1) Plan Waaaaay Ahead:
Why plan months in advance? For several reasons. First, because the day of your party tends to sneak up on you, and if you aren't preparing well ahead of time, then you have to rush to finish everything and it's a slapdash mess. Second, because you have time to wait for things to go on sale. This is the key to having a good party. Sure, you can have a great time on a last minute fling, but this will take a lot of stress on you as the party planner.
2) Garage sale:
If you plan enough in advance, you will be able to garage sale during the summer months. Many sales I went to over this summer had Halloween items. I was also able to find items that fit in with my Alice in Wonderland theme thanks to me deciding on the theme ahead of time. Some of the items I bought were candles (shaped in card suits); books (which I reshaped into flying books); fabric; acrylic paints; black, paper lanterns (brand new); flickering lighting effects (also brand new, original price $20, got for $2). That's not mentioning the items I saw but didn't buy like fog machines and other Halloween decorations. You can save so much by buying used items at garage sales, it's worth planning ahead.
3) Secret Shopping
By contract, I can't tell you what company shops for what stores. What I can tell you is that by secret shopping, you can pick up items for a small reimbursement (about $2-5). Though it's small, these add up. Plus, you'll often get a shop fee, separate from the item reimbursement fee. You could end up making money on the deal in the end, which you can put towards something else.
|Source: Metro Site Inspections|
These will start you off. KSS International and CRI are mystery shopping companies. They have a variety of stores all over the US. The pay for these is below average, but they are good for beginners. The forums are great for looking for new companies and getting into contact with other shoppers.
4) Make Use of the Free Crafting Sites
There are plenty of books you can find at the library and websites that offer crafts. All of these are free. Sometimes you need to sign up first, and others are just made available to you. Crafting your own items makes things much cheaper, as well as unique to your party.
Here are some of my favorite resources to consult during the planning. Yes, I know these make me sound like a stereotypical, middle-aged housewife. Or my mother. But there are some really great ideas on these sites:
Better Homes and Gardens - Don't bother buy the magazine; it's a waste of money. Everything you need and more is on their site. You'll just have to get an account
I highly recommend papier-mache when making decorations. Not only is this easy, but highly adaptable. You can even make a pinata if you so wish.
1/4 cup of flour
1 cup of water (divided)
1) Start heating up 1/2 cup of water on the stove.
2) In a seperate bowl, measure 1/4 cup of flour.
3) Pour 1/2 cup of cold water into the same bowl.
4) Whisk to remove lumps.
5) Once water on stove is boiling, pour mixture into pot.
6) Stir constantly and stop as soon as mixture begins to bowl.
7) Remove from heat.
8) Add about 1 Tb of salt. (This will help keep the paste last longer before getting moldy.)
9) Allow to cool.
10) Squirt some Elmer's Glue into the mixture. The paste alone should work, but I like to use this as a back up. Just in case.
11) Strip up some old newspapers--some in strips and some in small pieces.
12) You're ready to start pasting! Make sure to store paste in refrigerator when finished. Lasts about one and a half weeks. If you want to make something that is circular, past over an inflated balloon, then pop the balloon when finished.
I will be doing a full tutorial on how to make mushrooms (for my Alice in Wonderland party!) all from trash and this paste recipe.
6) Bargain Shop - Non-Food Items
In order to really stretch your dollars, you need to play it smart. You can hit up the Halloween sales that sometimes come, or, if you've planned well ahead, you can hit some great deals.
Dollar Store - The dollar store is another great place to look for deals. Need trash bags for your party? Get 'em here. Need fake flowers for decorations? Get 'em here. Very rarely is there a time when you should not get something from the dollar store, especially if the item is something solely for this one party. Before you try going to a more expensive store, it's probably a good idea to check here first. If it's not what you're looking for or the quality is crap, then you can go to bigger and better retail stores.
Party City - Definitely give their store and website a try. Many of their decoration items are fairly cheap. Their costumes are a little pricey, so make sure to shop their clearance. There you can find full adult costumes (men and women) for as little as $15-30 and child costumes for $5-15. Worried about the shipping? My advice: bide your time. Party City often releases a free shipping code. You can check back on their site to find this code (usually at the top), or you can join their mailing list for updates (join by filling out the form at the bottom of the page).
Hobby Lobby - this is an expensive store for a bunch of Chinese-made crap if you don't shop right. What you need to do is play it smart and never buy full price! Before you go to the store, make sure to go on their website to check what's currently on sale and see if it's anything you'll need. Next, check and see what coupon they are offering. Fairly often they have a coupon for 40% a full price item, which can take quite a bit off your total. I used my coupon for my costume fabric and saved over $10! Check out their leftover fabric in the sewing department if you need it for a craft. These are often located in bins near the back; the fabric is rolled up and has a white sticker wrapped around the center. Again, check the clearance in the back. Not all Hobby Lobbies have clearances, but if yours does, make sure to do some digging.
Goodwill/Thrift Stores - Around Halloween, Goodwills will put out all their Halloween decorations, and I can almost guarantee you'll find something.
7) Bargain Shop - Food Items
Food is probably going to be the most expensive out of everything you're doing for your party. This is where rule #1 fails because you cannot buy food well in advance and still have it be safe and taste good. Catering saves you time, but can get really expensive and be of unknown quality.
My advice is to just do the best you can with food. Know anyone who works for a restaurant? Ask them for help if they get discounts, or you can ask some guests to bring in small, easy items like desserts, chips, or soda. By spreading out the food costs, it will not only make it easier on you price-wise, it will also be a time saver since that's one last dish you'll have to prepare.
8) Set a Budget and Stick to It
Plan a budget and keep to it. Don't be even tempted to go over. The moment you break your budget, you'll be more tempted in the future you'll be to spend again. Just don't do it! Plan, plan, plan.
I hope that helps a little! A little creativity and time will get you far and will save you money! I'm planning on making a tutorial for papier-mâché crafts, specifically how to make Alice in Wonderland mushrooms. See you in a bit!