How to Throw Great Parties on A Budget

There is no audio

Get the party decorations from this episode

Print out the happy birthday banners, gift bag tags and name tags that were featured in this episode. Sign up below to get everything for free!

Show Notes

You guys already know I love to have fun!

So when my producers approached me with the idea for an episode about parties, I said, “Just tell me what time to be there!” Right? I mean, who doesn’t love amazing parties?

But when it comes to throwing parties, times have changed. Back in the day, you could bust out the hose, spray kids as they ran through the yard, and call it a birthday celebration. But now? With Pinterest and Instagram, it feels like we’re supposed to step up our game.

And not just with children’s birthdays, but with all different types of parties: baby showers, weddings, dinner parties, special events and even casual gatherings. Our collective slogan might as well be: “It’s my party, and I’ll go broke if I want to!”

But I have to be honest, you guys. That doesn’t sound like the key to creating a life we love. If we want to have a good time for the long haul, we’ll need to find ways to reign in party spending without losing any of the fun. And that’s what today’s episode is all about!

How to Set Your Party Budget

Were you guys in on the big Jay-Z party drama earlier this year? No worries if not. You know you can count on me to deliver the details!

OK, so Jay-Z (husband of the Queen Bey herself) spent $100,000 on a birthday celebration, and people lost their minds. $100,000 in one night! That sounds insane, right?

But I did a little research, and it turns out Jay-Z earned $42 million last year. $42 million!(1)

Remove a few zeros and that’s the equivalent of someone who makes $42,000 a year spending just $100 on an epic party. You can spend that much on an afternoon stroll through Target—not to mention a party complete with food, decorations and entertainment!

So what’s my point? If you’re Jay-Z and you made $42 million last year—and you’re married to Beyoncé who made $105 million last year—and you want to spend $100,000 on a birthday party, you’re probably going to be OK.(2) More than OK.

If you are sitting pretty with no consumer debt and a fully funded emergency fund and you want to go a little big on your party spending, have at it! The key is to run your party budget through the following filters:

Party Filter #1: Money

The first question to ask yourself (yes, before you settle on a theme or order those confetti balloons) is, What can I afford?

Sit down with your monthly budget and your spouse (if you have one) to see what fits with everything else you have going on.

If you’re paying off debt or saving up for your emergency fund, I want to encourage you to adjust your budget as little as possible. You can enjoy a special day without derailing your money goals. Keep reading, and we’ll show you how!

Have no debt and a fully funded emergency fund? Great! You have more freedom to spend, but you should still make sure your spending fits into your monthly budget or comes from an appropriate savings category.

Party Filter #2: Motivation

The second question to ask yourself is, What do I hope will happen as a result of this party?

You guys, this question goes a bit deeper. In our day of comparisons and one-upmanship, it can be so easy to think we’re acting innocently while, in reality, our motivations aren’t so pure.

To get to the heart of the matter you might consider these questions when thinking about your party:

  • Do I just want pretty pictures for Instagram?
  • Do I feel the need to impress my friends or family?
  • Will I be glad I spent my money this way when the party's over?
  • How will I feel if only the party guests—and no one else—can see my efforts?

Don’t beat yourself up if you’re a little surprised by what you find when digging for motivation. We’ve all been there, right? Instead, make changes wherever possible to find a motivation you can be proud of.

Maybe throwing parties offers you a chance to flex your creative muscles and let other people know how much they are loved and appreciated. Go after a goal like this, stick to your budget, and you can’t go wrong!

Which reminds me . . .

Real Talk with Rachel

The first party I threw here in Nashville was kind of a disaster. Let’s just say I didn’t pass the money or the motivation test.

Winston and I had been in our house for just a few months, and honestly, we didn’t even have much furniture.

But that didn’t stop me from offering to host a Christmas party for our new small group at church. Nope. I was so excited to invite everyone over.

Of course, within a few hours I started spiraling. I realized we had basically none of the things I thought we needed in order to throw a “proper” dinner party. So what did I do?

