How to Throw a Party When You’re Broke

Read this before your next attempt to celebrate.

Come, sit by me. Let’s talk parties. You have a birthday coming up? What about the season finale of your favorite television show? Well, I’ve been told I have a Type A personality when it comes to only two things: traveling and throwing parties. If I host a shindig, I turn into a crazed perfectionist who makes to-do lists and calendars that important executives can only dream of. I research, research, research until the contacts in my eyes dry out. But don’t be afraid. I am here to help you. I’m going to give you some tips on how to become the hostess with the mostest without having to blow all of your cash because let’s get real—this ain’t no Sweet Sixteen.

Now hand me the Visine.

You can turn a casual hangout into a totally awesome party with three simple things: music, food, and props. Give me a Hulk Hogan mask, a pizza, and Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy” and there will be a dance-off in a matter of minutes. I promise you dat. Of course, there are times when you are going to want to go hardcore and pre-plan, so let’s break it down to essentials.


Come up with one that’s unique and memorable. Seriously, how many ’80s-themed parties do you think you’ll attend in your life? An obscene amount, trust me. Think outside the box. Start with something you’re obsessed with. Do you like miniature things? Throw a party where everything is teeny-tiny and your guests wear little hats! Is Weetzie Bat your girl gang’s favorite book? Have your friends dress up like Dirk, Witch Baby, and the whole crew. Wait. HOLD THE PHONE: what if you threw a psychic party where everyone came dressed as a famous medium?? You can go as Miss Cleo or Sylvia Browne (which, as you can see, only requires Lee Press-On Nails). Dudes can come as Edgar Cayce or, if they have an impressive beard, Nostradamus. I would definitely be the fabulous Walter Mercado.

The mini cupcakes I made for the American Horror Story finale!


Decorations can make an otherwise normal space look really, really special. This is where 99-cent stores, craft boutiques, and color printers will come in handy. Check the sales bin at your local fabric store. Maybe you’ll come across some purple velvet on clearance to use as a tablecloth for the psychic party. If you don’t have tarot cards, draw some yourself and scatter them around. Type up some lines from the Weetzie Bat books and print them out, decorate with glitter, laminate, and use as coasters. Also, I will find any reason to print out a picture of someone’s face and make a popsicle mask out of it.

Every girl needs a lady chalice.


Good music is the heartbeat of every party, so make sure you have that shit locked down ASAP. Ask someone whose taste you trust to DJ. Do you know an awesome chick band? Are you in one? If you can throw a party and also be the entertainment–oooh, girl. It’s also pretty easy to make mixes these days. Instead of burning CDs like our ancestors did, you can create a playlist on Spotify or iTunes. And if you are truly dedicated to your theme, make sure you pick songs that go along with it. For the psychic party, I’d choose Neon Indian’s “Psychic Chasms,” YACHT’s “Psychic City,” Scorpions’ “Fortune Teller,” the Killers’s “Read My Mind,” and “The Future” by the Drums. I believe no party is complete without Biggie Smalls and Michael Jackson, but whatever you do, make sure to end the night with Pulp’s “Common People.”


I’m sorry, but I hate a party where there isn’t food. Are the hosts trying to starve me? If they expect me to bust a move on the dance floor to Crystal Waters’s “100% Pure Love,” they better be providing me with some fuel. For the teeny-tiny party, you can make mini-burgers! Or mini-doughnuts! Recipes of all kinds are easy to find. These cotton candy cupcakes look super cute AND delicious. And “devils on horseback” have an awesome name, so you have to try them. My friends threw a “balls party” once where everything was shaped like a ball (cochinos, I know) and I made these. There are also books (you can find them at a library) to aide in your journey. For example, my favorite comedienne ever, Amy Sedaris, came out with a really beautiful-slash-weird book called I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence that any aspiring hostess should take a gander at if she wants to become a legend. Related: one of my future get-togethers is going to be a Midnight Cartoon Sandwich Party, where my friends and I will attempt to make one of those preposterous sandwiches that result when Garfield or Scooby fixes a “midnight snack.”


Most people don’t bother thinking of ways to keep their guests entertained since everyone will be socializing anyway, but it’s always fun to force people to interact. I love a craft corner. Get some supplies and make some of Jamie’s amazing crafts! Or candy collars and cute crowns! That way, the guests will have something to take home that will always remind them of your INFAMOUS SUPER RAD PARTY and it’s way less of an ordeal than goody bags. And if you’re into playing games, might I suggest Apples to Apples? Or, for the more adventurous, exquisite corpse, which is an adaptable parlor game, but mainly involves writing a sentence on a piece of paper, passing it to the person next to you, asking them to make a drawing based on your sentence and then passing that drawing along to the guests to write their own interpretations (folding the paper to conceal each answer). It sounds confusing, but the results are hilarious!


