It’s PARTY TIME! Whether you’re hosting a family get-together outdoors or planning an indoor event, there are plenty of ways to bring the family together on the CHEAP.
I get it. I love parties! But it’s WAY TOO EASY to go overboard with epic party ideas, totally blowing your budget in the process. Entertaining is expensive and hosting a family get-together is no small task (and one that often falls on Mom).
So before you whip out your credit card and start spending money, hold up. Family get-togethers should be about creating memorable experiences, rather than giving gifts or spending money. It’s about bringing families together and enjoying each other’s company while you make memories.
So, don’t stress! Whether it’s a holiday, birthday, anniversary, graduation party, or just a fun-in-the-sun activity, there are many easy, budget friendly, party-planning ideas to make it happen!
Hosting Family Get-Togethers on a Budget
So you have a family get-together coming up and you’re the host. Well, never fear! Use this easy party-planning process to ensure your guests have a great time when you’re hosting your next family get-together.
1. Pick a Theme
Your party theme will set the tone for the entire event. The good news is there’s bazillions of ideas out there.
Some of my favorite family-friendly party theme ideas (that are easy on a budget) include:
- Sports (“Tailgate” with hotdogs and burgers, play bags-toss, listen to baseball on the radio, and encourage everyone to wear their favorite team gear.)
- Country/Regional (Choose from Mexican, Spanish, French, Japanese, Italian/Mediterranean, and more—then form your menu, activities, and decorations around the theme.)
- Western (Grill burgers, eat baked beans, and use bandanas as napkins. You can hold sack races and listen to country music, too.)
- Pool/Water (Fill up the kiddie pool and encourage water fights and Marco Polo. Enjoy beachy treats like fruit and fish.)
- Backyard Camping (Set up a tent, start a bonfire, roast s’mores, and enjoy camping food. After dark, tell ghost stories or sing campfire songs.)
- Disney/Movie/Book (Play songs from Disney and encourage everyone to dress up as their favorite characters. You can also go for Harry Potter or another book or movie theme, like Star Wars, Superheroes, etc.)
Once you’ve picked your favorite budget party theme, it’s easy to build on it! It’ll shape your whole party plan and keep everything on track.
2. Send Out Invites
Depending on how big and how formal the event is (a family reunion or graduation might be different than a casual summer celebration), you may want to send out invitations a few weeks or even a few months in advance. If travel is required, be sure to give your guests enough time to plan their trip.
On the other hand, if most of your guests are local or if the event is an easy family get-together, the invitations can be super-simple. Try electronic invites through Evite or Facebook. You can create an event and invite people without sending out paper invitations (for free)!
When you invite people, it’s totally fine to ask them to contribute. Let everyone know you’re hosting a potluck event (or BYOB). Asking everyone to bring something makes guests feel like they’re contributing to the fun—plus, you’ll save a TON of money on food.
3. Plan the Menu
If you really enjoy cooking or prefer NOT to do a potluck event, pick menu options that don’t require involved cooking. When you’re hosting a family get-together, the last thing you want to do is stow away in the kitchen the entire time!
Try a few 15-minute meal options that you can make ahead of time. You can make Sloppy Joes or ham sliders, both perfect for get-togethers. Try Tex-Mex chicken wraps or meatball subs. The great thing about whipping up sandwich-type items is that the sides can be simple and easily made ahead.
Depending on your menu, you can serve chips on the side, pasta salad, simple chopped up fruit, or veggies and dip. If you have a lot of kiddos coming to the party, it’s best to go for simple grab-and-go sides that don’t require a bunch of prep (or extra dishes). If you’re REALLY not looking forward to cleaning up after the party, check your local dollar store for paper plates, and plastic cups and serving ware. (Also good if you’re concerned about breaking glass outside.)
Kool-Aid is a cheap, fun drink that everyone loves. For dessert, try popsicles or ice cream with fresh fruit (or served as root beer floats). Easy, simple, and everyone will love it!
4. Set Up Fun Activities
For adults, the very act of getting together as a family can be enough for entertainment, but to have a really fun family get-together, you may want to plan a few cool activities besides simply eating.
Put on some great summer tunes—country, pop, oldies—try to pick a soundtrack that everyone can get behind (especially if you’re planning for a wide age-range of attendees). Music is free and it’ll really make your event feel like a party!
Usually 2 or 3 games or challenges are enough to keep everyone entertained without feeling like you’re “forcing” everyone into an activity. You know how active your family is, so plan accordingly. If your family is super-sporty, ask your guests to bring their favorite sports equipment. A badminton set or bocce ball game will really add to the (free) fun! If your family is more casual, opt for 1 or 2 “active” games and 1 less-active option. Grandma might not love Ultimate Frisbee and some games can be too challenging for younger kids.
Try a card game or a game like Tenzi or Uno that doesn’t require a ton of skill but gets everyone laughing and engaged. If your family is crafty, you could try letting everyone paint a watercolor or other little painting project they could take home with them afterwards. Decorating a picture frame from the dollar store or making a paper-craft that matches your party theme can also be fun.
Whatever activities you choose, try to keep them flexible and fitting for a wide-range of ages and abilities. No one wants to be frustrated at a party, so if someone doesn’t want to play or take part in an activity, don’t force it. Party activities should always be about having fun and building your family bonds.
5. Find Budget-Friendly Decorations
Outdoor family get-togethers are a DREAM to decorate because you can go totally simple. String up some Christmas lights, put some flowers (or a potted plant) on the table, or use a bunch of mix-and-matched floral items to create a casual/fun vibe.
Grab paper lanterns from the dollar store, or consider recycled jars with tea lights in them for table decorations. If you’re having a party that’s themed around camping, use a flashlight, bonfire or lantern for lighting when the sun goes down. For water-themed parties, pull out your kiddie pool and hang a few beach towels over the fence or lay them out on the ground.
To stick to your budget, get creative, and use items you have on hand to keep the decorations simple. Decorate with family photos to warm everyone’s hearts or try framing pictures that match your theme (Disney princesses, superheroes, baseball cards, tropical seascapes) and place them around on the buffet table. Photos make great gifts as well as great decorations.
6. Give Simple Party Favors
When it comes to party favors, don’t stress! The biggest rule of party planning is to have fun and let yourself enjoy the party, too! People don’t expect red-carpet treatment when they come to a family get-together or party. They just want to enjoy the company, laugh, and make memories.
Super simple party favors are just FINE. A baked dessert (cookies, cupcakes) is easy and cheap, and your guests can enjoy it on the way home. Your guests can also take home the item they crafted (if you set up a craft station). If you have time, email your guests a simple thank you and include your favorite photos from the party.
Family get-togethers are about really appreciating each other and connecting as a family. So often, in our hustle-bustly lives we don’t have time to really enjoy relatives. They get older, kids grow up, and suddenly life has passed and we didn’t spend as much time as we wanted together.
Host family get-togethers to really show your family how much they mean to you. Spend time bonding and just enjoying each other’s company. Regardless of your party theme, the menu, or the activities, it’ll be the best party ever because it’s your family!