When hosting a graduation party on a budget, there are many things to consider. Will it be an open house, or will it be a sit-down dinner?
We’ve got you covered, from tips on saving money on food and decorations to where to find affordable decorations and invitations.
The best way to throw a dream graduation party is frugally (without going bankrupt)! You need many things for a party, including tables, chairs, tents, paper products, food, drink, and decorations.
So when faced with throwing a high school graduation party frugally, I was up to the task! I did it all for under $250!
Where To Get Graduation Invitations
Invitations are the first step. They need to be sent first thing. And if you plan to have a big party with lots of party guests, then you’ll
Buy Them And Write Them Yourself
Writing out invitations is what I would consider old school. Buy a generic (and pretty) graduation invitation and write it yourself.
Relatively easy, straightforward, and less expensive, yet a tad time-consuming.
I don’t believe this is the most frugal way to go. These are around .31 cents apiece. However, the time it would take to fill them out should be considered in the cost.
Print Your Cards
Printing your cards from home may be a great way to design what you want.
Although printer ink is not cheap, and purchasing the blank invitations and envelopes will add to the cost, if you are adamant about a specific look and have a bunch of supplies already in your craft room, you might be able to swing it.
Order From An Online Printer
Online printers will print invitations, such as Vistaprint or Simply to Impress. These are quality printers that will charge you around .77 each.
Order Photo Cards
Ordering cards was my route of choice, and it was the easy way.
At first, I looked at Shutterfly at $1 apiece, but then Tammi suggested Walmart.
She knows I am not a fan of Walmart but asked me to consider it because you can order online, pick them up, and they are CRAZY CHEAP compared to every other place I checked!
Although the invites you have to fill in are cheaper, these are already done for you. Just slap the addresses and stamps on them and then send them! For.33 each (including envelopes), it’s a win/ win. We hired a professional photographer for senior pictures, so I used those for the cards.
Add Supplement Information
I’m adding in a printed card full of other information because the photo card I got wasn’t big enough for everything I wanted to share.
If you have a pool and want people to bring suits and towels or, like us, you ask them to bring their chairs, this is the place to do it. Maybe include directions to the party in this addition to the envelope.
Create a Facebook Event
Social media is a great way to invite your guest list for free. Skip all the formalities and go straight to Facebook. Many people are already there anyway, and you could save time and money by creating an event and inviting everyone! It’s also a great way for everyone to sign a virtual guest book.
Graduation Plates, Cups, Dinnerware, And Tablecloths
Depending on your picnic theme, you can get cups, dinnerware, and tablecloths in different colors!
I ordered all of this online, and many places will have sales for graduation season. I budgeted $100 for this stuff and decorations. I found small cake plates, dinner plates, cups, and plastic dinnerware on Amazon.
Although, the plastic tablecloths were purchased at the dollar store because that was the best deal.
Don’t forget the serving utensils for meat and salads!!
One of the great things about our high school is that our colors are orange and black. I got some great orange and black (our school colors) vinyl tablecloths on clearance for food tables after Halloween. I saved so much money.
Amazon sells all the paper products you might need in every color imaginable. You may have party supply stores like The Paper City, but the closest one to our house is 45 minutes away.
Decorations, Balloons, and Banners
I’m making some decorations for the party, like fabric banners from scraps I have, and we are borrowing a vintage suitcase for the cards.
You can also grab a card box pretty inexpensively. Pinterest has everything you might need as far as ideas.
I also borrowed an old window to display my son’s senior pictures. A beautiful visual for everyone to take a peek at! Another great idea is to display pictures from pres school or head start until graduation.
I have a leftover helium tank from my daughter in laws baby shower, so I ordered the balloons to blow up; two parties, one tank. We ordered the balloons with all the paper products and dinnerware.
I also ordered four giant numbered balloons (2019) for the gift table.
I will also display college stuff so guests know where he is headed in the fall, his diploma and graduation cap.
