Savvy blog readers and fabulous party planners, I need your advice! I’d like to know: how do you host a party without breaking the bank?

What super shortcuts and cost-saving secrets have you learned from your last big shindig? What cost you only a few bucks but made a big impact in your decor? Where did you score the best deals? I want details! : ) I’ll be compiling your list of tips (and pictures, if you’ve got ’em!) for budget-friendly parties in a future blog post.

And guess what? As part of Apartment Guide‘s “Small Space, Savvy Budget: How to Host a Pint-Size Party” program, I can give one of you a $50 Target gift card just for sharing your idea! Comment on this post and a winner will be chosen at random on March 25, 2012.

Update: Find out the gift card winner and
read a round-up of everyone’s party tips here!

Working with a budget doesn’t have to be a bad thing – trust me. I’ve seen so many beautiful parties and am often in on the behind-the-scenes scoop, and I know you’d be surprised. For example, would anyone have guessed that the gorgeous vintage high chairs from Chloe and Sophie’s Sweet Shoppe party were actually bargain yard sale finds? Or that the cakes were bought at the grocery store for just a few dollars each?

Or how about this amazing Cinderella party, where all of the decor cost a mere $50!

And of course going DIY can be really thrifty, like these homemade bubble mixes from a “Tangled” theme party (that also feature free printables)!

This is just the tip of the iceberg, because we haven’t even talked food, location, and so much more. And this isn’t just for birthday parties, but any party – housewarmings, holidays, dinners… anything goes. I can’t wait to hear your ideas!

Update: Find out the gift card winner and
read a round-up of everyone’s party tips here!

Leave a comment on this post with your hot tip and you’ll be entered to win a $50 Target gift card courtesy of Apartment Guide!

“Like” Apartment Guide on Facebook, follow them on Twitter @AptGuide and “circle” them on Google+ for real-time tips and updates on making the most of your space.

Want to find even more entertaining tips for your home? Apartment Guide has budget-friendly ideas for people in any sized home on Moving Today and the Apartment Guide blog. Whether you’re living, looking or moving, Apartment Guide offers how-to tips for entertaining and making the most of your space on a budget. If you’re ready for a whole new space or looking to move, Apartment Guide has the photos, floor plans, features and tips to help you find the perfect apartment community.

Apartment Guide and owner Consumer Source, Inc. partnered with bloggers such as me to participate in their monthly blogger programs. As part of that program, I received compensation. They did not tell me what to purchase or what to say about the products used, and believe that consumers and bloggers are free to form their own opinions and share them in their own words. Consumer Source’s policies align with WOMMA Ethics Code, FTC guidelines and social media engagement recommendations.


