How to Throw a 4th of July BBQ for Under $20!
As the 4th of July quickly approaches, many of us are prepping for that infamous backyard barbecue we throw every year. These events usually mean anywhere between 10 to 50 of your closest family and friends, a giant carnivorous feast on the grill and of course some fireworks. However, hosting a party (big or small) also means having to spend money. A study by the Huffington Post in New York City suggested that “for a July 4th BBQ feeding 5-10 people could exceed $300 for first timers, as the price of a gas grill alone starts around $170”. For the purposes of keeping it simple, this article assumes the party host already owns a gas grill and will not need to purchase one. The main costs of the perfect 4th of July bash is the food. Assuming a guest list of 12-20 people (I don’t have very many friends), this article will give you tips and tricks to spending $20 or less on your 4th of July grocery bill!
Follow these great tips and tricks!
Bring Your Own Meat. Meat can be a very large expense for the host of any backyard barbecue gathering. Having your guests bring their own meat, cuts that expense out of the picture (except what you provide for yourself). It also takes the guessing out of individuals preferences between vegetarians, red meat lovers or the odd ball chicken and fish thrown on the grill. Your guest will appreciate the option to have choices especially since we are all still working on our summer bods. If burgers are your thing, team up with some family members and go in on bulk patties from Costco. It is usually cheaper to buy in a bulk and that way you will have some extra in case your nephew from college comes home and is used to all you can eat buffets. It is always good to have a little extra, but don’t feel the need to go so overboard that you are left eating burgers for the rest of the summer. Planning out the exact amount of food needed including a little cushion and delegating will help you stick to a budget.
Celebrate the Holiday, potluck style
I hate the assumption that the host is responsible for all the accoutrements to the party and so should you. Most of your guests (if not all) will ask you what you would like them to bring. Have a list ready. Decide what you are willing and able to contribute to the party (chips in this scenario) and delegate out the rest. A sample barbecue “must have” checklist is below for your reference. See what I have put as delegate and what I (as the host) contributed myself. Often times, I feel overwhelmed with the need to make sure there are enough options of various dishes and snacks so that everyone can have something they like. What a headache and a huge budget buster! Delegating out the different side dishes and snack options also ensure your guests are bringing something they know and love. Win Win!
Make a large batch of punch
Alcohol is the other large expense for any party. Between beer, wine and liquor, the cost can really add up. A quick and easy tip is to make a signature cocktail (punch bowl) for the party. This allows you, as the host, to moderate how much alcohol is at the party so you ensure your guests are safe while still having fun. it also saves you a ton of money and agony trying to figure out what everyone would like to drink and buying to individual specifications. If people have a preference different from what you provide, they can BYOB. I prefer to grab a 750mL of clear alcohol like Svedka Vodka or Bacardi Rum and mix that with a gallon of fruit punch (or fruit juice cocktail of choice), a gallon of 7-up (or off brand lemon-lime soda for a cheap and just as effective alternative) and some sliced fruit (oranges add color and flavor without breaking the bank like strawberries or blueberries can).
Send out electronic invites
Paper invitations are usually only used for weddings and funerals these days. With the growing capability of technology, it is no longer taboo to send out electronic invitations. There are several options for electronic invitations. Creating a Facebook event is the most popular and allows the host and guests to update the party details as needed. If you are looking for a classier electronic invitation, check out Evite– a free electronic invitation service that lets your customize your invitation to meet your party needs and looks amazing. An electronic invitation takes out the cost, time and effort of snail mail invitations. It also allows you to be very detailed and keep your “must haves” list with who is bringing what up-to-date. Overspending on physical invitations is a real issue if you are trying to keep your costs down. Take advantage of the free resources all around you.
