How to Budget your 4th of July BBQ

If you’re planning an Independence Day celebration, it will probably involve grilling outdoors while you share the day with friends and family.

That can get expensive, though. Once you’ve invited a few more people over, your spending is going to ramp up as you buy more meat for the grill, beverages, and all the accessories you need to entertain on a sunny day.

Here are various items you might end up buying for your 4th of July BBQ:

  • Meats for the grill: hotdogs, hamburgers, ribs, chicken, etc.
  • Vegetables: you can grill corn on the cob, vegetable skewers, etc.
  • Side dishes: don’t forget the potato salad, slaw, etc.
  • Condiments: BBQ sauce, ketchup, mustard, and all of the other essentials for grilled burgers and hot dogs.
  • Starters: dips, vegetables, chips, pretzels, etc.
  • Desserts: apple pie is great for 4th of July, or maybe cupcakes, watermelon, etc.
  • Beverages: soda, sparkling water, adult beverages, etc.
  • Utensils: paper plates, cups, plastic forks, napkins, etc.
  • Insect repellent: nobody wants mosquitos joining their Independence Day party.
  • Activities: plan to play horseshoes, croquet, lawn darts, etc?
  • Decorations: flags, flowers, banners, etc.

These are just the obvious expenses. What about outdoor furniture, umbrellas, tablecloths, party favors, or any other unexpected expenses that might crop up? If you’re hosting a party with a swimming pool, do you have everything you need to keep swimmers safe? Will you have to spend extra on pool supplies and chemicals? Obviously, putting together a 4th of July BBQ isn’t as simple as throwing open your doors and welcoming people in. It will always cost more than you expect.

Budget for your BBQ

It’s important to plan ahead, and take some proactive steps to manage the cost of your cookout.

Live on a budget

If you’re not already budgeting in your daily life, budgeting for a special event will be an extra chore. But if you learn to budget every day, it’ll be a breeze to set up a special savings fund just for holidays like the 4th of July.

Set a limit

Know how much the whole cookout is going to cost in advance, so you can make smart decisions about your spending. Some things on your wish list might not happen, and if you know your overall spending limit, you’ll have an incentive to set priorities and only spend on the things that are most important.

Use coupons

Both digital and paper newspapers advertise before the holiday and they bring lots of deals at the grocery store. Grab a copy of the items advertised in the supermarket sales circular, these are typically found at the front of most grocery stores. Check out the ads for coupons you can use to save money. But only use coupons on the things you need; don’t let an ad convince you to buy more things that are in your spending plan. Also, buying the store brand vs the national brand will usually let you save up to 30% without clipping coupons.

Start early

Make sure you have a plan for everything you’re preparing and give yourself time to get it all done. If you’ve got potato salad on your to-do list and you run out of time, you’ll end up just buying it already prepared at the deli counter. That’ll cost you; our local grocery has 16 oz. of potato salad for $4.29 – at the same store, you can buy a 10-pound bag of potatoes for $3.09! The same is true for desserts: pre-made cupcakes are $12.99 for two dozen, while a box of cake mix that will make 30 cupcakes is $1.99. Making dishes from scratch saves you a lot of money.

Pick smart dishes

While you’re planning your menu, think about what desserts or side dishes might be cheaper and quicker to make. And don’t buy meats that are ready for the grill. Trim & season them yourself and save money.  At our store, chicken goes from $.99 per pound to as much as $4.99 if you buy it already trimmed, skinned, seasoned and deboned.

Don’t spring for decorations

Use what you already have on hand, don’t plunk down cash for extra decorative items you’ll only use once. And if you use paper plates & napkins, just use the cheapest plain white ones you can find – none of your guests will notice if they don’t have little flags printed all over them.

Have guests contribute

Make it a Bring Your Own Beverage (BYOB) affair so you don’t have to stock the cooler in advance. Or ask everyone to bring a side dish, dessert, etc. so you can just focus on the main courses.

Comparison shop

If you check those bulk mail circulars (most of us get in the mail), or grab your local newspaper, or look online you can compare all the deals on offers from your local grocery stores. If one store has something 40 or 50 percent lower than another, it’s worth making the extra trip to shop at multiple places. And for a one-time event like this, consider a dollar store for disposables like paper plates, cups, and napkins. Also, don’t forget your local farmers market for fresh vegetables.

Check unit prices

Paying attention to unit pricing in the grocery store can really help with your budget. Not sure what unit pricing is? Take a look at the Unit Price label displayed with the item for sale, it is found on the edge of the grocery shelf. The unit price will tell you how much an item costs per pound, ounce, quart, etc. Look at the small unit price numbers, not the actual price to do true comparison shopping. Sometimes the larger size isn’t the best value.

Buy in bulk

A big party can be a good time to hit up the local warehouse store if you’re a member. Don’t over-buy things that are going to spoil, but if your party is big enough, buying food in bulk can easily save you 20% or more.

Be safe

This is the most important tip, and it’s not just budgetary. If your 4th of July party involves fireworks, make sure they’re safe, legal, and any kids are well supervised. An injury will ruin your event and cost you more than just money. If your party involves a swimming pool, make sure someone is willing to serve as lifeguard whenever anyone’s in the water.

Think About Next Year Right Now

Even if it’s too late to save this year and you’ve already put a grocery shopping binge on your credit card, take a moment to think about next summer right now!

You have a smartphone, use it. You probably have a sophisticated computer in your pocket that can help you avoid overspending on next year’s big cookout. Go to your calendar app and set a reminder for next year, 2 weeks before the 4th of July holiday.

Put some notes in this calendar alert:

  • What did this year’s party cost? How can you cut that down next year?
  • What items did you make that were a definite hit?
  • What items did everyone pass on?
  • What was the most expensive item on your budget?
  • What items can you re-use next time?
  • What took more time or effort to prepare than you expected?
  • What items did you not have enough of? What was left over?

Don’t let a tight budget keep you from enjoying holidays with your friends and family. The point of budgeting is to allow you to do all of the things you want, without having to sink into debt to afford them.

If debt is already a problem, get personalized debt coaching and create a plan to achieve financial freedom.

Have a safe and happy Independence Day!


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