Hosting Guests on a Budget

For many, the arrival of summer brings the opportunity to attend or host a variety of social events. Whether it’s an informal gathering or a highly-anticipated milestone event, there are many aspects to event planning. What food will you serve? What will you hand out as party favours? Will you need to find live performers? Answering these questions will help you figure out what it will cost to host the event. 

Get a little help from friends

Chances are, someone knows someone who knows a great caterer, event planner, or live entertainer. Asking around for references will minimize the time you spend searching for caterers, decorators, etc. This holds true for large events in particular – the bigger the event, the more you’ll have to plan! You’re also more likely to be satisfied with a referral from someone you trust who knows your taste.

Keep it simple in the kitchen

If the gathering will be small, you can easily avoid the expense of hiring a caterer. If you’re hosting close friends or relatives, don’t hesitate to ask your guests to bring a dish to pass. This a great way to lighten your load as well as diversify the food that will be served. If you will be preparing all the food, plan out dishes made from easy-to-find ingredients that most people like. Think pasta salads, vegetable salads and casseroles with fruit salads and banana bread and cookies for dessert.
For a shorter or more formal gathering, try to serve mostly finger foods. (Seriously, who enjoys awkwardly balancing a loaded paper plate on their lap?). A vegetable tray with a choice of dips is always a safe bet. You can put a twist on this nearly ubiquitous offering by swapping store-bought dips for easy homemade alternatives. Yogurt, homemade hummus or peanut butter are all healthy, affordable dips. Mini meatballs or several kinds of cheese and crackers are all great options for party fare. For dessert, try sliced fruit, rum balls or a selection of homemade cookies.

Break out the crafts

Save money on décor with a little creativity and patience. This will free up your budget for other aspects of your event, like entertainment or food. For instance, make your own candleholders by decorating old mason jars with sparkly glue. For a more classic look, tie the jar necks with thin strips of vintage-patterned fabric or lace ribbon. You can even make your own pedestal serving platters—just glue colourful plastic plates to candlesticks! To minimize the need for streamers and other room decor, hold your event outdoors. Simply set out some chairs and a few tables for serving food and drinks.
Want to save on paper items like invitations and place cards? Thanks to Pinterest and dollar store craft supplies, you can make your own to match your party’s theme. Just print out a pattern and trace it onto your favourite decorative paper! 

Keep it low-key

Remember, the memories made at your party will be more meaningful to your guests than any material memento. If you’re hosting a kids’ party and want to give them a little treat, incorporate it into the party itself. Make a pinata which they can crack open at the party. Fill it with treats which they can take home (if they don’t eat them all first!) in little treat bags. Are you in a pinch for live entertainment and planning an informal party for adults? How about hosting a jam session? This will get your guests involved and create a memorable experience for them that will likely be cherished more than a live band.


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