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10 Budget Friendly Dinner Party Ideas That Will Wow Your Guests

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When it comes time to spend your evening enjoying a dinner party with those you hold dear, you want to make sure that you can entertain your friends, family or coworkers in your home and also keep the expenses down for a budget friendly time.

Finding different ideas for making a dinner party a success on a pinched penny can be difficult for novice hosts, and if you haven’t thrown an evening with frugal spending on your mind before it’s likely you’ve overspent on different features for your event.

When it comes to building out a simple dinner party on a budget, there are certain principles to keep at the forefront of your mind as you go through all the different stages of planning your event.

It’s important to look into what you already have on hand in your home before you go off to the store in search of decor, groceries, tableware, fancy accoutrements and expensive trinkets.

Planning a budget friendly dinner party doesn’t have to be a strain on your time or your wallet, all you need is a few tips and a few tricks up your sleeve to keep the fun going and have an evening that will be talked about for weeks.

10 Ideas for Your Next Dinner Party

Piecing together a well budgeted plan for a dinner party can be as simple as keeping to a specific shopping list or redecorating your dining room with things you already have in your home.

If you’re interested in entertaining your friends or family in your home for a dinner party, you can let go of the worry surrounding the planning and budgeting with these ideas on how to through a wallet friendly event.

1. Make It a Potluck

When it comes to throwing a dinner party, there are tons of different ways that you can set yourself up for success if you’re trying to throw it on a budget.

It feels great to cook for all of your friends and family and make a big fuss about the details, but this can mean that your wallet and your time are stretched thin by the time the first course is served.

Instead of focusing on being the only one in charge of the food aspect of your dinner party, ask your friends to chip in by making the dinner a pot luck.

There are various ways you can go about throwing a pot luck and different ways that you can ensure that your dinner is balanced with different foods that compliment each other.

If you’d like, you can tell your guests to bring food that is centered around a specific cuisine.

This can allow you to narrow the options without forcefully insisting that someone make something that they don’t know how to make or are disinterested in making.

You could pick between Italian, Mexican, Mediterranean, Japanese, or Spanish style foods to give your guests an idea of what kind of food will be at your party and what kind of dishes they can contribute.

If you give your guests too much freedom, you may end up with meatballs and guacamole at the dinner table, and those might not pair the best together.

Alternatively, you could communicate with your guests prior to the dinner about what recipes you’ve compiled and see if anyone is interested in helping you prepare your menu by taking on one of the dishes and having everyone contribute to the grocery fund.

If you’d like to keep it simple and avoid asserting too much pressure on your guests, suggest a potluck and discuss with your guests individually what they should bring to coordinate the menu for your dinner party.

Opening up the menu to a potluck can positively affect how much money you end up spending for the evening by splitting the cost amongst your guests.
The trade off will be an enjoyable evening with people you care about and a large and delicious selection of food.

Everyone at your party will feel like they are a part of creating the atmosphere of sharing and camaraderie.

2. Class It Up By Making Your Own Menu

One very cute feature that you can add to your dinner party is creating your own menus.

This is a small touch and will cost you just a few dollars in card stock to make at home if you already have your own printer and computer.

If you have a potluck dinner set up, you can invite your guests to share what they’ve brought along and develop a kitschy menu that details what’s included in your potluck.

If you plan instead to have a coursed dinner that you have created from scratch, you can develop a menu with your own recipes in detail.

After you’ve written out your menu, you can easily print them out onto card stock or regular paper for each place setting at the dinner table.

It’s a nice touch to include options for your dinner that accommodate individual dietary requirements.

If you have guests that are vegetarian or vegan, instead of having them provide their own dishes, curate a dish from the ingredients available on your menu that is meatless or has no animal products and note it on your menu.

It’s your dinner party and you can make this design for your menu whatever you choose!

If you’re theming your party or decorating with a particular color scheme, make a point of using the same color scheme or elements of your them on your menu to tie them in with the general atmosphere of your evening.

There’s no need to go to a fancy printing place or spend extra money on making professional looking menus.

If you want to hand write or hand draw your lettering for your menu, you’re welcome to be as creative as you want.

If you want to create a less formal atmosphere, you can create a larger version of your menu on foam board or a chalkboard and hang it in your home so guests can see what the anticipated menu will be when they’re mingling before the dinner officially begins.

3. Make Batches of Signature Cocktails

If you’d like to develop your own drink menu for your dinner party, you absolutely should!

There are different cocktails that can be easily made in large quantities so that you don’t have to worry about spending the night bartending for your friends, having them bartend for themselves, or hiring a freelance bartender to serve your guests.

Batching cocktails is a great way to make different signature drinks for your friends and keep them at the ready to pour over ice or into a wine glass for your guests.

