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Planning a social gathering can be intimidating. Between deciding who to invite, what food to serve and how to decorate, many hosts are exhausted before the fun even begins. One of the most important elements to consider when planning a get-together is your budget. For many, finances are tight these days. But don’t put off your plans altogether. Use these following tips for how to plan a social gathering on a budget.

Who, what, when and where?

If you start your planning by answering these basic questions and thinking outside the box, you might find that there are more budget-friendly options than you realize.

  • Who will you invite? While it might be tempting to invite everybody in your contact list, it’s probably not the most cost-effective idea. Try to limit your guest list to 10 or fewer guests. Fewer guests means less food and beverages you need to buy. Also, with current Covid-19 recommendations from the CDC, keeping your gathering smaller is better for everyone involved.
  • What will your gathering look like? Some may envision fancy table settings and a four-course meal when thinking about hosting a get-together, but it can be whatever you want it to be. If you don’t want to spend money on a full meal, provide hors d’oeuvres instead. If you host a movie night, you can skip the meal completely—but be sure to inform your guests beforehand so they don’t show up too hungry. Buy popcorn, movie snacks and beverages, and you’re all set.
  • When will your gathering be? Friday and Saturday evenings tend to be popular hangout times but adjusting the time can save you money. Hosting a Saturday morning brunch allows you to serve breakfast foods and finger foods, which tend to be less expensive than big, heavy dinners. A make-your-own-omelet station is fun and lets everyone customize their own meal.
  • Where will you go? Hosting a get together at your home can be stressful. You might want to skip the cleaning and decorating and consider meeting at a park or restaurant instead. The money you save on decorations and supplies can be used to buy appetizers for the table.


Gathering your goods

Keep it simple. You don’t have to cover your place in streamers and confetti to have a good time. Save yourself some money and don’t go overboard.

  • Party Supply Store. Party stores are a great, inexpensive way to get all the supplies you need in one place. They also make it easy to create a theme or color scheme for your gathering. Sprucing up your place is as easy as choosing your colors and picking up a tablecloth, cups and maybe a few balloons. (Pro tip: many dollar stores carry a variety of party essentials at a fraction of the cost of other stores.)
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff. Don’t waste your time or money on small details that will likely go unnoticed by your guests. If you provide lively music, yummy snacks and good company, nobody is going to care if you opt for paper plates instead of fancy dinnerware or if you forego the elaborate decorations.
  • Generic can be just as good. If you’re going to put chips in serving bowls anyway, do you really need to buy name brand? Studies show that 75% of shoppers believe store brands are just as good in quality as major national brands.
  • Quantity and quality. Cooking salmon for a group of 10 can become expensive very quickly. But you don’t have to sacrifice quality for quantity. Choosing dishes like pastas, casseroles and stews allows you to make a satisfying, savory meal for a larger group without breaking the bank.
  • Limit the alcohol options. If you and your guests are over the age of 21, you might consider providing alcohol at your gathering. But providing alcohol for 10 or more guests can be pricey. Consider making it a “Bring Your Own Beverage” event or providing a signature drink. That way you will only need to worry about getting supplies for one specific drink instead of stocking a full bar.
  • Set up an entertainment fund. Setting up and contributing to an entertain savings weekly, biweekly or monthly can help you save money over a longer period of time. Doing so will give you peace of mind that you aren’t dipping into funds that may be allocated for other expenses when you start your planning.


Rally the troops.

  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. It is likely that your guests will ask what they can bring. While saying, “No thank you, I have it all under control,” might seem like the polite response, there are no awards given to hosts who execute a get-together entirely on their own. Accept the offer. Even if it’s as small as asking them to bring ice, that’s one less thing you need to buy.
  • Make it a potluck. Being the host doesn’t mean you’re required to supply all food and beverages. Now that you know it’s okay to ask for help, why not go all-in and make your meal a potluck. You can provide the main course and ask guests to bring their favorite side dish to share. Not only does this require less planning and cost for you, it also provides an opportunity for you and your guests to try new recipes and create conversation around where each guest’s recipe came from and why it’s their favorite.


The most important part of a social gathering is enjoying time with people you care about. Don’t let the stress of planning take away from the fun. Need help setting up an entertainment savings account or setting financial goals? Meet with one of our team members (virtually or in person) to get started today.