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  1. 1
    Thursday, March 15th, 2012 at 4:16 pm
    Jen says:
    I always try to keep the guest list short. VIPs only, it saves money!
  2. 2
    Thursday, March 15th, 2012 at 4:19 pm
    Mami2jcn says:
    Instead of serving a whole meal, have a dessert party!
  3. 3
    Thursday, March 15th, 2012 at 4:35 pm
    Kelsey says:
    I always make my own cupcakes because it saves loads - especially if you are making a large amount. Plus, if you are using cupcake toppers and wrappers nobody will ever know the difference!!
  4. 4
    Thursday, March 15th, 2012 at 4:44 pm
    Rosa says:
    How about having a party in mid day and have brunch style buffet. It is cheaper and healthy.
  5. 5
    Thursday, March 15th, 2012 at 4:45 pm
    Jess says:
    Pancake bar! Sooo inexpensive, just add some toppings, fruit & drinks. Who doesn't love pancakes?!
  6. 6
    Thursday, March 15th, 2012 at 4:57 pm
    Angela says:
    Do as much as you can on your own, invites,cupcake wrappers and toppers, water bottle labels, tags, and start planning way in advance so you can take your time shopping and getting things on sale. Also try and use colors that match holidays around your party so you cn buy clearance candy and items in bulk after the holiday when they go on sale.
  7. 7
    Thursday, March 15th, 2012 at 4:58 pm
    Queila says:
    Hello there, how do i find these style of bubbles to buy?
    theyre so cute! Thnks
    xoxo
    • 7.1
      Saturday, March 17th, 2012 at 1:49 pm
      Heather says:
      Hi Queila! Check out this post for all the details on the bubble favors: http://www.chickabug.com/blog/2012/02/tangled-party-londyn-is-3.html
  8. 8
    Thursday, March 15th, 2012 at 5:13 pm
    Mindy says:
    Heather! I've decorated a birthday party for $1!! I used cardstock and fabric I had on hand, 1 roll of streamers (where my $1 went), free paint stirrers, printed pictures on a regular computer and used baby food jars. Check it out here!
    http://adaywithlilmama.blogspot.com/2011/04/first-birthday-party-decorations-for.html
    • 8.1
      Saturday, March 17th, 2012 at 1:50 pm
      Heather says:
      I knew this would be right up your alley Mindy! I feel like you could throw TEN parties on $150, you have so many good ideas! : )
  9. 9
    Thursday, March 15th, 2012 at 5:14 pm
    Monica Brown says:
    I love a good budget party! I am constantly searching sites like Etsy/Pinterest/party blogs for ideas and then recreate them myself (less expensive and can give them personal touches). My favorite tip is spray paint!! It's easy to find a plain (ugly) cakestand or plate and make it look fab just by repainting it to the color scheme of your party! Also, craft stores are your best friend. : )
  10. 10
    Thursday, March 15th, 2012 at 5:15 pm
    Jenny says:
    I re-purpose thrift store goods for our parties, borrow from friends, raid the basement... anything goes!
  11. 11
    Thursday, March 15th, 2012 at 5:15 pm
    Deanna Sena says:
    Once I pick a theme I find ideas that inspire me (usually via Pinterest) then I make them my own by creating with materials I already have, or find supplies dirt cheap that can work. Making most everything myself, from invites to decorations to goody bags & food saves a ton of $$$. Plus the satisfaction of knowing you created it all is very rewarding!
  12. 12
    Thursday, March 15th, 2012 at 5:22 pm
    Toni Thomason says:
    I always try to make what I can. If I can not make it, I try to trade something I can make to someone who can make what I need. Short guest list. Dollar tree goes a long way as does the clearance section at the grocery store and Target. I also try to plan out several months in advance that way, I do not have to spend so much at once.
  13. 13
    Thursday, March 15th, 2012 at 5:35 pm
    Shannon Smith says:
    1. Host a party at home.
    2. Make your own food.
    3. Repeat parties - my kids birthdays are three months apart and I do the same themed party for each kid.

    Have a breakfast party! This year we had a moshi monster pancake picnic party. HUGE pancake buffet and lots of fun. All the families were invited. Our cake was Krispy Kreme and our party favors were hot chocolate ice cream cones. SUper fun!
  14. 14
    Thursday, March 15th, 2012 at 5:35 pm
    bonnie says:
    Whenever someone asks if they can bring something, give them an item off your menu! That leaves you the time and money to concentrate on the big wow items, instead of making sure you have enough items for a full table. I also take inventory of my craft supplies and search for projects that I already have all the supplies needed. Crafty stuff can get expensive, and some things actually cost less to buy already made.
  15. 15
    Thursday, March 15th, 2012 at 5:36 pm
    staci @ lizard & ladybug says:
    My standards are paper lunch sacks for favors/decorations etc. They are cheap and can be dressed up or dressed down. Coffee filters (white & natural) are great for creating banners, jar covers, sandwich wraps & more! I also try to incorporate items I already have - galvanized pails, clear jars.
  16. 16
    Thursday, March 15th, 2012 at 6:06 pm
    Linda says:
    Here are the tricks to have a beautiful birthday party with limited budget.
    1. You can have the party at the backyard of your home (free) or park that's is free
    2. Finger food (find a good recipe online) for ex: Bacon wrapped potato. Or another option, you can go to costco or sam's club.
    3. Baking the cake and cupcake together with the birthday girl or boy.
    4. Ice cream bar (you can buy a big jar of ice cream and cone)
    5. or you can have a shave ice bar with syrup
    I think having ice cream or shave ice dessert is really fun for the kids and it can make them sit nicely for a while. Once they finished it they can have a bubble party. Bubble is inexpensive, you can get a big jar of bubble at walmart.
    For the decoration, you can go to target or joann or michael. Their clearance stuff is very nice for birthday decoration. Or you can go to etsy and get the printable or find the free printable and make it by your self.
    And if you want to use ribbon, michael has a really nice ribbon that's only $1 and they have 40%off coupon that you can use.
    Or if you can shop in advance you can try go to goodwill.