Simple cocktail ideas for batching include sangria, mojitos, and daiquiri’s.

These drinks can be made in numerous ways, but sticking to a simple classic recipe will be best for making sure that your drinks taste great and that they will be generally enjoyed by your party guests.

Having more than one signature cocktail makes it so your guests have options to try from, and they will be simple to serve once they are ready and stored in the fridge.

One great suggestion would be to make more than one kind of a drink for your guests to try.

A perfect example would be making a white sangria and a red sangria, or a plain mojito and a flavored mojito.

You can use the remaining ingredients you have for one drink and add one distinct difference into the mix to create options without having to spend extra money on a whole new grouping of ingredients.

If you don’t consider yourself the greatest bartender, you can easily find three ingredient cocktails that require booze, some sort of fruit juice, and citrus to keep it simple.

The next step would be to get reusable glassware or develop cute and distinct cups that will be easily identifiable by your guests as being their individual cup for the evening in the event that they mill about.

This will prevent you from having to do a ton of dishes at the end of the night or having to throw away a lot of misplaced plastic cups throughout the evening.

4. Use Ingredients You Already Have at Home

If you’re preparing your menu from scratch at home, it’s imperative for you to be as conscious of what you do have in your kitchen as well as what you don’t.

Using the ingredients you have on hand at home can help you save substantially on your grocery shopping.

Take into account what you’ve already purchased, especially pre-made ingredients like sauces and easy-make ingredients like pasta and rice.

Adding side dishes that you can easily make in large quantities can help amp up your meal, and you can easily throw a simple recipe together with what you’ve got in your fridge and cupboard.

If you happen to be the lucky owner of a personal vegetable or herb garden, use the ingredients from your own crops to help supplement your meal.

Having fresh herbs from your garden can help you add flavor to simple dishes and help you decorate them to add a little hint of classiness to your presentation.

Using vegetables from your own garden can help you cut down on the cost of your groceries and add some pizazz to your dishes.

The most expensive item that will end up on your grocery list will be the cuts of meat you buy for your dinner party.

Adding home grown vegetables to the dish will cut the price per head down substantially for your dinner plates.

Use the ingredients that you already have in your refrigerator or garden to help you develop the simpler dishes like your appetizers.

Food is very versatile in how you can use it to create delicious combinations.

Taking the time to use an application like Epicurious can help you put together recipe ideas using what you already have on hand.

5. Decorate With What You Have

Interior design is a very broad subject that covers every detail in your home ranging from the color scheme to how you present your baseboards.

When it comes to decorating for an in-home event, you may suddenly find yourself with the urge to revamp the entire space because it is going to be closely examined by everyone who comes to your dinner party.

Knowing full well that it will take a lot of time to do an overhaul, it’s better to consider what you’ve already got in place and what you have around the house.

If you’d like to liven up the space with greenery or add some atmospheric lighting, you can easily do so.

You can easily move plants and other decorations from different rooms in your home into your dining area to give it a more cozy, restaurant feel.

Try to avoid stripping other rooms bare of decorations, but pull plants from your windows and candles from the closet and place them around your dining room.

Add ambiance to the space by loosening a few lightbulbs and adding some decorative candles to the dining room table or any flat surfaces around the room.

If you have a flower bed in your front yard, cut a few of the flower buds you may have and create a centerpiece for your table.

For your place settings, keep it simple yet chic by wrapping the silverware at each place setting with a cloth napkin.

If you don’t have the necessary place settings, you can easily get matching place settings that look fancy but cost just a few dollars per place setting at your local dollar store or a discount home goods store like Burlington Coat Factory or Marshalls.

You don’t have to go out of your way to redecorate your dining room space to make it dinner party ready.

6. Select Simple Recipes

When it comes to selecting the menu for your dinner party, it’s better to make something that is quick and simple as opposed to an extravagant meal.

This means avoiding the urge to select a main course that will take hours to make or is overly complex.

If you haven’t made the dish prior to your dinner party, it’s also a good idea to avoid trying a new creation for the first time when you’ve got lots of guests depending on your dish to be ready for their consumption at a specific time.

The chances that something may go wrong with your main course is more than slim, and you don’t want to end up cooking the food incorrectly or not having it ready on time due to an unforeseen complication.

It’s better to stick to things that you already know you can successfully complete, or attempt to prepare the dish prior to the dinner party to make sure that you’ve gone through the necessary steps properly and don’t have to worry about a backup plan.

Simple recipes will allow you to prepare the food that you will need to entertain your guests without consuming a ton of your time.

It’s a good idea to plan on making dishes that allow you to focus on different tasks as it is prepared, such as cooking a stew in a crockpot.

This is an excellent idea because you’ll be able to prepare the necessary ingredients for your guests a day prior, putting the food into the crockpot to cook slowly until everyone has arrived.

