- BYO...Make it a pot luck and have people help with a side dish. Spiffy things up & choose a theme like foods that start with L...foods that are red...foods that don't require forks. It seems less mooch & more more mood-setting that way.
- Brew it up right. Instead of spending money on expensive and BAD FOR YOU sodas...brew up some tea. Family size teabags are 2 bags per gallon. You can reserve pitchers & make sweetened or unsweetened. I sometimes fancy up my gallons of iced tea with a single bag of flavored herbal tea steeped with the regular teabags. Try mint or ginger tea.
- Set a specific end time. Partying into the night might be fun once in a while...but if you set a specific end time, then you don't run out of refreshments & have to go racing to the more expensive (but more convenient) corner store instead of the bigger grocery.
- Snack light. Pretzels are less expensive than chips, and not covered in greasy oil. Little bowls of raisins can replace M&Ms. Fresh salsa is cheaper per pound than the pre-made stuff & it's easy to personalize. Salsa is really just a mix of chopped tomato & onion (canned tomatoes are pretty inexpensive & often come in different flavors or even heat intensity) and your preference of herbs. Cilantro, cumin, garlic (okay, not an herb)...
- Homemade dips can also be easy with a little bit of sour cream or low-fat/no-fat yogurt and a soup mix.
- Buying naked chicken wings to cook & flavor yourself is also usually cheaper than ordering from a deli or specialty restaurant.
Enjoy your fun...and clean up as you go so you're not in the kitchen until midnight.