Throw a Budget-Friendly Graduation Party

by Emily Guy Birken

You can’t believe it’s finally here! Junior and Sis are graduating from high school and starting their new lives as college students or independent adults. Don’t let your incredible pride in their accomplishments let you overspend your budget to celebrate. Even if you aren’t going to be sending a hefty check to college in the fall, you still do need to model to your kids how live the good life without busting a budget. It’s certainly possible to have a fun and memorable graduation party without spending a lot of cash, and this is a great time to show your (nearly grown!) kids that a great time doesn’t have to cost a lot.


With much of the known universe now on one social networking site or another, it’s become a natural to send invitations electronically. Your new graduate might also like the fact that electronic invitations are better for the environment, too. In addition to using social networking invitations, the granddaddy of email invites is, where you can choose from thousands of fun templates and themes for free.

If Great-Aunt Estelle and other family members expect a paper invitation, there are free printable graduation invitation templates available. (Just google free graduation invitations). For the price of some card stock, envelopes and stamps, you can make sure the non-techies in the family know about the festivities, too.


Though many graduation parties are celebrated at home, some parties would like to accommodate more guests than your home could comfortably take. While venue could be a big expense, there are many low-cost options available that will make for a great party. Generally, public parks will happily welcome parties for a nominal rental fee for use of items like grills and pavilions. If your graduate would like a pool party, many public pools will reserve private events in their off hours—late afternoon or early evening—for a much cheaper rate than a swim or country club would charge.


There’s absolutely no reason to spend a great deal on decorating for a party when dollar stores across the country offer everything you could possibly need—from balloons to streamers to paper plates. One fun way to decorate for your graduate is to dig out the school photos for all twelve years of school and place them in frames (which are also available at dollar stores) around the party. For an outdoor party, give your graduate and all the guests some sidewalk chalk. They can decorate the driveway, or write words of wisdom along the sidewalk. Either way, it’ll be a great deal of fun.


No matter how you slice it, the food budget will be your biggest expense whenever you throw a party. There are several ways to minimize the cost while still offering your guests a delicious spread. If your graduate’s best friend is also graduating, considering throwing a dual party with the friend’s family. That way the families share the cost. Also, consider making the party a potluck, where family and friends bring favorite dishes to share.

If neither of these options will work for you, start planning your menu weeks in advance and shop the grocery circulars for deals. You’ll just need to make sure you’ve got room in the freezer. Similarly, shop for chips, crackers and buns at the discount grocery store. No one will know which brand chip they’re eating if the chips are served in a bowl.

Finally, consider making large coolers or pitchers of iced tea, punch, lemonade, etc, rather than purchasing individual bottles or cans of soda. Your eco-conscious graduate will probably applaud this environmentally friendly choice, as well.

Celebrating major accomplishments is important, but it doesn’t need to be expensive. Teaching your kids this lesson will help prepare them for the financial decisions ahead.

Published or updated May 17, 2011.
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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Brandon

We just celebrated my brothers college graduation and I helped my mom print our own invitations, this seemed to save a lot compared to buying cards. I think the electronic invites are a good idea too! Good stuff.


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