For around $20, I ordered a big banner for the front lawn congratulating my son and the rest of the class from banners dot com. He’s pretty introverted and doesn’t seem happy about this part. But I think he’ll dig deep and make it through.
Tables, Chairs, And Tents
Here is my most extensive savings advice. Many companies and organizations will rent out tables, chairs, and tents.
Before doing that, I suggest checking to see if you can borrow from friends, family, and neighbors. I think everyone may own at least one EZ Up tent.
We have a big white one that’s 10 x 30 that will be pulled out and put up. But we also will borrow a couple of 10 x 10 and 12 x 12 for additional cover if the weather is terrible.
We have ten old heavy tables that my elderly neighbor gave us after they moved out. They are old and rough, but they will be good as new by covering them with a tablecloth.
My only concern was for chairs. We have quite a few for outdoor seating, but I was just concerned that there wouldn’t be enough to eat by the tables. So I included a request for guests to bring their chairs in our supplement to the invitation.
Food For A Summer Party
Meal planning is essential for a gathering like this. Depending on the number of guests will help with meal planning.
Main Party Food
If you only have close friends and family, a sit-down dinner could be a great idea. We are doing a cookout, so hot dogs, hamburgers, and marinated chicken will be on the grill.
To cut costs, ask family members to help by bringing salads.
I have purchased small chips bags and will make baked beans and macaroni salad.
Consider going with small appetizers or finger foods instead of a big meal. This can drastically cut down on costs.
A taco bar is also a fun way to feed guests. Walking tacos work well for a tight budget.
Think of things a food truck might sell and maybe set up an area to emulate a food truck.
Many other family members will also bring salads.
I might make a big dish of Macaroni and Cheese. It’s a favorite passed down through the generations!
Consider a brunch if you’re looking for something different and frugal.
Desserts For A Graduation Bash
Every graduation celebration should include sweet treats.
Grabbing a mason jar or three from the dollar tree to fill with candies in school colors is a fun way to add depth to your table.
I have an acquaintance that makes the most fantastic custom sugar cookies! That is my bigger splurge, but they are SUPER CUTE!!! So, I needed to have those.
Our local grocery store makes the most amazing cakes. Their frosting is our favorite. That should cost us only around $30.
I’ve been picking up cases of soda and water for the last few months. I want to make iced tea and lemonade in my drink dispenser.
Games And Music
My friend Chuck is a DJ and owes me a few hours of music, so he will be spinning some tunes for us in the afternoon at no cost. I’m wondering if he also does Karaoke!!
I’m also thinking about setting up an area for a photo booth. I bet my husband could build something quickly! You can order the props right online, too!
We have a good-sized yard to set up our horseshoes and badminton. I’m also asking friends if they have other outside games like cornhole. If you are planning on having other graduation parties, investing in some outside games from yard sales or end-of-season clearance sales might be worth the investment.
Final Thoughts On How To Host A Graduation Party On A Budget
All of this will cost about $250 for our grad party. Having an outdoor party in our yard saved us a ton of money. My most important advice is to ask and borrow, especially if this might be a one-time thing.
If you plan on doing more parties or have other children graduating, investing in tents, tables, and entertaining items might be worth it over renting.
But borrowing is always the way to keep it cheap.
Printing and paper costs can add up if you plan on throwing a large graduation event. Spreading news of your graduate is important but does not have to break the bank. A host can always do traditional announcements through the post. There are definitely some beautiful print options, even free ones! More recently, a popular option is sending invites to a graduation party via email or Facebook, a cost-effective choice.
I have seen a lot of the event invites being used for Graduation parties this year. I think it is a great option. Especially if the majority is active on Facebook!
Hi Laurie, We hosted our daughters graduation ? parties at our church in the fellowship hall. We probably had about 75 100 guests and we shared with 3 other grads. I made the food homemade for the entire group. I had help with decorating. We had a video with one graduation party and my daughter put it together. Believe me, we penny pinched! With six children and one income, my husband and I had to be frugal. I am still amazed we ever made it through the way we did! God always provided. Your party looked really nice and really fun! Lisa