11 Ways to Throw a March Madness Party on the Cheap

BASKETBALL PARTY TIME

March Madness is quickly approaching and throwing a party to cheer for any of the 68 teams in the weeks-long tournament is what a devoted fan of college basketball does. From decorations and themed baked goods to snacks and booze, the cost of hosting can throw your budget out of bounds. But as Cheapism.com points out, there are other strategies in the playbook.

INVITATIONS

Forget those old-fashioned paper invitations. These days there are numerous ways to to send free invitations online and even track attendance. You can customize many of these party announcements with colors, patterns, and themes, all the while eliminating the expense of appropriately festive invites.

SELF-CATER

Ordering food for the big day may be easy and convenient, but it will end up costing a lot of dough. Score big-time savings by creating your favorite game-day foods at home. Onion dip and chips, popcorn, pizza, and deli sandwiches are all easy and inexpensive to make. Not only will you save by cooking at home, you'll also end up with more food to go around.

CALL A POTLUCK

There's no rule that says the person who hosts must provide all the food and drinks, which can add up quickly. By making everyone responsible for one or two dishes, everyone shares the expense and no one carries the ball alone. These days we all have a signature recipe that's fun to show off, so you'll also get a variety of delicious foods to enjoy.

BUY BULK

It's a good time to head to a bulk store like Costco or Sam's Club to stock up on all-purpose party goods, such as napkins, paper towels, beverages, and nibbles. Buying these party essentials in bulk, and especially at wholesale clubs, ensures you have enough of everything on hand without spending the full marked-up retail price.

BAKE YOUR OWN BALL

No March Madness party is complete without the novelty dessert shaped like a basketball. Whether you go for individual cupcakes, one big cake, or decorated cookies, pull out your apron and bake up a storm. The Iinternet is littered with recipes for DIY basketball-themed desserts and it's a fun way to learn a new recipe or cake decorating skill. By baking at home you'll spend about half of what you would if you special-ordered a similar treat from the bakery.

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DECORATIONS

Orange is the color typically used to decorate a March Madness party room. But there's no need to double down on the high-priced seasonal decorations and favors. Many party stores have a discount section where old orange Halloween cups, streamers, and plates await your purchase; dollar stores are also a motherlode of inexpensive party décor and supplies.

USE REAL PLATES AND UTENSILS

It's so tempting to use paper plates and plastic cups for parties, but aside from being ecologically questionable, these pieces can take a toll on your party budget. It may take an extra hour or so to clean up, especially if you don't have a dishwasher, but you'll avoid wasting resources and money.

PUNCH

Concocting a punch is a good way to use up booze that's sitting in your liquor cabinet. Many punch recipes combine different spirits and mixers, so it's the perfect time to use the last half of a bottle of vodka and even frozen-juice concentrates. Punch goes a long way and can keep a large crowd happy without putting a drag on your wallet. Use a recipe as a guide for optimal flavor.

SKIP THE EXPENSIVE WINE

Even for wine connoisseurs, March Madness is not the time to splurge on the pricey labels. The focus is on the excitement of the game and there's not much room for appreciating tannins and body. These days it's easy to find plenty of good wine at your local shop for under $10. Think cava or vinho verde for white or montepulciano d'abruzzo for red.

MAKE IT A KEGGER

Beer and basketball are notoriously good companions. If you know you'll be hosting a beer-drinking crowd, preorder a mini keg. Aside from saving money on the overall quantity, a small keg adds a festive feel to the big-game-day party.

POOL GOES TO THE HOUSE

Bracketing is one of the ritual aspects of March Madness that many fans enjoy. Sweeten the deal by assigning half of the winner's pool to the party host and the other half to the winner. This token of thanks will help shave points off the host's outlay.

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