How to Throw a Sweet 16 Party on a Budget

Budgeting Tips for Your Sweet 16 Party

Simply decorated homemade cupcakes look just as festive as an expensive cake from a professional bakery.
Simply decorated homemade cupcakes look just as festive as an expensive cake from a professional bakery.

You might be completely overwhelmed at the thought of planning this party, but it's possible to throw a terrific 16th birthday party that doesn't involve extravagant expectations. Here are several tips for keeping your budget in check:

  • Prioritize. Ask your child what's most important -- a big guest list, the venue, food, music or maybe the décor -- and pick one area to splurge (just a little) on. If having lots of guests would mean serious skimping on other areas of the event, you could spring for dinner at a fancy restaurant for just a few friends. Remind your kid that a smaller guest list could mean a nicer party.
  • Use an online party budgeting tool to create a budget and track expenses.
  • Don't hire a professional photographer. Put single-use cameras (make sure they have a flash if the event's at night or indoors) throughout the party space for guests to be the picture-takers, or ask attendees to bring their own cameras and upload the pictures to a photo-sharing Web site. Then you can create an affordable photo album of the best images.
  • Professional entertainment can be prohibitively expensive, so forget about hiring a band or DJ. And even if you're very specific about the songs you want to hear, they can sometimes deviate from the plan. With iTunes and a laptop computer, iPod, iPad or iPhone, you can play the exact songs you want in the exact order you want, for very little money.
  • If you're on a budget, a surprise party probably isn't the way to go. It's better to spend your money on things you know your child wants than to reveal a surprise that might not be exactly what he or she envisioned.
  • In terms of food, a buffet is cheaper than a sit-down dinner, but you don't necessarily have to serve a meal. You could get away with just desserts and punch at a nighttime party. And borrow plates, cups, utensils and serving platters from friends instead of buying them. Also, forgo the elaborate cake from the expensive bakery and make your own cake or cupcakes.
  • Ask relatives for donations to the party fund instead of gifts. If you can think of any item that can be borrowed or bartered for, go for it. If you can enlist the services of friends and family, do it. Never decline the offer of help from anyone, no matter what form it takes.

Once you've finalized a budget, it's time to go about deciding what the theme of the party will be.