BBQ Without Busting The Bank

Holding a backyard BBQ is a great way to entertain and enjoy the long days of summer. But hosting a party, even a small one, can quickly get expensive. One of the benefits of having a BBQ is that it is less formal than other events so you can easily keep your costs down.

Here are five ways to save money and throw a great party at the same time:

Make it a Potluck

Since food costs can be one of the biggest expenses of entertaining, consider making the party a potluck affair. Some hosts supply the meat, condiments and buns while asking guests to bring their favorite side dish or dessert. If you go this route, be sure to ask people to let you know what dishes they are bringing so that you don’t have 11 varieties of potato salad on your buffet table.  Another option is invite families to bring their own meat to grill and you provide side items to complement their meal. 

Use Electronic Invitations

Instead of purchasing invitations and stamps for your party, send electronic invitations through a free service, such as Evite. In addition to saving money, you will also save the time of addressing and mailing the invitations. The website also lets you keep track of who is attending and what dishes they are bringing.

Shop Smart

If you head to the store the day of the party and buy your party food at full price, you will most likely get sticker shock at the bill.  During the weeks before your party, watch grocery store sale circulars for items such as condiments and buns. Clip coupons for other times that you will need and then head to stores that will double your coupons. Warehouse stores can be a good bargain for items such as meats, condiments and buns.

By carefully selecting the foods that you serve, you can also save a considerable amount. “Cook a variety of meat like chicken, hamburgers, hot dogs and steak. You can limit the quantity of the most expensive meat but still provide food for everyone,” said Jamie Yahne, owner of dinnerware retailer Glitzee Glee. She also recommends serving watermelon as a dessert since the fruit can inexpensively feed a large group. Make your own ice cream sundaes is another low cost dessert that is always a big hit.

Plan Decorations and Paper Products Carefully

It is easy to spend a lot of money on decorations and paper products, so carefully think about decorations before heading to the store.  Use solid color cloth tablecloths that you already have or purchase inexpensive plastic table coverings. Check your local dollar store for inexpensive paper products and decorations. Instead of buying expensive themed plates and napkins, buy solid color paper products in bulk to save money.

Ask your friends and neighbors for any decorations that you could borrow for your party. For centerpieces, put fresh flowers from your garden in interesting containers and vases. White Christmas lights, American flags and tiki torches are also inexpensive ways to create a festive atmosphere at your gathering. 

Keep Drink Costs Low

Buying alcohol for a crowd can add up quickly. Consider having the party BYOB or only serving beer and wine. If you serve beer, Jeanette Pavini, Consumer Savings expert, recommends checking out to find the cheapest beer in your zip code. “Sangria is another great option because you can make it ahead of time and a little goes a long way. Buy whatever fruit is on sale, such as pineapples, oranges and berries. Combine the fruit with wine, a bargain bottle is okay for this recipe. Add carbonated water and a sweetener like orange juice. Chill overnight and you’re ready to go for a refreshing cocktail treat,” said Pavini.  

Even non alcoholic drinks can become expensive. Yahne recommends purchasing two liter bottles of soda instead of individual cans or bottles. You can also fill up a drink dispenser with ice water to save money on bottled water. Make a pitcher of lemonade for the children and any adults with a sweet tooth.

(Photo by pegwinn