With Labor Day around the corner and the kids heading back to school, you're no doubt planning an end-of-summer celebration to revel in those last lazy days. And given that it's the last real holiday until Thanksgiving, it's a not-to-miss opportunity. But since many of us have been tightening our belts and trying to conserve in these financially trying times, it's natural to want to keep the festivities budget-friendly.
Here are some ways to throw a big party on a small budget:
1. Skip the Alcohol
This is one holiday that always falls on a Monday, which means you have to work the next day. And, really, who wants to start out even a shortened workweek with a hangover? Instead, whip up big pitchers of lip-smacking mocktails—aka nonalcoholic cocktails—for that festive touch without the punch. If that sounds too, well, labor intensive, there's always sweet tea, lemonade, or flavored waters. Remember, celebrations are about people, not booze. And when you wake up après party ready to hit the ground running, you'll be glad you took this route.
2. Make Healthy Food Choices
Treat your guests to fresh over ready-made and processed, and choose white over red meat to reduce your food bill and make for a healthier menu. Or pay attention to sales leading up to the date to find affordable seafood options. Do serve snacks and finger foods, but don't rely on pricey prepackaged trays. Instead, slice up fresh vegetables and cheese to go along with some inexpensive salad dressings. And by all means, clip those coupons.
3. Check for Restaurant Discounts
Believe it or not, many eateries offer stellar discounts on Labor Day, as they want to score the business of all the party planners. You could possibly combine your own home cooking with, perhaps, a family meal from Boston Market (which has offered a 25 percent discount in the past) or heaping heros from Subway or Quiznos. Do an Internet search for "labor day restaurant deals" in the days leading up to your party, and you might be able to complement your menu with some takeout on the cheap.
4. Use Generics
As we've seen with pharmaceuticals and household wares, going generic for party planning makes smart sense. From buns and chips to paper plates and cutlery, there's little difference in quality and big difference in price. Besides, once you get everything out of the wrapping, your friends will never know the difference.
5. Make It a Potluck
It takes a village, right? One of the best ways to make a small bash seem even bigger is to have your friends pitch in. Suggest everyone bring one of their favorite covered dishes to cut down on the expense and kick up the fun factor. You might even come up with a theme for the festivities. One caveat: Make sure you organize who's bringing what, so you don't wind up with a menu of 15 tuna salads. The variety is also a surefire way to satisfy the finicky eaters in your crowd.
When you're already awash in back-to-school spending, the last thing you want now is to get socked with a big Labor Day party bill. Better to save those big bucks for the whopper holidays...and Thanksgiving and Christmas are just waiting in the wings.
What additional tips do you have for saving on Labor Day celebrations?
David Bakke is a writer for MoneyCrashers.com, an online resource dedicated to saving money and building wealth. The site covers topics such as college scholarships, extreme couponing, home improvement, and even potluck recipe ideas.