Saturday, August 1, 2009

Cheap Parties

Not a very encouraging title, huh? And yet, many, many people don't entertain, even when they want to, because of the expense. If you've been here before, you know that The Frugal Hostess specializes in giving you ideas for parties that aren't too expensive. But you also know that these often involve making a bunch of stuff from scratch and working one's ass off. Worth it? Absolutely. Always necessary? Of course not. So, today we'll discuss ways to throw a cheap party without working like a pioneer wo/man on the Kansas prairie circa 1820.

Myth: Asking guests to bring something is tacky.

Fact: Of course it's not. They don't have to come if they are offended by the notion of being asked to bring something. The key is to be clever in your approach. Call your event the "We Can't Afford to Go Out" party, and start your email or written invitation like this:

We miss you. We love you. We're dying to see you. Unfortunately, we're also broke. Could you join us for our "We Can't Afford to Leave the Commune" party next Saturday? To help build the bar, please bring two limes and a bottle of vodka. We'll have food, ice, glasses, and the good times to share (and share alike).

[That sounds fun. The Frugal Hostess is thinking she ought to throw a party like that very soon. Hmmm....]

Myth: Go big or go home. Or, in entertaining terms, if you can't afford the best, don't bother.

Fact: Couldn't be further from the truth. Cliche as this may sound, entertaining should be, well, entertaining. It's about the fun you have with your guests and the love you show them by opening your home to them. Now, don't get her wrong, TFH is all for trying to cook something delicious, but even gross food can be entertaining on the ride home ("can you believe they served us muskrat pizzas?"). The point is, grilled cheese, tomato soup, and board games can be as fun as foie gras and opera. Actually, probably more fun, honestly. Do what you can.

Myth: You have to plan entertaining way in advance.

Fact: The Frugal Hostess has had more impromptu, planned-an-hour-before-they-started dinner parties than she's had formal ones. Gather your guests, drive to the store, and pick out your menu together (splitting the grocery tab). Cook something hearty and freeze-able like beans or chili, but invite the neighbors to eat rather than pack it all away for the winter. If the house is a mess, eat on the porch, or turn off all the lights and put out candles.

If you truly want to have a good time with your friends, this will shine through any dust, or burnt rice, or "please bring butter" you throw at your guests.

Cheap Party Ideas:
Planned Potluck, where you tell everyone what to bring (but don't act like this)
Restaurant dinner, separate checks (but try to just split the bill rather than getting out a calculator; this makes TFH feel faint)
Wine tasting, where everyone brings a bottle
Co-hosting, or having several people host a party together
Bowling, movies, mini-golf, etc. where people pay their own way
Meet out at an event
Have one of those parties where you go to different houses for each course; what is that called???
Be straightforward with guests - hold a party and say you'll have some things but not everything, so they should bring something to contribute.

Leave your ideas for cheap parties in the comments.

Photo by oddsock.


  1. Give your party on the day people put out food for the postal worker to pick up. Drive around your neighborhood before the mail gets there and pick up as many items as you can. Serve them.

  2. "Progressive dinner" is the term you're thinking of. An idea I like is having everyone bring what they have in the freezer to throw on your grill for themselves; you provide a few cheap side dishes (chips, potato salad, posicles?).

  3. Thanks, Jamie - yes, progressive dinner parties.


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