Cheap Grad Party Ideas: 12 Tips to Throw a “WOW” Party on a Budget

You don't have to spend a fortune to throw an impressive party your guests will love!

by Nancy Reynolds

 This post: Cheap Grad Party Ideas: 12 Ideas to Throw a “WOW” Party on a Budget  / MAIN IMAGE CREDIT: Mint Event Design (Post updated 2/2024)

It’s graduation party planning season and I’m here to tell you that planning a graduation party can be fun and exciting (after all, we’re celebrating our grad’s hard-earned accomplishments). But it can also be stressful AND expensive.

Between the food, decorations, cake, drinks, and invitations, a blow-out graduation party with even a moderate invite list can really do a number on your wallet. The good news is, there are ways to cut costs without compromising the “wow factor.” It’s all about knowing how and where to cut costs. 

If you’re looking for a few ways to save big bucks on your teen’s graduation party, check out these cheap grad party ideas!

Cheap Grad Party Ideas: 12 Tips to Throw a “WOW” Party on a Budget


1. Start by Setting a Realistic Budget

According to FinanceBuzz, the average cost of throwing a graduation party is approximately $1100 but keep in mind that some people go all out and spend thousands of dollars while others get away with planning a great party for a lot less!

When you establish a budget that works for you, be sure to track your expenses along the way. It’s SO easy to get caught up in the fun of planning and end up overspending.

Also, put your money where it matters most to you. Whether it’s the food, the decorations, or any extras you really want, decide what matters most to you and your grad and focus on those things.

2. Plan a Joint Grad Party

When it comes to cheap grad party ideas, this one might top the list. There’s no better way to cut costs than by co-hosting the party with a few of your teen’s friends. I’ve attended graduation parties where two grads were being celebrated, but I’ve also attended parties where six graduates hosted their party together. Not only is it a great way to split the cost of the party, it also divides the responsibilities so no one gets bogged down planning the entire event. (Just keep in mind how many people each grad is inviting and that the venue can accommodate the crowd.)

Image and creative design courtesy of Grey Grey Designs

3. Skip the Fancy Printed Invitations

The cost of fancy invitations can really add up (not to mention the cost of postage). To save on costs, think about sending digital invitations. Check out these fun digital invitations you can use on Evite!  Or, keep things super simple and send out a group text, email, or an invite through Facebook. If you’re willing to spring for a little more, check out websites like Simply To Impress, Snapfish, and Shutterfly – they typically offer graduation invitation savings this time of year. 

4. Have the  Party in the Morning or Afternoon

The beauty of graduation parties is that anything goes! Want to throw a morning coffee, (alcohol-free) mimosas, and bagels grad party? Do you like the idea of a mid-afternoon grad party with easy appetizers and drinks? Go for it! Remember, if you have your grad party during lunchtime or dinnertime, guests will expect to be fed. So, to save money on food, choose to have your grad party “in between” traditional meal times. 

5. Don’t Serve Alcohol (or Limit Alcoholic Beverages)

No one says you have to spring for wine, beer, or other alcoholic beverages. While adult beverages are a great add-on to any grad party, (and offering alcoholic beverages will encourage adults to linger longer), they certainly aren’t necessary. If you do decide to serve alcohol, skip the full bar and offer just wine and beer or a signature cocktail. Check out these easy, big-batch cocktails to serve a crowd. 

Image: BuzzFeed

6. Make Homemade Cupcakes Instead of an Expensive Cake

If you’ve checked into the price of cakes, then you know… they can be expensive. Unless you purchase your cake at Sam’s or Costco (which is a great way to go if you want to save money), chances are you’ll be shelling out big bucks. Another way to save money is to skip the cake altogether and make cupcakes instead. It takes no time to whip up a couple of batches of cupcakes (and it’s cheap) and cupcake toppers aren’t that expensive depending on where you purchase them. (Keep your eye out for FREE grad cupcake printables, too!)

Graduation Cap Toppers |  LIL’ LUNA

7. Borrow Decorations, Tableware and Serveware 

If you have friends, neighbors, or family with kids who have already graduated, there’s a good chance they might have a few things you can borrow. From tablecloths and decorations to serveware and drink dispensers, don’t feel as though you have to buy everything… borrow as much as you can!

8. Take Advantage of Free Printables

Forget cheap… think FREE! To really cut costs, take advantage of all the FREE graduation printables that are available. From signs and cupcake toppers to “How Well Do You Know the Graduate” game printables and party planning checklists, FREE printables are a great way to pull off a great grad party without spending a fortune!

Download Our FREE Graduation Printables HERE! (TONS of Fun Designs!)


9. Shop the Dollar Store/Websites that Sell Cheap Party Supplies & Decorations (or Make Your Own)!

The Dollar Store, Target dollar section, or websites like Oriental Trading or Amazon have a ton of great party supplies that don’t cost a fortune. Rather than trying to decorate the entire house or venue, focus your energy on a couple of key areas – perhaps the food or dessert table, the gifts table, the front entrance of the venue, or the memory table where you can display pictures of the grad(s). Balloons (which are cheap) can make a BIG impact along with streamers. Here are a few ideas!

Best Outdoor Graduation Party Ideas

25 Great Graduation Centerpieces for Your Grad Party

Insanely Cute Grad Party Decorations You Have to See

Image Credit: By Sophia Lee

10. Scale Back on Food

Let’s face it, the cost of food can be a big expense. But take into consideration the rise in inflation and it can really empty your wallet. To keep your budget in check, offer bite-sized appetizers or an array of fun and unique snack options (like a popcorn bar, s’mores bar, cookie bar, or even a hot dog, mac n’ cheese, donut or nachos bar), instead of an expansive spread. (I’ve been at some grad parties that had a dessert-only offering and guests loved it!)

Another trick is to make as much food at home as possible and hit your local warehouse clubs like Costco or Sams and buy party trays to supplement homemade items. Also, try to share the cost of food by co-hosting the grad party with a few of your teen’s friends. Check out these posts for great food ideas!

Best Graduation Party Food Ideas

36 Graduation Party Desserts that Will Wow Your Guests

28 Fun Graduation Party Finger Food Ideas

Image: Happily Hughes

11. Choose a Free (or Cheap) Venue to Host the Party

One of the first items on your grad checklist is making sure you host it at a venue that can accommodate your invite list. Of course, having the party at your home (or at the home of someone you’re co-hosting with) is the cheapest way to go, but you can also choose a neighborhood clubhouse, which typically only charge a small fee. Or, look into churches or other free venues.

12. Limit the Guest List

This is a tough one, especially for grads. They want ALL their friends on the invite list – and, who can blame them? But the more guests you have, the more food you’ll have to offer, so it’s certainly an important factor to consider. Again, just think about what matters most to you and your grad and cut costs where you can. If your guest list is important to you, focus on cutting costs in other areas. 

Having an amazing grad party doesn’t have to cost a fortune! By cutting back a little here and there and putting your money where it matters to you, you can still pull off an amazing celebration without compromising the “WOW” factor!

If you found our “Cheap Grad Party Ideas: 12 Tips to Throw a Great Party on a Budget,” you might want to check out these other posts for more awesome ideas!

25 Killer Ideas to Throw an Amazing Graduation Party

50 Best Graduation Songs That Bring Out All the Feels

Gracious Grad Manners: 6 Things Every Graduate Should Do at Their Graduation Party

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