I went to Pottery Barn and bought place mats, fabric napkins and napkin rings. You know, just the necessities—that we absolutely could not afford. I called my mom for a recipe and set about creating the most impressive party ever.

Fast forward to the night of the event: The easiest chicken recipe (as my mom dubbed it) sat raw in the oven, and the spinach I cooked in the slow cooker looked like a watery mess. I sent Winston to the grocery store in a panic. We served store-bought rotisserie chicken and literally nothing else. It was not my most shining moment.

Contrast that with a party I hosted just a few weeks ago: I had eight of my close girlfriends over. We whipped up an easy pasta with a salad and caught up. We used paper napkins, if you can believe it, and we had a great time.

It was another helpful reminder that parties are really just an excuse for people who enjoy one another to get together—no fuss necessary.

Expert Advice for Throwing Parties Without Busting Your Budget

But what if you do want to make a bit of a fuss? Maybe you’re honoring a mom-to-be, celebrating a milestone birthday, or getting together for the big game? There’s no harm in adding a little life to your party!

In today’s episode, we showcase party ideas from Courtney of Pizzazzerie. You’ll definitely want to check out this segment to see all the creative parties she put together!

But first, let’s take a look at her tips.

How to Throw a Tailgate Party on a Budget

  1. Prep your food at home.
    Don’t be tempted to order from your favorite local BBQ place or nearby burger joint. You’ll come out much better if you buy food in bulk and cook it yourself. Think big-batch meals that feed a crowd—like burgers and hot dogs, chili, pasta salad or meats that can be cooked in the slow cooker.
  2. Shop the dollar store.
    Skip the party store and the overpriced team logo decor. Instead, visit your local dollar store for plates, napkins, utensils and cups in your team’s colors. This makes staying on theme simple and keeps the look classy.
  3. Stick to store brand.
    Mustard is mustard, people. Buy store-brand condiments like ketchup, mustard and pickles, as well as store-brand buns, snacks and drinks whenever possible.

How to Throw a Baby Shower on a Budget

  1. Choose clear food display items.
    Buy simple clear glass cups, trays and cake stands. At an affordable price point, these items can be used over and over, year-round and for any theme or occasion. Plus, clear glass items look beautiful grouped together.
  2. Stick to finger foods.
    Baby showers are typically spent watching a mom-to-be open gifts and chatting with other guests. Make these tasks easier by offering four or five finger-food options and a simple dessert, which also happen to cost way less than providing a full meal. 
  3. Buy your flowers at the grocery.
    Visit a local grocery store the morning of the shower to find affordable blooms. Use small vases to spread the flowers around the party table. Then add greenery from your own yard to round things out. Encourage the guest of honor to take a vase home when she leaves.

Looking for the perfect present for a mom-to-be?

Give her the gift of ready-to-make meals, delivered to her door!

How to Throw Children’s Birthdays on a Budget

  1. Use your printer.
    Why purchase expensive paper decorations when you can make your own? Look online for free customizable templates for favor tags, place cards, banners and more! Even better? Check out the free party printables my team created just for you!
  2. Time your party well.
    Avoid the need to serve a full meal, especially at kids’ parties, by scheduling the party from 2 and 4 PM. You can offer an afternoon snack or two and save appetites for what everyone actually comes for—birthday cake.
  3. Order a semi-homemade cake.
    Ask your local grocery store for a plain white buttercream cake, which is usually the least expensive option, but still tastes great! Add your own decorations—think figurines, sprinkles, DIY signs or unique candles—and you’re good to go!

When it comes to careful planning the week of your party, Courtney suggests checking items off your list early and often. Grab time whenever you can—a few minutes while your husband bathes the kids or in the early morning/late evening when the rest of your family sleeps. That way you’re not overwhelmed the day of the party and can enjoy the friends and family who attend.

