Rose is a full-time freelance writer who frequently writes about education, special education, DIY projects, food, Milwaukee, and more.
I got inspired to write this article the spring that my husband and I were planning his med school graduation party. With him having just completed med school, we didn't exactly have a ton of money to throw a party. Limited funds does not mean that you can't have a great party with good food, friends, and fun. I hope that these tips help those of you who also have limited budgets or are just looking for ways to save money on graduation and graduation parties in general.
DIY Annoucements or Invitations or Bulk Options
If you're not attached to ordering the announcements and/or invitations through your school, skip it. Consider ordering through bulk invitation sites or large photo sites. If you enjoy designing your own cards, you can create your own announcement or invitation image and still save money by uploading it through a site such as Vistaprint. There are also a number of free or inexpensive printable options out there, such as this one.
- DIY: Postcard Party Invitations with Microsoft Publisher
- Graduation Cards, Photo Graduation Cards & Announcements | Shutterfly
Look for mini cards, too!
Scout Dollar or Discount Party Supply Stores for Thank you Cards
When my husband was writing thank you notes after his medical residency interviews, we searched a lot of stores for cheap thank you notes. We had good luck at dollar and discount party supply stores. Look for packs of thank you notes or cards with bulk pricing (i.e. 4 for $1.00). I also found a few nice sets at Wal-Mart that were also reasonably priced.
If you order invitations and/or announcements through a stationery or photo site, you may find a cheap option there for coordinating thank you notes. Finally, don't be afraid to use blank cards for thank you notes. I have a number of sets that I've been given over the years, such as sets from art museums, that make perfect thank you notes.
- Dollar Tree, Inc.: Buy Bulk Floral Supplies, Toys, Party, Cleaning
- How to Write Memorable Thank-You Notes
DIY or Bulk Party Favors
When I was searching for wedding party favors, I was appalled at how few places there were to purchase favors for under $1 per piece. Many places only offer favors that are $2 or $3 per piece or more. Personally I think that this is outrageous and that you shouldn't spend more than $1 per piece. This is easier to do with graduations than weddings, but the rule still stands.
Consider the theme of your party and type of gift that many people there would like. You don't need to select something that is specifically marketed as a favor or party item. Also, if you enjoy craft projects, consider making your own favors. Search party favor ideas online for inspiration.
Hire a Photo Savvy Friend or Relative for Graduation Pictures
If you know a skilled photographer, whether he is a professional or not, consider recruiting him to shoot your graduation photos. If you do know a professional photographer, he may be able to give you a discounted rate. Do not save money by scanning and printing your own copies of professional photos. This is an infringement of that photographer's copyright. You're better off using a cheaper studio such as one in a mall or big box store.
Make The Food Yourself
If you enjoy cooking and/or baking, consider making some or all of the food for the party. You may decide that the task of making all of the food is overwhelming, which is fine. Decide what would be easiest to do yourself and cater the rest. If you have any friends or family that have specific cooking or baking skills, such as baking and decorating cakes, see if you can recruit them for a few aspects of the food.
Skip or Cut Down on the Alcohol
I know that for many people, alcohol is a must at a party. However, I really don't think that a full bar is necessary, especially for high school graduation parties. A cooler of beer and a few bottles of wine are sufficient. If you have fabulous food and a fun atmosphere, no one will even notice the lack of alcohol. If you want to mix up your drink table a little, consider making non-alcoholic punches and teas.
Skip the Class Ring if You Don't Want It
If you love class rings and are excited about getting one, then please do. I'm not trying to discourage that. However, if you don't want one, don't feel like you need to order one just because. If you would like a ring, consider cheaper personalization options out there. For example, you can pick a stone and then design a setting for it.
- One Ring to Rule Them All: Deciding on a Class Ring | theprospect.net
- Artcarved Class Rings - Boutiques - Zales
Skip the "Class of ____" Plates and Napkins
Unless you can find a great deal, plain/solid color plates and napkins are most likely much cheaper than Class of ____ ones. You can still look for plates in your school colors. Tired of your high school colors and ready to move on? If you're starting college, look for plates or napkins in your new school colors.
- Tableware, Party Themes & Events - Oriental Trading
- Search results for: "tableware" (discountpartysupplies.com)
DIY Photo Display
Sharing a span of photos of yourself from little kid through the end of high school or college can make for a wonderful display at a graduation. You can simply lay photographs out on a table or other large display area or you can make a fancier display. I've provided a link below for the photo displays and "Did you know...?" board that I made for my husband's med school graduation this spring. If this isn't the sort of project that you enjoy, consider recruiting a crafty friend or relative.
- blog post: final graduation display pictures (plus a few of us)
- Graduation Photo Display Board Ideas | eHow.com
Party at Your House
Hold the party at your own house if possible. If it isn't big enough or isn't conducive for a party, see if you can host it at a friend or family member's house. You can also look into cheaper rental options such as parks, rec/community centers, etc.
- Graduation Party - Graduation Party Planning
- Tips and Ideas for creating a memeorable graduation party.
Frame Your Own Awards/Diploma
I'm sure that many of you already know how expensive framing can be. If you need custom sized frames, you may still save money by ordering the frames and then framing the items yourself.
- Discount Picture Frames | Pictureframes.com
- Custom Frame Solutions Custom Picture Frames (Save Over 70% OFF Retail Prices)
More graduation resources from the author.
- Graduation Card Ideas for High School and College: Sayings, Messages, Printables, and More
This article is about graduation card ideas for high school and college. It includes sayings, messages, printables, and more. There are ideas for money cards and for imagery with caps, gowns, and owls.
- 10 Gift Ideas for High School Graduation
This article has 10 gift ideas for high school graduation. There are a variety of options for price points and personalization. These are great ideas for both family members and friends who are looking to give gifts.
- 10 Gift Ideas for College Graduation
This article has 10 gift ideas for college graduation. There are a variety of options for price points and personalization. These are great ideas for both family members and friends who are looking to give gifts.
- Medical School Graduation Ideas: Announcements, Party Themes, Cakes, Gifts, and More
Celebrate medical school graduation in style with announcements, invitations, cakes, and much more. This article gives you all of the resources that you need to throw an amazing party.
Rose Clearfield (author) from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on June 24, 2011:
Thanks, Marellen! I'm glad that this is helpful for you.
marellen on June 24, 2011:
Wow...you have some wonderful ideas. Thanks for the informative hub and great tips.