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Reader Question: How Do YOU Throw an Affordable & Fun Graduation Party?

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Check out this reader question from reader, Judy…

“My oldest is graduating from high school next month. Yikes! We are planning on hosting a graduation party and would love to hear other Hipsters tips on how to throw an affordable and fun party! Thank you so much for your consideration.”


Please share any tips you have below! Thank you.

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Also, did you see these fun graduation gift ideas?
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Comments 51

  1. CJ

    I am right there with you…will be anxious for the ideas posted! Thanks for asking!

  2. Megann

    See if relatives have yard games to borrow. Buy food ahead when it’s on sale and freeze or just store. Dollar tree for some of the decor. Ask relatives to bring a dish.

  3. Jessica

    My kindergartener is having a graduation haha I’m excited but me and husband want to plan a party for him because we may not get to when it’s his birthday in December because my husband is being deployed and when he gets back we immediately move somewhere else and we just moved the end of December to where we are now which is Texas 28 hours from family I’m planning on asking family to send him cards for his special day seeing as they don’t for his birthday because it’s so close to Christmas but I’m curious for some tips to I’m sure some will apply to his party other than bouncy houses and kid related party favors we want to invite all his class mates and teachers and I was thinking of putting on the invitation bring a dish if you want( not sure if that’s ok though)

  4. TM

    Instead of cake we did an ice cream bar. A few gallons of ice cream, whip cream, chocolate, butterscotch and other toppings. (Fresh fruit, crushed oreos, gummy bears/worms, chocolate chips ,etc ) The candy toppings you can get free or cheap (now) and I also bought the ice cream on sale. I would also recommend having the food catered. Call around and look at different prices/places. It was nice I could talk to people and not have to worry about food.

    • K

      How did you keep the ice cream frozen?

      • TM

        We had in the freezer before the party and put the gallon buckets of ice cream in a container with ice in it.

  5. Courtney Newland

    Hawaiian theme is always fun for a girl or boy….it kicks off summer and dollar tree (I was just in there earlier) has tons of cute stuff. Tiki torches, slip n slide (fun at any age), and food is fairly easy if you do Hawaiian chicken skewers with cubes of chicken and pineapple, grilled corn on the cob, and fruit platters. I’m 27 and I think that it would be a blast. Most high school grads will have fun as long as there is something to do, hence the water slide plus you could always set up a limbo game and buy water balloons. Dollar tree had leis, platters, and even fishing net to decorate with…..hope this helps some

  6. Vanessa

    I just had my son’s graduation party last year and used some Hip deals. I got a personalized banner from Shindigz when the deal was posted here for around 8 dollars! It was personalized with his name, class year, school and school colors. It came out great! I got the cake from the local grocery store. I made a photo collage from infant to senior picture with a frame I got at Michaels with a coupon. It was a wooden frame with 3 rows of string and the pictures hung from clips. Came out great! I also bought different sized glasses/bowls from the Dollar Tree and made a candy buffet. Some of the candy was from dollar tree as well. I had ring pops labeled as “class rings”, gummy worms labeled as “book worms”, smarties and nerds labeled as….smarties and nerds lol. I used chalk labels I got from a deal posted here. We had badminton and cornhole set up in the yard. We used a wheel barrow full of ice to put cold drinks on. If I think of more I’ll post again ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Judy

      Awesome ideas

  7. Holly

    Skip the cap general decoration especially plates and cups. We did the colors of my college as that was the general question of the night anyway. We added a few year items that were cheapest. Outdoor games like volleyball or even a bonfire are awesome. We had volleyball and corn hole at mine. We decorated a box for cards, just an upcycled box. We also used family pictures to decorate a lot but mostly we decorated the back porch because we wanted everyone outside. We had one cake which was the most expensive things and bought snacks on the 10 for 10 at meijer. We always skip soda at parties because it’s expensive and a lot gets wasted

  8. Rose

    Dollar Tree is a must they have alot of decor and I order my cake from publix whuch now they have online order. They have custom made cake way cheaper then their decorated cakes. Also Papa Johns offers 50%off the next day any home team wins. Also groupon has alot of local deals which offer party areas.

  9. Karen

    Keep it simple. Depending on the size of the graduation class, yours will not be the only party that people will attend. Borrow decorations from a relative or try Dollar tree. (Especially balloons) If the weather is nice plan for outdoors & picnic tables. Keep the menu simple. Bars or cupcakes, a salad and buns will be enough. Bottled water or lemonade. I didn’t serve coffee & no one asked for it or missed it. Include something special your graduate likes. I attended one where the graduate loved cold cereal & there was a cereal bar. Get a friend to help serve so you can visit with guests. Relax, enjoy your day & good luck!

