Frugal Fourth of July Party Ideas

Growing up, Fourth of July was one of my favorite holidays. I lived in rural New Hampshire at the time, an area that isn't exactly known for having a lot to do. But every Fourth of July, a small carnival would come into town; the day was filled with parades, entertainment, and contests; and at night, everyone from the surrounding area would gather on the baseball field to watch the fireworks.

These days, I tend to celebrate the Fourth of July having a low-key barbecue with friends. If you're planning a Fourth of July gathering this year, here are some ideas to keep it fun, frugal, and festive. (See also: Some Fourth of July Numbers)

1. Have a Potluck

This is pretty much my favorite frugal suggestion for any party. If you're having a classic Fourth of July barbecue, provide the dogs, burgers, and buns, and let your guests bring the side salads, chips, and drinks.

2. Take Advantage of the Free Entertainment

Even if you're hosting a party, that doesn't mean you have to skip big events in town. Consider having a pre- or post-event barbecue. Invite everyone over for some food and drinks after the parade or before the fireworks, and that way you don't have to worry about providing things to do beyond good company and good eats.

3. Pass on Purchasing Fireworks

If fireworks aren't already illegal in your state, pass on purchasing anything greater than sparkler-strength. There's likely already a great fireworks display happening somewhere nearby anyway, and fireworks can be dangerous.

4. "D" the Decorations

In this case, "D" stands for both DIY and dollar store. Check out your local $1 emporium for cheap Fourth of July themed decorations as well as stand-alone red, white, or blue elements like vases and plastic plates. (You might even be able to raid your Christmas or Hanukkah decorations for items that are simply red, white, or blue.) And on the DIY side, red, white, and blue paper chains make lovely Fourth of July decorations (plus they're a great way to get kids involved). Or try cutting out paper stars in those patriotic colors and hanging them from the ceiling with different lengths of string.

5. Skip the Pricey Berries

So many Fourth of July dessert recipes suggest decking cakes and other desserts with appropriately colored raspberries and blueberries. But depending on where you live, those berries might not be in season yet. Don't feel the need to spend $4 a container of raspberries (as delicious as they may be) — look to less-expensive strawberries, get frozen berries if it's appropriate for the recipe, or use food coloring to make your cake colorful.

6. Get Active With Games

Check out Family Fun Magazine's collection of 26 Outdoor Games. While the list is kid-focused, there's fun to be had for adults as well. And you can never go wrong with classics like kickball, touch football, or even a good-ol' three-legged race.

7. Throw Out (Some) Tradition

Just because the Fourth of July is traditionally a barbecue party doesn't mean you need to do that. Check out Julie's Fabulous Party Ideas for the Frugal-Minded for great ideas like a make-your-own-pizza party (and hey, you can always cook that pizza on the grill).

Do you have any ideas for celebrating a frugal Fourth of July? Share in the comments!

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Guest's picture
Jen W.

Hi, I work for U.S. Bank's social media group, and we just wanted to let you know we love these ideas and started a conversation about this topic on our Facebook page:!/usbank/posts/10150279388510067

Guest's picture

Love these ideas. My favorite is creating the games. I think having an activity at your party just adds so much to the experience. Wiffleball will be a must on the 4th!

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Thanks for offering some unique ideas for the 4th. It's greatly appreciated.

Stay safe everyone!

- Dave

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Our neighborhood (in Chicago) has an Old Fashioned Fourth celebration, including a parade where anyone can march (lots of kids decorate their bikes and trikes and join the parade). Afterwards, there's a fair in the local park with old fashioned games like ring toss and watermelon seed spitting contests. A local band plays patriotic music by request. The elementary school sells hot dogs as a fundraiser, and many families bring a picnic. It's festive, frugal, and a great time for all ages. Other communities could replicate our model.

Guest's picture

Going to the dollar store or having kids help make decorations are both really good suggestions. There are always so many things you can get at the dollar store for evens like this, even grilling utensils, games to play, cheap napkins (that can even just be plain white) and of course 4th of July themed plates/decorations/party favors. It would be really easy to put on a holiday barbecue with these suggestions, thanks!