How to Throw a Dinner Party on a Budget

With the lovely warm nights arriving, dinner parties with friends or backyard meals and cocktails with your girlfriends should be on your to-do list! Whether you live in a studio apartment or a 2-story house, the budget friendly rules for throwing a dinner party apply to you! If you have never thrown a dinner party before, then make it a goal to host at least one this summer! The CGS Team has put together a few tips to help you throw a great dinner party on a budget!

Plan Properly

The best way to stay within your dinner party budget is to plan ahead of time. Make a list of everything you absolutely need (food, plates, glasses, utensils, napkins) and stick to that list. When you start getting side tracked off of your list, the amount of money you spend will increase quickly. It can be tempting to want to make a lavish meal and redesign your dining room for the party, but keeping it simple will be just as effective.

In addition to planning your party, plan your meals ahead of time. Most dinner parties do 4-6 course meals. For staying within your budget, consider a 3 course meal. Giving guests an appetizer, main course and desert will help you stay within your price point while insuring your guests are satisfied in the hunger department.

Stick with meals that are not too complex. You don’t want to underestimate your time and be stressed out the day of your party. Meals with minimal ingredients will also ensure you don’t spend too much on food. Remember to check with your guests for any allergies or food requests!

Budget Touches

If you are looking for glasses, utensils or extra dinner settings, consider stores like Target, TJ Maxx or Bed Bath & Beyond, instead of department stores. These stores offer great place settings for reasonable prices.

If you don’t plan on throwing dinner parties often, then investing in budget dinner settings is the way to go. Consider purchasing basic white or black cloth napkins. They are re-usable and washable which will allow you to keep them for future use.

When you need some extra touches to your home décor, start simple. Votive candles in glass holders, two flowers per vase, and dim lighting can help set a perfect dinner party vibe. You don’t need to have 4 dozen roses around your house, nor buy exquisite décor for the room.

Dim lighting and subtle touches can create a great atmosphere. Also consider playing your iPod on a docking station at a soft volume. The background music also helps contribute to the dinner party atmosphere.

Stay Small

The more people you invite to the dinner party, the more money you are likely to spend. More people means more food, more utensils, more place settings, and the list goes on.

Try keeping the dinner party small and inviting 5-7 guests that have things in common. This will make for a more personal setting and will leave a better opportunity for your guests to network. If you have a small dining area, this may be your only option.

If you have a large network, consider hosting 2 or 3 small parties over the span of 6-12 months. That way you won’t feel like you are leaving anyone out, and you aren’t overindulging on one lavish bash.

Shop Smart

When the night before your dinner party arrives, get your grocery shopping done. We say the night before to avoid rushing on the day of. Avoid the expensive grocery stores like Whole Foods and stay within a better price point with Costco or Trader Joes.

Do your best to buy all of the ingredients at the value price. Also consider shopping in the clearance aisle. Since you will be preparing the food that night or the next day, getting your ingredients at a discount can save you some extra cash.

If you aren’t a great cook and don’t want to ruin anyone’s appetite, consider catering options from low cost restaurants like Panera Bread, who serve fresh salads, soup, pasta, and other main dishes. Catering can get very pricey, so if your guest list is high, ask a friend to help you cook or co-host. Having an extra hand (and wallet) can make things much easier on you.


A great way to save money when throwing a dinner party is to ask the guests to contribute alcohol. Ask that each guest bring one form of liquor. We suggest a few bottles of wine and two or three different hard liquors.

If you have more guests than alcohol needed, ask the guests who aren’t bringing liquor to bring their favorite mixing juices, ice and garnishes. Don’t feel like you have to take on every aspect yourself. You will be surprised at how willing people are to contribute.

Related: 5 Ways to Plan the Perfect Surprise Party


Are you a fan of dinner parties? Do you have any money-saving tips when throwing a dinner party? Share your feedback with the community to help future hosts! Leave a comment below and tell us about your dinner party experiences!

-The CGS Team



1 thought on “How to Throw a Dinner Party on a Budget”

  1. I have never thrown a dinner party before, but I want to! These are great tips to keep it low-cost but still ensure a great party. I’m looking forward to incorporating these tips in my first dinner party!

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