February 18, 2013
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Money-saving tips and party ideas


for The Brooklyn Paper

In a perfect world, your baby’s bar mitzvah bash would top all the rest, much like a redwood in a national park. You would have the best entertainment, food, decor, and most importantly, the best budget — which would be as fruitful as a forest full of money trees. But since we’re pretty sure there’s no such thing as a sapling that sprouts $100 bills, let us introduce you to your new best friends: a calculator and spreadsheet. Sure, it would be nice to ignore the price tag on every purchase and rental, but you will feel much better (and avoid becoming a weeping willow) if you don’t over spend. Here’s a few ways to keep your budget as solid as oak:

Save on the essentials

Two factors that will account for a huge chunk of your budget are food and location. In order to save a few bucks, Marla Mase, owner of the event-planning companies Party Poopers and Party Swank, suggests hosting the celebration at your synagogue or at a family member or friend’s home. If you feel like you have to rent a venue, it’s helpful to know that Saturday night is always the most expensive time to throw a party, so try hosting the simcha on a Sunday. Also, if you choose to have your party during warm months, you can even take the party outdoors. Most New York City parks, for instance, allow you to host an event outdoors for a minimal fee, usually around $25. Plus, if you have your party in the great outdoors, you won’t have to worry about controlling rambunctious tweens.

In regards to refreshments, you can cut the fat out of your food budget by keeping the menu simple. Opt for crowd-pleasing, affordable, comfort foods such as pizza, mac ‘n’ cheese, and hamburgers instead of pricy appetizers like foie gras and tuna tartar. Other food-budget tips include eliminating servers by opting for a buffet, offering chicken as a meat course, and eliminating alcohol. You guests may prefer a glass of wine to a fizzy cup of Coca-Cola, but encouraging parents to stay alcohol-free for one night will be cost-efficient and evoke everyone’s inner child.

Order in bulk

Table settings, signage, giveaways, goodie bags, and candy can be ordered en masse, which means you’ll be presented with a lower cost. You can also save a bundle by filling goodie bags with a simple Hershey bars rather than fancy, made-to-order Godiva chocolates — kids will love the sugar-rush regardless of the brand. For more great tips on how to save cash on candy, click here!

Think outside the box

You want your party to be fun, which means you need entertainent. DJs are the most popular way of amusing guests, but if a DJ is fiscally out of your reach, be creative. Try replacing music with on-site game shows, or create a murder mystery with a live host and plenty of audience participation. You can also incorporate entertainment into your candle lighting by being imaginative about your ceremony.

If you feel like a DJ is vital, stay within budget by toning down the flash.

“You can get a great DJ to come, play music, and talk a little without having a million plasma screens and four dancers,” says Mase. Also, think about who’s on your guest list, what their interests are, and how they would react to one or several forms of entertainment.

Utilize useful friends

Do you have a friend who bakes the world’s BEST brownies? According to Sharon Naylor, the author of more than 30 party-planning books, including “Your Day, Your Way,” friends can lend their skills in lieu of a present.

“If you have talented friends who can bake, make a logo, or do something that isn’t too time-consuming, you can tell them that you’ll count that as their gift. When you can make that kind of a deal within your circle it’s a huge break for you and it and adds a great, personal touch.”

Embrace the spirit of ‘do-it-yourself’

It’s easy to obtain decorative items on your own.

“Go to a fabric store and ask them if you can take remnants off their hands,” suggests Naylor. “They have a lot of tassels and other kinds of scraps they haven’t been able to sell. They’re very often willing to give it to you for free or for a huge discount, and these are the kinds of materials you can use to make a swag for your cake table or table runners.”

Another insider tip? Instead of buying uniformed items for decor, borrow things like vases and cake platters from friends, or buy an eclectic mix at a flea market. This budget-bending tactic adds a ton of character to your party. For more DIY tips, click here!

Have a double bar (or bat) mitzvah

Many adolescents have b’nai mitzvahs around the same time of year. Why not coordinate your son or daughter’s party with another kid’s celebration? Having a joint party gives you twice the resources at a fraction of the cost and can reduce stress in planning the event.

Rethink party favors

Party favors can eat away at your budget. Instead, give away small gifts — $2 iTunes gift cards, for example — or offer people the option to donate the cost of the party favors to a charity of your choice. If you opt for the charity route, your donations may also be tax-deductible, which will save you money in the long run.

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