Summer may be a time for parties and celebrations, but it’s also a time when expenses can rise as quickly as the temperature. Budgets may be strained if the kids are enrolled in summer camp or summer sports leagues. Family vacations can come with a hefty price tag, too.
Before spending big bucks on a summer party, consider these budget-friendly tips:
Menu Planning: Shop the sales for foods you’re likely to serve and then store them in the freezer until party time. Do kebobs to trim meat costs. Interspersing meat chunks with seasonal veggies such as tomatoes, onions, zucchini and mushrooms is an economical way to give guests a colorful and flavorful meal. Stay away from prepackaged or deli potato or pasta salads; making your own is almost always cheaper. Drop soda from the menu in favor of punch made with generic seltzer, fruit juices and slices of citrus. Buy generic versions of chips or other snack foods, rather than expensive brands.
Plates and utensils: Many folks use paper or plastic plates and utensils for party food but there’s a cheaper and greener way to go – use your own dishes and utensils. You may save a lot in the long run; given how much plastic tableware you won’t be buying. Another budget party idea: Consider assembling a batch of used plates and utensils from garage sales. Nothing will match, of course, but you’ll add charm and fun to your summer party and save the environment by cutting down on garbage. You can turn the washing-up process into a party, too!
Tablecloths and napkins: By bypassing summer-themed paper tablecloths and napkins you’ll save money using budget-friendly oilcloth tablecloths that can be wiped down and used time and again. Or, select a washable fabric tablecloth, preferably a print that will easily give up ketchup and mustard stains. You’ll be able to find inexpensive, colorful cloth napkins at dollar stores and thrift shops, or at linen services that sell old napkins by the pound.
Relocate your feast: Before making your home party central, consider whether you might save money by using an alternate venue for your gathering, especially if you’re throwing a large bash. Check out free picnic areas at public parks. Inquire whether a local church or community center has party space to rent at a modest price. You could save dollars if a party at home would require expenditures for extra chairs, awnings, yard cleanup and other costs.
Budget-friendly Party Decorations: Keep it simple. When setting up a buffet table, use a bowl of fruit or summer veggies as a centerpiece, and select flowers from your yard for floral arrangements. If you’re having an evening party, you may wish to buy some inexpensive tea lights and candle holders from a dollar store, to place on the buffet table. For a splurge, consider strings of patio lights. Many stores advertise decorative summer decorations ranging from flowers and seashells to popsicles and flip-flops.
Plan ahead for next year: To stay within your summer party budget, start planning ahead of time for next year’s party. Stores usually clear out summer merchandise in late August and early September, so watch for sales of non-food party items. Another time to check out sales of party goods is after the December holidays. You’ll find party ware in red (left over from Christmas) and blue (left over from Chanukah). Incorporate white and you’ll be ready for next summer’s Fourth of July party!