Eating out is a luxury most students can’t afford. But there’s an alternative that’s more fun and accommodating to even Sara McShouty and Drunken Duncan. It’s time to show campus your civilized side with a dazzling dinner party that won’t break the bank.

Pick brilliant guests

Nobody wants to get stuck sat next to World of Warcraft Guy. The foundation of a good dinner party is good people – and they won’t cost you a penny. Invite fun guests (Sara and Duncan included) and your night will be a success, no matter what you serve. Send out free digital invitations using Punchbowl to make your mates feel special.

Plan the party

There’s nothing like a bit of spontaneous fun, right? Wrong! At least not when you’re hosting dinner. Respect your wallet and mental well-being by planning your soiree in advance. Set yourself a cost per guest you can afford and then devise a menu that will fit. Now you have time to pick up marked-down supermarket ingredients and visit the wholesalers for your booze. If only three dinner plates, one chipped mug and a tumbler have survived term so far, you can leisurely arrange to borrow items from your nearest and dearest.

Simple equals success

Now is not the time to unleash your inner Alain Ducasse. Forget foams and foie gras and swap expensive appetisers for bowls of nuts and crisps. Then choose recipes with just a few ingredients. Vegetables, chicken and mince are affordable options for cash-strapped students. And here’s a top tip: the cheapest way to feed your guests is to cook one big dish rather than several. A stew, lasagna or whole roast chicken are tasty and fiddle-free. For more budget friendly ideas, try the student section on BBC Good Food.

Share the load

BYO booze is very much acceptable and will save you a ton (especially if Duncan shows up). If you want to bring your costs right down, Pot Luck is the way forward. Just ask each guest to bring a dish. Your friends won’t mind putting in a little effort if you assign yourself the main event and provide a great setting for the party. You could even suggest an exchange of dishes that represent each guest’s culture or personality.

Don’t forgets the details

Dinner parties are as much about the ambience as they are about the food. Don’t worry if you’re as artistic as a potato; just add candles to your table and a few simple decorations. We like the idea of hollowed out apples with tea lights inside, jam jars filled with colourful sweets, and empty wine bottles vases. Music is, of course, a must-have. But steer clear of gangsta rap and Celine Dion’s Best Of; your playlist should be uplifting and conducive to conversation. Clueless about music? Spotify has plenty of ready-made dinner party compilations.

A little extra entertainment

Even if all your guests are exceptionally charismatic and witty, a dinner party game is the icing on your budget dinner party cake. We’re particularly partial to the dictionary game (players have to guess the real definition of obscure words) because it basically counts as studying. Oh, and good old fashioned arm wrestling never fails to entertain. There are also loads of party game apps you can download to your phone. Try Evil Apples and Heads Up.

Your budget dinner party is served.

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