I’ve been really hankering to have a party lately. I don’t know if it’s because Halloween and other holidays are coming up or because I haven’t thrown one since moving here (and it’s been about three months) but it seems to be the time to invite people over and be the hostess with the mostest.

Carving As someone who takes pride in throwing a good party, I want my guests to have a good time, eat well, and have a drink on me. This got me to thinking how I could throw a great party on a budget while still maintaining my great hostess reputation. The following party will be thrown a week from today. The budget is for 8 people, though I’m sure I could make this work if a few more showed.

Purpose: Pumpkin carving/Belated Housewarming

Drinks: Not that this is the most important part but I like to have something to offer my guests when they walk in. Often, the well meaning guest will have picked up a six pack of beer or bottle of wine on the way over but I never want to assume anything. Plus, what can we drink while we wait for the brought-over beverages to chill?

Stocking a bar can really break the bank but I’ve found having one drink of the night has really saved me. Let’s face it, a handle of medicore hard liquor and a mixer is cheaper than a round of good beer for everyone. (Plus mixers can often mask the taste of even cheap hard liquor; if you don’t want people to see the bottle evidence of your thriftiness, you can just pre-mix it in a pitcher beforehand.)

I usually include the drink of the night on my invitations or when I call people. My usual script for telling people this is "The drink of the night is vodka tonics but I certainly won’t be offended if you want to bring something else to drink instead." See? You’re cool and accomodating, not at all a cheap bastard.

Also, the added benefit of a drink of the night is it can contribute to your evening’s theme. Hot chocolate with Baileys on a cool night, cosmopolitans for the girls night in. I find vodka tonics to be my all-time standby.

A handle of vodka, some tonic water, and limes: $18

Snacks: I don’t like going to parties where the main food is chips and salsa or crackers and hummus. To me, that says, "I don’t want to serve you real food." I also don’t think you have to serve a 10 course meal either.

Appetizers with some substance say you care and mean you don’t have to worry about silverware or finding a table that seats everyone. I plan on serving some baguettes with good cheese ($10), home-made spanikopida (phyllo dough, frozen spinach, and garlic) ($6), chicked kabobs ($9), seasoned popcorn ($2), and grapes or some other fruit/veggie on sale this week ($3). I’ll also be toasting some pumpkin seeds as the carving progresses (free!) and send guests home with small bags of them (free- use grocery bags).

Appetizers with substance: $30

Ambiance: Tea lights are cheap enough to buy a ton that you can put everywhere… plus you can illuminate the pumpkins carved as party decorations for the evening. I’ll be creating a cool playlist on my iPod to be playing in the background (free).

Tea lights: $2/bag

Other supplies: Newspapers and knives to carve pumpkins (free). It’ll be BYOP. Some home-made ribbons for the best and most ridiculous pumpkin (free- markers and paper!). If you have a good friend at the party, get them to start a game of charades, bullshit, or some other group game if you find people aren’t talking or mingling. Whatever you do, don’t be the hostess/martyr in the kitchen or doting on everyone. If you have a good time, so will everyone else.

Party on!

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