    I love target. I hope I can win the gift card. :)
  17. 17
    Thursday, March 15th, 2012 at 6:14 pm
    Linda says:
    I forgot one thing..

    For the jars, use a jar that you already have. For ex: frapuccino bottle for milk, earth best baby food jar for cereal or sweet dessert.
    and use ribbon or lace to decorate
  18. 18
    Thursday, March 15th, 2012 at 6:21 pm
    Kayla says:
    Whenever I throw a birthday party, I go to the warehouse district in downtown LA. I get yards of fabric dirt cheap and reuse for backdrops, table covers, or chair covers. I buy balloons in bulk and I rent a helium tank at a local balloon shop. Also estate sales are Awesome! You can get great stuff for cheap! I also make my invites, water bottle labels, candy labels, games, and everything in the dessert bar. I start planning my daughters party for next year while I'm working on this years. :)
  19. 19
    Thursday, March 15th, 2012 at 6:28 pm
    Tiffany says:
    I plan ahead for every event and buy items on clearance throughout the year. This year, my daughter is having a rainbow birthday party, so we saved 2-3 plates and napkins from each holiday so that in a year, we'll have all the colors of tableware without having to purchase anything. I also try to make as much of her decor as possible and use cute little foods to fill empty spaces.
  20. 20
    Thursday, March 15th, 2012 at 7:53 pm
    anash says:
    make sure there are plenty of snacks and desserts, candy! Thanks for a super giveaway!
  21. 21
    Friday, March 16th, 2012 at 8:54 am
    Larissa pavei says:
    I have young kids so i try to keep it easy on food and more on games...saves on money!! lol
  22. 22
    Friday, March 16th, 2012 at 9:10 am
    Paty says:
    my mom and some friends help me... to make the cake, the cupcakes and the most important thing: planning the party and start buying all you need as soon as possible!!!
  23. 23
    Friday, March 16th, 2012 at 9:34 am
    Alana Fligor says:
    I have found that the best way to save money on parties is to keep it simple! I often reuse items from party-to-party (trays, banners, table cloths, etc.) The hardest thing for me is keeping the treat bags from breaking my bank!
    • 23.1
      Saturday, March 31st, 2012 at 1:22 pm
      Heather says:
      Alana, you're the lucky winner of the Target gift card! YAY!! : )
  24. 24
    Friday, March 16th, 2012 at 9:53 am
    kara says:
    I always have parties at my home and I make everything myself....invites, decorations, food, dessert, etc. I also pick a theme/color scheme WAY in advance so I give myself lots of time to keep an eye out for any deals that might work for my party.
  25. 25
    Friday, March 16th, 2012 at 10:07 am
    Kate says:
    Plan ahead! Think about your theme 6-9 months in advance and then purchase when you see something that catches your eye!
  26. 26
    Friday, March 16th, 2012 at 10:13 am
    Amanda B. says:
    I buy goodie bag items during the year when they go on clearance (after holidays). So there may be heart erasers in my daughter's goodie bags or glow stick pumpkin wands but they are always a big hit!
  27. 27
    Friday, March 16th, 2012 at 1:01 pm
    Lynda M. says:
    I usually make all of the food myself, or ask friends to each bring an appetizer or dessert. This helps keep the cost down - catering is so expensive!
  28. 28
    Friday, March 16th, 2012 at 2:03 pm
    Melissa Dudley says:
    my family and friends help make the menu with me and that allows more in the budget for party decor and games!
  29. 29
    Friday, March 16th, 2012 at 3:12 pm
    Linda K. says:
    My March Madness FUN party was all green! All of my decorations came from Dollar Spot - Target, 99 cent store and Dollar Tree, as well as some homemade paper crafted items. Finger food and lots of inexpensive, yet good wine! Photos available through email.
  30. 30
    Friday, March 16th, 2012 at 7:54 pm
    Sara says:
