How to throw a party for under $100

Between food, drinks, extra dishes and decorations, it's easy for even a small gathering to really add up. Here's how to throw a party for under $100.

By Signe Langford

Unless you're a hermit or your house is filled with priceless antiques, you probably enjoy throwing a party every now and then. But between food and drinks, extra dishes and decorations, it's easy for even a small gathering to really add up to some big spending.

When times are tough, it's tempting to take a pass on entertaining, but with the right planning, you can stay within a budget. Follow these sensible tips -- which can be applied to any party, any time -- and keep your spending under $100.

1. Make it potluck. This is the surest way to save on cash, and bonus: you won't spend three days cooking. When you send out the invitation, ask everyone to bring a dish, and make sure to tell them to “reply all” with what they are bringing, so you don't end up with 16 trays of brownies. As the host, you are responsible for one main dish and a few bowls and trays of nibbles.

2. Make more vegetarian dishes. Meat is expensive.

3. Make it BYOB. Stocking up on beer, wine and the hard stuff will give you a severe case of sticker shock at the checkout. Ask folks to bring one bottle of wine or spirits or a six-pack of beer. As the host, you should have a red and white on hand and take care of all non-alcoholic drinks -- hot and cold -- plus bar mixers, garnishes and ice.

4. It's a party, not a wine tasting. Think big -- buy a double bottle of inexpensive red or white and make sangria or punch.

5. Ask a friend or neighbour to be your cohost. Many hands make light work and give your wallet a break. Just make sure in advance that you all share ideas about food, music, decor and budget -- and maybe even some of the same friends.

6. Instead of renting extra dishes, consider stocking up at a thrift store, where you can find glasses and plates for less than what many rental companies charge. Yes, dollar store disposables are the cheapest way to go, but it's murder on the planet and not very classy. Your nearest Chinatown is also a great hunting ground for deals on, well, china. You might also want to ask to borrow from your friends. Get creative and save.

7. Timing is everything. Partiers tend to drink and eat more in the evening: it really is the most expensive time of day to entertain. Consider an afternoon party, with a set time limit. This lets guests bring their kids should you want to make it a family affair. For evening parties, make the start time well after dinner hour. That way, folks will most likely have already eaten a meal at home, meaning you'll spend less on nibbles.

8. Holiday party decor is easy: Ask guests to come with popcorn and fresh cranberries to string, bows and garlands, decorations, mistletoe, tangerines and pomegranates and turn it into a trimming party.

9. Set your $100 budget beforehand and stick to it. It's easy to get carried away when you're pushing the cart around the shops, the music's playing, all the cheeses look so good and just one more bottle of wine won't hurt. Remember, your friends are coming over to spend time with you, not calculate how much you spent on them.

10. If you're old-school and want to send paper invitations by mail—though we don't advise it: too expensive—get crafty and make your own.

Throwing a party is supposed to be fun, but if you're stressing about money, just how much fun will you really have? Save on cash and focus on the better things in life: friends, family and a fun time together.

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