This new guide will show everything you need to know about hosting an inexpensive birthday party idea for adults.
First, I’ll show WHAT makes a great party!
Then, we’ll talk inexpensive yet fun party themes for adults!
Finally, we’ll give you some ideas for places to have your birthday party if you don’t want to use your own home!
Sound good? Let’s dive in
Table of Contents
Inexpensive Birthday Party Ideas for Adults
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If you’re like me and are on a tight budget, then read on for some inexpensive (dare I say, cheap) birthday party ideas that will be a “cakewalk.” (Yes, I had to say it).
What Makes a Great Party?
Let’s start with the basics!
There are a few things that every great party has in common.
If you’re wondering “what makes a great party,” these elements are a must:
- Good People
- Good Eats & Drinks
- Fun Stuff to Do
The first point is free and the 3rd can be as well! If you’re planning a party on a budget, the middle point can be handled better than you may think.
1. Good People
Having the right crowd at any party can make it or break it – I’m sure we’ve all been to those events where we just weren’t clicking with the guest list. Unfortunately, it happens even with the most thought-out planning.
However, once you have figured out who you want to invite, it can be cheap. Say goodbye to those fancy invites that only get opened, misplaced, then eventually forgotten. We are in the 21st century where the digital age is upon us; so take advantage of it.
Set up a Facebook page for your big B-day celebration to invite your guests through. This not only allows your friends a chance to RSVP, but they can check out the guest list to see who will (and won’t) be there.
You can also use email to send out e-vites and reminders as the date approaches.
If you are still bent on using the paper invites, then visit the Dollar store for the less expensive ones.
2. Good Eats & Drinks
I may not remember every conversation I have at a party, but I will remember the food (good or bad).
We as a society love to eat, so when it comes to party food, you will have to move beyond a bowl of potato chips and some dip.
This is a good time to dust off those cookbooks or start doing a search on tasty party foods. Depending on the number of guests and your menu, you may want to buy in bulk to save some money.
If you don’t feel you can prepare an extensive menu, you can:
- Either focus on doing one dish very well
- Or several smaller dishes that stand out, like a yummy casserole and an upscale appetizer.
Drink ideas are a little easier, especially if you skip the cocktails and stick with mocktails. Alcohol is crazy expensive, and besides, if you serve it you have to worry about making sure all of your guests get home okay.
You can recreate just about every popular cocktail with non-alcoholic ingredients.
Our Gold Mint Mocktail is one of my favorites for a classy bash!
3. Fun Stuff to Do
If done right, you literally won’t have to spend a dime on fun stuff to do. This could be as simple as sharing good food with good friends.
If you want to amp things up a bit, but still stay on budget, you could project a movie on the wall of your apartment or living room.
Most often good people will take care of the fun stuff to do part; however, even the most well-intentioned parties can die hard.
If you see this happening, try these party entertainment ideas for adults:
These are coming back in style and can be quickly gotten off the net.
These are always good party fodder…if you have the right crowd.
While civilized debate can be fun for all, topics like politics and religion can get really heated and leave people feeling angry by the end of the party.
If your party is filled with like-minded people, then by all means, enjoy some fun debate.
If you have a mix of political ideologies, you might want to head off any major arguments before they start.
When worst comes to worst, drown them out with tunes! Which brings us to…
Got an old collection of dusty albums?
Go through them and relive some of the olden day tunes.
Even if you don’t have an amazing record collection, loading up a playlist and hitting the “dance floor” can be a fun way to pass time at a party.
Check out this playlist video for ideas!
Potluck Tasting Contest
Another great idea that combines good food with fun: host a potluck but make it a tasting contest!
Challenge your guests to bring their best dish, then give prizes away for different categories, like “So Spicy It Needs a Warning Label,” and “Most Satisfying for My Sweet Tooth.”
You can either make up categories ahead of time and send them out with your invite (or announce them on your party page) or make them up as you go along so that everyone wins something.
You don’t have to give away crazy prizes. Even cheap trophies from the dollar store are fun!
Now that you know what makes up a great party, let’s check out some fabulous inexpensive birthday party themes for adults!
8 Inexpensive Birthday Party Themes for Adults
Theme parties aren’t just for kids!
You can create some really unique birthday party ideas for adults by choosing a cool theme and putting your own twist on it.
Here are some of my favorites, plus ways to pull it off on a budget.
1. Passport to Fun Surprise Party
This is one of my favorite surprise birthday party ideas for adults!
Basically, your goal is to create the feeling of a whirlwind adventure around the world for the recipient.
