IT'S GAME TIME
Football draws large crowds on a regular basis, but no game attracts as many spectators as the Super Bowl. Nearly 112 million people tuned in last year, according to Nielsen. Although many fans cheered on the teams from bars and restaurants, hosting a party at home can be a money-saving strategy. Whether you're a huge NFL fan or watching only for the commercials, use these tips to save on everything from food and drinks to a new TV.
DON'T RELY ON DELIVERY
The National Restaurant Association has estimated that 48 million Americans order carryout or delivery for the big game. But ordering food can get pricey, especially after factoring in tip and delivery charges (potentially higher than usual given the high demand). Instead, save by planning ahead.
SET A BUDGET
It's easy to volunteer to throw a Super Bowl party without any sense of the impact on your budget. Decide how much you can afford to spend before setting foot in the grocery store. Shop with a meal plan and list in hand to avoid overspending and ensure you get everything you need.
Buy in bulk from stores such as Costco or Sam's Club to feed a crowd. Stock up now on non-perishables such as soft drinks and chips. They're relatively cheap to begin with and likely to be on sale ahead of the Super Bowl.
SKIP THE VEGETABLE TRAY
Don't buy pre-made food such as dips and pre-cut vegetables. You can easily save a few bucks (and calories) by cutting up fresh produce and mixing a homemade dip using low-fat sour cream or yogurt as a base.
LOAD UP ON APPETIZERS
The typical Super Bowl party fare includes hearty dishes such as chicken wings, but a range of low-cost nibbles is sure to satisfy your guests. To serve 10 to 15 people for $5 or less, think homemade appetizers such as pizza bites, cheese straws, chips and salsa, mini grilled cheese, fruit and vegetable skewers, and pigs in a blanket. Popcorn is another crowd-pleasing snack that's easy, tasty, and cheap.
BE STRATEGIC ABOUT BEVERAGES
Watching the Super Bowl often means tossing back a few cold ones, and this is where the cost tends to get out of hand. Narrow the drink options to just a few choices and buy them in bulk. This way you won't spend a small fortune trying to please everyone.
CONSIDER STICKING TO BEER
Why? Because it can easily come out cheaper than wine or cocktails -- and it just seems to go best with football. In a blind taste test of cheap beers, from mainstream American-style lagers to some of the least expensive craft brands, a Cheapism.com panel declared New Belgium Fat Tire and Full Sail IPA among the best available at $10 or less for a six-pack. Costco's Kirkland Signature brand impressed the judges in a previous tasting panel and earns accolades online.
MAKE IT A BYO AFFAIR
Of course, asking guests to chip in with their drinks of choice ensures that no one will be disappointed. Designating the Super Bowl party a potluck saves the expense and effort of providing all the sustenance. Ask guests to bring along their favorite dishes and snacks, with enough to share.
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF TV DEALS
A home entertainment system is a huge expense that demands careful consideration. If you're in the market for an upgrade ahead of a viewing party, though, retailers typically post better-than-average deals on TVs during Super Bowl week.
PROVIDE KID-FRIENDLY ACTIVITIES
For hosts who expect to have children in attendance, it's wise to prepare a few Super Bowl-themed activities to keep them entertained while parents focus on the game. Care.com suggests turning tissue-paper strips and empty paper-towel or toilet-paper rolls into a mini-pompom craft project, or setting out supplies for decorating football-shaped sugar cookies. Construction paper and markers can be used to make team flags at little cost to you.