Budget Tips for Big Events

Is a special event on your horizon — a graduation or wedding, family reunion or milestone birthday? These ideas can help you stay on budget.

Spring is in the air! And that means special events are on the horizon for many families — from graduations and weddings, to family reunions and milestone birthdays or anniversaries. As joyful as these events can be, they can also put a real dent in your savings account. That’s why we’re sharing these tips to help keep your budget under control.

Food, Drink — and Your Guest List

Food and beverages tend to be among the greatest expenses for most special events. One of the easiest ways to control those costs is to control your guest list. If you’re spending, say, $100 per person on food and drink, cutting just 10 people from your invite list could save $1,000.

Once your guest list is where you want it, here are a few additional tips to help you cut costs in this area:

  • Skip the hors d'oeuvres. Instead, place nuts and snack mixes in attractive bowls, or offer a nice dip with chips or bread chunks.
  • Or, flip that concept around and serve only hors d'oeuvres or only desserts. You can offer gourmet options and still spend less than on a full meal.
  • Instead of an open bar, provide guests with one or two drink tickets. They can purchase any beverages after that.


Between the costs of paper, printing and postage, traditional invitations can make your budget balloon. So why not go “e”? By emailing your invitations, you not only save money, but also do a little something nice for the environment. Plus, electronic invitation applications — such as EviteCrusher and Celebrations (formerly Pingg) — often make it easier and faster to design your invitations and create your emailing list.

Decorations and Locations

Why spend a lot of money on decorations that will most likely end up in the trash after your event? Instead, see if you can find a venue that needs little dressing up, like museums, botanical gardens, or another setting with unique architecture and décor.

Here are some more tips to help you save on your event location and decorations:

  • If you belong to an association or club that has use of a suitable space, you may be able to rent it for a discount.
  • Use potted plants rather than cut flower arrangements as your centerpieces, and then let guests take them home.
  • Take advantage of discount stores, Goodwill and consignment shops to purchase decorations — or craft-supply stores to make your own.


Depending on the type of event you’re hosting, setting up an iPod® or CD player may be all the music you need, especially if you just want background tunes. If you’re planning some dancing, you might want to hire a DJ, which usually costs less than a live band. But if live music is a must-have for you, seek out student groups at your local college (particularly if you’re looking for classical or jazz).

One More Tip

Besides cutting costs, another important step is simply setting a budget and sticking to it. By diligently tracking every expense and not giving in to impulse purchases, you’ll stay on track — and still have an amazing event!

The information contained in this article is intended for general educational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal, tax, or financial advice. Please consult with your own legal, tax or financial advisor for guidance with your own particular circumstances.