Ask the Readers: How Do You Host a Summer Party on a Budget?

By Ashley Jacobs on 30 June 2015 55 comments

Editor's Note: Congratulations to Emily, Amanda, and Steve for winning this week's contest!

The summer season is great for fun in the sun — and parties! Hosting a fancy shindig can get expensive, though, so many of us will look for ways to cut back on costs without sacrificing a good time.

How do you host a summer party on a budget? What are your go-to dishes for feeding a lot of people? Would you ask your guests to provide some of the food or supplies?

Tell us how you host a summer part on a budget and we'll enter you in a drawing to win a $20 Amazon Gift Card!

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Guest's picture
Julie Wood

When I Host a Party on a Budget, I have everyone bring a dish-this saves lots of money! Go Potluck! I also have them bring their own drinks. It can get expensive trying to serve everyone drinks.

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Sheri D

Since we are getting married in Sept (talk about being on a budget) we are hosting our annual 4th of July picnic as a potluck. We made it really easy for guests to pick something as cheap and easy as hotdog rolls or "elaborate" as a pie. Any little bit helps and it's fun to see what folks bring.

We are also serving filling inexpensive sides like baked ziti (a box of pasta goes a long way) and baked beans.

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Shaun

Do a pot luck!

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Gina

Host a potluck BBQ with hotdogs & burgers. Ask guests to bring side dishes and drinks.

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Bethany M

Have everybody bring something to eat.

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Elena

I usually order pizzas to have a party on a budget

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Sebrina Parker

Last year a friend introduced me to the easiest menu for parties. We set up a Tostada bar. I just cook up a large pan of taco seasoned ground beef or you could shred up one of those pre-cooked rotisserie chickens and then have all sorts of toppings: cheese, crema or sour cream, hot sauce, pico de gallo, shredded lettuce, refried beans, diced onion, tomato, avocado, etc. You can feed a bunch of people for as little as $25. For dessert we keep it simple with s'mores or cookies. I usually ask friends to bring whatever they like to drink. Couldn't be easier!

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Mandy

I buy my supplies from a wholesale retailer like Costco to save money for parties on the cheap! :)

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Susan P.

If I host a summer party, I make it pot luck and ask everyone to bring something. I'll do the protein, usually burgers and hot dogs, and the sides and drinks are brought by the guests.

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Pamela

Plan your party for a fun waterfront site at a park or somewhere off the beaten track. If people are busy having fun splashing around, they don't eat as much.

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Mary Happymommy

Pot luck is the best way to save money...everyone brings a dish.

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Jeff

we have a themed potluck party

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nicole dziedzic

I host a summer party by using decor i have on hand & shopping clearance.

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Paul Go

Usually, making an entree (grilled food is common in the summer) and asking people to bring salads or desserts works well. A pot luck always saves some money and people love showing off their family's potato salad recipe! :)

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Mary W

I like having a potluck. I supply the main dish and ask guests to bring salads, sides and desserts. Another way to save is to ask guests to bring their favorite beverage along with enough to share.

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Rebecca B. A. R.

We always do a potluck grilling out party with family.

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Natalie M.

Potluck or even just making it byob and fixing easy foods like homemade pizza

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Liisa R

i don't... cheapest way is by not throwing them! ;) i'm not much of a party person, but we do have friends over for dinner or meet up for picnics in parks, etc.

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Mrs Shya

The first thing I do is set a budget limit. Then decide how much to spend on food, decor, favors, etc. next is location - free is best! A local park, beach (I'm in Florida), or even the backyard. I then use items already on hand- table, chairs, cooler, umbrella. Next I visit the Dollar store to pick up inexpensive disposables and decorations. I visit Pinterest for "out-of-the-box" ideas and make things that can be made rather than bought. I enlist the help of hubby and daughter. For the menu I chose food that can go a long way - salads, subs, veggies, fruits, snacks, lemonade, water. I also make requests of friends who are known for special dishes. By the time it all comes together, I've hosted a successful summer party on a budget. The real key is planning!

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Amanda Sakovitz

I ask friends to bring their own alcohol.

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Christina

I ask everyone to bring a dish of some sort. Usually I will provide most of the main dishes unless someone offers, and then everyone can bring their favorite drink or dessert or side.

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lostAnnfound

Potluck is the way to go! Everyone brings a dish so you get to try different things. Also, BYOB, although we will get beer and wine. Helps to spread the cost around so nobody is spending a fortune and we all have a good time.

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Guest

Do a potluck! That way everyone contributes. Yes, you have to have the space for it, but that is pretty cheap to clean up before and after. My friends and I aren't drinkers, so we save money by not buying alcohol.

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Bekki

pot luck style, foods I like to make for a crowd include pasta salad, hot dogs, hamburgers, and meatballs

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Christie

Very Carefully! We're planning a party this summer (20th Anniversary) and keeping costs within our budget is important, but having everything nice and fun is important too! We'll manage by shopping early and wisely, having the things that are important to us, and inviting only those who are important to us!

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Candice

Put hot dogs in a crock pot and serve as a main dish. This eliminates the need to man a grill and makes really plump, juicy hot dogs. A cheap and delicious way to host!

