A party doesn't need to be a huge "Great Gatsby"-style affair. If you're watching your budget, paying off loans or just trying to save money while enjoying some time with friends, a small amount of effort and creativity can pay large dividends. A penny party is a party designed with frugality in mind, but it doesn't have to seem frugal. With some careful planning and assistance from others, it can be as elaborate and entertaining as any other party.
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Invitations and Planning
When planning, focus the party on a particular theme or event. Having a clear picture in mind of what you're celebrating focuses your mind while shopping and makes it less likely that you'll buy things you don't need and won't use. Buy blank cards, place them in your printer and print out messages. Save on the cost of postage by printing and hand-delivering invitations, or save by sending electronic invites through email or social media.
Rather than spending a fortune on candles, create an illusion of plenty by lining up all the candles in a room against a mirror. This has the effect of making it seem as if twice as many candles are present as there really are. Buy a set of balloons and blow them up yourself rather than buying them blown up with helium. Tie ribbons around the end of each balloon and give them a slight twist with your hand to make them curl. Dig out the old string of holiday lights in your attic and hang them above your mantel or along the perimeter of your front door.
Food and Drinks
To cut down on cooking costs, ask your guests to bring their own drinks and dishes or serve only appetizers and desserts. Provide cheap entrees such as tortilla chips served with pesto and salsa, tiny pizzas, trail mix, biscuits and pizza bagel bites. Take a block of cream cheese and flatten it until it's thin; then, sprinkle it with cinnamon, nuts and small pieces of dried fruit. Make a single rice or pasta dish before the party and serve it when guests arrive.
Frugal Fun and Games
Create a playlist for the party and play music using a digital streaming service and a computer or MP3 player. Provide board games and card games to keep guests entertained or ask them to bring their own from home. Rent a karaoke machine and allow guests to take turns singing classic songs and imitating their favorite performing artists. Before the meal, place a penny under each person's glass and ask them to pull it out when the meal starts. After examining the year inscribed on the penny, each guest goes around and describes an event that happened in their life during that year.