    Hmmm...let's see... I LOVEEEE planning a party on a budget!! I always do as many DIYs as possible. I search the internet for months (literally, months!) before my parties and find all of the best possible ideas. I use printables and make as many other decorations myself as possible. Oriental Trading always has great decorations, favors and craft/activity ideas. And don't forget to find a promo code online! I also always hit up the dollar store, Christmas Tree Shop, and Target dollar bins. Have family help with food. I have people make their "specialties", whether it be potato salad or brownies. I also always have homemade cake and desserts...cake pops, cupcakes, you name it!
  31. 31
    Friday, March 16th, 2012 at 8:43 pm
    SwoodsonVintage says:
    My tip is to remove extra furniture that won't be used as seating or tables (like desks, decorative boxes) to another room to free up party space!
  32. 32
    Friday, March 16th, 2012 at 10:12 pm
    Kris says:
    I always shop clearance, thrift stores, garage sales, etc. for party supplies!! And, I always think outside the box on decorations too!
  33. 33
    Friday, March 16th, 2012 at 10:17 pm
    The Partiologist says:
    I hosted a super fun birthday party (for statues, yes I said statues!) - totally inexpensive! I did it all myself and came up with some very creative ideas! Here's the link to my blog post -
    http://thepartiologist.blogspot.com/2011/04/birthday-party.html
  34. 34
    Friday, March 16th, 2012 at 10:36 pm
    lizzy says:
    Try to use a space for free (park, home, etc). This will save a bunch. Make your own food and use simple decorations that you can use again!
  35. 35
    Saturday, March 17th, 2012 at 1:27 am
    Party Ideas by Little Bird Celebrations says:
    Use solid colors for most of your party supplies such as plates, napkins, cups, decor. Most of these items can be found at the Dollar Store, or your local big box store. Use small diy details to pull your theme together. If you aren't crafty yourself, purchase a few key items from someone who is, on Etsy. By adding a custom made cake topper or unique table centerpiece, this will be your showcase piece and everything else can be more simple.
  36. 36
    Sunday, March 18th, 2012 at 12:19 am
    Jaimie says:
    I love having personalized accessories, like water bottle labels and cupcake toppers! There are tons of options on Etsy that are affordable and it makes a party more personable :)
  37. 37
    Sunday, March 18th, 2012 at 12:25 am
    louise says:
    I do as much DIY as I can! And I get my napkins, silverware etc, at the dollar store! They have tons of colors to choose from!
  38. 38
    Sunday, March 18th, 2012 at 9:24 pm
    Bridget says:
    I usually order a cake from a local baker... Grocery stores are more advanced in the baking department!!! I paid under $20 for 36 cupcakes and a smash cake. Made my own food, and thanks to Target for the cute party supplies! Plus We bought balloon kit (helium Tank, 70 balloons and strings- under $20)
  39. 39
    Monday, March 19th, 2012 at 10:03 am
    Carolyn Petitgout says:
    I threw my daughter an owl-themed party for her first birthday (she's a january baby)...all the stores happened to have their valentine's day stuff which was covered in owls so I got a ton of stuff out of the dollar bins at Target! It was SO much cheaper than buying normal stuff. I got gift bags, cupcake boxes, stickers and tons more!
  40. 40
    Monday, March 19th, 2012 at 12:40 pm
    Pallavi Kale says:
    I love to plan parties and over the last few years I have realized that the key to parties that make a mark is good planning.You have to be planning well ahead of time if you really want it to be slendid.Shop clearences this year for parties next year.Think that much ahead of time.Also my to go places are always Target, Michaels adn other craft stores.I have also realized that now you can find almost anything and everyhting you need for Parties at Target, the dollar sections at Target are amazing...I have had several favors like decoratives boxes,candles, and kids favors that i have found at Target dollar store and that have really thrilled my guests.Nowadays you can even find almost everyhting from cake banking to decorating and entertainment for kids crafts at Target for a fraction of a cost.One place stop for all you shop.
  41. 41
    Tuesday, March 20th, 2012 at 8:57 pm
    Michelle says:
    I love looking at here and other places for inspiration but I have to say that it is easier than you think to decorate AND throw the party for $150 or less.

