Entertaining can be expensive, but you can throw the best barbecue in town without breaking the bank.
Decide how many guests you want to invite, what types of food and drinks to serve, what activities the kids can partake in and make a list of all the miscellaneous items you will need, including plasticware, paper plates, napkins, plastic cups, ice, charcoal, etc. Set your budget before you shop and do not go over. Planning in advance allows you time to hit the sales and map out which different stores to hit in order to get the best deals.
Do your barbecue potluck style. Ask everyone bring a dish of their choice, whether it be a side item, dessert, drinks or hamburger buns. Because you're the one hosting, no one should mind having to bring an item or two, so don't hesitate to ask. This will not only save you money, but it will also reduce some of the stress that comes with party planning as well as some of the clean-up, since people will be taking their dishes home with them.
If children are attending, it's important to have some (affordable) activities for them to play — not to mention, it will keep them occupied so you can socialize. Some ideas include a slip n' slide, water balloons, squirt guns, lawn games like beanbag toss or even a piñata! Luckily, kids love any occasion that allows them to be outdoors, so just a few activities for them should suffice. And if you do have a pool, always be sure to keep close supervision on the kids.
There's no need to bust out the expensive liquors or specialty beers. A few cases of light beer and one signature cocktail like spiked lemonade will do just fine. For a super easy, yet delicious drink, mix one can of frozen, condensed lemonade, add vodka and two cans of beer. If there is going to be a large number of guests, consider a keg rather than cases of beer. Another option is a BYOB party. People usually don't mind bringing their own drinks as it ensures they get exactly what they want. Also, don't forget plenty of water and soda — it's important to stay hydrated.
Yes, sometimes it's fun to play Martha Stewart and go all-out, but barbecues are about spending time together, not focusing on having adorable tablecloths and napkins. For ambiance, simply dig out the white Christmas lights and string them across the fence or trees. If you're worried about seating, lay out blankets in the grass and serve picnic-style. Also, never underestimate Party City and dollar store finds. Decorations usually get tossed anyway, so keep the budget at a minimum for these items.
Most importantly, have a good time. After all, summer only rolls around once a year, right? So enjoy the weather, sit back, put your feet up and appreciate good conversation with friends and family. Don't stress about having a perfect event, just be sure everyone is having a memorable day.
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