How to Host a Graduation Party on a Budget

How to Host a Graduation Party on a Budget

Whether your loved one is graduating from high school or has completed years of college study, graduation is an event worth celebrating. There's no need to go overboard and blow your budget just to enjoy a fun gathering that honors this rite of passage. Planning your graduation party on a budget works best when you start by prioritizing whichever parts of the celebration matter the most to the graduate. As long as they can celebrate with their friends and family members, even a simple party will be plenty. Make the most of any celebration budget with these tips for a better graduation party on a budget.

Set a Budget for a Graduation Party

Start by determining exactly how much you're willing to spend on this type of party, including both personal celebrations like graduations and company holiday events. Company holiday planning often mirrors personal party budgets in focusing on impactful yet budget-friendly elements. Consider that this is an event your loved one will only celebrate twice or less in their life in most cases, similar to how a company might celebrate annual milestones. Instead of spending a lot to book a private room in a restaurant or buying massive balloon displays, prioritize things like entertainment and amazing snacks that your guests will remember for years. Graduation parties and company gatherings are fairly casual, so there's no need for anything like a band or a big dance floor. See what you can do with equipment and decorations you already have on hand, such as a friend's karaoke machine or a banner you can alter, to stretch your budget even further. Asking guests to bring food for a potluck or at least to "bring your own beverages" (BYOB) is also a good way to make the most of a small budget, whether it's for a graduation party or a company holiday event. Try these ideas to get a general idea of what party budget to start with

Choose a Type of Party

Once you have a rough idea of how much can spend on your graduation party, it's time to narrow down to a type of party. Choosing to hold the party outside of the peak time for graduation season can help you secure a restaurant or other venue that sets the scene. For a low-cost party at any time, consider your own backyard or a nearby green space with picnic tables and covered spaces. Borrowing tables and chairs can save you significantly over having to rent them. If one of your friends has a particularly spacious home or backyard, see if they'll agree to host the party. Some of the most budget-friendly ideas for a graduation party include:

1. A barbecue with lawn games
2. Karaoke or music-themed trivia
3. Shared picnic with other graduates
4. Day at the beach or pool party
None of these ideas have to cost much, especially if you take advantage of public spaces nearby. Avoid ideas that would require extensive travel from all the guests since it will increase the price while reducing the chances of full attendance from your invitees.

Esstart Storybook

To make the most of any kind of party, consider setting up Esstart Storybook and asking your guests to join in. This easy-to-use app allows you to set a custom greeting for your guests which then introduces them to the interactive experience of your party. You can set up the Storybook with all sorts of details about the graduate and encourage guests to play along with fun trivia questions, opportunities to write well wishes and memories, and much more. With each guest using their own phone to interact, there's no need to rent a lot of expensive equipment. It's an affordable way to make your next graduation party on a budget more interactive in a way that appeals to guests of all ages.


Limit the Guest List

Limiting the number of guests you invite dramatically reduces costs. You will spend less on food, drink, decorations, seating, and even clean-up supplies for after the party. Start out by sending digital e-invites rather than paper invites. Most platforms today make it easy for guests to actually respond, giving you a more accurate idea of how many people you're expecting. This reduces the need to rent chairs or buy food that you won't end up needing. Combining parties with other graduates and splitting the costs between the families can help you deal with a larger guest list without a high cost. If many of the guests are also graduates, it increases the impact of the event while limiting the number of other guests you're covering.

Graduation Party Themes and Decorations

There's no need to go without a theme to save money on a graduation party. There are plenty of decoration hacks and food themes that stretch your budget from the start. Consider these themes first since they're so popular for this type of party.

Creative Yet Affordable Themes

Try to go with a theme or idea that your graduate will love, so pull from their personal interests and areas of study to get ideas. One popular idea is a photo booth theme where everyone gets to take photos with an array of fun props. Instead of renting an actual booth or hiring a photographer, set up a tripod so guests can use their own phones and focus on backdrops and props instead. Another great theme for a graduation party is a luau. Putting a tropical twist on the usual backyard barbecue is a great choice if your graduate is hoping to move to a warmer climate now that they're entering the working world. If you're using an outdoor space for the party, hanging a white sheet and renting an affordable projector allows you to make the party a movie night or at least share photos and videos of the graduate during their years of hard work.

