Monday, March 4, 2013

Party Planning on the Cheap 101

Yes.  I am that crazy party planning Mommy.  I very-well know that my children do not care about the elaborate parties that I throw them, but it is a fun outlet for me & a visible way of showing them how much I want to celebrate them.

Parties need not be expensive though.  Seriously.  If you know me, then you know that I am CRAZY frugal, cheap, thrifty--- pick any of those words you like.  I am a stay-at-home mom and wife of a youth minister... there is not exactly alot of extra cash laying around for me to party plan.... so I'm resourceful.


Well, I'm glad that you asked.  Here is a list of some of the top things I would recommend to throw a beautiful and yet cost effective party.

1. Plan in advance.  Way in advance.  I mean... I started thinking about Sawyer's first birthday party when she was like 3 months old (or possibly sooner).  I didn't have a set "theme" or know exactly what I wanted, but I started thinking about it and "pinning" ideas on Pinterest of different things that caught my eye.  I think the more you rush a party together the more you end up spending in the long run.  If you plan far enough in advance then you can watch when things are on sale or have plenty to time to ask people if you can borrow things.  Which brings me to point two.
2. Borrow, borrow, borrow.  Most of what I use at my parties for decor I borrow.  I think about things that I have around the house, or things that I can easily get my hands on from my mom's house, grandmothers', aunts, mother-in-law, or friends.  Just make sure you write down what you borrowed from who so that you can return it all to the correct person without forgeting something. This kinda goes hand in hand with point three.
3. Share.  I have shared some of my stuff with other friends for their parties, and in turn they don't mind sharing with me.  But you also have to share your party ideas with people.  For example, I was talking to a friend about my ideas for Sawyer's 1st party and I "shared" with her the color scheme, and she was like,"Oh, I have some brown tissue paper poms left over from another party.  You can use them if you like." Perfect.  $6 saved.
4. Coupon.  Do not EVER, I repeat EVER go into Michaels, JoAnnes, or Hobby Lobby without a coupon.  Even if I go in to one of those stores to buy something that is only $2 I bring my coupon.  Sometimes they'll have 40% off, or a 50% off, or a 25% off your whole purchase including sale items (that's when I'll buy several things if needed).  This is another reason to plan in advance.  Sometimes I'll go in to get one item & use a coupon.  I'll do this several times a week or a month if I'm near one of the stores.  That way I don't go in for a long list of items and only get to use my coupon once (unless it's the 25% off of entire purchase coupon).
5. Barter.  I have a friend who is a baker magician.  She is incredible.  Not only are things beautiful, but they taste amazing too.  We've recently bartered.  I'll take pictures for her family if she does baked goods for my parties.  Score!  I also have a friend whom we've bartered pictures for invitation designs.  You may think... "I don't have anything I could barter with someone."  Sure you do.  Offer a free babysitting night or something.  Or offer to help them set up a party or cook something for them.  Be creative.  Or maybe you don't think you know anyone that could help.  Just ask on Facebook if anyone does design or baking or cooking.  Or if you know your mom makes a killer pie then do pies for desert.
6. Make your own.  Whatever you see on Pinterest or a party blog try to make it yourself.  Yes, it would be way easier to buy whatever it is, but try to do it yourself.  Just google it and I'm sure you can come up with a DIY template somewhere.  Keep in mind that it doesn't have to be perfect or be able to last for years and years.  It has to stay together for a few hours. Hello hot glue.  Seriously.  Hot glue and I are really tight.
7. Big Impact.  Try to think of things that will make a big impact.  One of the things I learned early on is that somethings just aren't worth my time.  I made like 8,000 paper flower things for Kennedie's first birthday.  I'm not saying I should've bought them or anything, but they didn't make a big impact and probably most people looked them over.  I've learned that backdrops and tissue poms and things hanging make a big impact.  Sometimes bigger is better (but not always).
8. Be personal.  Well, if possible.  Kennedie LOVES waffles.  So, her 2nd birthday party was a waffle bar.  It meant something to her & it was something she got super excited about.  She LOVES, LOVES, LOVES going to the park and she loves Curious George.... any guesses what her 3rd birthday party will be?
9. Use what you have.  If a color scheme is yellow, then pull out anything that you have that is yellow-- paper, material, paint, frames, boxes, wrapping paper, vases, etc.  Try to figure out a way to use it if possible.  I would try to pick a color scheme that would allow you to use things you already have in that color.
10.  Spray paint.  Spray paint whatever you can.  Hit up a thrift store or "shop" around your house for things that could go with your party but may not be the "right" color.  Paint it if you can.
11. Go to the dollar store before the party store.  Dollar Tree is amazing.  Really.  It's got some of the best deals, and get this... it really all is $1. They also have plates, napkins, & plasticware.  Yes, getting those super cute paper plates at the party store with the cool design on them would be awesome for your party, but they are $8.99 for 8.  Really?  For plates?  No thank you.  I'll take a 10 pack for a dollar in a plain color.
12. Don't invite everyone.  I know.  This is probably the hardest thing for me.  When I'm planning a super cute party I want everyone and their Momma there to see it.  If I'm going to be planning it for centuries in advance of course I want the whole world there to see all my hard work.  BUT, the more people typically equals more stress and more money.  You have more cupcakes to order, cookies to bake,  food to make, plates to buy, etc.  The fewer the people the easier it is on your wallet.  Also little things like- if you want everyone to drink from a Mason jar and you have 50 guests- that's 50 jars, or 20 guests = 20 jars.  Simple things like that.  Sometimes getting more "bang for your buck" means having less people there to party with you.
13. Party location.  Try to have your party in a location that is free.... like your house, or your Mom's, or even a park. Party locations that you have to rent can be very costly.
14. Food.  If you plan a party in between meal times then you can cut costs on food by only offering snack.  Be careful though.  I learned my lesson here.  Sometimes snacks can cost just as much as offering a meal.  We did a waffle bar for Kennedie's party last year and that was super cost effective.  Do you know how cheap waffle batter is to make? Potato soup also was very cheap at Sawyer's party and it went far. Try to make whatever you can on your own.  The second you cater out you add $$$.
15. Think holiday.  What holiday comes before your party?  If Christmas is before, maybe think about using red or green as one of your colors.  Or if it's after Easter, think about using pastels in your color scheme.  By doing this you'll find some great items that are typically marked down at least 50% after the holiday.

