Hosting a cheap, but nice graduation party, would be nice, wouldn’t it? Deli trays, balloons, invites, decorations and tent rentals add up very quickly. It is not difficult to do, as long as you are willing to be creative and maybe go slightly counter-culture.
As you read through this list keep your thinking cap on for other ways you have or could save money on a graduation party and leave a comment with your thoughts.
The easiest way to cut the bill in half or in thirds, without changing anything on the menu, is to share the party with another graduate or two. Personally, I held a joint high school graduation party with a friend. Whether it is a significant other or a tight knit group of friends, think of one or two students that are important in your student’s life and coordinate a joint party. Besides reducing cost, I bet your graduates will think it’s a blast to hang out with their friends for the day and your guests might appreciate not having to run from house to house.
Tent and chair rental. With a much larger group skip hosting your graduation party in your garage or back yard. Instead, opt for a beautiful park. Most regional and state parks in the Minneapolis area have picnic pavilions that are well-suited for outdoor entertaining with pavilions in case of rain and electricity so you can enjoy some of the comforts of home. You will pay a rental fee for the pavilion, but you don’t have to worry about tent and chair delivery and set-up or even cleaning your house (and wouldn’t that be nice!).
Food costs. You will likely have fewer total mouths to feed since many of their friends and teachers will be the same. For great deals on food, choosing stores like Costco, Sam’s Club, and Walmart can score big savings. By getting all the supplies yourself instead of choosing a catering service, you will save a substantial amount of money.
Decorations. One larger party requires far fewer decorations than two slightly smaller parties. Again, if sharing the party with another graduate or two is out of the question, then consider at least sharing the decorations. Find someone who is hosting their graduation party the same weekend you are and split the cost of helium balloons, centerpieces, and table coverings. For graduation decoration deals on items such as cups, plates, and table cloths, I love Michaels. I have scored some amazing deals at Michaels for parties.
At my brother’s last graduation party, we got this super cool lightbox that can be customized for literally every occasion. It can be customized to say anything and can be continuously reused to add a little spizzazz to the party. At my brother’s graduation, we set it up to say: “Congrats Ryan! You Did it!”
Standard fare for a graduation party is not only expensive, but b-o-r-i-n-g (no offense). Think creatively about what food your graduate loves that represents who they are and serve that instead. Me, coming from an Italian family, loves pasta with my grandma’s homemade sauce. My mom cooked up a ginormous batch of that, we found a way to keep pasta warm all day without it turning to mush, and offered small pieces of Italian sausage or meatballs.
We added some French bread and a simple garden salad on the side with a host of salad dressings to choose from and voila! We fed a crowd almost the size of an army without breaking the bank. We also received a ton of compliments on the food and appreciation from teachers, especially, who attend a lot of parties, for not having turkey and ham sandwiches.
If you have to serve sandwiches, try pulled pork sandwiches instead of deli meats. A pork shoulder is less than $3/lb full price at most grocery stores and at my local Walmart it is $2.74/lb. Slow cook the meat in a slow cooker days in advance, pull it apart with a fork, then freeze it in plastic bags until the day before. Set it in the fridge the morning before the party to defrost, then the day of toss it into a slow cooker, add barbecue sauce and you’re set.
A pound of pork shoulder will likely feed 3 or 4 adults, making the meat as little as ~$0.70 per serving, plus a bun. You can’t beat that price. We started making pulled pork sandwiches at home this summer and they were as easy as I say, the meat does freeze well and my family loves them!
Invites, Decorations and Thank You Notes
Why pay anything, let alone full price, for paper products like invites and thank you notes? Get creative with the decorations and you’ll spend less, too.
Discounted invites. Save 70% on your graduation cards/invites at York Photo. Even with shipping, this is way less than ordering custom invites from a printer through the school.
Free photo prints. It is easy to get free photo prints and they are versatile to use for invites, decorations and thank you notes. When you create a new free account with many of the online photo services you will get a certain number of prints totally free. Take some time to paste them to the front of plain cards for a handmade invite or thank you. Make a collage depicting your graduate’s life and accomplishments. Set them out at the tables where your guests will eat, then use a plastic tablecloth over the top instead of fancy centerpieces.
Here’s a starting list of photo sites that will give you free prints when you register:
Shutterfly. Get 50 free prints when you create a new account. (You won’t see this advertised on the front page where you land, but they will get credited to your account.)
York Photo. Get 40 free prints when you register.
Photo slideshow. Skip paying someone to put together your slideshow for you. Instead, download a free copy of Microsoft’s Photo Story software. It is simple to easy. You upload digital photos (have old-time prints scanned to get them into the computer), then order them, set the speed, choose music and transition effects and you’re set. You can run this from a computer or laptop at the party, or burn it to a DVD and then play it on your television set. It is a fun and inexpensive way to show off your graduate’s life.
Your turn: What else can you do to host a cheap, but nice graduation party?