I’m In Debt, But I Party Like a Rock Star

It all started in 1997 as a housewarming party at Vonnie and I’s first home. We hosted both our parents, and a few select close relatives. We decided to make it a tradition, and this year we hosted our 16th annual Memorial Weekend Party. It’s grown over the years, and quite frankly, it’s achieved almost legendary status. Friends and family come from out of town and stay not only at our home, but also the homes of our neighbors. A great time is certainly had by all that attend, however with all it’s fanfare comes a lot of work, and certainly expenses.

At the height of our financial irresponsibility, preparing for the party would entail:

  • Bigger and better decorations each and every year.
  • Renting tables, chairs and chaffing dishes for the event.
  • Purchasing several beef ribeyes to cube up for grilled kabobs. A complete beef ribeye runs over $100 each at Sam’s Club. Not to mention burgers, brats, buns, chips, fruit and whatever else we felt like serving.
  • We supplied beer, hard liquour, mixers, and soda. Oh, and don’t forget about the bartender that we’d hire through the local liquor store. One year I remember our alcohol bill alone being over $700.

Yep, It was that kind of stupid.

After we enrolled in our Debt Management Program in 2009, we knew that the Memorial Weekend Party as it had been could be no more. Each year since we began our journey out of debt we’ve discussed not having the party. Each year we look at the numbers, and find a way to make it happen within the funds we have available.

Here’s some of the things that we do that allow us to party like rock stars, but keep us within our budget:


They’re really not necessary, but since we already have them, we might as well use them. Each year there may be something that wears out or breaks, and we discuss whether or not we really need to replace it. Example: This year we replaced a small inflatable monkey ($6.00) and a door topper decoration ($4.00)



Many of our neighbors have 6 foot tables and chairs that they use for gatherings and were more than happy to borrow us. We also have several friends that have large roasting pans that we used in place of the previously rented chaffing dishes.


I like to grill, and I love to smoke meats. I used my skills to make 13 pounds of smoked pulled pork (post cook weight). Purchasing this amount from a local BBQ restaurant that caters would have cost $135 – which we have done before. I purchased the meat from Sam’s Club and made it myself at a cost of $40 for the meat, and $5 for the charcoal. I also made a 13 pound beef brisket which cost me about $30.


We knew the buns (used for pulled pork sandwiches) are going to be used quickly. Therefore we went to the Wonder Thrift Store and bought buns that are close to expiration date for sometimes less than half the regular price.

Side Dishes:

Every family that attends is asked to bring a side dish. We provide the meat, and chips. Every additional side dish is provided by our guests – and do we get some truly awesome creations.


We supplied a keg of beer. Guests are asked to contribute a bottle of their favorite alcohol or case of soda to help stock the refreshments. Since we started doing this, we’ve never found ourselves in need of supplies to make pretty much any kind of mixed drink desired.


Vonnie’s brother and Uncle both have been in bands for years. They both sing, and they both play guitar which makes me want to take a few guitar tutorials so I can join them one day! They were willing to bring some of their amps, and their acustic guitars and perform for us. Nobody on this earth sings “Maggie May” better than my brother-in-law. That’s a fact.

After they finished, we hooked up the Playstation 2 and did karaoke courtesy of Sing Star. Since the PS2 is not the newest game console out there, we were able to pick up several of the Sing Star versions, and two microphones cheap from a second hand video game store.

By our count, more than 80 people attended our party to help us celebrate the holiday weekend, and our unofficial summer kick off. The party started at 2 PM on Saturday, and we shut it down just before 2 AM Sunday morning. While there certainly were expenses associated with it, it wasn’t Rock Star expensive.

But it sure felt like it.

About Travis

18 Responses to “I’m In Debt, But I Party Like a Rock Star”

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  1. bogofdebt says:

    No reason not to have a good time when you are in debt! It sounds like you did it smart and that you had a lot of fun. The last time I threw my guy a birthday party, I made it into a potluck dinner style and everyone had a great time.

