Summer is right around the corner and that means party season is coming!
If you’re planning on hosting a Memorial Day barbecue, 4th of July picnic, or a family reunion, don’t let your special event ruin your budget. There are some things you can do to prepare and keep your finances straight.
Set a budget. And stick to it. Parties costs can easily spiral out of control, so plan out in advance how much you have to spend and don’t go over. Small budget overages are like the first crack in a dam. They almost always lead to more trouble. Be realistic about how much you’ll need… and how much you can afford.
Plan ahead. Make a menu plan well ahead of your party date. At least 4 weeks. You don’t have to have everything set in stone, but having a rough list will help you shop smarter, and save you money. For example, you can plan to serve a salad, some kind of chicken wings, and a brownie dessert. This way you know the basic dishes you’re going to make and you can figure out the details, like barbecue or honey garlic wings, as the date approaches.
Also, by shopping little by little, you can absorb some of the party food into your weekly grocery budget. If you need to give yourself some extra money over and above your usual budget, that’s okay. Or you can run your own budget challenge and try to include all of your party ingredients in your existing budget.
Shop the sales. Knowing your menu in advance will allow you to watch for sales and buy the items on your list at their lowest price. Except for fresh fruit and veggies, almost everything can be bought ahead of time and stored or frozen until the big day. Keep your menu with you so you always know what you have left to purchase.
Let others help. I have never hosted a party where nearly every guest didn’t ask what they could bring. The first few times my answer was, “Oh, nothing, I’ve got it covered.” Well, that’s dumb.
Instead, keep track of what you need to complete or round out your menu and when someone calls you can tell them exactly what you need. Better yet, make your event a pot luck. You can see how my family hosts a stress-free pot-luck here (it’s for Thanksgiving, but it still works).
Use what you’ve got. Contrary to what HGTV and retailers would have you believe, you do not need a special dedicated 4th of July tablecloth, red, white, and blue plasticware, and a collection of mason jars filled with fresh flowers. Between you and your family you most likely have more than enough to go around. So what if the plates don’t match?
Additionally, there’s no rule that says party food has to be just for parties. I don’t like to plan on having leftovers for my meal plan, but I have no problem making a larger batch of the party food in advance and having it for dinner beforehand. Use ingredients or even whole dishes from your party menu as part of your meal plan and you can save a lot of money and avoid food waste.
How do you budget for parties? Share in the comments.