spending

10 Ways to Throw an Affordable July 4th Party

Follow these tips to keep down the cost of your celebration.

When I was young, my uncle used to throw a Fourth of July bash, complete with a fireworks display. It was pretty spectacular -- and probably pretty pricey, too.

My fondest Independence Day memories, though, are of an annual low-key, low-cost party hosted by one of my parents' family friends. The highlight of the gathering was when the hostess would turn on patriotic music and all the kids would gather all the American flags sitting out and parade around the backyard. Just goes to show that you don't have to spend a lot to throw a fun Fourth of July party.

If you want to celebrate with friends and family this holiday weekend, here are ten ways to make it affordable.

Send free invites. Skip pricey paper invitations and send free electronic invites from Evite.com or Punchbowl.com. Considering that the Fourth is just around the corner, electronic invites also are a fast way to get the word out about your gathering.

Make it potluck. Save money and time by asking guests to bring a dish, perhaps something with a red, white and blue theme. Last year, a friend of mine brought a red, white and blue Jell-O flag that was a huge hit with the kids.

Opt for low-cost grill items. This if the Fourth of July, after all, so cook hot dogs and burgers rather than steak or seafood. If you buy frozen burgers in bulk to keep costs down even more, sprinkle on some seasonings and Worcester sauce before grilling to give them more flavor.

Keep decorations simple. You can load up on miniature American flags at the dollar store for less than $10 (see Dollar Store Deal or No Deal?). Cover tables with white butcher paper and provide crayons for kids (this will keep them entertained for a while). And turn a glass bowl of berries or colored buckets with beverages into a centerpiece.

Stick to white for supplies. Yes, patriotic plates and napkins might look festive -- but you'll pay a premium for red and blue. Save money by sticking to white paper and plastic goods, which can be bought in bulk (and leftovers can be used for other festivities). Or if you plan on making this an annual event, consider investing in low-cost utensils and reusable plastic plates.

Look for coupons. Before shopping, go online to find coupons for supplies, condiments, beverages and more. Couponcabin.com and Coupon Sherpa have printable grocery coupons.

Buy beer from a warehouse club. A 24-pack of Heineken at Costco can cost about 10% less than it does at a local grocery chain. A four-pack of Guinness can cost twice as much per can at a local grocery store compared with a 24-pack at a warehouse club (see Warehouse Stores: Deal or No Deal?). If you want to stick to American brands and expect a large crowd, a keg is the cheaper option.

Borrow what you don't have. If the patio furniture you have isn't enough, don't rush to the store or resort to renting tables and chairs. Borrow folding tables and chairs from friends, or ask guests to bring blankets to sit on.

Have some good ol' fashioned fun. Entertain your guests the cheap and easy way by setting up a volleyball net or a croquet set. Encourage kids to play hide and seek or flashlight tag. And hand out jars for them to collect lightning bugs (then set then free all at once).

Don't attempt your own fireworks display. Hold your party before any fireworks displays in your city so you don't have to foot the bill to stage your own. Or just offer guests sparklers, which are much cheaper and safer than a pyrotechnics display.

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