18 Budget-Friendly Summer Party Ideas

Family birthday party in summer

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Summer parties are always the best gatherings of the year! The casual ease of warm-weather entertaining is on your side: Who doesn't like a hot and gooey s'more? Or movie-night in the backyard? Throwing one doesn't necessarily mean you have to spend a lot of money. There are thrifty solutions to planning a summer gathering that will guarantee fun without breaking the bank. Good planning can also help curb additional financial burdens. 

Here are 18 summer party ideas that are fun, practical, and budget-friendly. 

  • 01 of 18

    Hot Dog Bar

    A selection of hotdogs with fillings
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    Hot dogs are a relatively inexpensive party food option and great for kids too. You can buy them in bulk, and vegan versions are also available. Paired with a soft bun and various toppings like chopped onions, tomatoes, relish, pickles, yellow mustard, guacamole, and shredded cheese, guests have options to create their version of the perfect hot dog.

  • 02 of 18

    Summer Tapas

    Ladies at a table passing around tapas-style dishes

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    When the weather heats up, guests often lose their appetite to indulge in heavy foods. Tapas are a great light, Spanish-inspired option delivering smaller hot or cold portions for sharing. For the host, this means you can select dishes that don't require a lot of prep and ingredients that aren't too expensive. For guests, it is a sociable, interesting, and varied option. Pitchers of refreshing sangria are the perfect pairing for a tapas party.

  • 03 of 18

    Beach Party

    Beach Party
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    Take your party to the beach for a change of scene. Pay a small parking fee and pack a cooler with drinks and snacks. You could play beach volleyball during the day and, if allowed, start a bonfire in the evening to make s'mores.

  • 04 of 18

    Ice Cream Sundae Party

    Strawberry Sundae
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    Nothing says summer like creamy soft-serve ice cream. Throw a party celebrating this warm weather treat. An ice cream sundae party requires an extensive list of toppings. To help simplify, choose a vanilla or chocolate base and then build from there. Sprinkles, fruit, fudge, and candy are fun topping options to start, while not blowing a modest budget.

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  • 05 of 18

    Backyard Movie Night

    Pool Party Movie Night
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    A backyard movie night is an excellent alternative to spending money at movie theaters this summer. Skip the pricey popcorn, soft drinks, and candy for your own at-home theater. Enjoy a beautiful summer night and your favorite film in the comfort of your own backyard. Bonus points if there's a pool involved.

  • 06 of 18

    S'mores and Campfire Party

    Smores Campfire
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    For nighttime fun, consider a s'mores and campfire party. This party theme is super low cost and perfect for entertaining on a budget. Ultimately, you only need a campfire, s'mores materials, and drinks to wash it all down. If kids are attending, there are lots of games you can play that involve the s'mores, too. If you don't already have a backyard fire pit, consider DIYing one for cheap—it will last you for years to come!

  • 07 of 18

    Water-Park Themed Party

    Waterpark Party
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    While water parks are a source of endless summer fun, they are also costly and not always easy to get to. An alternative idea is to bring the park to your home with a water-park-themed party. You would be surprised how many options a hose can provide with the right add-ons and some creativity: Think sprinklers, slip-n-slides, inflatables, and more.

  • 08 of 18

    Hawaiian Luau

    Hawaiian Luau Party
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    Pineapples, outdoor torches, and leis are the basic ingredients for a Hawaiian luau. Pretend you are on a tropical getaway when working on a budget, and keep decor and accessories simple to save on costs. Fruity drinks and themed party favors like grass skirts will keep the party going into the night. 

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  • 09 of 18

    Farmer's Market Party

    Farmer's Market
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    A farmer's market party is a sweet way to celebrate the bounty of the season. Cut costs by planning your party in a park near the market. Parks offer ample space for groups to stretch out and enjoy a nice day. Simple, fresh ingredients are key, so you don't have to go overboard with luxurious and expansive recipes. The rustic vibe means that a checkered picnic blanket, table cloth, or napkins will be enough to convey the party theme.

  • 10 of 18

    Pool Party

    People around a pool
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    A pool party can be at your home or a nearby community pool. Both are affordable options for summer entertaining. Pack light snacks or fire up the grill, and splurge on some pool toys for fun photo opportunities.

  • 11 of 18

    Watermelon Party

    People Eating Watermelon
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    Watermelon is a quintessential summer ingredient. Not only is the fruit refreshing and hydrating on the hottest days of the year, but it's also great for party decor. Watermelon-shaped paper plates, blankets, and desserts are a fun and inexpensive way to celebrate the season. There are lots of ways you can prepare and serve the fruit to your guests, too. If you happen to grow your own watermelon, this will keep the costs down even more!

  • 12 of 18

    Taco Bar Party

    Shrimp Tacos
    James Baigrie / Getty Images

    Tacos are a cost-effective option for serving large groups of people while entertaining. A taco bar with all the toppings is easy and a lot of fun. Dining alfresco requires simple, delicious fare that's easy to serve and eat—and tacos cover all these bases.

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  • 13 of 18

    Stone Fruit Pie Party

    Fruit pies
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    Summer has an abundance of delicious stone fruits that make tasty, sweet pies. Peaches and plums are ready to be made into pie along with classic berry favorites such as strawberry and blueberry. If you have fruit trees in your yard, you can have your friends over to pick the fruit before making the pies together.

  • 14 of 18

    Bring Your Own Grill

    Variety of grilled food

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    Nothing says summer more than a barbecue. So why not set up the grill and ask all your guests to bring along something to add to it? That way, you keep your spending to a minimum, and there will be something for everyone to enjoy.

  • 15 of 18

    Summer Potluck Party

    Smiling friends walking into backyard party with trays of food

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    If you are short on time and money and have many guests attending, why not host a summer potluck party? Every guest can bring a dish with them. Ideally, it won't require a lot of prep once they arrive, so cold dishes, platters, and finger food will all work well. It's an excellent way for guests to contribute, and all the different dishes are sure to generate lots of chat.

  • 16 of 18

    Backyard Brunch

    A brunch selection

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    Opting for a backyard brunch rather than a dinner means you can go for a pared-down menu, less alcohol, and more straightforward recipes. This can all help in terms of minimizing the budget. It's also easy to offer buffet-style food for guests to help themselves. Things like fruit platters, muffins, quiches, and frittatas all work well. Homemade jelly is sure to impress your guests and is inexpensive to make.

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  • 17 of 18

    Pasta Party

    Eating spaghetti for lunch in garden

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    Pasta is inexpensive, and there are lots of simple recipes that can be served cold. Whip up a few large bowls of pasta with different sauces and some fresh bread to accompany it. It's simple, cheap, and easy to bring outdoors for serving.

  • 18 of 18

    BYOB Wine and Cheese Party

    Platter of fresh antipasto food at a party

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    A BYOB wine and cheese party may sound like an expensive idea, but if you ask each guest to bring along a bottle of wine, all you have to do is supply the cheese, meats, and crackers or bread. It's the perfect light option for a warm summer evening. If you have enough guests attending, you could even use some of the wine to hold a wine-tasting session with the best bottles.