Big Family Party on a Budget? A Piece of Cake if You Plan Early

Throwing a small impromptu party on a budget can be easy enough if you’re a whiz at improvising and keep your shelves stocked with a few staples. But to get ready for the grand celebration of an important milestone or special tradition in your family, you’ll need a long-term planning strategy.

Planning ahead — even several years in advance — can give you a chance to take advantage of seasonal sales on supplies and get discounts for early booking of venues, flights and hotel rooms for guests.

The cause for celebration might be a birthday — the Sweet 16, the Big 5-0, the centennial. It could be an anniversary or a reunion. The setting could be local, from a ballroom to your own backyard, or you might be planning a destination event. Whatever the occasion, keeping your big party on budget lets you enjoy the festivities instead of fretting about the bills.

Never Too Soon to Start Planning

Mara Strom and her family started saving up almost four years in advance for her son’s July 2016 Bar Mitzvah. In a blog post on Kosher on a Budget, she spills all the planning details and breaks down her $12,500 budget for the event. The long planning timeline was essential to keeping the event affordable.

You can get a head start on your party planning by choosing a theme, making a to-do list and checking out a few party planning guides — there are plenty available online — to figure out the best time to schedule each step. Your checklist might include expenses like booking a venue, hiring a caterer, sending out invitations and choosing the entertainment. It may also need to cover special items like the symbolic last doll presented to a girl at her quinceañera — a traditional Latin American celebration marking a girl’s 15th birthday — or travel costs for attending or hosting a destination event.

Finding the Savings

Once you’ve figured out the gap between your party budget and the cash you have on hand to dedicate to the event, you can break the difference down into a monthly savings goal. Just divide the amount you need to save by the number of months you have until the big bash occurs.

Then look for places to trim your regular monthly expenses and opportunities to earn extra money to reach your target. Maybe your family is game for giving up Saturday dinners out for a while or organizing a few garage sales to help raise the funds.

Be prepared to adjust your saving plan as you gather more information on costs and fine-tune the details of your party preparation. For example, Strom’s family initially set a budget of $5,000 to $8,000, putting aside $150 a month. But they raised that monthly amount twice as they realized the kind of celebration they wanted would cost much more than they initially anticipated.

Starting the planning early for a big party gives you and other family members plenty of opportunity to talk about the elements that really matter and to make sure your budget reflects those priorities. Planning can also reduce your stress so you can focus on the party’s purpose and enjoy this special life event with your loved ones.

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