Despite most purchases for a summer office party being tax deductible, it can still be an expensive up-front cost. And if your budget won’t flex, there are two options:
Cancel the annual summer party (which employees will be bummed about).
Find a way to save money wherever we can.
Of these two options, the second sounds best. Not only because your employees will be happy, but because it’s easy to find cost savings. Instead of agonizing over the financial details, use these crowd-pleasing ideas to organize and execute the ultimate office shindig without going over budget.
Plan an Afternoon Movie Marathon
You can easily turn the boardroom into a makeshift movie theatre with a few handy pieces of equipment and it’s a fun way to let employees share their favorite flicks. Use a website like Survey Monkey to poll the staff on their film preferences—asking for specific movie titles or sticking with genre—then gather everyone for an afternoon of Star Wars, Harry Potter, The Dark Knight or another box-office franchise—without the box-office charge.
If you don’t have access to a television and DVD player, a projector aimed at a whiteboard will suffice too. Now, all that remains is to pass around the popcorn and turn off the lights for a cinematic ambiance.
Ways to save:
Rental of equipment: Use speakers from someone’s desk and connect the projector in the boardroom to someone’s computer for easy, budget-friendly streaming.
Food: Go potluck style and have everyone bring their favorite movie snack.
Host a Board Game Tournament
Board games bring people together and get them talking, whether you go with strategic like Monopoly, outrageous like Cards Against Humanity, or loud and entertaining like Pictionary. This pastime can double as both social interaction and office team building, which increases job satisfaction in the long-term, according to Ami Cole, president of Molina Health Care of Ohio.
Ways to save:
Acquiring games: Ask everyone to bring their favorite game into work, so there’s a wide variety of options to choose from. We also have a couple free games on offer, which you only need to download and print: Teams Against Humanity and MAFIA. You can also spend less than $50 onboard games from the thrift store.
Winners prizes: Instead of buying something for the winners, give them extra PTO, half-day Fridays or a work-from-home day—all of which will be appreciated more than a Starbucks gift card.
Organize a Group Scavenger Hunt
This popular activity makes use of items already that can already be found in the office, so you can focus on purchasing just food and drinks. Divide employees into pairs or groups, depending on the number of people, and give each team a series of written clues to solve and objects to track down.
Agree on a time limit of 2 to 3 hours and determine a meeting spot for all teams to converge. To make the office scavenger hunt more unique, personalize the clues based on employee interests and have them take smartphone pictures of each item they find.
Ways to save:
Afterparty: Keep the after party libations simple: pizza, salad, beer, and wine. There will be something for everyone without spending more than $150.
Group prize: Give a simple group prize, like lunch paid for by the company. It will be a one-time expense that you can plan and budget for.
Set Up a Simple Potluck Style Get-Together
According to a recent survey, 60 percent of Americans spend most of their summer party budgets on food, but you can minimize that expense. Instead of buying all the food yourself, host a pot luck instead. Encourage all of your co-workers to bring a homemade dish—whether it’s a light appetizer or lavish dessert—to share with the group, then organize an office-wide luncheon where everyone gets to sample each other’s cooking. Employees will learn more about each other through their food, and pot lucks are a proven crowd-pleaser because, after all, who can turn down a smorgasbord of free food?
Ways to save:
Drinks: Buy alcohol at a store like Bevmo or chain grocery store, where you can get discounts after buying a certain amount. Any extra will be drunk throughout the rest of the week if you leave it in the fridge.
Cutlery: Buy all your paper goods and cutlery at the dollar store. The quality is likely the same, and no one will notice they’re using off-brand items.
Celebrate a Weird Summer Holiday
There are a surprising number of obscure or downright absurd holidays that don’t get the recognition they deserve. When was the last time your office celebrated National Be a Dork Day (July 15) or NationalIce Cream Sandwich Day (August 2)? Pick the most random occasion on the calendar and plan an event around this seasonal theme—the wackier the holiday is, the more laughter and shenanigans you’ll have. This is a chance for everyone to unleash their creativity and show off the quirkier sides of their personalities, which don’t often come to the surface in a work environment.
Ways to Save:
Decorations: Plan ahead so you can buy fun decorations and items when they’re on sale, rather than dealing with prices because you’re shopping last-minute.
Food: Choose just two or three dishes that best represent the holiday—get crafty with ideas from Pinterest—and stick to making or ordering those. There doesn’t have to be a lot of food if it’s a pre-dinner, afternoon event.
You don’t need a large cash-flow to keep your staff entertained and happy this summer. As the owner of a small business start-up with an even smaller budget to match, use these ideas to make the annual summer office party a hit—without breaking the bank.