Outdoor Entertaining: 7 Budget-Saving Ideas

  • 01 of 08

    Throwing an Inexpensive Outdoor Party

    outdoor party
    People gather for party in backyard. Cultura/Grant Squibb/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 anti-social 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). Follow our tips for budget-conscious menus, furnishings and decorations.

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  • 02 of 08

    Themes for Cheap Outdoor Parties

    couple dance at luau
    Tiki torches heat things up at a luau. Sri Maiava Rusden/Getty Images

    Just being outside lifts peoples' moods and is 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:

    • Luau
    • Shark party
    • Game night (board games, cards, video or computer, etc.)
    • Costume party: the sky's the...MORE limit on this one. It could be your favorite film or genre, TV show, game, book, era, etc.
    • Camp-out
    • Art, craft or project party
    • Retro cocktail party
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  • 03 of 08

    Where to Shop

    Vintage Wrought Iron Outdoor Pool Lounge Chairs at Rose Bowl Flea Market in Pasadena
    Look for vintage patio furniture at flea markets. Lisa H. Taylor

    Keep prices down by shopping for party supplies at discount stores and online retailers. Think about buying outdoor plastic dishes, glasses, and serveware 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 like JC Penney 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
    • Thrif...MOREt stores
    • Yard and estate sales 
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  • 04 of 08

    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 off season, 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. fi

    Another possibility: borrow decorations from a friend or family member. Just remember who loaned you what, and return them soon after the party...MORE 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 own: Halloween, 4th of July (for that particular holiday, unless you want to do a holiday mash-up theme!).
    • Pool inflatables
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  • 05 of 08

    Menu: Grilling and Barbecues

    burger.jpg
    Big juicy burger on artisan bun. Nicole S. Young/Getty Images

    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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  • 06 of 08

    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...MORE 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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  • 07 of 08

    Mood Music

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

    What's a party without music? All you need is some 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 jam.

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  • 08 of 08

    A Few Accessories

    beach round coverup
    Mandala beach coverup. Courtesy of Amazon

    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: