Hosting a Party on a Budget: What Not to Do

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Life is full of reasons to celebrate. Perhaps a milestone birthday is coming up or maybe a loved one recently got engaged? Maybe there is a holiday around the corner? Or maybe you just want to throw a dinner or cocktail party. No matter what party ideas inspire you to host, planning a large event is a big project. It does not, however, have to be a big expense. Here are some of the most common party budget mistakes and how to avoid them when you plan your next event. 

Lack of a Starting Budget 

First things first, you need to determine what you want your party budget to look like. It is important to set your budget early on in the planning process as this will define your limits and make a bunch of other decisions a lot easier. A few things to take into consideration:

  • Think about how you will invite your guests. If, for example, you normally would send paper birthday invites, consider online birthday invitations. You can personalize and send them in minutes; no addresses or stamps required. 
  • Anticipate the size of your final guest list. In most cases, guests equal dollars, so the more guests you invite, the more you will spend. On average, about 15% of people will decline an invitation, so plan accordingly. Think about how many people you want at the event before you decide who you want to invite. 
  • For help in creating a realistic budget for a child's birthday party, consider what other parents have spent and then prioritize your child's wants and needs.


It can be tempting to estimate what you think remains in your budget or to estimate the cost of what you still need to purchase for an event. Estimating easily leads to going over your budget, potentially by a significant margin. When you don’t specifically check budget and price with each purchase, you make the assumption that your purchase will still be within budget. Small and inexpensive things add up! Create a spreadsheet or write out a physical budget where you can note exactly what you’ve spent to-date, what remains to purchase, and your remaining budget. Keep a close eye on the remaining funds and be conscious of any bigger purchases and how they might affect what you have left to spend.

Improper Communication

Good communication is a pillar to success in most every endeavor, and that is no different when you are planning a big party or event. Great communication can be the difference between a successful bash and a disaster. Make sure that everyone involved in party planning is on the same page and understands what is expected of the group and what is expected of them individually.  If you are putting together a large party, you most likely will have many people pitching in to help you make it a success (fellow bridesmaids, your spouse, or your mom who offered to order the birthday cake). Be clear about the budget for each component of the event if others are going to make purchases. Ask them to save receipts, and make sure everyone is reimbursed after the event. If you plan to split the cost of an event, like a bachelorette weekend, apps like Settle Up make this process a breeze. 

Failure to Consider Extenuating Circumstances

Plan for the unplanned. Sometimes things happen that are completely out of your control. But just because they are not in your control doesn’t mean you can’t anticipate and budget for the unexpected. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Breakages: Whether you’re hosting the event at your own home or a venue, accidents happen. Put aside some of your budget as an emergency fund in case you need to replace something that was broken at the celebration.
  • Supply Shortages: You run out of wine. Often a sign of a great party, but not welcome news for any party host. Again, am emergency fund in your budget can come in handy when you’ve got to send someone out to help you restock mid-event. 
  • Weather: The weather is also something to consider in your planning. You never know what might come up, especially if you are planning months in advance. Bad weather can cause last-minute expenses. Set aside some funds to buy last-minute umbrellas for heavy rain or handheld fans for the heatwave. And remember to look on the bright side of why you want it to rain the day of your party.

Failure to Prioritize

As with any budget, you will have to prioritize your spending. After you lock in the big ticket items (a venue if you are not hosting at your home, for example), ask yourself what you want people to remember the most from your event: The food? The decor? The photobooth corner? Prioritize the purchases you care about the most, and choose budget-friendly options for everything else.

Inadequate Negotiation and Comparison

To make sure you spent smart and within your budget, shop around and negotiate prices. If you plan to host your event at a venue, visit different party venues so you can compare cost and locations. For decor and supplies, online shopping is a great way to quickly compare prices. If you plan to send thank you cards after the event, compare the cost of traditional paper cards and postage versus eCards that have the look and feel of paper.

Lack of Consideration of Resources

One last mistake in party budgeting to avoid: Don’t over-estimating your own resources. Don’t plan on purchases that you can’t be sure you will be able to make. Be practical. For big milestone birthdays and destination parties, you can explore ways to collect money for an event

Creating a reasonable budget for your next big party will make the whole process easier. Your budget will become a guide for every decision you make along the way, and you will never regret sticking to it. Happy party planning! 

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