Wednesday, August 7, 2013

How to Throw a Custom Party on a Not So Custom Budget...

Ever since I answered my last question via the blog I've been getting some fun Q's in my inbox which is a really nice way to always have something to blog about... Here is the latest question I am going to tackle, Miss Party Mom style!

Hi Miss Party Mom,

I live in a small town where we have a very limited amount of party supplies available. Although I do most of my shopping online, I find it very hard to throw a party without a budget of $2000.00. After reading your blog- I'd love to hear your takes on party planning on a budget? How do you keep from spending a fortune while still including the tiniest of details?

Thanks in advance,


Great question Traci! Let's get one thing out of the way before we start- I too live in a small town! We have one party place (literally called The Party Place) and I'm sure only rich party throwers shop there. I mean an 8 pack of plates is $8.00... Have they ever heard of a dollar store?!

If there is one thing I am totally comfortable with labeling myself it is a Bargain Hunter. I will literally go back to a store 4x in a month to check if the item I want has gone on sale rather than pay full price for it. And this could not be more true when it comes to party planning- because as we all know, even if you were to get the entire party on sale- chances are it's still going to have a pretty price tag (if you dare add it up).

I have come up with a little system for bargain hunting during party season... It helps to save money which helps to keep me out of Party Trouble with the husband. I mean, somehow these men just don't understand why $2,000 on a 4th birthday is totally acceptable... who cares about a future college education- they went to the University of Never Never Land, OK?!

Neverland 101: Eating in the Lost Boys Pub
- The Dollar Dance... The first thing I do when I'm collecting items for a theme is visit every dollar store/aisle within 20 miles of me. I try and nail down my centerpieces, favors, candy for pinatas, and other novelty items that would be a great fit for the theme. A great example of a perfect find at the .99 Store were the bone shaped doggy dishes recently used at my daughter's Puppy Party. I considered buying every last one, but left with four- because I had already written down how many centerpieces I needed. $4 on something that screams my theme (in my colors to boot!) = money well spent.

One thing to note is that you have to use self control in dollar stores/aisles. Just make sure you're not buying it because it's, "only a buck!" Because, trust ME.. $50 at the Dollar Tree is still $50... and did you really need 50 items? Or just 4?

Best Dollar Aisles:
Michael's Crafts ($1.50 aisle)
Joann Fabrics (right by front registers usually)
CVS ($1-$3 aisle)

- Free Printables... If you're planning a Holiday party- tap into the massive amount of FREE printables being handed out during holiday season via Pinterest/Blogs/Facebook. Simply type "Free Printables" into a search engine and see what comes up. Or if you're just looking for a "Happy Birthday" sign to compliment a smaller party- you can do the same. Here is a great example of one offered up by Anders Ruff that is adorable and very versatile theme-wise.

To prove it is totally doable- I did last year's St. Patrick's Day Party with ALL free printables! And it's my favorite party to date- so you CAN get by with free graphics and still have a killer looking party- just be smart with what prints you're combining- or ask me, that happens to be my specialty...

- Ebay, Amazon, Craigslist... UTILIZE them! Craigslist: I look for fun and interesting BIG (but well priced) items on Craigslist right after I've decided on my theme. You never know what you'll find. I found this amazing black vintage trunk that was recently used in my Favorite Things Party. It was within 5 miles of me, exactly the sort of "prop" I was looking for and $50.00. To me, that's money well spent (it's also used as a piece of furniture in my house!)

Name banner by Table Top Treats Pom Pom pennants by Cupcake Wishes and Birthday Dreams

Ebay & Amazon... I type in key words of my theme (ie: Puppy Party) and just scroll and scroll. Both sites have amazing deals on things you can buy in bulk. I scored a dozen of these perfect little Puppy Coloring Books on ebay for a little less than $5 including shipping... it's little extra favors like this that to me- really bring the theme home...

Puppy Party, St. Patty's and Trunk Photos by Moments Captured Photography
- Coupons! They're huge. Don't ignore them. I try and coupon anything over $5. To answer the part of Traci's question about keeping the tiny details in my parties, my answer is the ever popular phone app for every craft store. I am an expert on who takes double coupons, who has a 25% off entire purchase coupon coming up, etc. etc. I have waited to purchase things like these glass jars which were originally $24 a dozen until I had a 50% off coupon- and then I went for it. It's safe to say: I study the coupon apps and shop accordingly. And let's get one thing out of the way- I'm not one of those weird couponers either- because I don't need questions on how to coupon groceries in my inbox next... You think I have time to cook? I'm busy shopping and throwing parties, hell-o!

Peter Pan pics by Jen McGinn
-Work in Trades... One of the most organic things that ever happened to the future of my party planning business was meeting Hannah (Hannah's Cookies and Treats), another gal who had a passion for throwing a good party (and also had a knack for baking!) If I didn't have her helping me out with desserts at my kids parties I'd be dropping loads of money on baked goods... instead we just help each other throw parties... her son's 5th birthday was in my backyard last year! Not that every one is going to have this same set up with a good friend- but it doesn't hurt to collaborate and work in trades- it's usually a win win for both parties. We have many fun baking play dates (play weeks?) that involve our children having picnics and wrestling while we bake and create.

I mean, they keep themselves busy! (This picture was actually taken during the set up of Cormac's 3rd Birthday)
- DIY it! I feel like this word is so crazy played out... but hear me out. Want something that looks like you can't possibly make it? You Tube it... there is a tutorial for everything. Or do what I do- enlist the help of the husband or a handy friend to make it! The following item is a perfect example- I wanted this Peter Pan pointing sign (left) so badly when I saw it on Etsy by The Trashy Side... but didn't have the funds. I showed it to Shawn and Hannah and bam- the 3 of us made a rendition of it in one day. It's still one of my favorite pieces from The Peter Pan Party. So fight the urge to say, "I don't have the time." If it's something that will add a lot of charm to the party- find the time! Trust me all that time you're on Pinterest can be spent making it. Ouch! Burrrn!

In case you missed my recent post on choosing a party theme- it has a few money saving tips as well (like pillaging your child's room for decor, and shopping so far in advance you will totally forget how much you've spent on the party- so it doesn't really matter anyway!)

What are your party planning money saving tips? Leave them in the comments! I'd love to hear them and I'm sure my readers would too! 

xo Party or Die xo


  1. When you do a party, who keeps all of the theme props? Do you save them for another party or do they keep them? It appears that your never ending imagination just keeps creating all new ideas. I love your enthusiasm, ideas & colors!

    1. I keep them all! I reuse party props all the time! I have a room I can "The Party Cave" that is literally packed from floor to ceiling with party props (with over flow to the RV!)

  2. GREAT post. I get asked this question often too and you shared the perfect tips! :)


" "