Previously, we discussed feeding and boozing all your friends affordably. Now, we’re going to talk about decorating your party space and entertaining your guests on a budget.
Let’s face it: The apartments of most of us broke but fabulous people could seriously use some work in the décor department. For day-to-day life, this isn’t a big deal, but when you’re planning to have a bunch of people over, a less-than-festive apartment can be a real downer. So, how do you spruce up your space on the cheap?
First, give your place a good cleaning. Make sure all the light bulbs are working, there’s a fresh tablecloth on the kitchen table, clean your toilet bowl. Then, take a look around and decide if you need to add just a tad more festiveness to your digs.
Never underestimate the power of a string of Christmas tree lights..Yes, it’s a youthful cliché, but never underestimate the power of a string of Christmas tree lights to get any room party-ready. Rather than paying full price for them, though, get them right before or after Christmas, when they go on sale. Personally, I recommend against the multi-color lights- they’re a bit too obviously repurposed—but white lights, purple lights, or just about any other solid color will do nicely.
Christmas isn’t the only holiday you can repurpose ornaments from. Halloween is another great holiday with distinctive decorations you can buy for a steal, store, and use to jazz up a party. For example, haven’t you always wanted to drink from a lovely goblet like this one? Yours for 99 cents each—For under $10.00, you could have a matching set of party goblets for you and nine of your favorite people and never have to worry about breaking any nice glassware. Want to parrrrty like a pirate, matey? Try these skull and crossbones tumblers, under $6.00 for 40. As for decorations, check out this temporary bat wall paper or this haunted forest wall paper that would make Slenderman feel right at home. Other things that often go on sale around Halloween include anything gothy or cemetery related, black lights and other dramatic lighting accoutrements and smoke machines. If you’ve ever wanted to throw the mother of all goth parties, right before or right after Halloween is the time to stock up.
If the Halloween feel is too morbid for you, fear not. Another great holiday to exploit for cheap decorations is Valentine’s day, especially if you like the colors pink, red and purple or hearts (also, great for parties for young girls- parents, take note!). For example, check out these Love Sucks cocktail napkins, $1.75 for 16. Not a bad deal, and great for a housewarming party for a new apartment that was necessitated due to a break up or divorce. For a more girly or even romantic soiree, check out this red heart wire garland, 99 cents for 12 feet. This heart curtain could work in many people’s apartments year round. Other décor that goes on sale around V-Day include paper lanterns and hearts, tea lights, candles and throw pillows.
You can get a lot of these things at local shops like Target, CVS or Stop n’ Shop.While I’ve linked to Party City for all of the above examples, you can get a lot of these things at local shops like Target, CVS or Stop n’ Shop—the idea is to A) wait until stuff goes on sale and B) if something is reusable, reuse it. Don’t spend $40.00 on Halloween drinkware and only use it during Halloween. Buy it on sale and make every party at your place a Halloween party. The key here is to keep your theme consistent. Try to make your colors match (or at least compliment each other), and, if you have lots of wild parties, buy one set of cheap, reusable, shatter resistant drinkware and possibly tableware—you can use it again and it will be cheaper than buying throw-away stuff.
If you feel you’ve outgrown themed holiday decorations, there are still cheap options out there for cleaning up real good, real cheap. You can buy fake flowers at most dollar stores for, well, a dollar, in addition to vases, brightly colored bowls and other nice touches. Fill a fish bowl with marbles and use that as a centerpiece. Another festive mood maker is to fill a bowl with brightly colored candy like gummi bears, Jordan almonds or jelly beans and put it out on a table. Yes, something that small can make a real difference.
In theory, we should all be able to sit around having deep conversations for hours upon hours. This would be ideal. In reality, though, there often comes a point when conversations begin to run dry and people start eying the door. In an effort to avoid this, it makes sense to provide your guests with some entertainment to distract them from the ever-beckoning doorway.
First, let’s talk music.
If you don’t have a huge music collection and don’t want to tempt pissing off the RIAA and pirating some tunes, might I suggest streaming music? Normally, I’d suggest Pandora, but unless you have a Pandora One account, you and your guests will be forced to listen to ads. Not very festive. But fear not, there are alternatives! Let me suggest Stereodose, a new streaming service. It has a drug theme, but ignore that—Just listen to the playlists it creates for a few minutes and pick the vibe that best matches your party. Grooveshark is also a great alternative, especially if you want to make a playlist for your party (you can even set it to start playing music similar to what you’ve been playing after the playlist you’ve set up runs out).
Now that you’ve got the soundtrack covered, let’s talk conversation starters and ways to negate boredom. Hit up yard sales if you live near the ‘burbs or go through the trash during Allston-Brighton Christmas if you live in that area, and salvage board games people pitch. Check out the Salvation Army and Goodwill, too. There is seriously no better way to get into someone’s pants than an old-school Twister set, and Candyland and Chutes and Ladders make great drinking games. Another alternative is Cards Against Humanity, which you can download and print out for free. Other free fun games for grown ups include Limbo (you’ll become immensely grateful for all those yoga classes you went to), Two Truths and a Lie (instruct your guests to tell the group two true things about themselves and one lie, have everyone guess which one was the lie) and, of course, the perennial favorites like Never Have I Ever and Truth or Dare. The idea is to break the ice and get everyone talking and having a good time—and if you can do it for free, even better.