Graduation Party Ideas on a Budget

graduation collage

If you’re anything like us, you have a handful of graduation announcements and open house invitations posted all over the refrigerator door. Maybe you have a high school graduate this year yourself! If you’re in need of graduation party ideas, no need to search high and low for the best tips to keep costs down. Give your grad a memorable send-off while keeping the budget in line with these tips:

Pool Your Resources

One of the easiest ways to cut costs is to have a combined graduation party. A duo or trio of grads can join forces to split the party budget—and make it more convenient for party-hopping guests. It’s win-win, and this strategy will give party planners leeway to splurge on some items while still staying within the budget.

Timing is Everything

Food is likely to be the single biggest expense when it comes to throwing a graduation party. Save money without looking like a cheapskate by scheduling your party outside of regular meal times. Instead of dinner, treat guests to trays of cookies or even better, a sundae bar where they can customize to their heart’s content with sprinkles, hot fudge or candy crumbles.

Location, Location, Location

Warm weather makes it easy to host a graduation bash right in your own yard. But if you don’t have the space, consider other budget-friendly options. Local parks, community centers and churches often have facilities available to rent for a reasonable fee. And a park location will often have built-in entertainment for younger guests, like playgrounds.

DIY Decorations

Staying on budget doesn’t have to mean boring decorations. Chances are one of the best decorating options is right at your fingertips: photos. Celebrate your grad’s achievement with plenty of pictures. Photos provide a focal point, and they encourage conversation among guests. Use framed prints as table decorations. Tie it all together with dollar store frames painted in school colors. Don’t forget to scour Pinterest for more great photo display ideas!

Save on Snacks

Instead of catering, feed the masses with homemade fare. Stretch meats like pulled pork by serving with slider buns. Fill crockpots with bite-size snacks like cocktail franks and meatballs. Fill up guests’ tummies with chips and dips. Rather than a buying a decorated cake, make cake pops or cupcakes iced in school colors. Provide guests with dessert-sized plates—they’ll look full with less.

Some of our favorite graduation party recipes:

Home Made Corn Dogs

Mini Biscuits with Shaved Ham

Key Lime Bars

Banana Chocolate Chip Cupcakes

10 Cooking Tips for College Grads

 10 Cooking Tips for College Graduates

1. Get yourself a slow cooker. Sure, it’s not glamorous, but with this kitchen workhorse you’ll have the next best thing to Mom’s home-cooking ready and waiting when you get home.

2. Invest in a few good knives. Nothing makes chopping more frustrating and downright dangerous than cheap, dull cutlery. The basics–a paring knife, serrated knife and chef’s knife–will make meal prep so much easier and safer!

3. Plan ahead. Lack of planning will break your food budget faster than you can say ‘Chinese take-out.’ Get in the habit of making a weekly menu, and planning your shopping list in advance. Take advantage of sale items–if ground beef is on sale, buy extra, cook it all at once and designate half for burritos and the other half for a meaty lasagna.

4. Think high protein, low cost. We’d love to eat fresh salmon and steak every meal, but let’s face it, we’re paying off student loans now! Stretch your budget by choosing less expensive cuts of meat and incorporating other protein sources like beans and quinoa.

5. Buy in-season. Choosing produce in season is not only cost-effective, it also guarantees the most flavorful ingredients. Check your grocery or farmers market to find out what is in abundance.

6. Get your java fix at home. A daily coffee shop habit can add up in a hurry. Purchase good quality coffee beans, a grinder, and make your morning cup at a fraction of the cost. Check out roast master Chris Weber’s tips for perfectly brewed coffee.

7. Know the pantry staples. A well-stocked pantry is the key to kitchen flexibility. Building your stash of staples will mean fewer trips to the grocery store, and make it easier to try great new recipes on the fly. 

8. Master a basic chocolate chip cookie recipe. Few foods are as comforting as homemade chocolate chip cookies. These all-American treats are a cinch to make, and will give you instant kitchen cred at the office pitch-in. Once you’ve mastered the basics, customize with cranberries, pecans, and more. 

9. Ask for help. There’s no shame in asking an experienced cook for guidance! Most people who enjoy cooking enjoy sharing their knowledge, so don’t be shy. 

10. Experiment.  Make recipes your own by experimenting with ingredient substitutions or adding your favorite spices. Adapt dishes you like to meet your individual taste. Get your creative juices flowing in the kitchen!