That's all I can think of right now.  I'm sure that there are lots more, but that's what comes to mind first off.

I'm not posting all of this because I think I am some expert party planner or anything.  I'm throwing this out there to let you know what I've learned over the past few years.  I'm sure there are more amazing tips out there, and I'd love to know what they are (please share!) - but these are just a few things I've found that are helpful to me.

Over the last two years I have learned that I really enjoy party planning.  I like dreaming of ideas, crafting & making things, seeing how "cheaply" (or free) I can pull a party off that still looks like a million bucks, photographing, and finally actually partying with friends and family.

I have thought about it, and I think why I like throwing parties is because it's very tangible.  When you are a stay-at-home mom alot of what we do cannot be seen or measured at the end of the day.  Oh sure, you can see all the toys everywhere or the dishes pilled in the sink or the laundry-- but you can't see all the meaningful moments in between.  And so, I think that's one reason why I like to party plan.  I can think up a party "image" in my head, and set out to recreate it.  I can measure, cut, glue, etc. while the girls sleep.  Each day I can make some small thing that I can see and hold & know I've crafted something.  And the party... well that's just the culminating event.  Before that I've come up with ideas, I've "shopped" at my mom's and grandmothers' house's, I've crafted things, & I've cooked. When the party arrives I can step back & tangibly "see" something that I've done.... it all comes together. So, let's party on people!

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