  10. Michelle

    Costco helped me out when my son graduated from hs. We had 15 people (11 stayed 3 or more nights with us) so I had much more than just graduation day itself to prepare for. Since everyone was coming from out of state I couldn’t really ask them to bring food. I bought hotdogs, potatoe salad, chips for a quick dinner one night and made a huge taco salad one night. For graduation day we got pizza from Costco. I also ordered the cake from Costco. Lunch was cold cuts and breakfast was quick and easy with muffins (my aunt made and brought) and yogurt. Decorations were simple from the dollar store. One thing I made was a large poster board that included all the “first day of school pictures” from pre-k through senior year. We displayed it on a stand and everyone enjoyed seeing how he’d grown and changed throughout the years.

    • Julie D.

      I second everything in your post about Costco food and cake (love their wrap trays and cakes are delicious) and Dollar Tree decorations. I also love the pictures through the ages!

      • Michelle

        Costco is amazing. ๐Ÿ™‚ Made a hectic time a little less so. And their cakes are surprisingly delicious!

    • laureen

      LOVE COSTCO CAKES!!!!
      So much better than sam’s club. It has that weird food color taste.

  11. Brittney

    I went to a graduation party that only served pie. It was awesome!

  12. jan

    Our son graduated two yrs ago we had smoked pork and brisket asked family members to bring sides bought a huge ice cream cake from DQ the grads played horse shoes, swam and shot some hoops it was fun for all! I still can’t believe my baby is almost through his second year of college!!!!

  13. Mary

    Thanks for posting ideas. My daughter is graduating and we plan to keep it simple.

  14. Vivian

    Stock up on Target water and soda deals that Colin posts here. Also Olive Garden when they have a 15 or 20% coupon saves a lot and feeds a ton of people!!!

  15. Lyn

    Sometimes Collin will post a deal for a banner for around 10.00. I ordered one with all my daughters accomplishments listed on it with her picture. It was nice. Then I made 2 fold out posters (like the science fair boards) with her pictures on it starting from when she was in kindergarten and with notes the teachers had written about her throughout the years. Sometimes Collin will post a deal where you can get 100 pictures really cheap. The left over pictures I let my family take if they wanted.

    • Judy

      I keep hoping to see a deal on the banner this year. I remember seeing a couple on Hip2Save last year. I’ve been hunting but they’re so expensive. Any chance you remember the site you ordered from?

      • Carrie F.

        I gots really nice 6′ x 3′ one for $35. Hung on my porch for the week of graduation then hung it out for his party. The pics I added were crystal clear. From buildasign.com. I can forward my most recent email for 25% off what ever sign you choose, just email me. (Carrieprc1@aol.com)

  16. Linda

    I had a Mexican food bar, we cooked all the food ahead of time, taco meat (no pre-made taco meat, that stuff is nasty) shredded chicken, and fajita veggies (no one had to cook that day) and kept it warm in crock pots. I bought a huge can of liquid cheese, shredded cheese, shredded lettuce, tortillas ,chips and salsa from Gordon’s foods. For drinks I had a couple of 3 gal jugs that I put lemonade and ice water in. Dessert was cupcakes that I baked and decorated. Decorations from Dollar tree. Total cost…Around $125 for 80 ppl. Best thing? No one had to cook that day. (Kept food cold in bowls in a kiddie pool)

    • Lynn

      Judy, I second all the comments on a Taco Bar! First of all it is less expensive to serve as you don’t need a ton of protein but you can cook the meat or chicken in the slow cooker ahead and then just reheat the day of. As Linda said get all the other fixings for the bar pretty inexpensively at your local warehouse store. It’s a ton of fun to be able to “fix your own” tacos and everyone generally loves it. Cakes are cheaper at the warehouse stores, and dollar tree usually has good decorations. I do love the $10-$15 banner that Collin has posted on in the past as well. Nice backdrop for the party. Good luck whatever you do and savor that graduation party. You have earned the pleasure Mom!

  17. krystal

    When my husband graduated college I threw a graduation party with a taco bar! He could live off tacos so it was a nod to him but honestly it was super easy, fun and cheap. Plus we had tons of people who attended several grad parties that month and some even that weekend and they loved the change from the BBQ norm.

  18. Lisab

    We did the taco theme bar because my daughter loves it. We had mostaccioli also for different option. Go on pinterest for extra ideas. We dipped oreos in school colors. We made diplomas treats out of Pirouette cookies. I saw someone had a ice cream bar, use dry ice to keep it cold all day.

