13 expert tips for entertaining on a budget

Transforming your home into an entertainment haven doesn't have to be an expensive exercise. With a few strategic updates and sly creative touches, you can turn your living space into an entertainer's paradise, even on a budget. Carolyn Tate explains.

By Carolyn Tate

Want to be the host with the most, but you don’t want to have to take out a second mortgage in the process? Here are 13 affordable ideas for creating THE go-to spot for gatherings, celebrations, and cosy get-togethers.

1. Rearrange and declutter

Rearrange your home to encourage a sense of flow. Move your furniture to create open, welcoming spaces that encourage guests to face each other, chat and mingle. And it’s easy to stop seeing clutter in our own homes when we see it every day, but a clutter-free home feels so much more inviting. Remove unnecessary items and organise what’s left to create a serene atmosphere.

Read more on how to declutter and rightsize your home without stress.

2. Lighting magic

Lighting can make or break a get-together. What could be a delightful soiree can feel like the Spanish Inquisition if everyone is blinded by bright lights. Swap out any harsh lights for soft, warm bulbs. Dimmer switches are also an affordable way to control the ambiance. You can also use budget-friendly fairy lights, lanterns, or candles to add a cosy glow to your entertaining areas.

3. Comfortable seating

Don’t worry about having matching chairs. Just use what you have, and embrace the multi-level delights that are a combination of chairs, benches, and floor cushions (just make sure that anyone sitting on the floor cushions can get back up again!). And if your chairs are looking a little old or tired, you can try a DIY solution like reupholstering them yourself, or making some cheerful cushions to go on top of your chairs, benches, or even some old crates.

4. Inviting decor

Decorate with items that show your personality, like family photos, artwork, or treasured collectibles. And add eclectic charm by hunting for unique decor items at op shops and garage sales to add character without spending much. (Tip: start with a theme in mind so your space doesn’t become a hodgepodge of secondhand items.)

5. Multi-functional spaces

Designate areas of your home that can easily transition from everyday use to entertainment spaces. Think foldable or extendable tables and modular furniture. And, if you have outdoor space, make it an extension of your indoor entertaining area with comfortable seating and weather-resistant decor (nobody wants to have to dash outside to gather up cushions every time it rains!).

6. Smart technology

You don’t need to invest in an elaborate sound system for music. These days, a portable bluetooth speaker offers great quality sound that is perfect for music during gatherings. If you have any smart home devices, you can use smart plugs and bulbs and control with your smartphone, allowing you to adjust lighting and electronics effortlessly.

7. Colour and texture

A fresh coat of paint can completely transform a room, especially if you choose colours that are warm and inviting. And if you want to keep your budget tight, just one feature wall can make a huge difference too. And you can add texture and colour with throws, cushions, and rugs. These can be cost-effective, especially if you hunt in op shops, wait for sales, or even make them yourself with supplies from somewhere like Spotlight.

8. Entertainment options

Having a selection of activities and board games on hand for guests to enjoy can add a tough of fun. Inside, you might like to keep it to a board games corner, and outside, you can add some lawn games like giant Jenga, Finska, or bocce. Nobody will ever be bored!

9. Garden and balcony makeover

Add some life to your garden or balcony with potted plants or a small herb garden. If your green thumb is constantly turning brown, go for ever-hardy succulents  - they’re sure to not let you down! And you can make your own planters from old containers or pallets, and give them a cheerful lick of bright paint for a budget-friendly garden update.

Read more on how to grow your own herbs and your own nutritious microgreens.

10. Dining area revamp

Refresh your dining table and chairs with a new stain or coat of paint, which can give your furniture a whole new lease on life. And if you want one set of crockery that will suit all occasions, invest in neutral, versatile tableware that can be dressed up or down.

11. Storage solutions

Storage is key to keeping things tidy and clutter-free so you’re ready to entertain at a moment’s notice (and you don’t have to spend the entire day tidying). Use ottomans with storage and floating shelves to keep your space tidy and ready for guests, and invest in some cheap storage tubs to help you keep clutter at bay. It can also help to have a designated storage tub for party essentials like serving dishes, table linens, and decorations for easy access.

Hiding your bits and bobs in clever storage makes it easier to host more people at home

12. Personalised art

Art doesn’t have to cost the earth. Create your own artwork or frame personal photos for a budget-friendly way to personalise your space. A gallery wall with a mix of art and photographs can be a wonderful hall or lounge room feature that is sure to be a talking point.

13. Refresh your bathroom

Some simple tweaks like changing out your towels, adding a new shower curtain, or incorporating stylish storage solutions can totally refresh your bathroom. Keep things guest-friendly with nice soaps, a scented candle, and some fresh flowers or herbs from your garden.

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