mixed in. This same color scheme could be used for a wedding shower or for a fun birthday party like a Princess or Minnie Mouse party.
I kept things pretty simple this time. This same room is typical used every time and after 2-3 bridal showers last summer, I have sort of came up with a basic standard arrangement of tables and even with how I do the décor on the tables. I find that it is easier to decorate and looks better if you can sort of FILL the table with food, platters, stands. You don’t want things to be spread out too much. Honestly I could have probably served the cupcakes and lemonade on this table to fill it up more but to help with not having “lines” of people, I spread things out a bit. So if you are having a party in your home – don’t be afraid to really fill up your dining room/kitchen table or a buffet with the food/drinks and make that be the “centerpiece” focus of your party and décor.
Think outside the box with party décor! The chevron paper on the wall and the polka dot runner is wrapping paper – actually Christmas wrapping paper from Hobby Lobby! Wrapping paper is a CHEAP and very easy way to decorate for a party. Watch after Christmas sales for non-Christmas themed wrapping paper like solids or stripes or polka dots. Even if you have to purchase a roll at full price in the birthday section a roll of $3-4 wrapping paper can be runners and backdrops for several tables. I usually cut the width of the wrapping paper in half depending on the width of the roll. So I got 2 runners out of about 8 feet of wrapping paper. And making a backdrop like that draws your eye in and makes a big statement. In your home – push your table against a wall, wrap a piece of foam board and put it on a easel or prop it up on the back of a table…
Watch for seasonal clearance sales too and think ahead. I love to hit Target and Wal-Mart after Valentines, Easter, and 4th of July and pick up paper goods and décor at 50-75% off. They typically have solid or stripe/polka dot pink and red paper goods after Valentine’s Day which could be used for any occasion. And fun green, yellow, or pink after Easter which can be used for spring tea parties or birthdays/showers, and of course red/white/blue after 4th of July that can work too depending on what themes/colors you are using. I picked up the pink tablecloths, pink napkins, and the pink polka dot bags for $0.50 each on clearance after Valentine’s knowing that there was a baby girl shower later that spring.
And here’s a super cheap party food – popcorn! I just popped a bunch of popcorn and covered it in some melted white chocolate I had added some drops of red food coloring in to turn it pink. You could also serve plain popcorn with some shakers of different flavors or a few different flavors of popcorn like parmesan herb, caramel, butter, cinnamon sugar.
The paper banner was an easy way to personalize the shower and very cheap too. These can be printed out easily from many places for free. I actually picked up this set for $1.50 at Target on clearance and just taped the letters on the little pendants so I could reuse it again for future parties.
The hanging lanterns also came from Target clearance. They put a ton of stuff on clearance in the party section a few months ago and there was a Cartwheel coupon that gave me an additional % off as well. So I got packs of these for under a $1 and they can be used again and again.
The little chalkboards were from Michael’s bought for under a $1 with a sale/coupon combined. Since I use them for many things like weddings and parties it was a good investment for me. But you can also use black cardstock paper and write on it with a chalk marker, regular chalk, or a white pen to achieve the same thing. Or collect some cheap frames from yard sales and turn them into chalkboards.
The white crates, baskets, stands, and more are all décor (mostly yard sale finds) from my house. I use those wood bins for storage at home but also end up using them many times for decorating and parties. So look around your house and see what you can use to add to your party table – it doesn’t have to be “party décor” to be used as party décor!
Everything here is all yard sale finds and décor from my house and a $0.25 white yard sale tablecloth. This is where people could put dirty glass plates to be washed and put cards in the basket.
And here’s the cake/drink table. I made simple chocolate cupcakes at home topped with pink icing and little pearl sprinkles picked up after Christmas for $0.50 on clearance. The chalkboard is my yard sale frame turned chalkboard (someone else did the lettering – I am not that good at lettering), and the sticks are just from my yard and then spray painted gold.
Another way you can save at parties or if you host frequent showers is to invest in a set of inexpensive glass dishes (if that works for your family!). You could buy 24 pint mason jars to use as glasses each time, and maybe some dollar store glass plates. I actually have some inexpensive vintage china dishes (10-12) that I picked up at a yard sale for a few dollars and I mix those with some clear Tiara salad plates bought for a few dollars for several showers I have hosted at my home. I don’t even have a paper plate in our house, but that is ME and what I enjoy doing and what works for me. I use my dishwasher FREQUENTLY as I love using glassware but can’t stand washing by hand. Even cute plastic/melamine white plates would work for having reusable party ware.
So just in a nutshell here’s my 10 tips for hosting a budget friendly party/shower:
- Use décor from around your house as party décor – think outside the box!
- Buy clearance paper goods after holidays (solid colors, stripes, polka dots) for future parties.
- Use wrapping paper for runners, for wrapping paper boxes as stands, for backdrops.
- Use flowers from your garden, sticks, etc. to add décor and height.
- Make and use DIY chalkboards as signs/party décor and to label food.
- Invest in a set or two of mason jars to use as glasses at parties
- Watch yard sales for tiered servers, crates, cake plates, and things that can be used at parties.
- Browse the party aisle at stores for clearance finds like hanging lanterns, balloons, etc.
- Keep food simple – make homemade cupcakes, have family each bring a dish to share, order $5 pizzas, etc.
- Do what works for YOUR family – go simple or go big! Celebrating the event/person is what really matters.
I could share so much more about parties (I love hosting/decorating for events!) and hope to share a kids birthday party that I decorate for in the future with some more tips. Until then here’s some more links that will help you with ideas and resources on planning a party on a budget.
My friend Molly just did a horse themed birthday for her little girl for pennies! Check out her décor, how she reused things from around the house, and crafted a few things for a super cute party! And Molly has many more kid themed birthdays you can find here.
I have used Shanty2Chic’s free printable alphabet banner several times and is simple and cute! Back the letters with whatever color paper you want or even put it on burlap.
They also recently created a chalkboard alphabet banner – completely free for you to print as well.
And here’s some other parties/showers I have done and blogged about:
How do you throw parties in your house? Are you a meet at McDonald’s for the play place and no prep or an go all out mom? Whichever you are – embrace it! Because at the end of the day, you celebrated your child’s birthday and I bet they enjoyed every minute! Or you blessed an expectant or to be married couple with things they needed for this new phase in their life and that is what is going to be remembered.
What’s your favorite tips for keeping costs low at parties?