The Cincinnati Bengals last played in the Super Bowl a generation ago — 1989. Undoubtedly, their faithful are ready to throw some of the biggest parties the Queen City has experienced in a long while.
You don’t have to be a fan of the Bengals or the Los Angeles Rams — their opponent in Super Bowl LVI on Feb. 13 — to invite some friends over to watch the big game with you. But how can you throw a winning party on a limited budget? The same way the players and coaches will get ready for the game: with preparation and teamwork.
With game day drawing near, send out your invitations as soon as possible. You’ve probably given a verbal invitation or sent a text message already to family and friends, but follow up with a festive (and free!) invitation via email.
Greg Jenkins, a partner at Bravo Productions in Long Beach, California, and a veteran event planner, suggested doing a quick search online to find graphics, such as Rams and Bengals helmets or their team logos, to jazz up your invitations.
Before sending your invitation, finalize your message. Let your guests know, for instance, to wear the colors of the team they want to win, a jersey or another piece of NFL garb.
It’s also acceptable to ask your guests to bring food or other party necessities to keep the costs down. Jenkins recommended setting a budget to figure out what you can provide and what you’ll want some help with.
When you email your invitation, add a link to a spreadsheet that lists what you’d like guests to contribute to allow them to sign up.
“Don’t undertake the whole affair by yourself — host a potluck instead,” said Julie Ramhold, consumer analyst with DealNews.com. “Have an informal signup with all your guests and let them note whether they’re bringing drinks, desserts, snacks or something else to have during the party. Don’t forget other supplies as well — ice, plates, cups, napkins and cutlery can also be provided by you or your guests.”
Also, consider asking your guests to provide their own alcohol.
“Drinks can get really expensive for a party, especially if you’re providing alcoholic beverages,” Ramhold said. “Rather than stocking up on liquor and beer, consider asking your guests to BYOB; that way, they can bring their own favorite beverage, which means they’ll have something they know they’ll enjoy and potentially introduce you and your other guests to something new.”
You don’t need to make a major investment to add a festive air to your party or table, Jenkins said. Start with printing action photos of the Bengals or Rams.
“Place these photos in thrift store-purchased frames and display them on your bar area,” Jenkins said. “Adorn the food table and bar with team pennants, mini helmets and streamers of each team’s colors — orange/black (Bengals) and royal blue/yellow (Rams). Any party supply store such as Party City will have these items.” Balloons in those team colors will add to the atmosphere.
And don’t forget the party table, which you can convert into a miniature football field.
“Decorate 6-foot to 8-foot-long banquet tables with a piece of green AstroTurf and use white duct tape to create football field markings. The AstroTurf serves as your party linen,” Jenkins said. “You can make goal posts out of inexpensive PVC pipe and place logos of each team” at what would be the end zone.
If you have a garage, use it to tailgate before the game — just as you would in a stadium parking lot.
“Guests can arrive early, eat some snacks and converse prior to the game starting,” Jenkins said. “It’s a prelude to the game. If you have a pickup truck or van, use this to serve a keg of beer. Put a little music (marching band) in the background and excitement is already created.”
When the game starts, your guests will be ready to fill their plates. And you don’t have to spend a bundle to keep them full and happy.
“It can be tempting to go overboard for parties, but one way to cut costs is to streamline your menu,” Ramhold said. “Pick a couple of appetizers, maybe stick to burgers or hot dogs for the main course, with one or two sides, and then a simple dessert like cookies or brownies. Make sure that most (if not all) of the items can be made ahead of time, so you can prep a couple of days before the party itself and relax the day of.”
And then there are snacks.
“You can have the chips and dip and guacamole, but also consider purchasing individual bags of peanuts, popcorn and pretzels where guests can easily serve themselves,” Jenkins said. “You can find these inexpensive items in large quantities at Costco or Smart & Final.”
Ramhold said specials could abound as the game approaches.
“Watch for traditional Super Bowl snacks to be on sale, such as chips, dips — both ready-made and the ingredients to make your own — and wing sauce,” she said. “Stores like Target will be a good place to look for notable offers, but don’t forget about Amazon. Last year, they took 20% off snacks for the big game and even included things like energy drinks and granola bars.
“If you use grocery delivery services, be sure to watch for deals from them as well. You may come across something like 35% off select brands of chips and dip.”
Ramhold had one other recommendation to save money on gameday food.
“Consider signing up for ibotta, especially if you’ve never used it,” she said. “For new users, they can purchase select snacks and receive 100% cash back. The different snacks include things like Red Baron pizza, Bubly water, Mission tortilla chips, Kraft shredded cheese, Litehouse dip and spread and Nestle Toll House cookie dough.
“If you’re not a new user, you can take advantage, too. You just have to refer a friend and have them actually join. The offer is available nationwide while supplies last at stores like Target, Costco and others.”
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