For many high school seniors, graduation seems like the end of interminable torment and hard work. Despite future plans of work or college, high school graduation is a milestone that is acknowledged by almost everyone. Graduating seniors especially like to mark the milestone with wild parties, trips, and vacations. A weekend trip to the shore can often be prohibitively expensive for a teenager, and even a wild party may be too much after paying for prom and with college on the horizon. Lack of budget doesn’t have to prevent a good fun celebration and the following tips will help you throw a cheap graduation party.
Food and Drinks – Snacks and drinks are nearly universal to parties and often one of the highest costs. Enough food and drinks for 20 people can easily cost $150 – $200. In order to lower this cost, you will want to avoid high ticket items. Brand name chips go for about $3-$4 a bag, while brand name soda is about $2-$3 for a two liter bottle. Buy generic to save about $0.50 a product and if you have a discount store, buy in bulk to save another $0.50 a product. Saving $1 may not seem like a lot until you buy 5 bags of chips and 10 bottles of soda.
For more solid food, avoid ordering pizza. While pizza is one of the cheapest take out foods, it is still much more expensive than cooking. Generic hot dogs and hamburgers will cost about $1 a burger and about $0.50 per hot dog, including buns and toppings. Salad or fruit salad is also cheap if you make it yourself. Watermelon is a great deal, because it can feed a lot of people at minimal cost. Finally, consider asking everyone to bring some food or drink to the party. Twenty or so people bringing snacks should cut food costs in half if not more.
Entertainment – Conveniently, graduation is in early summer. This means you can hold a graduation party outside. Even if you don’t personally have a backyard, you can easily throw your party in a nearby park. For the cost of a soccer ball, a Frisbee, and some lawn darts, you have instant entertainment. Most likely you will have most of these items already, making entertainment free. If any of your friends own party games, like Apples to Apples, encourage them to bring the games. When evening falls, head inside and watch some old DVDs and attach someone’s iPod to a speaker system. If planned well, entertainment can be free.
Decorations – For the most part, teenagers have little interest in decorations at parties. They consider it to be something for kids. Still, any festivities could use a little bit of reminder for what is being celebrated. The best decorations are those mixed in with the actual party. Assuming you serve cake (which is much cheaper to bake than buy from a store), write a graduation message on it in icing. Similarly, have somebody skilled with calligraphy or art put a “Class of XX” logo on the Frisbee being tossed around.
While actual decorations are mostly faux pas, small keepsakes are traditional and probably even expected. A good cheap way to pass out keepsakes is to buy a few packs of men’s white t-shirts (about $5 for a pack of 3) and get some tie die and magic markers. Expect the tie die to end up dumped over someone’s head eventually, but each person will get to make their own personalized graduation keepsake and at the end of the day, celebrating graduation is the reason you are throwing a party in the first place.