How to Set a Party Budget

how to set a party budget

Parties are fun, but setting the party budget is not. Nonetheless, it is an important party of party planning because if you spend more than you can afford you may never have another party. And where’s the fun in that?! Here’s how to set a party budget and still have a party you’ll love.

If you’ve had a hard time in the past following your party budget, we suggest that you put cash in jar designated for each part of the party and when the money’s gone, that’s it – no more buying for that element of the party. This makes you very conscious of your spending!

money jars and calculator for budget

If you know how to stick to a budget on paper, we have a FREE party budget printable set for you at the end of this article.

How do you know how much money to allocate to each element of the party?

Life is short; we want every party to be the ultimate party but sometimes that means more creativity than cash. Be realistic. Set a budget that you know you can afford without the crying-cringing credit card invoice the month after your soirée.

Our finances fluctuate from year to year. If you’re short on cash right now, that’s okay. Work around it with freebies and clearance sales, by hosting the party in your own home, and maybe inviting fewer people this year. Play classic games for a kid’s party.

Decide on the total amount that you can spend on your party first, and everything else follows. Don’t go into debt to hold a party. If you don’t have enough now, start putting away some money every week until you have the amount of money you need to celebrate.

Being realistic about what you want to spend your budget takes the pressure off. What is more important to you, your guest of honor and your guests: the food, the entertainment or the ambiance?

What is it about parties that is the most fun, the most memorable:

  • venue
  • decorations
  • food
  • entertainment
  • interaction with other guests

This is where you devote the most of your budget.

Do you prefer a destination party where the venue is the most important?

Start looking right away for availability and cost. Go to the venue to scout out the room or patio you’ll be renting – don’t go by the photo or measurements online.

I’ve had surprises in venues that changed my mind. One room at a conference center was smaller than I pictured and had a huge post right in the middle of the room! I was satisfied with another facility but when I dropped by to pay for the room I checked it out only to discover that they had dozens of chairs stacked at one end that was not going to be moved when I was going to have the baby shower.

If you’re going to use a venue, this is where most of your party money will go – especially if they are also providing the food.

Are you looking at a special venue for children? It will also include food.

  • movie theater party
  • restaurant with children’s play area
  • YMCA pool & play party

Your guest list will be limited by how many people can fit in the venue and/or by how many you can afford to take to the venue.

Is the ambiance everything to you?

It’s true that the decorations set the stage for the party & pump up the excitement when guests arrive. They also look good in photos – forever. Long after you’ve forgotten who was there and the conversation, photos will remind you of your awesomely decorated theme party.

Another thing about decorations is that sometimes you can repurpose them for many different parties, especially fairy lights.

It is a good idea to purchase your party supplies as early as possible.

  • If buying online, it gives you time to purchase, receive and even return if necessary.
  • It allows extra time for you to change themes if you’re not satisfied with what’s available.
  • It also lets you spend time researching your options for the best or cheapest.

What kind of decorations do you need:

  • decorations outdoors so guests know which house
  • themed signs along the walk-way to add excitement
  • the front door
  • the entrance way
  • the party table and chairs
  • the food serving or buffet table
  • photo booth background for selfies to remember the occasion
  • Will the cake be the only centerpiece or will you require a table centerpiece?
  • themed wall decorations in the party room
  • What is the focal point: the table or the buffet? Or will you decorate both?
  • Do you require a background behind your buffet table? Will there be a banner there for photos?
  • Are you going to put a clever themed sign on the bathroom door so guests know where to go?
  • What kind of themed serving dishes do you require? Kid’s themed paper plates, mason jars for beverages, wooden spoons for ice cream, patterned paper straws, napkins, etc.
  • Will you need name tags? Or does everyone know each other.

One way to save money on decorations is to reuse decorations you already have at home. Drape Christmas lights & tinsel garland that matches you party theme colors.

Borrow a friend’s decorations.

Turn a beautiful area in your flower garden as the party focal point. Ditto for your fireplace indoors.

How much of your party budget will be allotted to the food?

Is the food – either quality or creatively themed food – one of the most important parts of the party, or will you find ways to keep the menu simple? (Of course a dinner party for adults will be focused on the food.)

(For instance, a kid’s cowboy party will be more memorable if you focus the budget on decorations and serve nibbles with fun cowboy names. An adult party celebrating the first show of the season just begs for theme-named munchies but not much else.)

Will you be serving a meal, appetizers, or snacks & nibbles? If you are trying to get more people into your apartment or rec room, a stand-up appetizer party makes sense. A dinner party guest list is set by how many people can sit around your table.

Make sure the guests know what you’ll be serving so they’ll know if they – or their child – should eat before the party, or save room for your goodies. (The time you set for the party will be a good indication – right after meal time for an only-munchies party – but its best to be clear upfront so you don’t have grumpy whiny guests that are “hangry”.)

There are lots of ways to save money on your party without anyone noticing.

  • Have an appetizer party instead of a sit-down meal. (See how in Appetizer Party is all the Fun for Less.)
  • Set up a self-serve bar with ice cream or sundaes, candy in your party theme colors, hot chocolate bar, chili bar, depending on the season. A party bar serves as decorations and food.
  • Ask guests to bring a goodie tray and everyone share – or make it a bake off competition!
  • Have a costume party – they’re exciting for everyone but guests are responsible for the cost of the costume & you need less or even no decorations. Then you can focus on themed food.

Alcohol is one of the most expensive areas in the food budget. Instead of buying lots of different kinds of alcohol for everyone’s favorite, plan two or three signature alcohol drinks and one alcohol-free beverage. It adds charm to your party and saves money. That’s win/win.

