You don't have to break the bank in order to have a fun outdoor party! Whether you're having one with your family or inviting the whole neighborhood, you're going to love these money-saving tips. Have a blast on a budget with these great tips and fun game ideas!

7 ways to save money when throwing an outdoor party for a crowd.

Do you love to throw a good outdoor party? You're in luck because today I'm going to be sharing how you can easily save money while having your own! As you guys know, hosting a party for family and friends is something Bubba and I love to do, but is also something that can seriously break the budget if you aren't careful.  

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In the past, Bubba and I have not only hosted a BBQ for 61 friends, but also threw an outdoor party for our entire neighborhood (about 150 people)! How did we do this on a tight budget? Let's just say we've got a few tips and tricks up our sleeves. I'll teach you some of our secret sauce to hosting an outdoor party or gathering, big or small, by finding the best deals on food, knowing what to serve (and how much!), and will share some of our top-secret hacks for keeping it simple. Not to mention, we've got some killer outdoor party games that you definitely don't want to miss out on!

Let’s get down to bizzznass!


Use these tips and surprise tricks and you won't hesitate over having an outdoor party with your family or friends. We have a ton of ways to save money and feed a crowd on the cheap, so you definitely don't want to miss out on those!


Buy your outdoor party food in bulk when you can, either from a store like Costco or your local grocery store. You'll save so much money! Tips from Fun Cheap or Free

It's no secret that I love me some Costco! (Hence the fact I've been doing blog posts and TV segments on it for years…). We love Costco because they have bulk sizes of all the things we use most. But whether you shop Costco or not, BULK is the name of the game. By buying food, paper goods, and condiments in bulk, it gets us a better price per unit, which saves a ton of money in the long run. If it's more than we need for the particular gathering, we put extras in the freezer or pantry to use later. (I'm not afraid of using up leftover party food!) 

We also buy extra when things like paper goods and condiments go on sale and store them in our pantry to use later in the year when the products go back up to full-price. If you don't live by a Costco, that's totally ok! There are lots of local grocery stores that have annual bulk sales. So make sure to keep an eye out for those and stock up on as much as you can then.

For a huge gathering, it's hard to know how much food to buy. Our tips for LARGE gatherings and planning for food are to gather as many RSVPs as you can. Then, have your outdoor party early in the summer so you can store the leftover food in your freezer and pull it out throughout the summer.


Like I mentioned in my feeding a crowd on the cheap post, it's important to plan out your menu according to WHO is coming over for your outdoor party. If we are only having one family over for Sunday dinner, sure, we might serve salmon, steak, roast, pork chops, or a “finer” food. For a big get together, though? We are all about store-bought burgers and dogs. It’s more about the company than the food! Besides, there are simple ways to spice up plain burgers (Hint: my recipe Pinterest board is an AH-MAZING resource!)! 

For instance, one of my favorite ways to spice up a burgers is by incorporating fun toppings like grilled pineapple, avocados, and even bleu cheese. One of my favorite burgers to make is one that's topped off with guacamole, Monterey Jack cheese, and spicy mayo. As for hot dogs, you could spice things up by wrapping your hot dogs in bacon before grilling them up and offering different hot dog bun options for your guests to try.


Serve food in a bowl and your guests will never know you aren't using a fresh bag of chips - Tips from Fun Cheap or Free

I know this sounds random, but hear me out on this one! It's one of my key ways to entertain on a budget. Serving food in a home container, like a bowl, makes life so much cheaper! Take chips for example. When having an outdoor party, serve chips in a bowl instead of having to open a brand new bag.

This allows you to serve bags of chips that have already been opened and need to be used up and your guests will never know! No chips? No problem! You can also do this with any other bagged items that you like to serve, such as grapes, pretzels, and even candy. This also works great for salsa, dips, shredded cheese and anything else of the like.


For an outdoor party, we always use paper plates. They make for easy clean-up, but paper goods can get pricey if you aren't careful. One of our best kept secrets for saving money when hosting is that we DON’T use the largest size of dinner plates! The bigger the plate, the more food is wasted because people feel the need to fill their plates bigger than their stomachs can handle.

For the adults, 10″ dinner plates are common, but are pretty darn big. So instead of 10″ we will opt for an 8.5″ plate, or the 8 7/8″ plates they sell at Costco. It's still plenty big, but that 2 inch difference is substantial when it comes to wasting food. For kids, we will leave out a stack of 8″ or 8.5″ lunch plates, or even 6 7/8″ dessert plates. It’s a subtle difference, but makes such a difference on the wallet by keeping people from letting their eyes be bigger than their stomachs and wasting food. After all, if they are still hungry after their first round of food, they can always go back for seconds!


Trust me, I LOVE me some soda, especially that good ol’ DDP! And I actually love setting up a soda bar with sodas and fun mix-ins and syrups when serving a small group, or hosting a GNO. But at an outdoor party or large gathering, rather than serving sodas, juice, or fancy drinks, we serve plain old water! Hey, it’s H-O-T, so people don’t mind!

