How To Throw a Retirement Party on a Budget |Top 10 Ideas

by Sarah De Winne

One of the ways to throw a retirement party on a budget is to make it a small event. Throwing a small retirement party can be more personal, more memorable, and less expensive than a large retirement celebration. 

Money-Saving-Ideas
Money-Saving-Ideas

We recently planned and hosted our own small wedding on a budget, and it was a huge success with our family and friends!  Our guests were completely unaware of our small budget but all of them loved the food and entertainment and commented about how personal and informal the day had been.

We understand that in these days of rising inflation, the basic costs involved in throwing a retirement party can soon add up for the host.  So, to help you keep costs low but keep the feel-good factor high, below is a handy list of 10 money saving ideas and tips about how to throw a retirement party on a budget.

1. Find a Free Venue

Free-Venue
Free-Venue

One of the most expensive costs associated with throwing a party is the venue.  If you are planning a retirement party on a budget, it is important to find a free venue.  This will save you hundreds if not thousands!

Free venues could include your own home, the home of a friend or family member or the office.  We hosted our small wedding in our backyard with a modest marquee. 

Please don’t be shy about asking for help from others if you don’t have space in your home.  Family and friends with a suitable venue will usually be happy to help and open their doors so that the retiree has a memorable celebration.

2. Shrink the Guest List

Small-Guest-List
Small-Guest-List

It sounds obvious but if you are throwing a retirement party on a budget, keep the guest list small!  The more people you invite, the more expensive the retirement party will be.  Remember that small retirement parties have the benefit of being more personal and more memorable so don’t go crazy with the guest list! 

Take time to think about the retiree carefully.  When compiling the guest list, choose close family, friends and co-workers who have a genuine connection with the retiree and their working career or life.  This will ensure that there is a warm atmosphere at the retirement party.

3. Don’t Blow the Budget!

Piggy-Bank-Budget-and-Save
Piggy-Bank-Budget-and-Save

Once you have chosen where to hold your retirement party, it is important that the host sets a budget and sticks to it. 

Make a list of all the things you will need to pay for and then decide how much of your budget you are going to spend for each category (eg. invitations, food, entertainment, etc).  This will help you prioritise spending on what is important.  If you are planning a retirement party on a budget, keep reading for ideas and tips about how you can save money on some of the things on your list.

To help share the costs of the retirement party, you could ask for contributions from guests.  Not everyone feels comfortable about doing this and it is probably easier in an office situation.  People are usually willing to contribute towards food and drink for a co-worker’s retirement party to celebrate this important milestone in life.

4. Save the Green Stuff (and the Planet!) with Email Invitations

Email-and-Online-Invitations
Email-and-Online-Invitations

Invitations can be really expensive whether you buy them in a retail outlet or design and print them at home for yourself.  In the end, invitations just end up being thrown in the trash (or hopefully the recycling box!), so avoid wasting money on these items.

If you are planning a retirement party on a budget, think about sending email invitations or using a free online invitation service to save money and the environment!  It is easy to compile a list of email addresses of the invitees and send them an email invitation that you have designed yourself in a matter of minutes.

If you are stuck for ideas about how to word your retirement invitation, you will find plenty of suggestions in our useful article on How to Write the Best Retirement Party Invitation.

5. Ditch Expensive Catering Companies and DIY

Cold-Mediterranean-Sharing-PlatterPlatter
Cold-Mediterranean-Sharing-Platter

Another way to save hundreds if not thousands is to do your own catering for the retirement party.  This does not mean that you must prepare all the food yourself.  If you ask around, you will find a team of family members, friends and co-workers who have hidden cooking talents and are willing to help!  Keep the cooking team small and share up the jobs making the most of people’s skills.

If you decide to opt for DIY catering for your retirement party on a budget, keep the food simple.  To save money, plan ahead by creating a food and drink menu that includes plant-based options.  Current catering trends include canapés, charcuterie boards and sharing menus which are ideal for a retirement party on a budget.  For more inspiration about retirement party food, our post about the Best Retirement Party Food Ideas That Will Impress the Guests will help you.

Home-Made-Retirement-Cakes
Home-Made-Retirement-Cakes

Remember to ask around to see who is great at home baking.  You can save a lot of money by baking your own retirement cake and you can serve this instead of costly desserts!  Before you decorate your retirement cake, consult our free and comprehensive guide to choose your wording from the 99 Best Retirement Cake Sayings.

Another way to save money on food at a retirement party is to avoid throwing the party at a time when people expect to eat a main meal.  Make it clear on the email invitation what food will be provided during the retirement celebration (eg. simple appetizers, snacks and desserts).  Guests will then know how much they need to eat in advance of attending the retirement party and will not arrive with false expectations and be disappointed.

