Many different kinds of celebrations were canceled last year as we all tried to figure out how to navigate a new world. Now, as we’re inching back toward normalcy, many of us are vaccinated and eager to celebrate past and current special occasions. One of the most important occasions in our kids’ lives is their graduation. 

Financial Preparations for Your Kids’ End of the School Year Celebration

But while we’re all gearing up to get together and cheer on our fresh-faced grads, there’s one question that’s still on all our minds: how do we throw an end-of-the-school-year celebration on a budget? A nationwide survey revealed that, on average, we spend $578 on graduation parties. If this number made your heart race, don’t worry, we’re here to keep that heart rate in control. 

Whether your student is graduating from high school, college, or you’re putting together an event to help ease your kids’ troubled minds at the end of another hectic school year, we have some suggestions. Parents, teachers, and school staff looking for budget-friendly ways to celebrate, you’ve come to the right place.

Divert Funds from Other Budget Categories

Warmer weather tends to mean fewer costs. We aren’t spending as much on heating costs at this point in the year, and with the longer daylight hours, most of us are flipping fewer light switches, too. Diverting the savings from these budget categories can help pad your budget for your end-of-the-school-year celebration. 

This might also be a good time to get to some of those bigger budgeting tasks you’ve been putting off, like revisiting your cell phone bill or locking in a more budget-friendly car insurance rate. And if all else fails, the end of the school year is the perfect time to host a yard sale!

Spend a few hours digging through the closets, basement, garage, and other storage spaces to see what you no longer need. You might be surprised by how much extra cash a yard sale can bring in. 

Pay Attention to the Guest List

When planning for a party, most of us tend to overdo it. We get excited and start shopping before we really take the time to evaluate our needs. We invite tons of guests and reconsider the list later. These methods can be costly. 

But carefully crafted shopping lists and thoughtfully curated guest lists are two major ways to save on any celebration. Ask your grad who they care about seeing there. Assuming you ask for RSVPs or take a regrets-only approach and aren’t hosting an open house format, wait until you have final confirmation from those invited to do any shopping or decorating. If hosting an open house, know that you may very well see 70% or more of your guests, but they will not stay the entire time. Further, during grad party season, it isn’t unusual for guests to attend multiple parties on the same day. This means that they will eat just a bit less at each event, saving room for the next one.

You can also save on the small stuff that adds up fast. For example, choose free evites over traditional invitations and borrow tables and chairs instead of renting them. Small changes can add up to make a big difference in your budget.

Budget-Friendly Grad Party Food Ideas

Grad parties often involve backyard barbeques, and thankfully, there are plenty of ways to grill on a budget. Whether you’re cooking for four people or forty, one of the best things you can do to ensure you’re sticking to your food budget is to scour your cabinets before you shop.

You may be surprised by how many ingredients you already have and by how many others you can repurpose. From there, making and sticking to a shopping list can help keep your costs where they should be. Buying less expensive meats, making your own sauces, and turning your grill off when you’re not using it are other great ways to save.

Graduation Party Decorations That Won't Break the Bank

Budget-friendly celebrations don’t have to look budget-friendly. Dollar store decorations have evolved over the years to be just as colorful and sturdy as decorations that cost up to ten times as much. 

You can also search Pinterest for DIY decorations or borrow from friends, neighbors, or family members who have recently thrown their own parties. And a quick search on a tag-sale-style app like OfferUp might reveal a whole host of adorable, used decorations right down the street!