Decoration Hacks on a Dime

For DIY graduation party decorations that fit into every budget, stick to banners and buntings that make a big impact while having a low cost. The basic Congratulations! banner is more effective than you think for a graduation party, especially for high school. Instead of spending money on themed decorations tied only to the graduation, make them a homage to the graduate being celebrated. Vintage cameras or typewriters from a thrift store for a creative type will make a bigger impact than a generic cardboard cutout of a figure in a gown and board cap. If you want something trendy like an arch of metallic balloons or a backdrop for reflecting colored lights, look into kits and supplies that allow you to do most of the work. Turning to professional party designers and decorators can cost thousands of dollars, but often the materials for the same popular decorations cost less than $20.

Budget-Friendly Entertainment and Activities

In today's world of streaming options and apps, it's easier than ever to get guests engaged and entertained. There's no need to get too elaborate with the activities since your guests will want time to circulate and catch up with each other and the graduate. But since most graduation parties can stretch on for hours, having some entertainment planned can keep everything moving smoothly. Get creative with your DIY entertainment ideas to ensure guests of all ages are sure to have a great time.

DIY Entertainment Ideas

The age group you intend to invite largely determines the best activities. If you have a child graduating from high school and want to throw a party of primarily their peers, you'll want video games, streaming videos, and opportunities to take selfies. If grandparents and extended family members are visiting as well for the celebration, you'll need activities that they'll feel welcome to participate in as well. One of the best ways to use your existing technology for party entertainment is through the use of a projector. Whether you want to watch movies, play games, or host a trivia competition, you only need a white sheet and a way to hang it to ensure everyone can see the screen. Of course, this works best at night. Daytime entertainment can take the form of classic outdoor activities like croquet, badminton, and bocce. There are plenty of modern variations that put a silly twist on these games that make them appealing to guests of all ages.

A scavenger hunt is a fun way to celebrate the graduate's life and interests, especially if you're doing it indoors. You can set up hints that rely on familiarity with their graduate so it takes some creativity to come up with the right answer. Your graduate will feel celebrated and stay entertained at the same time, especially as they find out what everyone thinks about them as they reveal their answers to the riddles.

Economical Catering Options

Don't spend a fortune for the catering of a graduation party. While it used to be more common to host a formal dinner for this kind of event, today's parties tend to be much more casual. Potluck and buffet-style arrangements dominate most party planning resources. Not only does it help stretch your budget to ask guests to contribute, it tends to produce a wider variety of dishes for everyone to enjoy. Pick the perfect food for your graduation party on a budget from the suggestions below to wrap up your planning.

DIY Catering Ideas

Any kind of food you can easily whip up in batches and set out for everyone to enjoy at their leisure will work best. Trying to serve specific courses of appetizers and main dishes puts a lot of stress on you as the host and makes it harder for guests who arrive later to find a snack or drink. Consider ideas that involve bases and toppings like taco bars, baked potato bars, and nacho buffets. This allows everyone to customize their food to their own preferences. It's popular now for graduation parties to feature themed candy buffets or displays, but don't just serve candy and other sweet treats. It limits how many guests can participate if they have restrictive diets or diabetes. Don't forget salads and other lighter options for people who don't eat a lot of processed snack foods too. If you're planning a potluck, try to assign guests a type of dish or extra item to bring rather than letting everyone decide to cook potato salad.

Limit Alcoholic Beverages

For college graduation parties, alcohol is often a part of the celebration. It's also the biggest budget drain, even if you only want to offer each guest one or two drinks. Setting a BYOB policy from the start is generally the best option. If it's a high-end event, a cash bar can stay affordable since you only have to pay for the bartender's time and not all of the alcohol your guests consume. However, your guests may prefer just to purchase their own drinks and bring them along rather than having to bring enough cash for their orders and tips.


It's more important that the party celebrates the hard work of the graduate and their interests than the exact budget. Even without any specific decorations or themed snack foods, you can have a great time with an affordable entertainment solution like Esstart Storybook.



1. What is a reasonable budget for a graduation party?

Most graduation parties can be thrown for anywhere from $100 to $1,000.

2. What is the cheapest food to serve at a graduation party?

A potluck costs the least, but barbecue, tacos, baked potatoes, and finger foods are all affordable as well.

3. How do I make a graduation budget?

Start with the number of guests and estimate the food and beverage costs. Add in equipment and venue rentals, decorations, and clean-up supplies too.

4. How do you plan a graduation party checklist?

List all of your steps in order of setup, party execution, and clean-up.

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