  19. melanieeee

    I held my daughter’s HS grad party at a local park with a pivilion. (About 100 people were there and I was on a budget.) I had to sign up to use it, but it was free. It was nice because it was at the lake & bathrooms were right there. So I didn’t have to worry about how clean my house was or how well the yard was groomed. Lol Preordered balloons at dollar tree, for center pieces on the table and got napkins plates & tablecloths.Got the cake & m&m cookies prepaid at Walmart and ordered when they were on sale a few weeks earlier. So this locked in the price. Also did this for the fried chicken at super Kmart & just put it in a roaster to keep it warm. Also to save I did made punch in a in my igloo cooler with a spiget . I think we had coffee and water also. HTH

    • Kamaya

      Fried Chicken @ Super Kmart? I’ve never heard of that. I wish I had one around here.

  20. Cathy

    I had a candy table. I borrowed jars from local friends and got all the candy super cheap from couponing. At that time there were coupons for Fannie May and the ladies at the store helped me get 3-4 pounds of mint meltaways for free :). I always get my cake at Sams club (people think I’m crazy but I don’t like the filling at Costco) which is under $20.

  21. Jordin

    For mine last year, we had it outside in my backyard which saved the most money. We used dollar store disposable silverware and plates. A family member made my cake. And also, we got somewhat of an RSVP system so we had a really close estimate of how much food to get so we didn’t overspend there. Hope that helps!

  22. Jeannie

    We’re renting a yurt at our local state park — sleeps 8, has electricity & frig, $75 for the night. Will cook out burgers & hot dogs, then s’mores, on the fire pit outside the yurt. Just cereal & fruit for breakfast. Best of all — we have to be out by 11:00 am, so a definite ending time. ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿป

  23. Ashley

    Check stores for Easter clearance candy and decor. Some things aren’t specific to Easter or spring and would work for any occasion. I buy most of my party supplies at Dollar Tree.

  24. Lisa

    FREEBIE!!!!

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    Shutterfly – one free 5×8 notebook, one 16×20 collage poster or one 16×20 print (glossy/matte), exp 5/31/17

    • Amanda

      Used! Thank you so much!

      • Lisa

        ๐Ÿ˜ƒ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿป

  25. Holly

    I am hosting a high school grad party for our oldest daughter and a sweet 16 party for our youngest less than a month apart. For one we are doing burgers and hotdogs and grilled chicken since I can catch most of that on sale. Also we are going to have a popcorn bar. I bought everything to serve it in at the dollar tree and found recipes for the sprinkles on Pinterest that should make it in expensive since most ingredients are those that most keep on hand. For the other party we are having a candy bar. I am hoping to get some deals with Easter clearance candy to use. My daughter wants chicken tenders and surpringly martins our local grocery store had much better prices on hot ready to go chicken tenders than all of the restaurants I called (like 60% of what everyone else quoted and they are good so definitely worth checking grocery store deli prices). I was pleasantly surprised at the nice graduation decorations I found at the dollar tree last week. Today at target I found some nice glass jars both clear and in various colors at 70% off for $.90 each to use for center pieces with flowers and they also had ribbon in the Easter clearance at 70% off which was also a pleasant surprise. We are going to serve tea and lemonade at both parties to keep the cost down.

  26. christy pautuk

    For my kids I did easy center pieces with mason jars and wild flowers. Also used alot of white Christmas lights outside and it was very festive. Also skipped bottle water and had water flavored with fruit and lemonade and icetea in cute containers.

  27. Judy

    Thanks everyone for the great ideas!

  28. Sue

    I went to one that was in the evening serving just dessert and coffee/tea bar. Simple, classy, and at a time when there was less conflicts with other parties.
    The para in my classroom did a waffle bar for her kid. Batter all made ahead and set out the irons (borrowed from neighbors and friends) for people to make their own. Add some fruit kebabs, juice/coffee and call it good!
    Me? I will be reserving a fun restaurant space. I want zero stress!

  29. Carrie F.

    Dollar Tree for balloons. You can order them early and they’ll have them ready for you on the day. I was advised to do that because they pull those balloons at the time of your order, and they won’t be sold out of the school colors.

    I got my food at Sams club. Pulled pork, potato salad, chips….etc.

