Parties can be expensive. One way to combat the high cost is to have a frugality party.
Typically, when you entertain, you might not consider recycling or creating less waste. These aren't simply parties on the cheap. Frugality parties are environmentally friendly, too.
One reader, Sarah in Illinois, shares: "I got invited to a frugal party! How funny is this! I think it states the way the world is going! My neighbor came up to me yesterday and invited me. They are having a frugal party, and the plan is that they are going to share tips and tricks about being frugal. We have each been instructed to bring a dish that can be made for less than $5, and if anyone would like to share another project, they are welcome to bring supplies and give their tips. I know one woman is doing homemade laundry detergent, and a couple of others are doing other homemade cleaning products they make and use."
You can take frugality even further at your frugal-living party, here are some more suggestions:
Invitations: Instead of invitation cards, organize with an online party-planning Web site such as mypunchbowl.com. These sites offer planning ideas and tips, message boards and even a way to share photos after the party.
Disposable products: Parties often have an excess of disposable paper and plastic products. At a frugal party, use either recycled paper products or reusable dishes, utensils and cloth napkins. Tableware can be what you have on hand or purchased secondhand at thrift stores or garage sales. You can ask guests to bring their own cups, too.
Clean up can be a part of the party. Mix up homemade cleaners, and demonstrate how well they work.
Instead of latex balloons, reuse tissue paper you have saved from previous holidays. Tissue paper can be made into giant flowers that can be suspended from the ceiling with monofilament. Since they are up and out of the way, they can be reused for future parties. Visit makingfriends.com/gifts/mom_giant_flower.htm for instructions. Table decorations can be fruit or green plants, too.
Exchange: Part of the fun can be exchanging gifts. You can do a clothing, coupon, seeds, budget recipes, DVD, book or toy swap. Everyone brings an item from their home. You can get rid of what you don't want and exchange it for something you can use. Any leftover items can be donated.
Create a theme: Themes can keep everything on a budget and still be fun. Each person would bring supplies to be shared. You could have a fun kid's-recipe party and make play items, such as homemade play dough, bubbles, chalk or finger paints in bulk.
For play dough: Combine 2 tablespoons cream of tartar, 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, 1 cup flour, 2 teaspoons food coloring, 1 cup water and 1/2 cup salt. Cook on stovetop over medium heat for 4 minutes.
For finger paint: In a medium saucepan, mix 4 tablespoons sugar and 1/2 cup cornstarch together. Add 2 cups cold water. Heat over medium heat for 8 minutes or until the mixture thickens; it will thicken more as it cools. Divide into containers such as baby-food jars, and add desired food coloring to each container.
For more fun recipes for kids, visit my community forums at frugalvillage.com/forums.
Other possible themes: Cookie-baking and decorating party; fondue party; sundae party; homemade-pizza party; soup party; craft party; perennial party; garage-sale party.
• Send tips, comments or questions to Sara Noel, c/o United Media, 200 Madison Ave., 4th Floor, New York, NY 10016, or firstname.lastname@example.org.