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I don’t know how Super Bowl Sunday got to be one of the biggest parties of the year, but I’m glad it’s almost here. Even if I have no interest in any of the teams participating, I find any excuse to get together with friends to be a good one.

Hosting a Super Bowl party can be a lot of fun, but if you’re not careful, you could end up spending way more than you expected. Between the delicious appetizers and frothy adult beverages, it’s easy to get carried away and put your budget in a bind for the rest of the month. (You can keep tabs on your spending and debt levels by viewing your free credit report card, with updates every 14 days, on Credit.com.)

Here are a few suggestions on how you can host a Super Bowl party on a budget.

1. Start With a Budget

How much do you want to spend on the Super Bowl party? If you want to stick to a budget, you need to know how large it’ll be. The party you throw when you have $5,000 to spend is different than the one you throw when you’re looking to keep it to under $100. Once you’ve established your budget, you can start employing some of the strategies below to keep your spending within limits.

2. Limit the Guest List

Much like a wedding, keeping costs low while having a great time involves getting the right people together. Parties are fun because of the people. The more people you invite, the more expensive the party will be, and the longer the cleanup afterward. Fortunately, a Super Bowl party isn’t a personal marquee event like a wedding, where people may feel slighted if they aren’t invited. Feel free to keep the group small if you need to.

3. Potluck Meals & Appetizers

Food is one of the biggest expenses of any party, and a Super Bowl party is no different. The easiest way to reduce that expense is to host it potluck-style — that is, have each of your guests contribute a dish to the party. We use a Google Doc to coordinate who brings what so we don’t end up with eight bowls of crab dip.

If you want to make a signature “meal” while leaving the appetizers to your guests, you can always go with something like a stew or a chili. Stews and chilis are typically easy to prepare, relatively cheap, very filling, and delicious. You can buy meat in bulk from a wholesale club like Costco, and with so many people coming over, you won’t be stuck with a ton of leftovers. Bonus points if you prepare it in a slow cooker so you can leave it alone during the party.

As back up, we also pick up a few frozen pizzas. If you are afraid you’re going to run out of food, it’s probably going to happen late in the game. At that point, anyone who is hungry will happily welcome a slice of fresh oven-baked pizza.

4. BYOB

For adult beverages, have your guests bring their own. If you’re hosting and responsible for coordinating the party and cleaning up afterwards, the least a guest can do besides bring a snack is bring their own beverages. It’s unlikely anyone will balk at this.

The party will likely go for about four to five hours, and if everyone shows up with at least a six- or 12-pack, and no one gets too rowdy, you won’t need much more to keep the party going. As the host, you might want to supplement with your own supply just in case, but you know your friends best.

Alternatively, you can always make a delicious punch. It can be simple, like some champagne and fruit juice (think citrus) that your guests mix on their own. Or you can get more elaborate and look up some boozy punch drinks on sites like Pinterest.

5. Skip Decorations

You might be tempted to go out and buy Super Bowl decorations because they exist, but don’t. It’s a waste, and you’re better off spending that money on food or drinks.

Instead, focus on what might increase excitement in the game. For instance, you can coordinate a game of Super Bowl squares. It’ll turn people with zero interest in the outcome of the game into raving fans. Super Bowl squares is simply a 10×10 grid where each person picks a square. You put the numbers at the top and side of the square, and they correspond to the score after the first, second, third, and fourth quarters. You can have each contestant contribute to a pool prize or just do it for fun.

5. Remember Seating!

One last thought: If you’re hosting a lot of guests, chances are you won’t have enough seating. Ask some of your guests to bring folding chairs. Not everyone will be seated at all times, so you won’t need as many chairs as people, but it helps to have a few extra just in case.

Remember, a Super Bowl party can be fun without being expensive if you’re smart about it. Just try to keep your budget in mind.

Image: monkeybusinessimages

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