Don’t say it. You wish that just this once you could throw a party and money wouldn’t be an issue. Believe me, this would be your worst nightmare.
Let’s assume that you have a personal or family budget in real life. This budget tells you how much you can spend on food and clothes so that you will still have money left over to pay your heat, power, rent or mortgage. It provides you with peace of mind and some financial structure. So why wouldn’t you have a party budget? Just like your personal budget, a party budget will give you structure and more importantly, boundaries. And boundaries can give you inspiration. A budget determines whether you will be making your own cake or ordering the unique cake you saw on your baker’s website. Both are a great idea. A budget determines whether you’ll be hiring a clown or begging your husband to dress up like one. And both options work. If you think a party with a million dollar budget will be easier to plan–You. Are. Wrong. More money means higher expectations, which means more stress. (Hhmm, ever been to a wedding?) Less money doesn’t equal stress-free either. Ever have a princess cake that turned out more like the ugly stepsister, homemade ice cream that didn’t ever freeze, or invitations that never got made? I have.
Let’s get started
1. Acknowledge that the grass will always be greener on the other side. The simple, inexpensive pool party that your friend had for her daughter probably looked effortless and you might regret spending so much time and money on your pool party. Or the unbelievably gorgeous catered tea party that you saw in a magazine might make you break the 10th commandment (Thou shalt not covet) and you might start foolishly selling your valuables on Ebay to get the money to recreate it. But I am here to tell you that whatever someone else did, does, or will do doesn’t matter. This is your party, not a competition.
2. Ask yourself these questions: What do I normally spend on a party? When I think about how much a party should cost, what’s the first number that comes to mind? What amount do I feel comfortable spending on this party? In my mind’s eye, what do I see this party costing? However you phrase it, there is always a dollar amount somewhere, at the back of your head that feels right to you. Start there.
3. Now ask yourself these questions: Is this amount realistic (either too high or too low)? What can I afford to spend on this party? Can I use some of my family’s food money to cover the cost of the party food? Can we skip going out to the movies this month and use that extra cash for the party? Determine the amount of money you can spend on the party.
4. Estimate. Estimate. Estimate. How much will the cake & cupcakes cost? Are you going to serve any food? Don’t forget to add in the little stuff. Balloons from the party store. Napkins in the party colors. Cupcake liners. Copies from the copy shop. The two spools of ribbon you’ll need to tie on all of the favor bags. Whatever. And plan for a few last minute surprises. Inevitably you’ll find the most amazing thing that is perfect for your party and that your party can’t live without. And you’ll find it at the last minute, either after you’ve spent all of your party money or requiring rush shipping to get there in time. Not that I’d know anything about that. Ahem. But if this often happens to you, plan for that now.
5. A good trick for balancing costs is to pair two things together. Let’s say that you have $50 set aside for invitations and take home favors. You can spend $40 on cool swimming party invitations with a beach ball and sand tucked inside every envelope (plus extra shipping) and buy $10 worth of candy to send home with the kids as their take home favor. Since they’ll be getting a shovel and pail for the sand sculpture contest anyway, there is no need to spend a lot on ONE MORE THING to take home. Or you could make your own teapot invitations, print them at home, and hand deliver them. This would cost about $1. Then you could splurge and buy all 7 guests an awesome mini tea set that cost $7 each. Balance it out to make things easier.
Things I balance: invites/take home favors. food/cake: serve inexpensive popsicles and order an awesome dolphin cake vs. serve over-the-top dainty tea party food and make your own mini cupcakes. table centerpiece/decorations: use the dolphin cake as the table centerpiece and focus your time and money on killer decorations vs. ordering a gorgeous flower arrangement for the center of your tea party table and borrowing your mother’s china to set the table as your decor. activites: do a couple of small activities that are free like swimming in your in-laws’ pool and eating those popsicles then add in a more expensive activity like a sand castle building contest with real sand, shovels, pails, etc. vs. doing 2 similarly priced crafts like embellishing tea party hats & gloves.
You probably do this anyway and don’t know it. It basically goes like this: “If I spend a lot on this, I need to cut back on that.” Of course you could choose to do the cooler, more expensive option for every pair (good thing you have a budget and you know that you can afford it) or you could choose the less expensive option for every pair and keep costs down. But from my experience most people want to splurge on a few things, but not everything. Balance.
6. If you find yourself over budget as you are pre-planning your party, take a look and see if anything can do double duty. Can you use all of the pool gear you already have for decorations and not buy anything new? Instead of one large floral arrangement on the tea party table, could your florist make a bunch of tiny flower bouquets for the same cost that the girls could take home instead of a mini $7 tea set? And don’t forget to look around your house for things you can use to improvise.
Your party budget can be your best friend if you treat it right. Budget Best Friends 4-evah.