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Graduation season is almost here. No matter the age of the graduate, it is important to celebrate the accomplishment. Here are some ideas to help with the celebration while staying on a budget.

Invitations

First thing you will need to decide is who to invite to the ceremony — the number most likely will be dictated by the school. Make lists: who to invite and send tickets for the graduation; who will receive announcements, your senior picture or a celebration invitation. Then you will have a count on how many invitations, announcements and pictures to order and who you may want to invite to a celebration so you can begin planning that. If you are a high school senior, you have probably already ordered your announcements, since the companies your school recommends require orders well ahead of time. If you don’t have them yet, they are still doable through local printers, or make your own using your computer and inspiration from applications such as Pinterest. Then all you will need is paper and envelopes. Have an inexpensive photo printed up at a local store to include with your announcement. Be sure to include directions or a map with your celebration invitation if possible, and tips for available parking (if that will be an issue), as that can be very helpful.

Celebration

Now that you know how many you are inviting, you need to decide on your celebration location. Determine what refreshments you will offer your guests and entertainment. If you want music, look into hiring a DJ or maybe you have a friend who could help you out as his/her graduation gift to you.

Don’t forget about the decorations. There are a lot of graduation decorations offered in the local stores, or, make your own with your own artistic flair and colors. What decorations you will need will depend on the place you are holding your celebration. You could hold the celebration at your home, rent a place or go somewhere to eat that will hold the number of guests you will have.

If your home won’t work and you don’t want to spend the money to rent a place, then think of places that don’t charge: a relative or friend’s home, church or park.

To save money, you can make most of the food (including a cake) and refreshments. If you do make the food, look at buying the ingredients in bulk at a discount store – that will save you money. If you have enough freezer or refrigerator space, take advantage of storing food you prepare ahead of time. Also ask for help – you might be surprised as to how many people want to help you celebrate by just helping. Maybe you don’t have the time to make the food and want the food catered – shop around for the best price and which caterer has time available and can make what you want.

Gifts

If you have been invited to a graduation celebration and aren’t putting one on yourself, and want to give a gift to the graduate, make it meaningful and lasting to commemorate their accomplishment, or something useful as they move forward on their next adventure. Giving money isn’t very personal, but sometimes the graduate is saving for something special. Make sure the cost of whatever you give fits in your budget.

When you add up all the things you have to do to host a graduation celebration — announcements, invitations, pictures, postage, food and refreshments, cake, decorations, location rental, entertainment, thank you notes and whatever else you will need — the costs can add up pretty quickly. Make sure your budget is ready for it all, so try to space some of it out over a month or more as needed – buy supplies ahead of time, prepay for the cake, invitations, pictures, etc.

Remember, graduations are important occasions to celebrate a huge accomplishment, so be proud of the goal your graduate has reached and plan it with pride and love.