    Sure you can spend a lot of money but as a lot of people said, there is a lot to be said about reusing. When you combine that with smart shopping, it is a match made in heaven!

    For example, we choose a charity every year as a household instead of birthday gifts - they get enough from their family to go this direction with friends. So even though all of the "ware" wasn't themed with the chosen local Humane Society, the decor and partyware was what my daughter wanted - bright, colorful and crazy!

    I took various lanterns, paper balls and all of that which I purchased a mere 9 years ago (on 80% clearance at Pier 1) and hung them all over the ceiling, focusing in the dining room to be able to give it that 'pow'! We then took streamers (very inexpensive) and made all kinds of "scene setting" with those. The table had lovely bright patterned 'ware' that was purchased at the local party store (they always have good prices) and then did a fun mix and match of solid color napkins and cups from prior years. Just what she wanted!

    The food was easy... pasta, popsicles, homemade cake, breakfast casserole, popcorn, candy, sugar cookies (did I mention it was a sleepover?). The activities were a movie night and to make things for the Humane Society so we bought inexpensive leashes and painted them with fabric paint (1 per kiddo) and then took plastic dog bowls (focused on dogs - sorry cat people!) and decorated them with the dozens of sharpies I have. As a group, the 10 girls made 20 dozen dog biscuits that were super easy and cut with normal cookie cutters so it was like making sugar cookies!

    Party favors were a simple bag easily decorated with spare ribbon and the liking that were filled with fun girly things that of course... were bought over the past year on the cheap.

