Earlier this month, I asked for your best advice: How do you throw a fabulous party without going over budget? I was delighted (and practically overwhelmed!) with the number of tips and tricks that everyone had to share! (Thank you!!) I compiled everyone’s ideas together to make one big bargain-hunting, smart-planning, thrifty-DIY guide. Here’s what I learned from all of you!

Save on food

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.  -Bonnie

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! -Kelsey

Instead of serving a whole meal, have a dessert party! -Mami2jcn

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. -Beth, Hungry Happenings

Put together an ice cream bar with bulk tubs of ice cream, or have a shave ice bar with syrup. -Linda

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! -Sara

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. -Bridget

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:) -Kelly

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! -Lynda

My family and friends help make the menu with me and that allows more in the budget for party decor and games! -Melissa

Serve finger food and lots of inexpensive yet good wine! -Linda

Homemade party buffet via The Partiologist

Serve breakfast or brunch

Pancake bar! Sooo inexpensive, just add some toppings, fruit & drinks. Who doesn’t love pancakes?! -Jess

How about having a party in mid day and have brunch style buffet. It is cheaper and healthy. -Rosa

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! -Shannon

Location, location, location

Try to use a space for free (park, home, etc). This will save a bunch! -Lizzy

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! -Susan

Have the party in your back yard! -Linda

Choose your theme wisely

Try and use colors that match holidays around your party so you can buy clearance candy and items in bulk after the holiday when they go on sale. -Emily

I go with a theme that Walmart or Target has items for in clearance. All the kids’ party bags can be filled with items for a very low cost. -Kelly

It’s all about the DIY!

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. : ) -Monica

DIY! I just got done baking cupcakes, doughnut pops and s’mores pops for my twins’ party tomorrow! A little creativity, scrapbook paper and color theme can really make a budget party pop! -Trish

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! -Deanna

I always try to make what I can. If I cannot make it, I try to trade something I can make to someone who can make what I need. -Toni

I make “character” piñatas myself for a few dollars in comparison to $15/$20 retail! -Diana

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, including a tutu diaper cake stand, tea light candle holders made out of tissue paper and baby food jars, tissue poms, table runners made out of wrapping paper, bookmark party favors made out of cardstock and paperclips, tree branches painted white and covered in twinkle lights, and 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! -Becky

Thrifty DIY diaper cake via Hoity Toity Crafts – the stand is stand made out of styrofoam cups and cardboard.

Keep things simple

I always try to keep the guest list short. VIPs only, it saves money! -Jen

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.Little Bird Celebrations

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! -Alana

Re-use or re-purpose things you already own

I re-purpose thrift store goods for our parties, borrow from friends, raid the basement… anything goes! -Jenny

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. – Staci

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. -Jenni

Repeat parties – my kids’ birthdays are three months apart and I do the same themed party for each kid. -Shannon

Use jars that you already have. For example, Frapuccino bottles for milk, or baby food jars for mini desserts. -Linda

I 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. -Bonnie

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 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/bonfire vintage frontier party. -Pearl

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! -Mindy

Re-purposed envelopes to make a banner via a {day} with lil mama stuart

Bargain shop

Dollar Tree goes a long way, as does the clearance section at the grocery store and Target. -Toni

I get my napkins, silverware etc, at the dollar store! They have tons of colors to choose from! -Louise, Feelin’ Crafty

I always shop clearance, thrift stores, garage sales, etc. for party supplies!! And, I always think outside the box on decorations too! -Kris

Stock up at Costco or Sam’s Club. -Linda

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 daughter’s party for next year while I’m working on this years. : ) -Kayla

All of my decorations came from the Dollar Spot at Target, the 99 cent store and Dollar Tree, as well as some homemade paper crafted items. -Linda

Michael’s has a really nice ribbon that’s only $1 and they always have 40% off coupon that you can use. -Linda

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 : ) -Jaimie

My go-to places are always Target, Michael’s, and other craft stores. I’ve realized that now you can find almost anything and everything you need for parties at Target! The dollar sections at Target are amazing. I have had several favors like decorative 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 everything from cake baking to decorating and entertainment for kids’ crafts at Target. A one stop shop! -Pallavi

I always throw at-home birthday parties for my boys (ages 8 & 4) and people are always amazed at how much we do and give away! The Internet and 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 Wal-Mart (especially 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! -Diana

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. -Sara

Shop seasonally

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! -Carolyn

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! -Amanda

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. -Tiffany

Use small live flowering plants as decorations and take-home prizes. They are beautiful, green and a long-term reminder of the party fun! -Kris


I have young kids so i try to keep it easy on food and more on games…saves money! -Larissa

Save on decor

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. -Jen

Homemade poms! You can make them for about $1.00 each with just ribbon and tissue paper! -Susan

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. -Kelly

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! -Tami (who I swear I didn’t pay for her sweet endorsement, LOL!)

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. -Michelle

My best party planning 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 photos (they have even made an appearance here on Chickabug’s 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 and 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! -Ali

Balloons give you a lot of impact for very little money, like this idea from Martha Stewart: “Create a grand gesture with the most basic balloons. Choose one color or several shades, blow up balloons, and attach to wall with double-sided tape.”

The #1 tip everyone shared… plan ahead!

I  try to plan out several months in advance. That way, I do not have to spend so much at once. -Toni

Start planning way in advance so you can take your time shopping and getting things on sale. -Emily

Plan ahead! Think about your theme 6-9 months in advance and then purchase when you see something that catches your eye! -Kate

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 splendid. Shop clearances this year for parties next year. Think that much ahead of time. -Pallavi

The most important thing: start planning the party and buying all you need as soon as possible!!! -Paty

This post is part of Apartment Guide‘s “Small Space, Savvy Budget: How to Host a Pint-Size Party” program! Apartment Guide has lots of budget-friendly tips on their blog, such as Holiday Budgeting Made Easier and How to Host a Holiday Dinner for Eight People Under $50, plus tips on entertaining such as the 10 Best Housewarming Gifts, How to Host a Halloween Party, and How to Host a Holiday Cocktail Party. Thanks to Apartment Guide, everyone who submitted a thrifty tip to help me compile this blog post was entered to win a $50 gift card from Target!

And the lucky winner is… Alana!

Congrats Alana, and thank you to Apartment Guide for the inspiration for this post! : )

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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.