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The Average Cost of a Graduation Party Is $1,128. Here’s How to Throw the Same Party for Less

College graduates throwing mortarboards into the air.

Image source: Getty Images

If someone you love is nearing graduation, you're probably quite proud. And, if you're anything like me, you may also be concerned about putting together a graduation party that properly honors your graduate. You can do that without breaking the bank.

Last year, FinanceBuzz set out to discover how much it costs to throw the “average” graduation party. To understand what “average” looks like, a FinanceBuzz team put together a list of 60 items necessary to host a cookout-style graduation party. They included everything, from food and drinks to decorations. Final calculations were based on a party size of 60.

Costs varied a bit by state, but overall, they came up with an average of $1,128. If you don't have an extra $1,128 in your checking account, you may be looking for a way to cut costs. Here, we offer you five ways to do so.

Team up

My husband and I grew up in the same area. Where we come from, graduation parties aren't a thing. Neither of us knew anyone who'd ever had one, and our parents never threw one for us. By the time our boys graduated high school, we'd moved to another state where graduation parties were very much a “thing.” That said, we didn't know what we were doing.

Our first son made it easy on us by requesting we invite a few of his closest friends for dinner at a great restaurant. No fuss, no muss. It was splendid.

Our younger son was invited to about 1,000 other graduation parties and wanted one of his own. Fortunately, his best friend's mother suggested we do a combo party. I cannot tell you how quickly I accepted that offer.

The boys invited family and friends. There was a lot of overlap of acquaintances, making it convenient for their friends to hit two parties simultaneously. We went halfsies on everything, from the small fee we paid to rent the local community center to food and drink. We even split the cost of decorations. The cake featured both boys' faces, which was fine with them. It turns out that 18-year-old guys aren't that fussy about cake.

All in, we each spent around $500. More importantly, the kids had a lot of fun.

Don't pay for a venue

Other than my son's party, my favorite graduation get-together was held in someone's very ordinary backyard. Not only was everyone relaxed, but the host family was not on the clock like they would have been if they'd rented a venue. It was great to be able to kick back and unwind during such a busy time of year. Truth be told, it was the only party we took our time to leave.

Another benefit of hosting a party in your backyard (or the backyard of a friend or family member)? There's minimal need for decoration. With a hall or community center, you have at least four walls just begging to be dressed up. When you're outdoors, you may have a tree or two.

Finally, if you're nervous about the weather, rent a large tent for the day or look into buying one. For example, Walmart offers a 10′ x 30′ tent with five removable walls for $110.

Forget about fancy invitations

It's 2023. No one in your life will clutch their pearls if you send digital invitations rather than paper. Sites like and make it easy to create precisely the invitation you want and keep track of RSVPs — all while being eco-friendly.

Don't forget about rewards points

No matter which credit card I use, I always imagine the points going toward our next trip. It's come in handy. The problem is, I sometimes forget I can redeem those points to pay for extras, like graduation parties. If you regularly use a rewards credit card and have stacked up some points, see how much they're worth. They may take a bite out of your party expenses.

Make it an afternoon party

If you're hoping to save money, afternoon parties have some advantages. The first is that people don't expect you to serve anything fancy. Hamburgers and hot dogs make perfect sense. The other is that adults are less likely to expect you to serve alcohol.

We didn't offer alcohol at my son's graduation party because the place was swarming with kids. However, some adults are not very adult-like about a dry party. If that's the case, they will (hopefully) be less crabby about it if they have somewhere else they need to be after they leave your party.

If I could go back in time, I'd tell myself to stop worrying so much. Instead of worrying about impressing people or making everyone happy, I would take the time to enjoy the little things in life, like my child's graduation party.

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