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How to host a graduation on a budget

Your high school senior is graduating and you want to throw a big celebration.

It’s his/her big day! So you dream of a grand barbecue for hundreds, streamers and balloons and cute little mortarboard and tassle centerpieces on tables covered in cloths with the high school — or perhaps future college — colors! Personalized favors for guests to take home so they’ll never ever, ever, forget their BFF.

There is actually a website,, that has everything you never knew you needed. That website offers up some sample party budgets ranging from $525 to more than $6,000!

But when the party is over and everything has been put away, it’s time to start getting ready for the big thing: college, a very costly endeavor.

Perhaps it’s possible to party like a pauper? You bet! First, consider throwing the bash with a couple of other families. It’ll cut the cost by three, since most of the people the kids will invite will all be the same people anyway.

Have the party at home. Use the backyard. It’s nice this time of year, and in Arizona, you can open the pool!

You’ve got to let everyone know about the party and you can certainly go the Evite route for this. It costs you absolutely nothing! But, I’d consider sending a reminder to all the guests a couple of days before the party. When there’s no hard invitation to post on the fridge, sometimes things are forgotten. You don’t want everyone to forget to show up!

If you’re doing a lunch or dinner buffet, keep in mind that a lot of people who host catered buffets always complain about how much food they have left over. Once I hosted a catered buffet party and had to have another impromptu party the next night to have friends help me finish off the food. I had almost as many people at the impromptu party as had been there the previous night for the first event! Thank goodness the house was clean and yes, there were still a few leftovers!

If you’re a little tired of the deli meats and cheese sandwich array, consider a pasta party. Pasta isn’t terribly expensive and practically everyone loves it. You can make it yourself too. Toss a salad, heat up garlic bread and you have a party!

Maybe get a couple of those outdoor firepits and roast hotdogs! Quite inexpensive, but delicious and interactive!

How about a dessert party? Invite guests over in the afternoon, after lunch, or later after dinner and have a variety of pretty and delicious dessert options: Cakes, cookies and brownies, maybe an ice cream sundae bar!

A big budget eater is alcohol. If you don’t have a bar at your graduation party you’ll save a ton and, more than likely, no one will care anyway if you have a great variety of other beverages. Besides, with all the teens present who needs the worry?

Another money saver is to buy two-liter bottles of soda instead of individual cans. Put water in containers. Individual plastic bottles get wasted and fill up the trashcan and ultimately the landfill.

How many decorations do you actually need? Do you have to turn your home into a theme? Check with neighbors for things you might be able to borrow for the bash so you don’t have to rent them. Extra tables and chairs, maybe some potted plants. Another reason it’s always nice to actually know the neighbors(Make sure you reciprocate when it’s their turn).

If you feel like there needs to be a little colorful school decor, streamers are less costly than balloons, and you can always set up a display of yearbooks, logo shirts from school, school pictures and awards and trophies your child has collected over the past four years. Set up the laptop and run a slideshow of all those pictures from events and the wacky pictures your kid has taken with friends.

Music? Put your iPod into use. Hook it up to some speakers and you’re set. You can buy an outdoor speaker for less than you’d pay to hire a D.J. and you’ll have the speaker all summer long!

Of course, if your budget allows, by all means rent the country club and have a ball (literally), but for most of us, one of the biggest expenses of our lives is coming up: Paying for college.

You don’t have to blow the entire budget in one night!