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Graduation Party on a Budget

You don’t have to spend a lot of money to have a memorable graduation party. The most important thing is for friends and family to get together to honor the graduate. There are many things you can do to stay within your budget and still have a great party.

First, have your party at home. Most people do this anyway. You can spend a lot of money renting a hall or a club or some other facility. Save this money and have your party at home. If there are renovations that need to be done before you have a large party that’s okay. The money you would spend on a hall can be put towards the renovations or fix-ups. And the renovations will last a lot longer! If your home is not big enough or isn’t well suited to having a large party then consider asking a close relative or friend if you can use their home. Or maybe your graduate has a friend who is graduating too and you can have a joint party at the friend’s house.

Having a joint party with 2 or 3 or even 4 graduates can save a lot of money. Many graduates share the same circle of friends. By having a joint party you can pool your resources and share in the work and expenses. Joint parties are becoming more and more popular here in Minnesota. If one family is providing their home then maybe the other family (or families) can do most of the other work – preparing the food, picking up supplies, making the poster boards, running errands, etc.

Make your own invitations. Design a card or newsletter on 8 1/2″ x 11″ paper. You can buy packages of graduation themed paper (25 sheets) for around $3 or $4. You don’t even need envelopes. Just fold the 8 1/2″ x 11″ sheets in thirds, tape or staple together, and address and mail them. Or you can spend a little more money and buy matching envelopes.

Don’t buy expensive decorations. Use memorabilia from your graduate’s school years and upcoming college experience to decorate your house. Things like jerseys, sports or club t-shirts, sports or school memorabilia, framed pictures, newspaper articles, scrapbooks. Is your graduate a dancer, skater or actor? Hang his or her old costumes around the house. Did your graduate win trophys over the years? Dust them off and display them. If your high school graduate is going to college they will want some college wear to bring with them when they leave. Buy this early and give it to them as a gift. For Christmas? For their birthday? How about as a graduation gift? Then you can also display it at your graduation party.

Make your own food. If you’re having a joint party then share this responsibility. Make a menu and checklist of food you want to serve. Ask close friends and relatives to help by making a dish or platter for you. Do you have a relative or friend who’s a good baker? Ask them to make cookies or treats. They will be flattered you asked! When preparing food make sure you have the space to store it properly. Use coolers (and make sure they stay cool) or ask your neighbors if you can borrow fridge or freezer space.

Food that’s easy to make, store and serve includes:

  • Platters of deli meats, cheese and bread so guests can make their own deli-style sandwiches. Don’t forget the lettuce and tomatoes and other garnishes as well as the mustard and mayo. Buy the supplies a day or two ahead and assemble the platters early in the morning. This is a great job to delegate to a friend or family member. Make sure that once the platters are assembled they are kept cold. It’s better to make several smaller platters rather than one large platter. You can replace smaller platters with fresh ones as they become empty.
  • Salads like potato salad, bean salad, coleslaw, tossed salad. Many of these can be made a day ahead. Make sure you have the fridge or cooler space to keep these cold. Salads can be kept cool on the day of the party by placing the bowls in larger bowls or tubs filled with ice. For green salads make sure you have salad dressings too.
  • Cookies like chocolate chip cookies can be made several weeks before and frozen. On the day of the party put them on platters to thaw and serve.
  • Fruit like strawberries and grapes can be prepared the night before or early in the day. Make sure fruit is washed well.

If you schedule your party mid-afternoon (like 2-5 pm) then you may be able to serve less food as people will have lunch before and will go home for dinner. If you schedule your party on a day when there are lots of other parties then people will eat less since they’re probably going to more than one party.

Serve food that saves well. Anything left over can be used for lunches, dinner or snacks later. Freeze what you can and use the rest within a few days.

The most important thing when planning your party is to set a budget and stick to it. If you don’t make a plan it’s easy to spend more than you want to or more than you thought you would. If you stay within your budget you’ll be happy for it later.

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