Dining, Entertaining & Celebrations

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How hosts can save some money and still throw a party to remember

Hosting a party is a fun way to get together with friends and family members. When hosting at home, hosts enjoy the added benefit of not having to travel to get home once the party has ended.

But as fun as hosting can be, it's also a significant responsibility that requires a little elbow grease and often a significant financial commitment on the part of hosts. Many hosts find themselves stretching their budgets in an effort to throw the most enjoyable and memorable party possible. But there are ways to save money and still throw a bash no one is likely to forget anytime soon.

* Make it a potluck or BYOB event. Guests typically offer to bring something to parties, so hosts who want to keep their party budget in check can take visitors up on their offers to contribute something to the festivities. Casual parties can be turned into potluck affairs in which each guest brings a dish, be it an appetizer, main course or dessert, for all to enjoy. More formal affairs can still borrow from potluck dinners, but limit food requests to desserts so the meal is not held up by late arrivals.

Another way to save is the make the party a bring your own booze, or BYOB, affair. The cost of alcohol for an adults-only affair can quickly add up, but asking each guest to bring their own alcohol relieves hosts of such financial obligations. Hosts may still want to purchase some alcohol as backup or to serve to early arrivals, but keep such purchases to a minimum.

* Host an afternoon affair. Dinner parties tend to cost hosts the most money, so those worried about busting their budgets can opt for an afternoon get-together instead. Afternoon gatherings, which can be advertised as brunch parties or backyard barbecues, can be just as fun as formal dinner parties, and  the food served at such soirees likely won't cost as much as three-course meals commonly served at dinner parties.

* Put your pantry to good use. Before choosing a meal to serve your guests, peruse your pantry to see what's inside. Chances are you already have much of what you will need to prepare and serve a delicious meal, so a thorough search of your pantry may save you a substantial amount of money on ingredients. If you notice you have enough in the pantry to serve a particular meal, then make that the main course.

* Don't overlook the Internet as a potential ally. While it might seem ridiculous to take to the Internet to buy items like plates, napkins and towels, such efforts might just save you a substantial amount of money and you won't even have to leave home to do so. Online retailers now offer just about anything you may need or want to host a memorable party, and buying in bulk from such websites may be more cost-effective than buying from the nearby grocery store. Hosts who have left things to the last minute might not be able to take advantage of online retailers, but they can still take advantage of big box stores that offer steep discounts to customers who buy in bulk. Such stores typically require customers to be club members, but many offer one-day passes to nonmembers. There may be extra charges for nonmembers, but even when such charges are included, you might still be able to save some money.

* Keep things simple. When hosting a party, it's easy to go overboard and buy too much food and/or drinks for the party. But hosts on a budget should remember that the point of the party is to spend time with loved ones and not to ply guests with excessive amounts of food and drinks. Hosts should make sure guests have enough to eat and drink, but keep things reasonable when planning how much food and drinks you expect to serve.

Hosting a party often requires a significant financial commitment. But hosts can still throw a great party without breaking the bank.