Recently, I planned a shower for a friend, and I found the biggest stress point to be also planning for dinner. This is why I’m loving Home Chef! I was able to count on meals showing up at my doorstep without even thinking about it. I’m seriously obsessed, you guys! If you’re like me and looking for ways to save time and money, go to, and you can save $30 on your first order today!


How to Throw the Wedding of Your Dreams Without Breaking the Bank

We’re friends, right?

So you can trust me when I say: I want you to enjoy your wedding day. I want it to be fun and beautiful and the day you dreamed of. I also want you to enjoy your marriage. And I know one of the best ways to start off on the right foot is to keep your wedding budget in check.

The average wedding today costs $36,000.(3)Some of you may think, That’s outrageous! Others of you might think, Is that all? It just goes to show that expectations vary greatly from family to family.

My hope is that you decide on an amount you can afford. Once you do that, work to keep your wedding budget in check by considering the following recommended percentages (emphasis on recommended):

Reception: 55%

Ceremony: 12%

Photography: 10%

Wedding planner: 10%

Dress and tuxedo: 8%

Miscellaneous: 5%

A few extra money-saving tips for your wedding:

  1. Limit your guest list. Tough to do, I know! But the cost of each person you invite adds up. So give your list a once- and twice-over before sending invitations.
  2. Host the ceremony or reception outside. Some of the prettiest weddings around take place in a backyard, an open field or in front of a barn. Get creative!
  3. Ask friends or family to exchange skills for presents. Talented folks in your life will likely want to help. Take them up on these offers and your wedding will be all the more affordable—and meaningful—because of it.
  4. DIY whenever possible. Take a look at your to-do list and determine what you can do on your own. Just make sure you’re actually saving money in the process!
  5. Use a dummy wedding cake. This might just be the best idea ever! While the top tier is real, the bottom layers are just cardboard and icing. Keep a sheet cake in the back for serving.
  6. Time your wedding wisely. Consider what time of day to schedule your wedding. Dinner time will be the most expensive, as people expect to be served a full meal.
  7. Research and negotiate. Scout out vendors, get quotes from multiple people for each service and venue. Ask for a deal! You might be surprised how easily they say yes.

Of course, as your true friend, I have to throw a little more advice your way. As newlyweds (or hey, this one even applies to oldyweds!) there are two key money decisions you can make that will set you up for success in the future:

  1. Take Financial Peace University. Money is the number one issue married couples fight about.(4) But stopping money fights is easier than you think! Millions of people have learned how to get on the same page with their spouse, plus learn practical steps for getting out of debt, saving money, buying a home and so much more!
  2. Purchase term life insurance. Winston and I trust Zander Insurance. They shop around to make sure you get the best rates—and those rates are super affordable! For example, the experts at Zander tell me that the average 30-year-old male pays around $24 per month for $500,000 in coverage. And for all my girlfriends out there, it’s even cheaper for you!

Want to tell your spouse how much you love them?

Give them a financial safety net with term life insurance today!


She Works Hard Saving Money

Time for the best party in town—the one where we celebrate your hard work shared with the hashtag #sheworkshardsavingmoney. Here are a few of my favorites from today’s episode:

"A day of errands and at the park doesn’t mean eating out. A little preparation saves a lot. Bonus that it’s a healthy lunch." — Perky Mama Kate

"Second vacation in cash in the books. See? You can travel debt-free and without a credit card. Even rented a car." — Christina

"Last August we backpacked Europe: Paris, Eastern Germany, Venice and Florence. All paid in cash. Couldn’t have done it without your dad’s principles and your encouragement to live within (below) our means and love our own lives—and not keep up with the Joneses." — Amy

Throwing a party can be fun as long as you have the money and pure motives. That way you can actually enjoy the party! Remember, take control of your money and create a life you love.


Sponsors pay the producer of this show, The Lampo Group, LLC, advertising fees for mentioning their services or products during programing. Advertising fees are not based upon or otherwise tied to any product sale or business transacted between any consumer or sponsor. The following sponsors have paid for the programing you are viewing: Zander Insurance, Home Chef