Shannon McCullough - The Penny Hoarder

I love to get together with my family and friends. My primary love language is quality time, so I will use any excuse to be at a gathering of people.

The only reason I don't host more gatherings is because of my family's budget — hosting can quickly become expensive. So I was very excited when I discovered House Party back in 2015.

House Party lets you apply to host parties that help companies market — and consumers discover — new products. Brands work with House Party to bring awareness to their products by sending party hosts exclusive free stuff to try out and share with their party guests.

I've been chosen to host 11 out of the 53 parties that I have applied for, and I find that this is a great way to host parties on a budget.

How to Sign Up

You can sign up for House Party for free by filling out a short form, providing just your email address and birthdate. Once you have an account, check out the "Find a House Party" tab to start applying for parties.

In addition to parties open for application, you can view past parties and see which ones are "partying now" — meaning scheduled to occur within the next few weeks.

If you find a party that is accepting applications for a product that you like, you can apply to host by filling out a brief questionnaire.

The questionnaire usually takes just a few minutes to complete. In the application process you will agree not to sell anything from the Party Pack, to use the website to plan your party and invite your guests and to allow House Party and the sponsoring brand to use any pictures and product reviews you post to the site.

Be sure to click on the party's page and read the information and the fine print before clicking the "apply now" button. Some parties are limited to specific states and territories. Others are limited to people over the age of 21 because of the content being advertised (this requirement is usually for brands that promote alcohol).

How to Give Your Application an Edge

After you complete the questionnaire, you will be taken to a page that alerts you that your application is being considered. Here you’ll have the opportunity to make your application "stand out now" by completing a few tasks. These tasks are optional, but I imagine that those who don’t complete them aren’t really in the running to be chosen as a host.

I reached out to the House Party staff to see what tips they could give you to increase your odds of being selected to host.

They highlighted the importance of completing those optional tasks. Brian Slattery-Gaston, Vice President of Consumer Marketing at House Party, told us how to get your application to the top of the heap.

Brian says, "An applicant can attempt to 'Stand out from the crowd' and show us how much they want to host!... Examples of how to 'Stand out from the crowd' may include activities like uploading photos and videos to the House Party Event Page, tweeting about the particular House Party, 'liking' the sponsor brand on Facebook, and starting a conversation on the 'Main' tab of the given Event page.

He adds, “Please note that taking any or all of these actions does not guarantee a host spot — all hosts for a given House Party still have to meet the hosting criteria, which includes a number of variables decided by House Party and the event sponsors."

How to Host a House Party

When you get that email in your inbox that says, "You're in the running to host..." the real fun begins! At that point, you have exactly 30 minutes from the time you sign in to create your electronic invite on the site and send it to the minimum number of required invitees.

Time is of the essence — if House Party has enough hosts sign in and complete their invitations before you then you are no longer in the running.

Once your invitations are sent you are officially a House Party host! You will receive your Party Pack in the mail about a week before the scheduled party date.

The idea is to have hundreds, sometimes thousands, of parties for a product happening on the same date. But you can have your party a few days early or late if you absolutely need to.

The Party Pack usually contains some combination of free products to sample, promotional items, decorations, coupons and sometimes even gift cards for your party. I have gotten packs containing coffee k-cups, mugs, t-shirts, baseball caps, beer koozies, key chains and coupons.

When I hosted a "Cooked Perfect Premium Fire Grilled Wings® Game Day Party," the date selected by the sponsor was the day of a big rivalry game for my hometown NFL team. The party pack included miniature footballs for everyone, and we played with them during the game.

Yes, you may have to come out of your pocket for snacks for your guests, but I have received a few party packs with coupons or gift cards that covered food and drinks. Being a thrifty Penny Hoarder, I am sure you can find ways to keep your food costs cheap.

And usually the party pack provides the theme, decor and even entertainment. For example, I hosted a "Nature's Bounty® Earthly Elements™ DIY Night" party, and the party pack provided essential oils and recipe cards to make our own body butters.

All that the sponsors usually ask for in return is feedback and pictures from your party. You have to check the website or app frequently as new hosting opportunities are always popping up.

House Party Pros

  • You can score free swag, product samples, coupons, decor, and/or gift cards.
  • It's completely free to sign up and free to receive Party Packs for any party you are selected to host.
  • There is absolutely no panhandling of products or soliciting sales from your friends — Just share your free stuff.
  • It takes a lot of the guesswork out of your next party. The date, theme, decor, invitations and sometimes even party favors are all supplied by House Party.

House Party Cons

  • More than likely you will have to spend some money out of pocket on your party. You cannot invite 10 people over to sample and discuss a great new coffee flavor without at least providing donuts.
  • The party date is already chosen and may not be convenient or ideal for you. Maybe you would rather have your party coincide with your upcoming birthday, but there is a very limited window of time for you to use, share, and review your Party Pack contents. Not adhering to that window of time may impede your chances of being chosen to host future parties.
  • You have to have the host notification date on your calendar and act fast if you are selected to host. Not acting quickly could result in losing your spot.
  • You could apply for what feels like tons of parties before being given the opportunity to host. Unfortunately, there's no special code to crack to determine what target market House Party and the sponsor are trying to reach. So don't give up if it takes more than a few applications to score a host spot.

If you like to host parties, get free stuff, and share great freebies like I do, then head on over to HouseParty.com to sign up. With my application tips, you’ll be hosting a party in no time.

Shannon McCullough is an author, publisher, wife, and mother to a fearless, energetic toddler and a needy, nocturnal newborn. She has a parenting blog at FirstGenMom.com where she provides support and encouragement for overwhelmed parents like herself.