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Dinner on a Dime

Entertaining ideas for the budget-conscious

by Leslie Clark

Now that the holiday season is behind us, it’s time to refocus and get back into our usual routine. For the majority of us, that means recovering from all the spending that occurred during the celebratory season — whether on gifts for family and friends, charitable donations, or dinners out. However, a reduced budget doesn’t have to mean cutting entertaining out of your schedule. Whether for Valentine’s Day, a birthday, or another special occasion, here’s how to throw a great party without breaking the bank.

  • A delicious brunch like this one is a cost-effective way to entertain. (Photo by waferboard on Flickr, May 2010)

    Consider a brunch get-together. Staple food like eggs and bread are more inexpensive than many entrée ingredients, which can help keep costs low even if you splurge on expensive bacon. Serve homemade muffins or banana bread for a more personal touch. You can pick up a variety of mismatched teacups at a thrift store for a whimsical way to serve juice and coffee. Mimosas can also make champagne stretch farther — or disguise the cheaper stuff — nobody has to know!

  • Customizable personal pizzas make for an interactive and inexpensive dinner. (Photo by jayneandd on Flickr, July 28, 2010)

    A pizza bar is a great way to serve satisfying food at a lower price point, It will also get your friends more involved in the preparation so you aren’t stuck in the kitchen all night. Set out a variety of vegetables, meats, cheeses and sauces, and let guests customize their own personal pie. All you have to do is pop them in the oven once the toppings are on.


  • If you’re in the mood for something more traditional, there’s always the tried-and-true pot luck dinner. All you need is your most impressive dish and a group of friends that are willing to exercise their culinary skills. Even if one or two of your guests aren’t the best cooks in town, good company will make your party memorable — and you can always suggest they bring the wine instead.
  • Fresh flowers can be pricey, so if you’re looking to put some special décor on the table, candles can be a more cost-effective choice. You can also look to your food for inspiration; if you’re serving orange chicken, a bowl of citrus fruit can be striking. If you don’t have any good linen (or don’t want to dry clean), try repurposing a scarf that’s long and delicate enough to function as a table runner.

Any of these tips can help you throw a memorable party without straining your wallet. That way, you can just focus on having fun!


  • Stephen Durre

    All of the details are absolutely AMAZING! I am so impressed. Looks like a blast, too; so glad you enjoyed yourself this year. I’m trying to keep that “enjoyment” part in mind as I plan for Finn’s 2 year party…

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