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Whether it’s middle school, high school or college, graduation is a huge accomplishment that deserves a celebration. If your child grew up around coupons and bargains, saving money will be a priority as they enter a more mature chapter of their lives. Here’s your chance to get creative and show how much you can do with a limited budget. You can use the money you saved to get an especially nice graduation gift, or indulge in one last summer vacation as a family. The memories will last longer than professional catering services, anyway.
Stick With a Theme
Even the simplest of décor — candles, matching picture frames, placemats — can create a festive atmosphere when it all follows the same theme. School colors are a very easy way to tie a party together, and so are the numbers that make up their graduating year. Home improvement stores have mailbox and house numbers in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors; mix it up and spell out “2014″ for an eclectic, ransom-inspired effect.
Browse thrift shops and take advantage of deals at vintage and antique shops, too; you never know when you’ll find an elegant cake dish or motivational placard for pocket change. If you can incorporate posters and belongings from the graduate’s room, give it a personal touch by turning their favorite movie or book series into a theme they can appreciate.
Keep it Low-Key
If your graduate is keen to finish growing up, celebrate their first big step toward adulthood with a grown-up graduation party. Instead of renting a tent to shield guests from the hot sun, throw a backyard party at night and string decorative lights everywhere for a more intimate vibe. If your landscaping’s bare, redeem florist and nursery coupons on a few low-maintenance plants; ask an employee for tips about your local climate.
You’ll also take full advantage of the summer weather when you have the party outside — something you can’t do during the winter, and can’t do comfortably during the daylight hours. The only entertainment that will be necessary is a well-curated playlist of the graduate’s favorite music, which can fill a surprisingly wide space from most computer speakers and docking stations.
Frugal Food & Drinks
If you’re thinking frugally, you already realize that you pay extra for convenience when you buy pre-sliced sandwiches and pre-arranged cheese trays. Skipping the deli platter means saving money for more memorable fixings; slice whole fruits and vegetables yourself, and arrange them in colorful ways and symmetric designs for an attractive and professional-looking presentation.
Make it an open house, and supply light snacks and refreshments throughout the party. In addition to homemade platters, make a few creative and eye-catching graduation treats. For example, three simple ingredients transform into chocolate graduation cap treats. Use icing to attach upside-down peanut butter cups to the squares from a chocolate bar. Draw a tassel on top of each stack for an instant, affordable dessert tray.
Don’t forget to stock up in advance for items such as chips, salsa, dip, napkins and utensils. Look for grocery coupons around Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and other long weekends. Everyone throws a graduation party in May; if you wait a month, you’ll avoid scheduling conflicts and have time to take advantage of summer deals.
Stage a Photo Op
All you need is a solid-colored bed sheet, or a piece of discount-bin fabric in a fun pattern. In the age of digital media, pictures have lost much of their novelty, but your guests won’t be able to resist the chance to pose with fun props. For a personal touch, print school portraits of the graduate and pin them to the backdrop for inspiration. Set up a card table with “props” from your son or daughter’s life, such as jerseys, favorite childhood toys, trophies, books and sports equipment.
Make sure every guest gets a chance to mimic your grad against the backdrop. You can show off your child’s accomplishments without the embarrassment factor of a display, and you’ll be creating irreplaceable keepsakes that freeze this moment in time. If guests share their goofy poses in real time, you might even start “trending!”
Maintaining a frugal lifestyle isn’t about cutting back or settling for less; it’s about making smart choices that allow you to do more while making fewer sacrifices. Don’t be afraid to aim for a killer graduation party; it’s a send-off celebration that should match the guest of honor’s accomplishments. Just stay savvy and take advantage of discounts on party supplies and rentals.
Hey Couponistas: What innovative tips do you have for throwing a graduation party on a budget? Share your ideas by posting a comment below!
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