A Rockin' Party on a Budget

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When I was in graduate school, I had enough work during the week to keep me so busy, I knew that I would go insane if I didn’t take a break during the weekend. So my roommate and I decided that for at least 2 weekends a month, we would have a party at our house. There was a problem, though. Both of us were graduate students, so we had very little money to spend. However, we knew that graduate school would drive us both to the nuthouse if we didn’t unwind. So what did we do? We still had a party on some weekends, but we didn’t blow our budget. In fact, some of our parties were free! All we needed to do was sit back and relax with our friends. Even without alcohol, we got to unwind and have fun. Here are four party tips and themes that you might like the next time you want to save money while still hanging out.
1. A Potluck Contest Most of the people we invited were also graduate students, who were likewise hard up on cash, but who wanted to unwind during the weekend. So we had a potluck contest: everyone had to cook up a dish that was as delicious as possible – without going over $20. The dish had to feed at least 10 people, and it had to be nutritious. If anyone went over $20, they were in charge of washing the dishes and cleaning up after everyone. It was a pretty good deal: when everyone stayed below $20, the person who spent the most on their dish had to do the cleaning. Not only did we get our house clean at the end of the night: we had a lot of good food that would last us all a few more days past the party! We even got great recipes for low-priced stews, salads, and pizzas! Oh, and did we mention that it was fun just eating and hanging out?

2. The Big, Fun DVD Party, Part 1

When we were too tired to cook, we all decided that hanging out with each other would still be fun. So we scheduled a DVD party after dinner, when everyone was too full to ask for food. We all decided that each person would be in charge of bringing a movie that they remembered from their childhood. We would simply sit back, watch the movie, and then talk about it afterward. Because we were too full to get snacks, we would simply relax and be with each other. This kind of party worked great after exams or big papers, when we weren’t in the mood to talk – but when we couldn’t simply be alone because we needed to commiserate with each other!

3. The Big, Fun DVD Party, Part 2

There were times, however, when we needed to talk but still wanted to watch a DVD. We couldn’t be too full or sleepy, though, so we decided on a DVD after a heavy lunch. Instead of sleeping the afternoon away, we would all watch a DVD together. This one came with a twist. We needed to rent a B-movie that was so bad, no one would watch it on their own. Then, while watching the B-movie, no one was allowed to laugh. We were only allowed to talk critically about the movie, and surmise what the various characters and situations symbolized. Because nearly all of us had backgrounds in social sciences theories, you can imagine how silly the conversations became! And all for a B-movie. And yes, no one was allowed to laugh – on the penalty of bringing food the next time we had a party.

4. The Christmas Cookie Bake Off

We all wanted to give Christmas cookies to our friends, so my friends and I pooled our money and bought flour, chocolate chips, and sugar in bulk. It was cheaper than if we had worked on our own! Then, we had a Christmas Cookie party, where we all brought our own recipes and baked together. At the end, we distributed the cookies evenly, so that we all had gifts for our friends – and we had a lot of snacks for the holidays, too. We also had more expensive parties to celebrate birthdays or anniversaries. But since we needed to stay within a budget, there were parties where there was no alcohol, steak, or anything more expensive than a pizza. But we had fun together, and I do miss being able to hang out with friends who were as money savvy – and still as fun-loving – as I.

About the Author: Inez Ponce de Leon holds a PhD in Science Communication. She works as a science communication specialist, and loves to write on a variety of topics, including belly dance, culture, Happy Calm Focused, science communication, sociology, movies, and novels.