6. Opt for Big Pitchers of Cocktails or Non-Alcoholic Drinks

Pitcher-of-Drink
Pitcher-of-Drink

Alcohol is another big cost associated with any party.  If you are planning a retirement party on a budget, consider making big pitchers of party drinks.  This will save you a lot of money as you will not need to buy lots of different alcoholic drinks.  To save even more money, choose cocktails with one alcoholic ingredient that are diluted with non-alcoholic mixers (eg. Mojito, Pimm’s, Sangria, etc). Find more inspiration about big batch pitcher cocktails, click here.

Another way to save money is to serve non-alcoholic drinks at the retirement party rather than alcoholic drinks.  There is a growing trend for non-alcoholic drinks, and this would be a great choice for a health-conscious retiree.  You can save money by limiting the choice of drinks and opting for big batches of non-alcoholic drinks.

To save even more money, you could ask guests to bring their own drinks (alcoholic or non-alcoholic) to the retirement celebration.  This is another great way of keeping costs down when you are throwing a retirement party on a budget.

7. Get Crafty with Hand-Made Decorations

Craft-Materials
Craft-Materials

We all know that buying decorations can quickly add up.  One way of saving money is to use your crafting skills and make your own decorations.  There are plenty of online tutorials about how to make decorations using relatively inexpensive materials such as tissue paper.  For free and invaluable advice about color schemes to complement your retirement party, make sure you check out the inspiring ideas in our post called What Colors are Good for a Retirement Party.

When throwing a retirement party on a budget, you could also theme your decorations cheaply (or for free!) by using items that relate to the retiree’s working life or a hobby they enjoy.  You could use existing items from the retiree’s workplace (eg. classroom equipment) or their home (eg. fishing gear or tennis kit).

Another idea to save money with decorations is to go to thrift shops or purchase inexpensive items that can be re-used rather than thrown away after the event.  For my small wedding, I managed to buy some very cheap tall glass vases, then filled them with water and added some gel beads, faux pearls, waterproof LED lights and a single pink Gerbera flower.  The decorations were simple but effective.  I gave some of the vases away as gifts and am still using the remaining vases in my home today.

8. Mix Your Own Music Playlist

Music-Playlist
Music-Playlist

Rather than hiring a DJ or disco, a simple and quick way to save money when throwing a retirement party on a budget is to compile your own music playlist and play it through speakers at the party.  Choosing the songs for the retirement party is also a great way of personalizing the event.  To help you with some ideas, read our article about the Best Retirement Songs which is organized into useful categories to get you started.

Hiring live musicians or a band is costly.  However, if you like the idea of live music at your retirement party, ask friends and family if they know anyone who sings or plays in a band.  If they are just starting out, they may jump at the chance of performing for the retiree for free!

9. Plan Free Entertainment

Map-of-the-World
Map-of-the-World

Like music, entertainment can add atmosphere to a retirement party.  However, if you are planning a retirement party on a budget, hiring professional entertainers will break the bank!  However, all is not lost.  if you get creative, you can still provide entertainment without spending any money.

Silly retirement games are a fun and free way of making a retirement party memorable.  All you need is a little time to come up with some ideas and to set the games up.  You can link games to the retiree’s hobbies (eg. guessing the number of golf tees in a jar) or their future plans (eg. pinning an aeroplane on a travel destination on a world map). 

Alternatively, quizzes about the retiree’s working life or about the decade they were born are always popular.  My father loves making up quizzes, so I would task this job to him!  For more ideas, check out our post about How Do You Make a Retirement Party Fun.

10. Give More for Less With a Collective Gift

Collective-Retirement-Gift
Collective-Retirement-Gift

Buying a retirement gift can be expensive for each of the guests who attend the party.  In addition, the retiree will receive a large number of small retirement gifts and there is the risk of duplication.  To avoid this and save money for everyone, why not set up a collection for a joint retirement gift?

Online collections are easy to set up and to manage.  Contributors can contribute however much they want to the collection and can remain anonymous should they wish. 

The other great thing about online collections is that each guest can write a comment about the retiree, and these can be printed out and added to a joint card.   A substantial joint present can be given thanks to the money raised from the joint collection.

Best-Things-in-Life-are-Free
Best-Things-in-Life-are-Free

Finally, always remember that the best things in life are free. At the end of the day, it is the free things that will make your retirement party memorable – people and laughter! Spending a fortune on a retirement party will not guarantee its success.

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