I recently moved out of an apartment and into a condo. For a single guy like me, that means one thing: More parties at my place! My condo is the unofficial pregame and party headquarters for half a dozen of my closest friends. I love entertaining, and now that I don’t have to worry about a landlord, it’s easier than ever. But it’s also costlier than ever.
While saving on food is often a big priority, you can save money at the liquor store too. I hate spending money at the liquor store, so I came up with a few tricks to save cash while still making sure everyone has a good time and doesn’t think of me as stingy.
Don’t Stock Your Liquor Cabinet
I have hosted a few cocktail parties, but learned that they can quickly become a money drain. Having the ability to cook up a wide variety of drinks means you need a fully stocked liquor cabinet, mixers, and garnishes.
If you come up with a short drink list, you can serve great mixed drinks without a full arsenal of liquors. Just before your party, look at the sales for the biggest local liquor stores, as they often have lower prices to begin with than the small shop down the street. Find what brands of vodka, gin, tequila, or whisky is on sale. Go buy a couple of the biggest size bottles to get the lowest cost per ounce.
How to Do It:
I had a half dozen friends over for a recent night of fun, and I decided our drinks of the night were going to be tequila based. I bought one bottle of Margaritaville Gold Tequila (1.75L) for $20. Then I bought a bottle of margarita mix for $5 and a bag of ice for $2 for frozen margaritas. I also bought a gallon of generic orange juice for $2 and grenadine for $5 so I could make tequila sunrises. Add in a couple 2 liters of Coke for those who don’t drink and you are at $40.
If you stock an entire liquor cabinet to host a cocktail party, you will easily spend over $160. Having a short drink list saves about $120.
Buy Discount Brands and Sales
Don’t worry much about the brand. Your guests are drinking for free, so they have no right to complain, and mixed drinks dilute the bad taste of cheap liquor more than liquor. Serving shots is expensive, as they go fast and people drink more of them.
Next, look up drink recipes on one of the many drink apps or websites you can get to for free. Pick something fun that most people will enjoy. Don’t worry about catering to the picky folks. As long as most people are happy you are good to go.
Find two drink recipes that use the booze you just bought on sale. Whether you are making margaritas and tequila sunrises for your guests or decide on vodka tonics and vodka cranberries, you only need to buy mixers for two cocktails.
How to Do It:
In Colorado, we can’t buy alcoholic beverages over 3.2% alcohol at the grocery store or a warehouse club, so I went to the local discount liquor store and took a look at the sales. That doesn’t even take extra effort to plan out, so you have no excuse to waste money on more expensive brands.
A 750ml bottle of my favorite name brand vodka, Absolute, cost $20. Finlandia, another premium brand, cost $15. That is an easy $5. For mixed drinks, I found a bottle of the discount brand Skoal for $6.99. I wouldn’t use it for shots, but it works just fine in a screwdriver or Vodka Redbull.
For the picky friends mentioned above and party hosts strapped for cash, you can suggest that friends bring a bottle or six pack to share. You should go out and buy budget beers to make sure your bases are covered for the investable friend that will show up empty handed, but a few six packs is plenty for most small gatherings.
If you provide a venue, snacks, and some cheap beer, people won’t mind contributing beer or wine. As a perk, you often get to keep the leftovers.
How to Do It:
I wrote BYOB on the Facebook invite. There was a slacker who didn’t bring anything along, but the 12 pack was plenty and I kept some awesome craft beer leftovers that my friends brought for the party.
Instead of spending $45 on three 12 packs of premium beer, I just got one for $15. That is $30 still in my pocket.
Be the Pre-Party
I live a five minute walk from about a dozen bars and restaurants and only a mile from downtown. If you are taking advantage of urban living, you can be the pre-game party spot and save on the cost of a party by only having friends over for an hour.
Make sure everyone knows that you are not staying all night when you send out the invites. You can follow the short drink list rule above to make sure your friends leave with a good buzz and get out the door for a fun night at the bars. As a perk, thankful friends will usually buy your first round because you hooked them up at home.
How to Do It:
I made it clear when I invited my friends over that it was just a “pre-game.” I had a set time in my mind that we were going to leave. We missed that time, but when the drinks I bought ran out, everyone was happy to head to the bar down the block.
Buying drinks and snacks for a small party runs about $50 even using the cost saving methods above. Drinks for a pre-party cost me $20. That saved me $30.
It Only Takes a Few Minutes
With the power of the web and a little ingenuity, it is easy to save on drinks. Whether you are trying to save a few bucks on beer or a cocktail party, there is always money to be saved. Don’t be the sucker that over-spends on booze, it is an easy place to save.
14 thoughts on “4 Ways to Save on Drinks at Your Next Party”
Buying drinks and mixers seems like one of those expenses that is really hard to change, as it is the most social, more so than cutting down on eating meals out. Luckily where I live most people will bring some of their own. If not, you can announce a “booze run” midway thru the party and usually most people will happily throw in more than is needed, if a sober person will drive to get it.
I have done the booze run donation thing before, but I find it much easier to just have everything done up front. Liquor stores close at midnight in Colorado, so it is important to send out the driver before then.
I never expect a host to supply the booze, nor do I expect to have to supply it if I am the host. We have always done byob – but then we are not much on drinking either 😀
I always bring a six pack to a party, but I have never been to an event where the host didn’t have something ready to go when people arrived.
Good suggestions! I didn’t realize you had to buy beer at your liquor stores, too. In Oregon, the state sets the price, so that’s actually kind of nice to know that whichever liquor store I go to, I will pay the same amount. Also, I have never been to a pregame empty handed.
Does the state regulated price seem higher or lower than other places you go? I am all about regulation sometimes, but that it totally killing the free market.
You know, I don’t have any idea — it seems like a fair price to me, but what do I know? I don’t have anything to compare it against, except our neighbors to the north, who have imposed several sin taxes now that Washingtonians can buy booze at the grocery store.
It is always interesting to see different states laws on selling liquor. In Virginia you can only by liquor from state run alcohol stores but in Florida you can buy liquor anywhere with a license but they don’t sell it in grocery stores. They have to be physically separated by walls so there may be a separate entrance into the same grocery store for alcohol but you can’t get into the grocery store from it.
I hate state fragmentation on liquor laws. Seems very archaic. Might as well just make a uniform code that simplifies everything. I am for a pro-consumer approach, but getting that past the lobbyists is never easy.
I can buy liquor in every grocery store in South Florida. It may be a county-specific law. I know in NJ, they can’t sell alcohol on Sundays so restaurant will permit people to bring in their own wine and charge a cork fee. I’d love for that to be the case everywhere
Great suggestions! I never usually have more than a bottle of wine or one type of hard liquor on hand, around here it’s just common practice to BYOB and 99% of the time I have leftover beers and liquors stashed because of it!
I have a pretty well stocked cabinet, so unless I want to give my friends the cheap stuff, I usually don’t have to go anywhere. But I usually want to give my friends the cheap stuff 🙂
Luckily my wife has a friend who’s a chemist at a local brewery and another friends who works for a large California wine company. Drinks are often discounted or free. Of course I still pay out of pocket for liquor.
I’ve noticed on the wine side of things that a few premium wineries have found their way into a box. Black box for example. Excellent wine and you get large costs savings in skipping the bottle.
Free beer!?!?! Jealous!
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