DIY your outfit
Every store will have a prominent red white and blue american flag tank or sunglasses displayed in their window before the 4th of July. Resist the temptations to splurge on those fringed white jean shorts and slightly faded American flag tank top! I promise your outfit will not the be reason your party is a success or not. Instead of buying a new outfit you will wear once, convert an oldie into a goodie. Use these tips from InStyle on how to take a pair of old jeans and turn them into super sexy jean shorts. For extra spirit take one of those small american flags you get at parades and events and sew a piece of the fabric to the back pocket of your new jean shorts. Voila! You have a brand new pair of 4th of July daisy dukes that cost you $0! Pair it with a solid color shirt or tank top and you are the star of any backyard barbecue.
Use what you have
Don’t waste your money on new when you already have it. Plastic plates, cups and forks may be convenient but they also add cost where it is not necessary. Use the plates, utensils and cups you already have. They don’t have to match or be pretty, just functional. What are dishwashers for anyways? Also dig through your kitchen before buying anymore bowls, platters or table cloths that will never be used again. Place napkins or fabric over an old baking sheet and use it as a platter for veggies or as a drip pan under pitchers of water or lemonade. Get creative and check out these BBQ hacks for a DIY perfect outdoor BBQ experience.
Ask your neighbors
Hate the idea of using your real plates and cups? Lucky for you, 4th of July is right at the end of grad party season! If you are a planner like me, get an early start on prepping for your party. At the end of June after all the grad parties, ask around your neighborhood for any extra paper plates, solo cups and plastic utensils. Use different apps like Nextdoor and Facebook to put feelers out there.
I bet you will get more than you ever thought possible.
Dollar Store Resources
When all else fails, go to the dollar store. Before going to Target, check out the dollar store. You will find most, if not all, of the items from the “Must Have” list there. An under rated resource, the dollar store has everything you could need to through the perfect party. You also always know what the price will be and don’t have to worry about the over priced $3.00 chip bags at Target.
Some are turned off by the thought of off brand dollar store items and mostly worried about what their guests will think of them. A tip to avoid judgment for buying supplies cheap is to take the items out of the packaging and neatly arrange them on a table. The soda will go into the punch so no one will notice any difference between an off brand soda and a 7-up.
If you are using the chip bags as bowls but still want to cover up the fact that they are off brand, loosely wrap different colored duct tape or whatever you have around the bottom half of the bag. Make sure to do this before you open the bags! Then when rolling the bags down to turn into bowls, the duct tape provides a more rigid structure and covers up the brand of potato chip. Genius!
A Backyard Barbecue “Must have” checklist:
Meat– 1 lb ground beef – $2.99
Buns– 4 pack burger buns- $1.00
Chips (x2 bags) – $2.00
Drinks- Signature Punch
Lemon-Lime Soda- $1.00
Fruit punch- $1.00
Sides – (potato salad, Coleslaw, Fruit platter, etc.)- Delegate to friends and family
Condiments – (ketchup, mustard, Cheese, etc.)- Already have! or Delegate
Ice – Delegate to friends and family
Dessert – Delegate to friends and family
Party necessities – Utilize neighborhood marketplaces like Nextdoor, Craigslist, or Facebook to find people with leftover party supplies from graduation season. Many of these can be found for free!
Plates, Cups, Utensils – Grad Party leftovers
Table cloths (optional) – Grad Party leftovers
Punch Bowl – Family/Friends have
Coolers – Family/Friends have
Grill/Gas – Already own
Corn Hole – Family/Friends have
Total = $18.57
(prices may vary based on location. These are not numbers guaranteed by any retailer, just estimates based on store prices and varieties around the Denver metro area)
As you can see, it doesn’t not take much for the price of a backyard barbecue to get out of control. The bottom line of this article is
- Use your resources- There’s more out there than you think. Post a comment on Nextdoor for any of the items you weren’t able to get like yard games, lights, or a boombox to turn your party from good to WOW!
- Delegate to your friends and family-You are not alone! Lean on those around you to help soften the budget blows of a backyard bash. They will appreciate the opportunity to contribute and you will save tons of money!
- Last Resort Dollar Store- When all else fails and you need that gallon or two of soda, the dollar store is your best friend. You always know the price and get the same product for a steal. you can’t go wrong and I promise your guests won’t know the difference.
What are your favorite Summer barbecue recipes? How do you throw awesome parties on a budget?