When serving drinks, think about renting glasses. There’s no clean up, and you’ll be sure to have enough. Glassware is more chic than plastic, and you can feel good about not adding to the landfill.

What type of entertainment would your guests enjoy?

The type of entertainment can dictate how many guests you can invite:

  • a video game or American Idol karoake party is best with just a couple of close friends
  • going to a movie theater can add up quickly so you may not want to invite the whole class
  • if you’re planning the ultimate party you may not have enough space in your living area, rec room or backyard to contain it all unless you pare down the guest list. (Did you complete step one on the perfect guest list?)

You need to book your date now if you’re going big:

  • Having a magician, face painter or mascot like Santa or Easter Bunny?
  • Want to have your party at the movie theater, restaurant or playland?
  • Planning on an outdoor theater or have a bouncy castle for your backyard?
  • Need to hire a professional bartender for an adult party?

Research your choices and book it now!

(Just a note on finding a free mascot. When my son was in high school he dressed as a mascot several times at our local library in order to fulfill his volunteer hours required for graduation. If you’re willing to sign their sheet, you could get a mascot for free too – provided you rented the costume.)

There are lots of ways to save money on entertainment.

Please don’t rely on sparkling conversation for an adult party or for kids to go an play nicely for a children’s party. This usually does not end well, and at the very least is not a memorable party.

Guest interaction is the point of the party.

Here at Playtime & Party we believe fun interaction is the Good Times glue for great relationships. And if there’s ever a time for fun to bond a group of people, it’s at a party!

Remember that contented satisfaction – even joy – when you’re on your way home from a great party? When everyone goes home with that same feeling, you know the group is a little more close-knit. The memory of that great party brings them close together again the next time they meet or talk about it.

No matter which element of a party is going to be the focus for you – especially financially – make sure you plan guest interaction.

Now that you’ve decided where to focus your finances, it’s time to plan your budget.

The basic elements where you spend money are:

  • venue
  • decorations
  • food
  • invitations
  • take home gift
  • prizes for games
  • entertainment
  • thank you cards for gifts
  • cake
  • flowers
  • balloons
  • mascots/magicians/master of ceremony
  • bartender
  • photographer
  1. Find ways to save money in the areas that aren’t important to you. This is where you cut back.
  2. Think about each element of a party and prioritize them: venue, decorations, food, and entertainment.
  3. Dedicate a percentage of your set budget to each element depending on their importance.

Remember that spending lots of money doesn’t ensure a successful party. It’s the interaction between the guests that makes or breaks it, and whether they have fun. If you plan an expensive party theme that no one is interested in, they may not even attend.

Be prepared for adjustments.

Things change. Especially prices! You’ve made this amazing party budget, but be flexible. And creative. You can have a party that thrills & amazes on any budget. And yes, even your budget.

You will have to make compromises. But above all, stick to your budget.

Have fun planning it all. Anticipation is half the fun. Don’t get stressed in the planning stage and miss out on the enjoyment.

Using social media to save money.

You can use social media to assist in these areas, but one point about using the platforms on the internet for invitations. People aren’t always on social media and may miss their invitation. (It’s happened to me.) Someone who isn’t invited or who is on your B invitation list will feel left out if they discover a public party invitation or discussion.

Sometimes people see an invitation online and assume it’s an open invitation for anyone. You could find uninvited guests at your door on party day.

An invitation in the mail brings excitement because we don’t get them that way anymore. It feels extra special, a nice surprise. A gift invitation personally handed to someone makes them feel like they are at the top of the guest list.

Free printable to help with your budgeting.

Party budget planner printable

PDF is editable. You can fill it in on your desktop. (Click on the “text” button, click on the row you want to fill in and type.) Or, you can print it off and put it in your planning binder and write in the blanks.

There are 4 pages: venue, decorations, food & entertainment planning.

Immediate download.

how to set a party budget printable

How to use the party budget planner printable.

There is a page for each element of your party. Write in the amount of money that you have allocated for each element: venue, decorations, food, and entertainment. (Even if you’re hosting the party in your home there may be some costs involved in freshening up the yard, etc.)

Keep all your receipts. In the “where purchased” column write where the money was spent so it will be easier to find the receipt if necessary. (Or to know where all the money went!)

Keep track of all your spending. Write down the amount on the receipt as soon as you get home and paper clip it to the appropriate page. When you’ve hit the spending limit on that party category, stop looking, and stop spending.

Do whatever you need to so you can stay on budget. Please don’t go into debt for your party.

woman setting a party budget with a money jar and receipts

Be diligent about keeping all your receipts. It’s important to know what you’ve spent and how much you have left in your budget for each party element.

If having money physically in a jar helps you stay on budget, do it. This is what budget planners suggest for those who have difficulty with their spending. There’s something about actually seeing and touching the money that makes it more real than using credit cards.

What now? Step 3 in party planning is to choose the party theme.

how to choose a party theme

A party theme can be as simple as casual versus chic. It can be a color. Or it can be as specific as your favorite movie, a hobby, a sport, a book, an era like the 70s, or a genre such as zombies. We help you decide on the perfect party theme for your group.

Or, start from the beginning if you arrived here first.

party planning 101

Party Planning 101: what to done when & how. Here’s how to plan a party that runs smoothly, thrills your guests and amazes even you! This step-by-step party guide goes beyond the what-to-do-when reminder & helps you add wow to create a party they’ll never forget. (And one you can afford without regret when the credit card statement comes.)

Or jump ahead to the party planning idea that interests you.

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