A crockpot will also allow you to make large amounts of food without having to worry about handling a lot of pots and pans at the same time, freeing your stove up for smaller side dishes and quick bites.

7. Make Your Own Dessert

If you want to add an extra sweet touch to your dinner party, it’s an excellent idea to make your own dessert!

This is a perfect plan if you want to avoid spending extra money on groceries as most of the ingredients for desserts can usually be found in your kitchen already.

Making simple and delectable desserts can be easy depending on how for you want to go with your treat making.

If you’re a baking wizard and want to go through the process of making a homemade pie, you are free to throw yourself into that wonderful idea, but if you’re strapped for time or want to keep it simple, you can find easy recipes that take a mere hour to prepare.

Buying a pre-made dessert can be costly, but if you don’t have time to make a dessert from scratch then you may look to find a middle ground.

There is no crime in making boxed desserts for your guests and adding a personal touch.

Try buying a boxed brownie mix and adding chocolate chips or caramel morsels to the mix before baking, then serving them with vanilla ice cream and a light dusting of coco powder over top with a mint sprig.

This will look incredibly fancy, yet it will be so simple to make.

Purchasing a dessert from a bakery can cost you upwards of $20 or more depending on what you purchase, creating your own at home can cost you as little as $5 if you keep it very simple.

Adding a sweet treat is sweet enough itself, you don’t have to make more of it by going out of your way for a bakery-made goodie.

8. Make the Space Eclectic by Mis-Matching

When it comes to your dining room table, you may have the desire to make everything identical when it comes to the place settings.

Depending on how many people you invite over for dinner, this may not be possible, especially if your guest count exceeds how many people you have in your home.

Instead of focusing on having a pristine matching set of dinner ware and silverware, embrace the idea of being eclectic and add a little festive attitude by intermixing your place settings.

If you’ve got two sets of four matching place settings for your dining room table, use them both!

It’ll go unnoticed by your guests if you intentionally design the space to be eclectic.

You can make a point to cover up mismatched silverware by wrapping it in napkins or folding the menus around them to cover the bases.

You could also use different place mats with differently colored plates and differently colored glassware.

There are no rules for your dinner party, you can easily avoid extra expenses by using what you have at home instead of going out of your way to purchase matching place settings for each of your guests.

Bringing your friends and family together will be the focus of the evening, making exorbitant purchases will make the space look great, but the focus will be on the time spent together, so save yourself the trouble!

9. Suggest BYOB

If you’re planning on making signature cocktails for your dinner party, you can still add a little extra something to the drink menu by telling your guests to BYOB.

The type of dinner party you’ll throw will help you determine the appropriate drinks for the evening.

Feel free to suggest to your guests that they bring a bottle of wine of their choosing instead of leaving the BYOB invitation open ended.

If you have a beer drinking crowd, then you can suggest individuals bring craft brews of their choosing or to help stock up the fridge with plenty of Budweiser.

You can steer clear of the signature cocktails if you choose to have your guests BYOB.

There’s the chance you’ll end up with so many drink options that you’ll have a fully stocked bar after the dinner party!

Allowing people to BYOB may also help in appeasing everyone’s personal preference when it comes to the evening’s drinks.

Having a selection that includes ciders, wine, spirits, cocktails and beers will keep everyone happy, and making it s BYOB event will keep you from holding the brunt of the expenses.

10. No Theme Is Just As Good As Themed

When it comes to throwing your dinner party, you may feel the need to develop a strong theme for your guests to enjoy.

Although this may seem like the best way to have a great time, the planning aspects and financial costs of developing a themed party may be very taxing on your time and your wallet.

Theming an event means purchasing specific decorations, color coordinating, and planning the parties elements around specific structures.

This can all end up costing you so much more, and if you’re a young 20 or 30-something year old person, then this may not be something that you’ve already got the elements of on hand.

Instead of going for a theme for your event, leave it be as a no-theme party.

Unless it’s a specific occasion like a holiday or a celebration of an anniversary, graduation, or birthday, there’s no reason to go all out and theme your party.

Consider the fact that a themed party may come off as stuffy and rigid, especially if your guests just want to hang out and not worry about conforming to a specific style of an event.

Keeping it simple when it comes to your decor, the invitations, what drinks are on hand, what your menu will be and how your guests should be prepared in terms of their attire and expectations will help keep the stress levels low and the party vibes going.

Instead of focusing on theming your party, use the money that you would have for little decorations and themed elements towards making thank you gifts that you can give to your friends before they leave.
A simple sachet with some candies and a hand written thank you note will go over very well.

Your guests will be happy they came to visit you and be grateful for the time they got to spend with you, leaving them looking forward to the next time!

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