Trust me, it’s not as expensive as it sounds, especially if you follow the plan below and enlist some help.
- First, find a few friends willing to go in on the party with you. The more the better, and not just because they’ll help you cut down on the cost!
- Assign a different country to each person. They need to come up with at least one type of food from that country as well as one unique decoration.
- When you send out the invites to other friends, politely ask that they bring along something unique to their favorite country. It could be something as simple as a special drink recipe (make sure to specify non-alcoholic if you don’t want alcohol at the party).
- Buy or make passport books and hand them out to all the guests when they arrive. Challenge guests to travel around the world and sample something from every country!
If you’re throwing this party solo, you can still save money.
Just choose a few different countries and make inexpensive recipes from each one. Try to find recipes that have ingredients in common to cut down on your grocery expenses.
For decorations, print out maps (or request free maps from tourism agencies) and use them to make your own table covers, banners, and more.
Use a world map to inspire your table arrangements. For example, North and South America off to the left, Europe and Africa in the middle, and so on.
2. Lost in a Good Book Costume Party
There are so many different directions that you can take with a literary party!
Choose one favorite book as a central theme, make it a genre party, or make it an “any book goes” bash!
Personally, I’d keep it open to all books since not everyone likes the same thing.
I’m crazy about Alice in Wonderland, for example, but not all of my adult friends share my passion.
Here are a few tips for a literary party:
- When you send out your invites, ask your guests to dress up as their favorite book character.
- For decorations, print out and blow up covers or pages of your favorite books to use for wall décor, placemats (laminate them) and so on.
- Make food inspired by your favorite books. Search for your favorite book + cookbook on Amazon. Like, “Alice in Wonderland cookbook.”
- For activities, play Book Charades or literary trivia.
3. Black and White Party
If you’re looking for classy party themes for adults, this is definitely it!
While many people think “black tie and ballgowns” when they hear “black and white party,” you can also turn it into a more casual (and less costly) event.
This type of party only has one rule: everything (including your guests’ outfits and the food) must be black, white, or both.
Here are some of my favorite ways to pull this off.
Buy black and white décor on Amazon or make your own decorations! For example, cut circles out of black and white poster board to create your own classy garland.
Stream old black and white movies on your TV or an outdoor projector, play B&W movie charades, or create a playlist from songs that have black, white, or both in the title.
You’ll find plenty of inspiration on Instagram! I love this one for décor ideas:
4. Open Mic Night
Take inspiration from your favorite night club and turn your party into a chance for your friends to strut their stuff! All you really need to pull this off is a microphone!
Decide whether you want your open mic night party to focus on a specific talent (like comedy or singing) or be more of a variety show (think America’s Got Talent).
If you opt for music, you will need to either rent a karaoke machine or download an app (and grab a good set of speakers). There’s also a YouTube channel dedicated to free karaoke songs.
When you send out your invites, let your guests know that they’re welcome to show off their talent.
I suggest mailing them out a little earlier than usual (at least a few weeks out) to give everyone time to prepare.
If you have shy friends (like me!) who don’t want to get up in front of the crowd, ask them to be judges! You can make your own award certificates in a Word program to hand out as prizes.
As for food, keep it simple. Think night club food, like wings, mozzarella sticks, sliders, and mocktails. Our Chutney, Cheese and Cranberry bites make a delicious yet easy appetizer!
5. Historical party themes
As far as unique party ideas for adults go, you can never go wrong with a historical-themed party.
There are literally thousands of years’ worth of possibilities!
Some of my favorite time periods for a historical party include:
- Ancient Egypt (think Anthony and Cleopatra)
- Ancient Greece (Toga, Toga, Toga!)
- Medieval Times
- The Roaring 20s
- 1980s Flashback Party
For food and décor, take inspiration from your chosen time. For example, for an Ancient Greece party, serve plenty of bread, figs, olives, and cheese.
For an 80s party, decorate with posters from 80s movies, music and television and grab some 80s candy to give out as favors.
Here are some ideas for a Roaring 20s party:
6. Year of Your Birth Party
Another one of my favorite surprise birthday party ideas for adults, throw a bash that celebrates the year of your recipient’s birth!
For example, I was born in 1975 (or, as my son calls it, when dinosaurs still roamed the earth). A quick Bing search of “1975” brings up plenty of results for inspiration! Jaws came out that year, so we could play that on TV during the party.
A playlist would include songs from Fleetwood Mac, Led Zeppelin, The Talking Heads and so on. Bonus points if you make a mixed tape to play the music, since the cassette recorder came out that year.
