How to Entertain Outdoors Without Breaking the Bank

by Vincent King · 3 comments

You’ve spent all day shopping and picking out the perfect decor, to go with your delicious red steaks for your outdoor party. The chairs and furniture have been washed and arranged. You even bought new pillows so you could capture that outdoor room feel you saw on Pinterest. The smell of burning coals fills the air with the unforgettable scent of summer. Your party is going to be GREAT!

Except, you can’t stop thinking about all the money you’ve blown getting ready for your big event – that extra $275 that was supposed to go toward this month’s credit card payment.

Unfortunately, You Just Couldn’t Help Yourself

Getting caught in the fanfare of special occasions can be a tremendous amount of fun. And once you throw family and friends into the mix, it gets all too easy to lose control (and sight) of the big picture. Yes, you want to entertain, but you also want to stay within your budget.

There are so many preparations to make: food, decor, and entertainment. It’s easy to spend far beyond your honest intentions.

The food is the biggest and scariest monster in the closet. Jane loves burgers. John loves steak. Rachel loves ribs. So you try to satisfy them all. Spending extra dollars on meat, and all the fixings that will make your event memorable.

Then, you want to create a space to entertain something super special so you go buy the same seating and cushions, along with the outdoor screen to mimic the pictures you saw on a magazine once.

All of this “going the extra mile” to impress your guests adds to massive receipts you weren’t expecting to see, and certainly hadn’t planned on.

Planning is Your Friend

Had you planned before going out, you could have produced results every bit as spectacular, but with far less pain at the register.

Plan your menu, but don’t plan on satisfying everyone’s wants. It’s your party, not Jane’s, John’s or Rachel’s. Plan a menu that tastes great and one that is within your budget. Your guests will love what you serve, even if it isn’t the filet they were hoping for. It will all taste great on your new seating!

Yes, you can have the new seating you saw, so long as you’ve properly budgeted for it. If you haven’t, find an alternative that is just as grand – like pulling down that futon mattress you’ve got in the kids’ room. Plop a sheet beneath it, and use it as your new outdoor couch for the night.

Mistakes to Avoid so You Can Save


Plan a menu that suits the theme of your evening. Burgers and hot dogs aren’t the only alternatives to filets and Red Snapper. Choose proteins that taste great, but are less expensive, like chicken, whiting, or ground beef (make seasoned beef kebabs instead of hamburgers!).

Stick to two kinds of proteins and partner them with delicious sides like twice baked potatoes, grilled corn, or grilled veggies.

Plan your menu to suit the number of people you’ve invited. Don’t randomly buy without knowing how much food you need, because that’s when you overspend. You’ll need approximately 8 ounces of protein for the main meal and about 6 ounces of veggies per guest. And if you’re serving hors’ doevres, plan about 6 bites per guest.

Put Your Ideas to Work

Pinterest is an awesome resource when you want to get ideas for decorating, but the fact is, it prompts many people to start spending money on things they don’t need and can’t truly afford to buy. Use your creativity or your own visions to prompt the perfect setting for your party.

Go on a Scavenger Hunt

Rather than running out to go shopping as soon as you close your browser, go on a scavenger hunt around your house to see what you can use. Futons make great floor seating. An old white sheet will make a get outdoor screening for watching that outdoor movie. (Tip: Many libraries offer projectors for rent!)

Use old candles that you haven’t finished yet to light the patio. And check your garden for any decorations that you can simply rearrange around your new outdoor room.

There are many ways to entertain without breaking the bank.

Do you have any outstanding tips to design an inexpensive summer spectacular?

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  • Jennifer says:

    I love the idea for an outdoor movie night, like going to the drive in! Now I know that you could rent projectors. Great tip!

  • Shane says:

    Sometimes when I have a cookout, I ask people to bring sides so I can worry about the main course, or vice vesa you bring what you would like to eat I cook it and supply the sides. IT works out great.

  • Marbella says:

    Plan in good time, buy frozen meat and chicken when they are at extra price, much cheaper than fresh, tastes as good as fresh at the BBQ. Cushions etc. buy an extra price at IKEA.

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