  30. ResseCup

    Just threw one last year and here’s my tips..if you’re going to have games, start buying prizes now like when good deals are posted on here or stuff from the clearance rack, as far as food I did a nacho/taco bar, frozen chicken breast and a jar of salsa, 8 hours on low, shred it, serve with those $2 tortilla chips and toppings, get your decorations from the dollar tree, plain table clothes, a few centerpieces or make it a theme like a luau, bake a cake or cupcakes for dessert…and remember to don’t stress and have fun!!!!

  31. em

    Just had a party last month, did games & used rice cookers, waffle makers, griddles, and coffee makers as prizes. My guests loved them since they can use them at their dorms. They thought I was so generous with those prizes but little they know I got them from Kohls for less than $5 each when they offered rebates and Kohls cash during last year those deals were posted here.

    • Suzanne H

      Brilliant!!!

  32. Beth

    We went to a graduation party a few years ago that was a waffle bar. My daughter remembered it and asked for one at her graduation party. I’m buying all of the waffle ingredients at Aldi and making the batter a head of time. I found gluten free flour marked down at Sam’s the other day. So will have that for a few folks. I’ll just need to pick up the toppings. I’ve been collecting graduation decorations on clearance after graduation time is over for the past couple of years & I’m going to hit up the Dollar Tree too. I think it will be fun and affordable!

  33. Colleen D.

    Go to staples or FedEx office and print huge engineer black and whites of your child, these are poster sizes. The quality is not like a regular photo, but great bang for your buck, I think I paid $5 a piece or mine two years ago. These would also work great as a sign in poster.

  34. Colleen D.

    For a card box , I got cheap black 8 x 10 frames from the dollar tree and shiny school colored wrapping paper . I wrapped a square box in the wrapping paper cut a hole in the top. And attached a photo frame with different 8×10’s of my child to each of the four sides of the box. Cost $5 to make a card box. I put out his awards and did 3 sided presentation boards( from dollar tree) with pictures, and I spelled out his name by it with wooden letters that I picked up from micheals from their $1 bins.

  35. elaine K

    I had invitations made at a great sale from one of the photo card companies and used those instead of the school’s graduation announcements which saved a lot. I also made a cheap photo book with photos from her school years with lots of room for people to sign on the pages. I had grandparents who couldn’t attend sign it ahead of time which was a surprise for her. I got food from our local grocery store catering for the party and supplemented it with some Costco items. I used black plastic plates from Party City with paper white dinner napkins rolled to look like a scrolled diploma with ribbon that is one of her college colors. Solo cups were in the other color.

  36. Michelle

    I have been working on my daughter’s graduation party since last summer. My party will be in June. I rented out a shelter at a public park over a year ago. It was a small fee to secure the date and time. Every time since last summer that Shutterfly, TinyPrints, Snapfish had 10 free card promo, I have made up graduation announcements and graduation party invites. Ialso got all the address labels free from Shutterfly when they ran a special. Just paid for shipping on the card promotions. I got all my decorations last summer at various places (Target, Michaels, Dollar Tree and Party City) when the graduation stuff was on clearance for 75 percent off. I also bought the helium balloon tank at Michaels when I had a 60 percent off coupon. I just recently bought all the small cans of soda on a great deal at walgreens, bought custom M&Ms last week with a groupon for 50 percent off. I got a few jars of free salsa a few weeks ago with the Kroger free Friday deal. Asked a few friends get their salsa for me too. A friend at work got married last fall and had a large amount of mason jars. She gave me three cases of them for free. I have been spray painting them with the school colors and put matching glitter on the lower half of the jars with mod podge. They came out really nice. I am going to put plastic silverware in them. Also going to use some of them as centerpieces to put flowers in and some as candy jars for a candy bar table. I am a single mom on a budget and want to make it as nice as possible for my only kiddo ๐Ÿ™‚ I also got everying she will need for her college dorm room next year. I started shopping the clearance on back to college stuff last fall. I hope this helps someone that wants to plan ahead for next year and is on a budget like me.

    • Judy

      Wow…sounds like you are on your way to a great party. Great ideas and great planning

  37. Michelle

    Hard to beat Dollar Tree for party decorations (plastic tablecloths, plates, cups, spoons, forks, balloons, streamers, ect……) I got a nice paper banner at Walgreens at the last minute for under $20 with one of the current promotions. I like the idea of a slide show of some sort – maybe on a computer in a public space. I’m technically challenged, but maybe some way to project the slide show on a wall? Playlist music from an IPOD/speaker. I like the idea of a taco bar. Also a make-your-own sandwich option with different kinds of meats and cheeses with different cruditรฉ; A fresh fruit tray or salad. Disposable cameras on the table for memories.

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