Just make sure to serve the water in large drink dispensers so you don’t have to refill often (I got mine from Costco but really like THIS ONE from Amazon!), and make sure your water is ICE COLD! I like to keep my ice separate from the water, since it melts so fast inside the dispenser. I found an ice bucket online that keeps ice from melting so quickly, and we keep it out next to the cups so people can add as much ice as they’d like.

ICE TIP: Gas station ice is the most expensive! Avoid buying bags of ice at gas stations when at all possible. Costco ice is the most affordable, so stock up while you are there grabbing bulk items. However, if you can’t make it to Costco and need something quick and convenient, as I shared in this IG post, many McDonald's restaurants sell 8lb bags of ice for just $1! And you can pick it up in the drive-through! Can’t beat not having to get out of your car…

7 ways to save money when hosting a bbq for a crowd.

To take it one step further, here is a REEEEEEEEALLY old post and TV segment I did with creative ways to make homemade ice, and how to make it extra fancy, using things you already have lying around your house!
Boy, can you tell I’m an ice addict? Someone call ice anonymous for me…


When we invite people over they (luckily) almost always ask what they can bring. But even if they don’t offer, we will ask! “Outdoor party at our house Saturday night! Do you guys mind bringing a side or dessert to share?” The only exception to this is a birthday party. But even still, if someone asks if/what they can bring, we will always let them! And trust me, it doesn't have to be complicated when doing this. We seriously ask people all the time to help with the food. Not only does it help you save money, but it's also fun to see what types of foods our friends like to make and bring to gatherings. 

So, to keep things simple on your end, simply ask your guests to bring their favorite side dish or their favorite dessert to share. Heck, you could even add a little fun to this by telling your guests you will having a cooking contest where one person will win a prize for the best side dish and/or dessert. You'd be amazed at how much your guests would get in to this!  Especially if there was some sort of small prize or trophy involved.


Sounds funny, I know, but it’s true!  I’ve been to parties where food is placed wherever and there’s no flow, no organization, and a feeling of chaos that leads people to eat more and only grab the most expensive and desirable food. So, to keep this from happening while having an outdoor party of your own, here’s the flow I keep at my food tables:

  • Plates and utensils first
  • Buns
  • Meat
  • Condiments
  • Salads
  • Sides
  • Chips 
  • Meat other than hot dogs or hamburgers
  • Desserts
  • Drinks (I usually put these on their own table)

A tidy, organized table keeps a tidy, organized flow. People can see all the options and don’t take more than their fair share of food. Again, funny, but it makes a HUGE difference!


A water balloon fight is the perfect outdoor party game on a warm summer day - Tips from Fun Cheap or Free

Alright, now we get to the fun!!! Is it really a party if there aren't any games? We definitely don't think so. Here are some of our favorite outdoor party games that will really take the fun up a notch, for both young and old:

  • Water Balloon Fight – Who doesn't love a water balloon fight?!
  • The Bowl Game – Set up your lawn chairs in a circle (preferably around a fire pit!) and play this super fun game that your guests will love!
  • Washers – This is a classic game!
  • HorseshoesSet this up in your yard and see who can get the most horseshoes around the pole.
  • Cornhole – Such a fun game using bean bags!
  • Croquet – We love this game! You can make it easier or harder, depending on who is playing it.
  • Giant Jenga – Take your Jenga skills up a notch, literally! This oversized game makes it that much more fun.
  • Outdoor Twister – Use contractor marking spray paint to make a huge twister board in your grass!
  • Water Relay – Add a bucket full of water at one end of the yard and an empty one at the other. Then think up some funny way to get water from one bucket to the other. Sponges, measuring cups, ladles, whatever you've got!
  • Sack Race – This is a classic outdoor party game that's fun for kids and adults alike!
  • Obstacle Course – Make your own obstacle course!
  • Minute To Win It – We love playing this game! We've got some great ideas that you don't want to miss out.
  • Frisbee Tic Tac Toe – Make a giant tic tac toe board on the ground using boards or spray paint. Then toss frisbees to play when it's your turn.
  • Slip n Slide – Grab your favorite slip n slide or make your own using a tarp and have a blast!
  • Ring Toss – Save your 2 liter soda bottles and make your own ring toss! Fill them up with water and throw pool rings around them.

The games really make the party, so don't hold back!


I use my grocery shopping/envelope method and just plan ahead the week or two before and use part of that budget to buy the food I need! I can even tap into my “other” budget for big ones like the neighborhood outdoor party. If I need more than my grocery + “other” allotment for the week (which has never really happened, by following my tips above, but still…) then you would just follow my simple budgeting method and make sure it fits within your 70%!

Need more budgeting tips? Don't forget my super fun Budget Boot Camp course that was designed to be as simple as possible and filled with all the money saving tips and tricks Bubba and I learned to successfully get ourselves out of debt AND still enjoy gatherings like this! 

Use the code FCFBLOG for 10% off!

So there you have it Freebs! 7 ways to save money when having an outdoor party. Now you definitely don’t have an excuse to not host one of your own! I'm curious, what are your favorite outdoor party games to play? Let me know in the comments!

7 ways to save money when hosting a bbq for a crowd.

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