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.