How to Host a Backyard Bash on a Budget

Backyard parties are a beloved summertime tradition, but between food, drinks and decorations, they can be expensive to host. But don’t let that prevent you from inviting your friends over for some summer fun. Keep these tips in mind, and you’ll be able to throw a memorable backyard bash without burning a hole in your pocket.

Send out paperless invitations.

Sure, you could text your friends to invite them over, but invitations can really set the tone for your event. That said, you don’t have to invest in paper invitations and stamps. Instead, use e-vites to spread the word. This makes it easier to create a guest list, keep track of RSVPs and communicate with friends and family about party details.

Use seasonal produce in your recipes.

Summertime is teeming with vibrant fruits and vegetables, so use that to your advantage. In-season produce is not only cheaper, but fruits and vegetables are also at their freshest – which means more flavor for your recipes! Visit the grocery or your local farmer’s market to see what’s available, and plan your menu around that.

Choose cheaper cuts of meat.

Meat usually takes up the bulk of party costs – more so if it’s a barbecue party. Rather than splurging on ribs and filet mignon, opt for cheaper alternatives like short ribs, flank steak or – the ultimate budget option – hamburgers and hot dogs. You can do much of the prep work well ahead of time, which gives you more time to actually entertain your guests. And don’t be afraid to enlist the help of a guest to man the grill during the party.

Think big-batch food.

A big batch of spaghetti or any pasta with sauce is easy to make and great for feeding a crowd. You can even prepare the sauce the day before and re-heat it before serving. On the day of the party, all you need to do is cook the pasta, and that takes 12 minutes, tops!

Use your food as decoration.

A spread of bright tomatoes, juicy berries and succulent eggplant can be just as beautiful as a floral centerpiece, if not more so. It also makes the tablescape look more organic, and since backyard parties are usually casual, this fits the theme perfectly.

Mix up big-batch cocktails.

Do away with expensive wines or cases of beer, and instead mix up a huge batch of cocktails. Make a pitcher of classic party hits like margaritas, mojitos or sangria. If you have a punch bowl, a fruit punch is a nice option for non-alcohol drinkers. If your guests are particular about drinks, let them know what you’ll be serving and that they’re welcome to bring their own.

Use simple but colorful décor.

Go for simple but colorful outdoor decorations like paper bunting and lanterns. You can make these yourself or hit the dollar store for cheap, ready-made options. If you want something you can use again, try making bunting out of patterned fabric scraps. For an evening get-together, string up some Christmas lights and place candles in glass jars for an enchanting vibe.

Other ways to save money:

  • Always say yes to guests who offer to bring something. Knowing that dessert or the wine is taken care of will allow you to focus on other things.
  • Go the potluck route to divide costs among close friends and family. As the host, you can take care of the main dish (meat for grilling, if it’s a barbecue party) and drinks. The rest of your guests can pitch in with sides, salads and desserts.
  • Use your dinnerware and glassware instead of paper plates and plastic cups. They’re reusable and make your party more elegant, even if it’s just a small gathering.

Hosting a summer party can be enjoyable and affordable, as long as you know where to cut down on costs. What are your favorite tips for saving money while entertaining in the summer? Share your ideas in the comments!

Jennifer Lutz writes about home décor at For more simple summer home ideas, take a gander at her article on decorating your home in white for the hot season: