Money Saving Monday: Party Hard!
Partying hard is easier than partying frugal. Or partying sustainable. And it sounds better.
We tend to throw two big parties a year: A christmas party, and a backyard birthday BBQ for me. There’s a nice long gap between the two, which I appreciate. It takes me that long to recover financially and mentally from each event. Not really, but it seems that way.
So when a blog reading and party attending friend sent me an email entitled Party Spending, I was intrigued. Here’s her (and my) conundrum:
“As I [sit] here thinking about upcoming BBQs I found myself in a familiar dilemma. How much of a conscious consumer am I for parties, and where do I make the compromises (break down and go to Costco) and have people over without breaking the bank?”
These parties are expensive. We usually host somewhere around 20 people. That magic number makes for a solid party atmosphere, plenty of mingling, a good amount for game participation (or not). It’s also a lot of people to feed and provide beverages for.
I’m all for the potluck. Attendants are always welcome to bring items and do. We often get significant contributions, including the bulk of the booze. I attribute this to my awesome friends. However, I’m a strong believer that if you are going to invite people over, you better be prepared to feed them. And well.
For us ‘well’ means grass fed burgers. It means organic and local and unfortunately expensive. I don’t do Costco anymore, but every time we plan one of these soirees I might miss it. Just a little. As we engage in the tense negotiation between money, convenience, and the conscientious consumerism we hold so dear, sometimes I just want to go buy a damn turkey wrap party tray or a frozen stack of pink slime burgers. The pink slime is an exaggeration.
What about convenience? Must everything be hand made? Does it all have to be ‘green’? You can see from the picture above, I utilize my significant stockpile of Fiestaware to keep us out of paper plates. Compostable or no, they still cost money. Then I say a little prayer that my Fiesta is sturdy enough to withstand this fiesta. Same thing for silverware. We’ve a stash of mix and match which while not suitable for a dinner party, is A-OK for our class of characters. Even if I’m pretty sure some of it inadvertently ends up in MIA. Glasses have been lost in I believe every party I’ve ever had. It happens. We invested in ‘reusable paper towels’ last year. I’m sure they occasionally meet a fate similar to that of the flatware. On the serving front, we’re covered. Congratulations to me. I’ve just increased my clean-up time five fold.
What about deli salads? Store bought desserts? At $38 for a dozen local cupcakes, we opted to make our own this year. What kind of cheese do you put on those burgers? When feeding a crowd, Triscuits are a heck of a lot more affordable than regional alterna-crackers. Homemade crackers are a pain. You heard it here first. Do I just avert my eyes from the 7 synonyms for corn by product on that Triscuit ingredient label? These thoughts effectively eliminate the auto pilot in party planning.
And it starts to add up.
Then, sometimes you just want it to look pretty. What’s a party with out a little decor? I used to be a fan of ballons. Because I am a child. I’ve let those go (HA!) in exchange for re-usable and repurposed. That’s cool. I love that kind of stuff. When I have time for it, which is usually not right before I’m throwing a big ass party. Crafts I should revel in, end up being occasions for creative cursing as I’m rushing to get them done.
How’d we do?
This time around we were blessed with a freezer full of hamburger from last year’s half cow. This was a good way to purge our glut of ground beef. Without that in our back pocket, there’s no way we would have been able to afford to feed everyone so well. As it was we
argued, debated, passionately discussed hamburger buns, beer, cheese, dip and beans. Outcome: Local (and not), a variety, local, decidedly traditional, and home-made.
For decorations I transformed coffee cans into lanterns and filled them with hand me down candles. Cost: $5 for paint.
I re-used the paper garland I made at Christmas. Cost: $0.
I made insect repelling (supposedly) candles from hoarded leftover beeswax candle ends. Cost: $0.
Then I got a wild hair, and had The Husband pick up flowers at the last minute.
$8 and another ‘passionate discussion’ later (it turns out The Husband can’t identify a carnation to save his life), I should have skipped it. I’m of the opinion that almost everything ‘last minute’ should be skipped. Unless it involves people not being able to eat, drink, or use the WC, don’t bother.
It still cost me too much. I get better at it, or perhaps more prepared, each time. Just not good enough to call in frugal. Sustainable and I do better. If you made it this far in the post, I’m going to reward you with the real number of money spent: about $250 for food, spray paint and those god forsaken flowers. This doesn’t include the value of all the food we eat for days afterwards. Because post party, there is no grocery shopping.
Do you entertain? Do you love to host, but hate the cost? How do you save money on it? Do you consider frugal and sustainable alternatives?