Fourth of July is here, and Labor Day isn’t far off. And for most people, these holidays mean it’s time to fire up the old grill and have some barbecue.
If you’re planning a barbecue for one of these weekends, or any weekend for that matter, be careful with your budget. If you invite a few friends or relatives over, you could find yourself spending over a hundred dollars on chicken, ribs, side dishes and beverages, not to mention paper plates, cups and napkins.
One of the best ways to save money is to invite people over, and ask everyone to bring something. If everyone brings a side dish, dessert, soda, or plates, you’re left with just the meat you plan to barbecue. That alone can save you about half of your cost.
The other big way to save is to shop wisely and compare prices. Before you run out to the closest supermarket, check the newspaper for specials a few days leading up to your cook-out. In fact, if you purchase your groceries two or three days in advance and freeze everything, you avoid the rush on Saturday morning and the possibility that the stores may run out of certain items.
Most important, you may find savings on all your food, and even if you have to go to two or three stores to hit the right specials, it’s worth it if you can save 40 or 50 percent. Take, for example, the cost of soft drinks. A two-liter bottle of soda can vary by as much as 40 cents a bottle, depending on the store and the specials. If you’re buying ten bottles, that’s a four-dollar savings. Now imagine if you apply the same level of savings to all your food. It can add up to quite a bit.
If you plan to buy paper plates, cups and napkins, just get the basic kind with no decoration on it. If you get special “Fourth of July” napkins, you’ll spend a lot more for them, and you’re stuck with any that are left over. No one will notice the difference if you use plain, undecorated paper goods.
Another great way to save is to use coupons. Check the papers on Sunday and you’ll see pages and pages of grocery coupons. The trick to saving money with coupons is to only use them on items you really need. The marketing objective with coupons is to get you to try items you otherwise wouldn’t pay full price for. If you avoid those purchases, you can save an additional five to ten percent.
And finally, give yourself time to prepare foods, such as potato salad or macaroni salad. It becomes very tempting as your cook-out gets closer and closer to just run to the deli section and buy these dishes already prepared. If you give yourself enough time to fix it from scratch, it costs a lot less.
Budgeting for special occasions is important if you want to avoid getting off track while working toward being debt free. Check out our “Surviving the Holidays” seminar materials for more info on planning for the winter holidays.
Photo: derekskey via Flickr CC