Check on YouTube for playlists from your year. I found this one for 1975:
Décor can be inspired by big fashion from the era. Orange, brown, and green were apparently very fashionable back then. Another idea: blow up baby pictures of the birthday girl or guy!
Instead of a guest book, make a giant poster board collage with events from the year and leave space throughout for guests to sign.
Make sure you include prices for different things, it’s fascinating to see how much they’ve changed!
7. Nostalgia Party
Miss the fun of throwing a kiddie party?
Here’s an idea! Look back on your childhood and pick your favorite party ever, then recreate it!
Everything old is new again, so this is easier than ever. For example, maybe you really loved your 10th Birthday Mermaid Party!
Recreate it with fun mermaid-inspired treats, ocean-themed décor, and more.
I was a summer baby, so most of my parties took place around a pool. Pool parties are perfect adults, children, and adults who want to feel like children again.
For party favors, give out the mini versions of the toys that were popular the year of your favorite party. Think tiny Etch-a-Sketchs, little Slinky toys, and Lisa Frank stickers!
8. Tea & Gardening Party
Combine your passion for gardening with a tea party for one of the classiest outdoor party ideas for adults. We have all the tips you need for the tea party part.
For the gardening part, invite friends who are as passionate about growing things as you are. Ask each guest to bring different seeds (or, depending on the time of year, sprouts from their own garden).
Grab some little seed starter pots and some soil, then let everyone put together their own ultimate garden to take home.
For food, serve tea party fare like cucumber sandwiches and, of course, tea.
Salads are also perfect for a gardening party, especially if you use local fruits and veggies. Bonus points if they come from your own garden. Try our Tomato & Cucumber summer salad with orange juice dressing!
Now that you have some fun themes to try, let’s talk party venues!
Places to have a birthday party for adults
If you don’t want to have your party at your house, there are plenty of places to have birthday parties for adults.
These range from locations that handle all of the details to places to rent for a DIY party.
Here are a few options from both categories.
All-inclusive birthday party places for adults
Many of the larger local restaurants in your area will most likely have a party room. Get recommendations from friends or just call around to find one in your budget.
2. Bowling Alleys
Bowling parties aren’t just for kids! Our local bowling alley has a dedicated party room. Parties include pizza, a certain number of games, and shoe rentals.
3. Escape Rooms
Escape rooms are crazy popular right now, and most of them host birthday parties. If you’re looking for unique birthday party ideas for adults, this is definitely a great way to go!
All-inclusive party venues have their upsides and downsides.
On the upside, you don’t have to do any of the work, or clean your house before and after the party!
The downside? They can be a bit more expensive overall, and you’re kind of locked into a specific theme.
If you want more control over the party, or want to keep your budget down, let’s talk DIY birthday party venues.
DIY Birthday party venues
1. Your local VFW or American Legion
I threw my mom’s 50th birthday party at our local VFW. They offered both half and whole hall rentals. I went with the half because it was spacious enough for the 50+ people we invited.
If you’re a member, you’ll get a better rate, but even without membership it was pretty reasonable.
Just keep in mind that you’ll most likely be responsible for all the decorating and for cleaning up after the party.
Most hotels have conference rooms that they rent out for parties. You may even be able to get a discount if some of your out-of-town guests are staying at the hotel.
If you’re going with one of our outdoor birthday party ideas for adults, your local park is the perfect venue.
I’ve thrown several parties for my son at parks. Table reservations were just about $5 per table. Can’t beat that!
The downside to a park party, of course, is sharing the space with other people. I suggest either choosing a park off the beaten path or finding a huge one that has different sections. State and national parks are ideal for that.
If you think renting a place is more expensive than throwing it in your own home, consider this: my mom spends an estimated $200 or more on cleaning supplies before our family parties!
Granted, she’s kind of crazy when it comes to cleaning, but seriously, it’s a lot cheaper to just get our family together someplace that isn’t the middle of my house!
Getting the most out of your inexpensive birthday party is not all that difficult.
Think back to a party you went to where you had the best time. Chances are it wasn’t the bar, games or even food, that planted it into your memory, but rather the folks you shared it with.
The secret to executing a great party on a budget is recognizing it’s the subtle things that will be remembered long after the candles are blown out, and the cake is gone.
“Happy Birthday” doesn’t have to mean “budget buster.”
There are inexpensive birthday party ideas for adults that will make anyone feel like a million bucks –
without you having to spend BIG $$$.
If you have any inexpensive birthday party ideas for adults you’d like to share, feel free to drop us a line in the comment section. We’d love to hear from you!