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Cindy Lilly

An ever-popular go-to dish is chips and dips. Chips never go out of style, and dips are pretty inexpensive. You can even make your own. Pool parties cut the cost of food, too. Those who are subconscious about how they look in a bathing suit tend not to show up, while the swimmers try not to eat too much. I definitely don’t have a problem asking guests to bring food or drinks. Especially when there are kids involved!

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Kellie Baker

POTLUCK!

I usually prepare a 3 course meal and allow guests to bring additional items so there is plenty to go around.

My Menu:
Tequila Chicken - Super easy and a crowd favorite
Grilled Veggies: Peppers, Onions, Mushrooms, Okra, Zucchini, Potatoes, Olive Oil, Salt and Pepper wrapped in foil and throw on the Grill
Corn on the Cob: Don't even husk it. Just throw it on the grill as is and enjoy (it husks so much easier after it's cooked)
Jello Shots: I make these so often I recently invested in the shots from Party City

For the Kids:
I always make sure I have something fun for the kids
Jello: I usually put jello in fancy glasses (plastic margarita glasses)
Welch's Sparking Grape Juice: I always have this in stock for them too. They think they are super fancy at my house

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Karen L

The easiest way is to have a pot luck get together. Additionally I shop at big box stores or stack coupons with sales at the supermarket.

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Suz_Glo

I agree - a potluck is the way to go! And then set up as many game/gathering spots in your yard as possible to keep people active and interested in talking together. And music, of course!!

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Natalie

I ask friends and family to each bring a dish and their own drink.

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Kelli

Potluck! Everyone contributes their favorite food.

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Marie

We make it a potluck and ask everyone to bring a dish. It's all about keeping it simple and spending time together.

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Donna D.

Potluck and when people ask what to bring I will tell them what is needed.

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Ernest S.

Potlucks are a great way to keep the costs down. Also, look for "family/party feast" coupons and deals from local restaurants!

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Lisa Denny

Potluck!

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Michelle D.

I love to have a potluck and have everyone bring a dish. That way you get to try other people's cooking and not spend as much money since everyone contributes!

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Lynda

potluck at a park

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Emily

I think potlucks are really fun and it means you almost automatically have enough food because it scales up with the number of people you have. If you throw in some basics--chips, hot dogs, hamburgers--you're all set.

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Cheryl

I set a budget and stick to it. Shop early and buy items when they are on sale and use coupons. Then freeze if need be. You could have a friend go in on the party with you. Have kids make the decorations.

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Toni B

Make it BYOB...drinks can add up in a hurry. But, I always supply water.

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Kristin

Home made chili with guests bringing toppings, corn bread.

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Jay H

Beach or lake BBQ and everybody bring something.

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Elle

Have people bring a dish with them and make it BYOB.

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Potluck!

Visit bakery outlet for burger and hot-dog rolls (no, they aren't stale).
If you've got a Costco membership, use it.

Deviled eggs are a simple dish that always brings rave reviews. Even though eggs are more expensive these days, they're not THAT bad. Include them on the table and people will think you worked harder than you did.

Bake a sheet cake (13 by 9 inch pan) and your guests will love you. Serve it with on-sale ice cream and they will love you even more. Not a baker? Look for a sale on cake mixes. If you're serving ice cream you won't even have to frost the cake unless you want to show off.

Fill the slow cooker with potatoes and make potato salad. Or serve the baked spuds as-is and set out fixings like sour cream/Greek yogurt, finely diced onion, grated cheese and salsa.

Make a pot of chili and set it alongside those baked potatoes. People can use the same fixings to doctor the chili, or pour it over a potato.

Speaking of salsa: Putting out a few small bowls of it plus some corn chips is another crowd-pleaser. At this time of year corn chips are dirt cheap. Two or three bowls of each makes your table seem abundant.

If it's a big-enough party that you'll need more plates and utensils than you already own, hit the dollar store for your paper goods.

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J. Pario

Board games.

Popcorn.

The right mix of people.

It all adds up to a fun and relaxing time.

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Sheryl

Potlucks work the best!

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Betty

Potlucks are always fun. If you are drinkers, supply a themed drink so you don't have to buy all different booze. Or you can supply the meat, and ask everyone to bring sides.

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Miss Kim

I have a potluck!

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Becky fong

Having some sort of carb like pasta feeds a lot and is inexpensive to go along with other dishes. Also asking guests to bring appetizers, drinks or dessert helps as well.

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Catseye

Turn the party into a potluck. That's what we (friends and I) are doing for Independence Day this year.

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Jennifer Marie

We look for sale items and buy in bulk!

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Emily

Potluck! Also, cheap meat! Ground beef has went up in price quite a lot in recent years. I started grilling pork burgers (about 1.99 # vs. 3.99 #) instead. It saves money and tastes delicious!

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Happy Love

Potluck and BYOB.

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Guest

Make it a potluck! Or at a minimum BYOB

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Thomas Murphy

I use coupons and shop sales to get everything I need for a party.

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Katie J

We order pizza or have a potluck to throw a party on a budget!