Last month, I shared with you about how I have graduated one of my children from our homeschool, and have three more left to go. We talked about Keeping Your Graduate Focused on the Finish Line, and how to keep their focus as you prepare for their high school graduation.
When graduation time FINALLY arrives, you and your child will be so elated the time has come. However, you will also be blown away by how fast it went, and be full of many different emotions! When my son finally approached graduation, there was so much to plan but also to celebrate.
Not only is this a big accomplishment for them, it is a HUGE accomplishment for you as the homeschooling parent. Because of the amount of personal time and energy you have invested in your homeschool journey, homeschool graduation celebrations are unique and extra special to the parent and child. It is such a blessing to bring everyone together to finally see it come to fruition.
My son walked with our local homeschool group in a graduation ceremony, but we still wanted to have a party for him that was more personal. We wanted to have an open house celebration with lots of food, so we could eat and fellowship in a relaxed fashion.
We had already planned and paid for a special trip for he and his dad to visit Washington D.C. as a graduation present so we were on a very tight budget. But as for the actual celebration, there are 5 things I did to save money, without compromising the celebration.
Find a Deal on Graduation Photos
Graduation photos are a must have to help celebrate your graduate. When done through a school or photography store, they can get pretty pricey. I just happened to be friends with another homeschool mom that was a photographer. She gave me a great price on the photos, and even included some free ones of my son and I as a gift!
We were happy to be able to support a local homeschooling family at the same time. She gave us the digital downloads as part of the package, so we could print them with an online service. That gave us the opportunity to use a coupon, find a great sale, or go with a 1-hour photo at Walmart or Sam’s Club to save even more money. What a blessing! Those photos can really add up!
DIY Graduation Announcements & Party Invites
I uploaded our graduation photos to Shutterfly when they were having a sale on photo cards. I ordered a nice 5×7 graduation announcement that came with the fancy, gold lined envelopes. With the sale they were having I was able to get a set of 50 for less than $30. I then bought a pack of gold cardstock with a coupon at Michaels for $2. We printed the time and date for the graduation ceremony, as well as the details for his graduation party open house to include in the envelope. Being able to mail the invitations with the announcements saved even more money.
Use Dollar Store Decorations
I love to decorate, and had a lot of fun searching for decorations on a budget for our graduation open house celebration. I used a cardboard box covered in wrapping paper as the card box for guests. We used a big white mat to frame his graduation photo, which we also used for everyone to sign and leave notes as a keepsake. I hit the Dollar Tree for all of our plates, napkins, silverware and some hanging decorations, balloons and streamers. Our local high school colors were black and gold, and those were the colors readily available so we went with those. To keep with our barbecue theme, we used mason jars to hold the silverware, which added a cute touch.
Homemade Memory Table & Wall
A memory table is a special way to highlight your graduate and makes for a fun conversation piece at your celebration. We used a flat black sheet from Walmart for $3.00 and hung it on the wall as a backdrop. Then we added some streamers and ribbons we had picked up when decoration shopping.
We created collage photos in lieu of a slideshow. They were the highlight of the table. We gathered up photos from family and friends, and went through baby photos and photos up through highschool. I created a few different collages online at Sams Club photo center and had them blown up into different poster sizes. These were less than $10 a piece. I mounted them on some extra canvases we had already had laying around the house. You could frame these as well.
We filled the rest of the table with certificates, special toys from childhood, and nods to the future like the stormtrooper helmet. He worked hard to build a costume in order to join the 501st Star Wars charity group when he turned 18. It was fun to see all the memorabilia and it gave him a lot to talk about with guests when they came over.
Make Your Own Food
My husband loves to smoke meat, so it was the only natural choice to have barbecue sandwiches on the menu! We had such a busy weekend, with our graduation ceremony on Friday night, the party on Saturday, and my husband and son flying out to Washington D.C. on Sunday. We knew this would be a lot of work, so we looked into catering the food. WOW! It would’ve been close to $300. Smoking the meat ourselves and making the sides, purchasing buns and condiments saved us over $200!
We smoked two large pork butts on Thursday and sealed them in gallon bags with a little apple cider vinegar to keep them moist. The day of the party we were able to dump the meat into a big turkey roaster and reheat on low. It turned out great. I got one big family pack of boneless skinless chicken breasts and dumped them into my Instant Pot the morning of the party and it was ready to shred and add sauce to in just under an hour!
BOGO for the Win!
I also made two large pans of macaroni and cheese using Buy One Get One free (BOGO) noodles and cheese. I premade these and put them in the oven the day of to save some stress. We had my mother-in-law make a big veggie and fruit tray. And then we picked up some bags of chips that were also BOGO. (BOGO saved us a ton of money!)
The sauces were BOGO and we got the buns in bulk at Sam’s Club. We also grabbed a 1/2 sheet cake from Sam’s Club for $20 and had water, homemade tea and lemonade to drink. All-in-all, we spent less than $100 in all and fed 40-50 people! We figured 1/4 lb per person for meat and still had two huge gallon bags of meat leftover. If we did this again, we could probably figure 6 people per pound with all the sides that were available.
Save Money and Give Your Time
We had so many compliments on the theme and the party. It was very sweet to spend all day in fellowship with our friends and family celebrating such a milestone. Using these tips and more, you can celebrate BIG in a very frugal way, and still make it memorable and nice. Your graduate will remember the time they spent with family and friends more than the money. So save the money and give your time!