You muthas don’t fool me. I know everyone will be using their iPhones and uploading photos immediately to Instagram and Facebook. But photos that you can HOLD are even cooler! Get a Polaroid or some disposable cameras. Set up a makeshift photobooth. Decorate a little corner of the room to go along with your theme. You can get low-budget crazy with some cardboard and spray paint or print out a bunch of photos and make a collage. Have some props ready. No, not like a can of corn, but the inflatable guitar and crazy glasses that you bought at the 99-cent store.

OK! I hope some of the above ideas will inspire the BEST PARTY EVER. Just remember, you don’t have to be a perfectionist to host a great soiree. The only thing that matters is having fun with your friends. Well, that and making sure nobody spikes the punch. We don’t want anyone doing “The Urkel.” ♦


  • youarebananas January 3rd, 2012 11:40 PM

    what! i want to go to a marie party! best ideas evar!

  • Laia January 3rd, 2012 11:42 PM


  • Sonja January 4th, 2012 12:08 AM

    Such good ideas! I love coming up with ideas for themed parties and this post only inspired me to come up with more. Thanks Rookie, I will be putting this advice to good use.

  • Anaheed January 4th, 2012 12:08 AM

    This post made me hungry.

  • Brit January 4th, 2012 12:13 AM

    This is genius. I’m deffo having a makeshift photo booth at my next party. Oh the laughs we’ll have…

  • Marie January 4th, 2012 12:32 AM

    I want to confess the truth about this article. I am actually a BIG FAN of the dance move known as The Urkel…

  • brynntheredonethat January 4th, 2012 12:44 AM

    Sylvia Browne!!! I love her.

  • emile January 4th, 2012 12:48 AM

    oh my god, i need to make friends so i can throw a party and play exquisite corpse. NEED to. this post is epic in a way nothing before or since can compare.

  • jessejames January 4th, 2012 12:59 AM

    I looooove Pulp!!! Jarvis Cocker+Chloe Sevigny=Best Celebrity couple everr

  • salma January 4th, 2012 1:05 AM

    omg thank you! best ideas! xoxo

  • jinkies January 4th, 2012 1:19 AM

    Great ideas!
    How funny, though. Both games mentioned were the ones we played at the last party I went to.

  • Arabelle January 4th, 2012 1:25 AM

    man, i hate tate but also love him but mostly hate him! he’s such a terrible person! it’ll be weird next season now that they’re leaving the old cast behind apparently. :(

    • WitchesRave January 4th, 2012 9:40 AM

      Apparently Ryan Murphy said that some of the actors are returning bu they’re gonna be playing new roles with a new plot and location, if Evan Peters doesnt return, some harm may happen to Mr. me!

    • Marie January 4th, 2012 12:36 PM

      I KNOWWWW. I’m scared about the second season! I ended up loving all of them, GOOD AND EVIL. Jessica Lange!! How can we go on without her!

  • juliette January 4th, 2012 1:31 AM

    i have to agree with you there marie, ALWAYS END A PARTY WITH PULP. it is the number 1 rule. should be right up the top of this guide.

  • Mariah January 4th, 2012 1:32 AM

    My birthday is this Saturday! I haven’t had a party in years but this sounds great for my 17th! Especially the disposable cameras and decor ;) Thanks!

  • Jenny January 4th, 2012 4:39 AM

    Can you throw the next ROOKIE PARTY? I would cream my panties with party-happy!

  • Marguerite January 4th, 2012 5:45 AM

    YAY- the killers made Rookie! now i think i can make it threw school today!
    just had my bday – deff gonna try the photo booth idea

  • WitchesRave January 4th, 2012 9:38 AM




  • RockHatesMiriam January 4th, 2012 10:51 AM

    Having space hoppers and hula hoops just randomly lying around.. Always a giggle…Also twister is also another good party game..
    For my Xmas party last year I filled different size wine glasses and goblets with candy and ribbons and gave them to everyone!!

  • soybrain January 4th, 2012 3:42 PM

    aw, my birthday was in november and I didn’t have a party ’cause I knew we would all sit in my couch and eat pizza and watch a movie. too bad I didn’t read this awesome article before

  • Adrienne January 4th, 2012 9:08 PM

    Hahah thanks for this article!

    I just had my Sweet 16 last month. We went to the zoo at night (they had a special exhibit and stuff).

    Yes!! I love Apples to Apples! Best game ever.

  • neon_rattail January 4th, 2012 10:55 PM

    I’d love to go to a party with tiny food and a craft corner! My birthday is coming soon and aside from the rainbow layer cake I’ll be making I now want a craft station to make some kind of personalized parting gift. Brainstorming begins!

    p.s. The tuxedo shirt/dress you’re wearing in the top pic is ADORABLE. You need a tiny top hat!


  • Sea goddess January 27th, 2012 11:54 PM

    Perfection has reached it’s maximum
    AHS + RookieMag