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 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.
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Themes for Cheap Outdoor Parties
Just being outside lifts moods and gives everyone 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 Fourth 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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- Outdoor movie party
- Backyard glamping
- Shark party
- Game night, including board games, cards, video, or computer games
- Costume party: The sky's the limit on this one. Choose your favorite film or genre, TV show, game, book, or era.
- Garden party
- Cocktail party
- Outdoor activities, like beer pong or horseshoes
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Where to Shop for Party Supplies
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, consider shopping at:
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- Online retailers, like Amazon.com
- 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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Inexpensive Party Decorations
A theme will dictate your decorations, like a graduation party or luau. If you plan ahead by several months you can buy cheaper themed party decorations during the offseason, such as buying graduation items in the winter. Also, search online for sales and do some comparison shopping to get an idea of how much things cost and whether something is a good deal.
Borrow decorations from a friend or family member. Remember who loaned you which items and return them in good condition soon after the party is over. 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:Continue to 4 of 7 below.
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Grilling and Barbecues
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. If you're hosting vegan or vegetarian guests, fill the menu with veggie burgers and lots of grilled veggies for kabobs and focaccia sandwiches. 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 multiple three bean or strawberry Jell-O pretzel salads.Continue to 5 of 7 below.
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Furnishings for an Outdoor Party
Outdoor furnishings can tie together a theme or colors. That doesn't mean you have to go out and buy a coordinating patio set. Fix up what you already have, borrow from a friend or neighbor, or hunt down used or cheap outdoor furnishings online or at flea markets.
Bring lightweight, durable indoor furniture outdoors for the occasion. Consider using ottomans and poufs alongside garden stools for extra outdoor seating. Arrange assorted chairs at an outdoor table for a charming eclectic, rustic, or cottage vibe.Continue to 6 of 7 below.
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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! Keep the music playing by queuing up your selections and shared playlists on Spotify played through your Bluetooth speaker. You can also choose to play a long-form YouTube channel with the type of music you prefer—many channels are ad-free and will play straight for 10 hours or more.
Or, if you or your friends play instruments, encourage them to bring them to the party for an impromptu concert.Continue to 7 of 7 below.
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Bright, colorful outdoor party accessories will add to a celebratory mood. Use or buy lighting and fabric accessories that can be re-used, such as round boho blankets that can be tossed over seating and tables outdoors, and then can be used at the beach or to decorate your walls after your party is over.
Consider these accessory ideas: