With the long winter a distant memory, it’s time to look forward to some summer fun with friends and family. The best part about summer gatherings is that they’re usually outside, which is not only a lot of fun but generally easier on the bank account, too. Few decorations are necessary; entertainment for the kids can be as elaborate as a hose, and summer party foods can be simple and inexpensive.
Before you begin planning your party, set your budget, dividing it between food, decorations, and entertainment. Stick to that budget! If you run out of money for decorations, for example, it doesn’t mean you have to stop, it merely means that you have to get creative. The Internet is a goldmine of party ideas that use little or no money.
For a Fourth of July party, all you really need is a menu of burgers on the grill, delicious fruits that are in season, and a few red, white, and blue decorations. You and your friends and family will have a great time celebrating the red, white, and blue without spending a lot of green!
Paper invitations are costly, and why waste paper when you can send out invitations that you designed yourself via email or text message? Websites such as Evite allow you to customize and send your invitations and receive RSVPs free.
You provide the burgers, dogs, and condiments; ask your guests to bring side dishes and appetizers.
Ditch the Tablecloths
Instead, cover your table with white or brown butcher’s paper, which is only a few dollars for a roll. Put out a supply of crayons or washable markers and offer a prize to the child who creates the most patriotic drawing.
Plastic utensils, paper napkins, and paper plates are a waste of resources and money. It may be convenient to toss them away but buying them could easily end up costing you $20 or more. Plain, white cloth napkins can easily be dressed up for any occasion with a piece of ribbon or homemade napkin ring, and although they do cost more than paper napkins, you’ll reuse them repeatedly. If you don’t have enough of your everyday utensils or plates for the party, check out thrift stores. You can often find inexpensive utensils and dish sets there.
If you don’t have enough chairs for everyone at the party, ask your guests to bring their own lawn chairs.
Use Mason Jars for Everything
Mason jars are inexpensive when you buy a case of 12, and there’s usually an abundance of them at thrift stores. They can be used in many ways at your 4th of July party, such as for holding utensils, tea light candles, snacks like pretzel rods, fruit kabobs, individual salads, and sparklers. The smaller sizes are a great way to serve individual desserts, which your guests can take home if they haven’t saved room for dessert.
Shoot for the Stars
Use a star-shaped cookie cutter to cut star shapes out of watermelon, put them on bamboo skewers, and stick them upright in a mason jar. Make garland using stars cut out of decorative paper or red, white, and blue paper glued to string and hang it around your patio umbrella. Cut stars out of construction paper and scatter them on the food tables. Don’t forget the star fruit!
Keep Dessert Simple
Use red and blue fruit with whipped cream to dress up any dessert. Frost a store-bought pound cake with the whipped cream and top with the fruit. The same can be done with cakes, cheesecakes, or cupcakes. If it’s a hot day, you may want to keep the dessert in the fridge until it’s time to serve.
Get Your Glow On
Glow sticks and bracelets are inexpensive at dollar or discount stores. If your party is going to be at night, stock up on enough for everyone.
Drinks by the Pool
There’s no need to buy a big cooler or decorative barrel to keep drinks cold. A small kids’ pool filled with ice makes a great drink cooler for summer parties.
A sprinkler might make the younger kids happy, but the older kids and adults will surely want more! If you can find some marking paint (the kind that contractors use or that’s used to mark sports fields), spray a tic-tac-toe game board or hopscotch on your lawn. Or, follow these instructions to make a giant Jenga game that you can use all summer long.
You can find things such as sparklers cheaply at many discount stores, but real fireworks are expensive (and may be illegal in your area) and can eat up a lot of your party’s budget. Instead, plan your party around a local fireworks display. Bring some blankets or have everyone bring their lawn chairs. You can supply snacks such as individual bags of popcorn or fireworks-themed candy such as Pop Rocks. If you’re feeling crafty, cover toilet paper rolls with red, white, and blue construction paper, make a cone out of the paper and glue to the top, and fill the tube with candy. Use colored tape to close the bottom and you have a fun rocket treat for the kids.
Having your guests contribute to the party by bringing food, chairs, or alcohol is a way to cut the cost of the festivities, and it’s not something you should be embarrassed to bring up. Most people understand how expensive parties can be and are happy to help by bringing something. Many even love the chance to show off their favorite recipe.
Even on a limited budget, you can plan a Fourth of July party that everyone will love. Remember these three words: keep it simple. Think simple foods, simple decorations, and simple entertainment. Fourth of July parties are a way to celebrate our nation’s independence, but they’re also about getting together with people you care about for their company, camaraderie, and conversation. Like our country, those things are all free!