7 Budget-Saving Ideas for Outdoor Entertaining

backyard party with string lights

Thomas Barwick / Getty Images

Your desire to entertain is there, but not the money. Welcome to life. That doesn't mean you have to close your doors and be antisocial until you inherit a windfall from a long-lost uncle or you land that dream job. 

With some planning and creative smarts, you can host an outdoor party any time of year (weather permitting) without making common mistakes. Follow our tips for budget-conscious themes, furnishings, and decorations.

  • 01 of 07

    Themes for Cheap Outdoor Parties

    outdoor movie party
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    Just being outside lifts peoples' moods and is a reason to celebrate, especially when you're with people you enjoy. While you don't always need a theme, creating one is fun and can be an ice breaker. Holidays and special occasions like the 4th of July, Halloween, and birthdays are natural themes that more or less dictate decor and activities. Other possibilities you might want to try:

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  • 02 of 07

    Where to Shop

    Woman buying food in supermarket.
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    Keep prices down by shopping for party supplies at discount stores and online retailers. Think about buying outdoor plastic dishes, glasses, and serve ware that can be washed and used again rather than paper. In addition to your local budget party store, look at:

    • Online retailers, like Amazon.com
    • Target
    • Wal-Mart
    • Department stores at the end of the season, when patio furnishings and accessories are often heavily discounted to make room for Halloween and Christmas items.
    • Dollar stores
    • Thrift stores
    • Flea markets or bazaars
    • Yard and estate sales 
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  • 03 of 07

    Inexpensive Party Decorations

    backyard party
    A backyard party with balloons. Getty Images

    A theme will dictate your decorations, like graduation parties, luaus, fiestas, etc. If you plan ahead, like several months in advance, you can buy decorations during offseason, when they might be cheaper. Also, search online for sales and do some comparison shopping to get an idea of how much things cost and whether or not something is a good deal.

    Another possibility is to borrow decorations from a friend or family member. Just remember who loaned you what, and return them soon after the party and in good condition. Replace anything that gets damaged.

    You don't have to get super-fancy or be the best designer to add some dazzle to your party. Consider:

    • Balloons
    • Paper lanterns
    • Mason jars or assorted glass bottles filled with candles and tea lights
    • Paper streamers
    • Freshly cut flowers from the garden, with foliage
    • Outdoor holiday decor you already have: Halloween, 4th of July (which goes for any patriotic get together)
    • Pool inflatables
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  • 04 of 07

    Grilling and Barbecues

    backyard bbq
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    The party is outdoors, which already sets the tone for a casual atmosphere. Keep the menu simple: burgers, hot dogs, chicken—something grilled and easy to cook for a crowd. Plan your menu with make-ahead dishes, and if there is a large crowd, make it a potluck where everyone brings a dish. Just keep track of who's bringing what, so you don't end up with three Jell-O pretzel salads.

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  • 05 of 07

    Furnishings for an Outdoor Party

    decorating for party
    Carrying a chair for an outdoor party. Cultura/Grant Squibb/Getty Images

    The thing about outdoor furnishings is that you can tie things together with a theme (see above) or color(s). Throwing a party in your yard doesn't mean you have to go out and buy a coordinating patio set. Fixing up what you already have or borrowing from a friend or neighbor works, as does looking for nice used outdoor furnishings online or at flea markets.

    You can also bring indoor furniture outside for the occasion: just make sure it's something lightweight and not too fragile. In regions with mild climates year-round, anything that's inside can go out and vice versa. Ottomans and poufs can join garden stools for extra outdoor seating. Don't be afraid to use assorted chairs at an outdoor table for a charmingly eclectic, mismatched look.

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  • 06 of 07

    Mood Music

    Friends at backyard party
    Friends dancing at backyard party. Getty Images

    What's a party without music? All you need is time to prepare a playlist of tunes that will reflect the tone and timing of your party activities, culminating with dance music! 

    Or, if you or your friends play instruments, encourage them to bring them to the party for an impromptu concert.

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  • 07 of 07

    A Few Accessories

    outdoor string lights
    Paul Carter/EyeEm/Getty Images

    Unlike party decorations, outdoor accessories are considered more substantial, necessary or permanent. Don't feel you have to get all-new outdoor lighting or cushions, however. Use or buy accessories that can double for indoor/outdoor purposes, or, like the Indian/boho round blanket, can be taken to the beach or even worn as a cover-up. A few to consider:

    • Mandala tapestries
    • Colorful throw pillow covers
    • String outdoor lights
    • Assorted lanterns to hang in trees or from a wire