6 Tips to Throw a Summer Party on a Budget

Dig into the hot dogs and hamburgers, not your savings account. 


When you see hot dogs and hamburgers go on sale, buy them! Even if you're not planning a party, you can store them in the freezer for the day you do entertain.

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Who doesn’t love a good summer party? Whether it’s Memorial Day in May, Independence Day in July or the unofficial end of summer party during Labor Day weekend in September – summer is prime time for parties.

As a host, there can be a lot of pressure to throw a fun party, and that often pushes people to spend a lot just to keep up with the last fun party they attended. The reality is that you can throw an entertaining party with all of your friends without spending a lot – if you’re smart about it. 

1. Set a budget.

Set a budget of how much you want to spend on a party. The simple act of setting a budget, and sticking to it, will force you to make trade-offs and avoid feeling like you should offer the finest food and drinks. Without a number in your head, you’ll also be tempted to just buy more. And more. And more.

2. Use invitation tools.

An accurate guest count means fewer leftovers and less wasted food – both of which are enemies of the budget-conscious host. Why buy food for 30 when you will only have 20 people attending?

Send electronic invitations out early so your guests can respond quickly. You can also send a reminder the week of your party to get the answer of any stragglers who haven’t yet replied.

3. Take advantage of your guests’ generosity.

When you invite your friends over for a party, what’s the first thing they ask?

“What should I bring?” Take advantage of it!

By planning your menu far in advance, you can take advantage of your friends’ generosity to help supplement your menu. Ask your guests to bring side dishes and desserts because they often take the most time to prepare and, if they must be chilled, would take up valuable space in your refrigerator.

4. Keep the food simple.

Try to avoid dishes with a lot of ingredients or require a lot of preparation time. Fewer ingredients means fewer items to buy, and simplicity means you can spend more time with your friends, rather than spending time making them food.

Next, offer a few meat selections but supplement with a cornucopia of side dishes, fruit and vegetables. On a price per pound basis, meat is often the most expensive, so turn to other items to bring the price per person down.

Many in season fruits and vegetables are delicious on the grill and very affordable. Roast some corn, which is not only delicious but cheap at the height of its season.

If you aren’t a master of the grill and prefer to work indoors, consider dishes with pasta, rice or potatoes. There are a million salad recipes you can make using any of those ingredients, and they are often cheap.

5. Stockpile during sales.

Hot dogs and hamburgers seem to always be on sale at the grocery store – until the week of your party. Stock up on favorites whenever they go on sale, and remember to pull them out of the freezer a day before your cookout.

Fortunately, many grillable meats freeze well as long as you seal them to protect against freezer burn. Hot dogs, ground beef and chicken make up the triumvirate of inexpensive meats, and each one holds up well in the freezer.

6. Skip disposables as much as possible.

Paper plates, plastic utensils and other disposables make cleaning up a lot faster, but they cost more than washing your own dishes. Use as many regular plates and utensils as you can, and supplement with disposable items. You’ll be helping your wallet and the environment at the same time.

With these tips, you can have a great time hosting a summer party without feeling like you need to take out a mortgage just to pay for it.