Frugal Parties

My big boy is nearly 3 and in our culture, this is a big deal. On the 31st of August, we're going to be having a birthday party with friends and family. Skipping the party or making it a tiny little get together would offend too many people, so a big party it is. (I'm expecting between 20 and 30 guests, including children.) With the big day just two days away, party preparations are well under way.

Why Work So Hard For a Party?

In all honesty, I don't need to be spending this much time and effort in getting ready for a birthday party. I could just buy some chips, pretzels, drinks, a cake and a few pies of pizza and call it a day, but that's not my style. For one, it would be both pretty unhealthy and much more expensive than what I am doing. I've got very limited money to spend on this party because of our upcoming minimal-salary- high-expenses month and the fact that I wasted money on nonsense earlier this month.

I want to make a party in a way that will get me the most bang for my buck. I want to throw a bash to remember.
I don't want people to leave and think to themselves "What a sad excuse for a party that was. Its a shame that they're so poor that they can't afford to make a half decent party." Because, no matter the case, I do not want to be pitied. I don't want people to feel sorry for us when I don't even feel sorry for us. Our life is a good one, filled with happiness and meaning and all the important things; I don't want people to get the wrong impression  of our situation.
Its not that people don't know that we have no money. After all, the fact that I run Penniless Parenting is common knowledge around these parts. Its that as the manager of my blog, I want to show people that being poor doesn't mean you must always do without. You can be penniless like I am and still be able to throw a fun birthday or any other kind of bash.
I have to admit it's also a bit of an ego thing as well. I feel like I need to be able to prove to myself that I can do whatever I set my mind to do, no matter how little money we have. I also feel the need to know that I am able to rely on myself and my husband alone and not need to ask for handouts or favors to be able to provide a happy childhood for my son.

The past week and a half, we've been preparing for the party on and off. I happen to really be enjoying myself, as I have lots of fun making things from scratch and learning new techniques and sets of skills like candy making. I'm also not afraid of getting my hands dirty or doing a little bit of extra work, and as long as you spread the work out over time and utilize whatever freezer space you have, the work isn't as overwhelming as you would expect.
Lee and I are actually having a blast making everything for the party. We're building memories, working on our fine motor coordination, learning by trial and error, and just spending time together as a family. And the end result will be a birthday party that hopefully will be an unforgettable positive experience, without having stepped out of our budget.

The Plans

I've made a party like this twice before- once after the birth of each of my sons. Then, it was a much bigger deal, many more people came, and I did spend a little more money, but still, no more than 50 dollars for a sit down meal for more than 50 adults. I catered it myself, made foods well in advance, stocked my freezer with everything needed, so that I all needed to do after birth was pull things out of the freezer to defrost, chop up fresh vegetables, set up, and clean up, and for that, my husband and sister were a really big help.

Last time I made the party in my home and backyard. Our 950 square foot old apartment was a tight squeeze for all the guests, but we had a nice sized backyard that we put to use and all was good. Now that we're in a 565 square foot apartment, things aren't so simple. We have a tiny living room/dining room with no couch; even having a family of 5 over is a bit of a tight squeeze, let alone 25.
Our solution to the problem is not to rent out a venue, because why look for extra expenses- I'm trying to make this party as cheap as possible. I'm also not doing it at someone else's house, though its an option if doing a party at home simply is not an option.
We're making a party right outside our house, close enough that bathrooms are available to anyone who needs it, but at the same time, not needing to cramp everyone into a tiny little apartment.

If you recall from my previous post about my home, I have a dirt/grass patch in front of my home, as well as a cobblestone path.
That is where the party will be.
I'm getting chairs from a lending library nearby; I pay 5 dollars towards the library and I get as many chairs as I need for this party. The chairs will be arranged on the path and the dirt. 
Food will be set up on my porch.
I'm making the party at 5 pm, so that heat and sun won't be such an issue, but at the same time, I won't have to deal with lighting up the place. (Sunset is 7 something around here.)
Music will be from a boombox, and I won't be sharing what the order of events will be. Sorry.

I've got a few more posts on this topic, scheduled for the next few days. A post on all the foods I'm making, so you can learn how to also make lots of yummy food with very little money. Another post on frugal decorations, and another post on frugal birthday gifts. Can't wait!

So, do you make parties ever? How much do you think you spend total out of pocket on parties? If you needed to, what do you think is the least you could manage to spend on a party?
Would you opt a simple, cheapo, not so special party with the barest minimum of bought stuff, or a nice party with varied and delicious foods, all fancy, but cheap because everything was made from scratch?
Tell me how you manage to keep parties, both birthday and other types frugal!

Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal

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