    • Travis says:

      The awesome thing about potluck is that you can get such a variety of food. Everybody in my neighborhood and family has their own “specialty.” Imagine if everyone you knew brought the best thing they knew how to make……what a spread that would be!

  2. Petunia 100 says:

    Good job on cutting costs while still throwing a fab party! Now I kinda wish I was your neighbor. 🙂

  3. This sounds like one heck of a party!!!! 80 people?! I wish I lived close by so I could attend! I make some awesome mashed potatoes 🙂

    I really like the idea of enlisting help. Family and friends I’m sure are very appreciative of you hosting the party each year as well as making the meat! They all just come for the company and the fun, and you’re right – this is the way to do it.

    • Travis says:

      Oh, come on, Erika, Minnesota is only half way across the country! 🙂 Truth be told, our neighbors help out even more than I said in the post. We have a “decorating party” on either the Thursday or Friday before in which the neighborhood gathers at our house and puts up the decorations. We have it down to a science….everything is labeled as to where it goes, and we’ve all done it several times. It used to take all night…..now we can get the whole garage decorated in about 2 hours. I admit, it’s truly awesome what we accomplish in such a short period of time. I thank my friends and neighbors continuously throughout the entire weekend for their help……and they in turn thank Vonnie and I for a great party. It’s win/win!

  4. Having everyone pitch in is a great idea! Heck they are just happy that you are organizing it all. Your smoked meat looks delicious by the way. Great job!

    • Travis says:

      I have to admit my wife is the organizer. I’m the execution guy. There’s a running joke in our neighborhood……one year my wife was explaining how she wanted something done and I apparently looked confused. Her response was, “Are you not getting my vision?” So now, that’s what she asks me everytime I give her the “deer in the headlights” or “You want WHAT?” kind of look. She has “visions,” I figure out how to make them a reality.

      Thanks for the complement of the smoked meat….It’s one of my favorite hobbies!

  5. The pot luck idea seems to be a little more common when it comes to “moms groups” from my experience. BYOB s a great way to keep costs down, especially when it comes to satisfying various different tastes. It keeps the money in your pocket and allows everyone to enjoy their favorite beverages since they are the ones taking care of it. On the other hand, if you would have joined my liquor store, you could have gotten lots of discounts and member rewards 😉

    • Travis says:

      Oh boy, “moms groups.” LOL. We do pot luck a lot in our neighborhood. We get together as a group often, and everybody pitches in. We end up with quite a nice layout of food every time.

      Yeah, you and your liquor store’s free member rewards……I may have to negotiate with mine and see if I can get them to match. HAHA!

      thanks for your comment, Eric!

  6. AverageJoe says:

    Eric’s a smart guy, but maybe it’s a regional thing: pot lucks were huge in the middle class neighborhood I grew up in (hell, even some weddings for our poor friends were “everyone bring something” invites….).

    It’s funny to read this, because I’ll bet you had as much fun this year as you did back in the day when you spent tons of bucks. Great story.

    • Travis says:

      Actually, AverageJoe, I probably enjoyed this year’s party more than almost any other year. There’s two reasons for that: 1.) The food I made was cooked ahead of time so all I had to do was heat it back up in the oven and put it out in the roasters. In previous years I’ve spent hours in front of the grill. 2.) We spent less this year than any year in the last 10 years.

      These things greatly reduced the stress of the event, and maximized my fun – thanks for your comment!

  7. Kris says:

    Having fun in life is important whether you are rich or poor. And there are lots of ways to have fun without spending a fortune. You may need to change some habits, but it definitely can be done!

    • Travis says:

      I agree with you 100%, Kris! And, it’s kind of a fun challenge to invent ways of having maximum fun, on minimum funds. 🙂

  8. J. Money says:

    I want to go to the next one!!!! 🙂

  9. Haha, me too! That party sounds awesome — let’s all take a trip to your house next Memorial Day!!

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