Cheap party tricks

How to entertain your friends at home without spending a bundle.

Make bodega flowers last

(1) Know what to buy: It's just a fact: Carnations deliver the best value. "Even if you abuse them to death, [they] last a very long time," says Lynn Jawitz, owner and head designer at Florisan LLC ( But if you must have a more attention-getting bloom, like sunflowers, Jawitz suggests purchasing them in a closed, rather than flat, position—they'll open up later, and live longer.
(2) Keep them clean: Before you stick your buds in a vase, recut the stems and trim the leaves with a pair of scissors, making sure there's no foliage beneath your water line. Since it's doubtful your local deli will provide you with a packet of flower preserver, use a tiny drop of bleach instead, which keeps the water pure.
(3) Store them properly: Shield flowers from direct sunlight and heat sources—the stove, radiator, TV—or else they'll droop. If you don't have AC in your apartment, spring for orchids, which thrive in hot temperatures. You'll also want to steer your vase clear of any fruit, which gives off ethylene gas that kills buds.


Stretch your alcohol supply

Sangria is not only a summery crowd pleaser, it's also economical, thanks to the ice, fruit and other ingredients that dilute the booze. Combine two bottles of white wine (we prefer pinot grigio), a cup of peach schnapps, a quarter cup of sugar, a liter of ginger ale and a bag of mixed frozen fruit to make a gallon of sangria that serves 16 to 20 people. Cheers to a cheap, drunk evening!


Set the mood

"Candlelight hides a multitude of sins," says Jennifer Gilbert, president and founder of event-management company Save the Date ( She buys votives by the carton in the Flower District. Try Jamali Garden (149 W 28th St between Sixth and Seventh Aves; 212-244-4025,, which sells tea lights (24 for $5) at competitive prices.



Stock up on loose sweets like Sour Patch Kids and Swedish fish (each $3.49 per pound) at Economy Candy (108 Rivington St between Essex and Ludlow Sts; 212-254-1531, or online at Sweet City Candy (, then set out a huge bowl of colorful treats. "It's decoration, it's dessert and you can even do little Ziploc bags so people can leave with a little candy as a sweet parting gift," she says.


Play up the presentation

For an appetizer even the most culinary-challenged can pull off, put out shot glasses of premade gazpacho—a quart at Fairway (2127 Broadway between 74th and 75th Sts; 212-595-1888, goes for just $5.99.