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5 ways to celebrate special occasions on a budget

There are so many special occasions to celebrate – birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day – and sometimes, they can break the bank. But being on a budget doesn’t mean we have to forego celebrating these special days. With a little creativity, we can make a limited budget stretch further, plan fun activities, and create treasured memories for our loved ones.

So, here are 5 ideas on how we can celebrate special occasions on a budget. Some of these suggestions involve throwing parties and visiting nearby attractions which may not be appropriate for current times. You can keep these in mind for future celebrations. Instead, do consider some of the lockdown friendly alternatives I’ve listed below for now. Without any further ado, let’s get down to business:

1. Dinner party at home

Hosting a potluck style dinner party at home can be an inexpensive way to celebrate a special occasion. Everyone can bring something special that’s either bought or home-made. Each item would have a story behind it and makes for a great conversation starter!

You can also choose a fun theme to spice things up! For e.g. if the person you’re celebrating is a Harry Potter fan, then you could throw a theme party where everyone wears their respective house colours. Tell your special someone to wear certain colours that night but don’t tell them why. Let it be a surprise!

Lockdown friendly alternative: You can have an intimate dinner party with 2 to 3 people. Make a home-cooked meal or order take away, set the table, and put on some music. Set the scene for a beautiful evening. After dinner, schedule some virtual fun time with family and friends. Depending on what your special someone enjoys doing, you could plan a virtual game night (Check out Virtual Game Night) or movie night (Check out How to Use Netflix Party) for some added fun.

Our sushi dinner for two on G's birthday in April.

2. Handmade gifts

Handmade gifts are thoughtful and they're a great way to tell your special someone that you love them. Here are a few DIY gift ideas:

  • Design a scrapbook. You can get a photo album and fill it up with handwritten notes, memorabilia, and pictures.

  • Home-made cakes, cupcakes, or sweet treats. If your special someone has a sweet tooth, why not bake them a cake! Top it off with some simple buttercream icing and use store-bought sugar pearls or beads to decorate the cake.

Some home-made cupcakes
  • Framed quote. If your special someone has a favourite quote from a book or movie they like, print it out and get it framed for them. The best gifts are the ones that show you care and pay attention!

3. Free attractions

For my birthday a few years ago, I was between jobs and I didn’t want to splurge on anything. So, I decided to Google ‘Free things to do in KL.’ Surprisingly loads of things came up! Check out 15 Amazing And Free Things To Do In Kuala Lumpur.

An afternoon in KLCC, perusing books in Kinokuniya book store and strolling in the park outside afterward. Not too shabby, if I do say so myself!

What makes our experiences fun isn’t the price tag attached to it, but the company we have. So, look up cool places that you can visit near home for free (or for a small entrance fee) and bring your friends along for an enjoyable time!

Another freebie that I absolutely love is having a picnic at the beach! For my husband’s birthday a few years ago, I made his favourite (rice, chicken curry, and beans), packed everything in our three-tier tiffin box, and headed to the beach! We spread a mat on the sand and ate our lunch with the cool ocean breeze in our hair.

Lockdown friendly alternative: If you have a balcony or maybe a garden outside, you can set up a nice table for dinner. Add some flowers, candles, and pretty dinnerware. Do check the weather forecast ahead of time! Getting wet in the rain is not fun when you’re trying to enjoy a nice meal. Remember, food is bae. No wait, I meant your special someone is bae. Sorry, my bad.

4. Plan ahead

If you want to get a gift for your loved ones, plan ahead. Think about what they may like and buy it ahead of time when there’s a sale going on. If shopping online, browse through a few online shopping platforms, and go for the best deal you can find. Put the item into your cart and purchase when there are any markdowns or discounts.

Do the same for any trip you want to plan for your loved ones. Accommodations are likely to be cheaper if you book early. Keep a lookout for any good deals such as weekend staycation promotions or buffet dinner specials.

5. Send your loved ones on a scavenger hunt

This can be a fun start to the evening. Come up with cute handwritten clues and tuck them away around the house with one leading to another. The final clue can hint at where the hidden gift is stashed or perhaps even the venue of a potluck style surprise party.

If you’ve planned a poolside party, for instance, you could leave a few clues around the house, one on the front door, leading to the kitchen, then the bedroom where your DIY scrapbook awaits along with another clue, leading to the changing room with a special outfit all laid out with a note that says, “Freshen up and rock this look! Then, come on over and let’s have a SPLASH!”

Lockdown friendly alternative: Your clues and surprises can all be centred inside the house. From the front door to the bedroom to the balcony or back garden perhaps, for an intimate dinner for two or three. If this ides comes across as cheesy, please know that I’m all about that cheese! Life’s just better with cheese, you know?


When planning a soirée on a budget, keep in mind that your limits are only defined by your creativity, not your bank balance! I hope these ideas help you create special memories with your loved ones.


Hi there!

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Hi, I’m Vidhya. I’m a freelance writer and millennial who often struggles with adulthood.

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