    It is all about the shopping and well, I can't get swayed from that! Good luck all! (Oh and I spent well under $150 for this total was about $85 and that included the donation items but we did shop to fill up the rest of the big wagon load of donations brought by the party guests before we went to the Humane Society!)
  42. 42
    Wednesday, March 21st, 2012 at 10:24 am
    Beth @ Hungry Happenings says:
    When we host really large parties, and don't have the budge to provide all the food, I offer a prize to the person that brings the best dish, usually one that fits our party theme. I found people bring much better and much more exciting food when enticed with a nice prize.
  43. 43
    Thursday, March 22nd, 2012 at 8:51 am
    Kris N. says:
    Use small live flowering plants as decorations and take-home prizes. They are beautiful, green and a long-term reminder of the party fun!
  44. 44
    Thursday, March 22nd, 2012 at 1:28 pm
    kelly says:
    I go with a theme that Walmart or Target has items in clearance and all the kids' party bags can be filled w/items for a very low cost. Also, try to remember not to go overboard on the food. My birthday girls (& their friends) are way too excited to take the time to eat. Then, you don't need plasticware and may just get away with using just cups. Make-your-own-cakes or -cupcakes is the way to go with very little cost but much gratitude:) Use cheap colorful papers to make the party colorful, for instance, make your own confetti and printables using black ink rather than colored ink, then have your children color them in.
  45. 45
    Friday, March 23rd, 2012 at 9:13 pm
    Jenni says:
    I use things I have on hand for decor... tissue paper, candles, and a little paper and glue go a LONG way in making a big impact on decor for very little money. I pull objects from all over my home in creating a party look.
  46. 46
    Friday, March 23rd, 2012 at 9:20 pm
    trish jander says:
    DIY! I just got done baking cupcakes, doughnut pops and smores pops for my twins party tomorrow! A little creativity, scrapbook paper and color theme can really make a budget party pop!
  47. 47
    Friday, March 23rd, 2012 at 9:28 pm
    Diana says:
    I always throw at-home birthday parties for my boys (ages 4 & 8) and people are always amazed at how much we do & giveaway! The Internet & a printer allows me to plan out several games for kids at practically no cost. For prizes, I am year-round on the lookout for clearance items at walmart (ESP. End of season things that kids love, like bubbles, aqua sand, plastic outdoor toys), craft stores, etc! Even when I am garage-saling or consignment/thrift shops, I am always thinking ahead to next year's party prizes! Also, I make their 'character' pinatas myselffor a few dollars in comparison to $15/$20 retail!!!
  48. 48
    Friday, March 23rd, 2012 at 9:34 pm
    Danielle says:
    If you're creative a small budget can go a long way. Go DIY!
  49. 49
    Friday, March 23rd, 2012 at 9:48 pm
    Jen says:
    I like to dress up a table display with a table runner made of coordinating wrapping paper. This is a simple way to add a little something extra to your party for not a lot of money.
  50. 50
    Friday, March 23rd, 2012 at 9:54 pm
    Jessica S says:
    I try to plan at least 6 mo in advance, shop clearance and there are a lot of free probables online
  51. 51
    Friday, March 23rd, 2012 at 10:05 pm
    Ali says:
    My best party planing tip is to invest in items that can be used time and again. The paper pom flowers that always appear here there and everywhere in my photo's (they have even made an appearance here on Chickabugs Blog!) were made with tissue paper, twist ties, a glue dot (2 per flower) and a very sharp scissors. Oh, and a lot of patience. I made them 2 years ago with a total investment of $50. I have used them for 7 gatherings in my home. I pile them into my window seat with expensive upholstery that I don't want kids to sit on, so they are decorative and functional at the same time!
  52. 52
    Friday, March 23rd, 2012 at 10:40 pm
    Pearl says:
    For a recent engagement party that I threw, we used cleaned out food jars of every kind, wrapped them with lace or ribbon that we had on hand and used them as vases. We stacked any old/vintage books we had on hand (and bought some old readers digests for super cheap at a thrift store) and placed vases, tea lights, and mason jars all over the stacks of books. We also made table runners out of vintage book pages and lace. We also hung frames with pictures of the couple on the wood fence outside. We took our decor outside along with furniture from my house, threw sheets and blankets on the floor and had a dessert/Bon fire vintage frontier party.
  53. 53
    Friday, March 23rd, 2012 at 11:11 pm
    Becky says:
    I am so cheap I squeak when I walk. I just recently hosted a baby shower for 100 for my best friend. I handmade ALL the decorations with the exception of balloons and crepe paper. Most decorations were made of recycled materials and paper products.
    1. Styrofoam baby shoe favors
    2. Tutu diapercake stand made out of styrofoam cups and cardboard.
    3. Tea light candle holders made out of tissue paper and baby food jars
    4. Centerpieces made out of recycled boxes, tissue paper, cardstock, and wooden skewers.
    5. Table runners made out of wrapping paper.
    6. Book mark party favors made out of cardstock and paperclips
    7. Tissue poms to hang from ceiling
    8. Monogram Decoration made of tissue paper and foam board
    9. Tree branches painted white and covered in twinkle lights.
    10. Recycled Coke bottles painted with Krylon spray paint and used as bud vases.
    I could go on and on. The whole party with the exception of the food didn't cost anywhere near 150.00. The only thing I actually purchased was plates, napkins, etc., tissue paper, balloons, and crepe paper, and food. Everything else came out of my imagination and my craft room. Check out the pictures on my blog http://hoitytoitycrafts.blogspot.com
  54. 54
    Saturday, March 24th, 2012 at 5:00 pm
    Susan Brown says:
    Homemade poms! You can make them for about $1.00 each with just ribbon and tissue paper!
  55. 55
    Saturday, March 24th, 2012 at 8:16 pm
    Tami Pyper says:
    The last thing I hosted was a team dinner for my daughter's soccer team. Honestly, the thing that made the biggest impact was printables from chickabug! They were great! I used them on cake pops, water bottles, and for treat bags. I grouped water bottles on each table along with a party circle on a lollipop stick in a mason jar of york pieces, since the theme was blue and white. I also used blue and white balloons and crepe paper everywhere. I used food as decor, with the cake pops in blue and white and then party circles on some of the sticks. I also decorated some 1 dollar buckets (from Target) with a party circle and then placed cutlery in each bucket. I got a lot of bang for my buck and it looked fabulous!