Though the Super Bowl isn't an official holiday, it certainly gets the same special treatment. On the day of the big game, roads clear and stores empty as millions of Americans crowd around TVs to watch the perennial battle for the ultimate American sporting prize.
The game is free to watch but the cost of hosting a party adds up quickly. When you're working on a shoestring budget, this can feel like a major obstacle to having the supreme Super Bowl shindig. While you probably won't be able to afford the coveted nacho-cheese fountain, there are still plenty of low-cost ways to set your party apart. As you plan your Feb. 5 festivities, keep a few of these affordable ideas in mind.
1. Create a Custom Centerpiece
If you weren't able to nab a 42-inch plasma TV, you'll just have to make the most of what you have to work with. Get your friends to assemble easily portable TVs and spare coaxial cables a day or two in advance. Then, pick up a splitter from Radio Shack or any other tech store and connect multiple televisions for room-to-room, sports-bar-like coverage.
2. Bring Your Own
You can always cut costs by having everyone chip in on expenses. If you're willing to have your place occupied by rowdy football fans, it's not unreasonable to ask those guests to contribute something like chips and dip. Plus, as the host you enjoy the benefit of free reign on leftovers after the final whistle blows. Anyone trying to collect their last guacamole dregs shouldn't be invited back, anyway.
3. Get Sneaky with Savings
If you're the host with the most and don't like your guests lifting a finger (or don't trust their culinary aptitude), at least do what you can to cut your own expenses. If the newspaper coupon section is lacking in practical savings at supermarkets, get a discount store gift card from such websites as Gift Card Granny and save up to 35 percent instantly.
4. Find Something to Bet On
A tight family budget means cash is usually in short supply so, clearly, no one will make $5 million dollar bets like rapper/producer Brian "Birdman" Williams. Compensate for your lack of dollar bills by making a wager where you or your friend has to perform some strange, semi-embarrassing act. Even if you're not into the on-the-field action, try the over/under on beer commercials or how often announcers swoon over Tom Brady.
5. Get Free Delivery
Pizza is standard Super Bowl cuisine that requires no cooking and is quite affordable when everyone chips in. To avoid paying extra on your order, use this list of 54 pizza joints that don't charge for delivery. Just make sure you get the order in early or your guests are going to be hungry through the first few quarters.
6. Party With the Pros
Unless you were the lucky winner of some kind of sweepstakes, it's unlikely the Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald will be joining you in your living room. Still, you can stay tuned to what he and the rest of the NFL have to say about the action with the free NFL Pro Tweets app. It combines tweets from players around the league in one place.
7. Play Your Own Game
For most red-blooded Americans, the extravagant entertainment nightmare that is the half-time show is the perfect opportunity for a quick pick-up game, so keeping a football on hand is essential. Make things a little more interesting by having the losing team take clean-up duties at the end of the day.
8. Keep it Classy
If you need to know every detail is covered before you sleep soundly the night before the Super Bowl, consider managing the guest list and potluck using Pingg.com. They have tons of free football templates, and you can easily manage everything online. Even a common party could benefit from a bit of organization.
Brandon Farestad-Rittel is a college-savings expert for Kinoli Inc. Based on his own college experiences and extensive research, this recent graduate has covered a variety of topics, including the college selection process, for-profit colleges, and the modern era of textbooks.
I'm a former 7th grade Science teacher turned stay-at-home mom that lives in Houston, Texas. I am married to my college sweetheart and have a beautiful daughter named Riley, who definitely keeps me on my toes! I am also involved in starting a small business which would both manufacture and sell an invention that I've patented, called Toothpaste 2 Go. I love interacting with my readers and hope to learn as much about you as you learn about me!