Young people having fun at Labor Day barbecue

Nothing says summer like a weekend drenched in sunshine and barbeque sauce. With the season drawing to a close, the three-day Labor Day holiday offers the perfect opportunity for one last hurrah. An occasion geared specifically toward relaxation, it’s the ideal time to invite a few friends over and enjoy some burgers before the weather becomes too chilly for grilling. Read on for some tips for throwing a Labor Day barbecue bash on the cheap.

1. Invite friends via Evite, or create a Facebook event. We all enjoy that rare treat of an invitation or letter in the mailbox intermingled with the usual bills and advertisements. But if you’re throwing a casual get-together like a barbecue, save your stamps and send out an invitation via Evite, or create a Facebook event. Not only will this save you a couple of bucks and a trip to the post office, it’s also more efficient, as people are more likely to RSVP if it only requires a click.

Online invitations also make it much easier to collaborate with your guests ahead of time. This is especially helpful if anyone has a dietary restriction you should be aware of, or if you’re asking people to bring a dish or drink. It’s equally helpful if you need to notify the whole group at once if any unexpected changes should come up. If you’ve got pals that don’t go online often, or at all, just shoot them a text or give them a call.

Group of friends having lunch outdoors

2. Have a potluck. Potlucks are a surefire way to ensure everyone has at least one item they can eat and enjoy. As the host, you should provide the entrees, which we’ll get to in a moment. But you can ask your guests to bring a favorite side, such as a salad, dessert, appetizer, or drink. Some partygoers may actually prefer this method, especially if they have dietary restrictions or allergies. Alternatively, you can assign people to bring certain dishes if, for example, you know your cousin Tom has the best recipe for banana cream pie, or your college friend Rachel makes a mean chili.

Organizing a potluck is especially simple if you’ve invited the majority of your guests via Facebook or Evite, since you’ll be able to avoid the issue of having three pasta salads or 10 liters of Coke. Aside from food, you can also ask a guest or two to bring propane or charcoal so you can avoid buying a bag you may not dip into again until next year. You can also request that one or two guests provide disposable utensils and cups.

3. Make it BYOB. Maybe you’re a master chef, or feel more comfortable making all the preparations at home ahead of time. Whatever the case may be, even if a full-on potluck isn’t your style, you can still ask your guests to bring their own beverage. Depending on your estimated attendance, you could end up spending quite a pretty penny on booze alone if you offer to buy it all yourself. Ask the guests to bring their own drink, or ask everyone to bring something to share. You can provide the mixers, which you can find some awesome deals on at places like Safeway.

4. Buy in bulk. You can find some killer deals at the brick-and-mortar big box stores like Costco or Sam’s Club. If you don’t yet have a membership, the amount you’ll save on alcohol for your few yearly parties may be enough to make it worthwhile, not to mention the opportunity to buy seasonal fresh produce at a price much more budget-friendly than at the supermarket. But don’t worry if the cost of the annual membership isn’t within your budget at the moment. You can also find a bevy of excellent markdowns on bulk items online at places like Amazon. You’re not likely to save much compared to the grocery store if you’re buying single items like one bag of chips, but you can save big if you’re purchasing a multi-pack. Of course, this mostly applies to non-perishable items. But that shouldn’t be any deterrent as non-perishables are more likely to stay fresher while lying on your picnic table in the warm backyard.

Bunting at an outdoor summer party

5. Keep the décor simple. Let’s be honest. Most people are going to be paying more attention to the food than the decorations. Nobody needs you to transform your backyard into a tiki lounge in order to have a good time. Making things fun and festive doesn’t have to break the bank. If you’re in need of some cool DIY inspiration, the Internet is a treasure trove of creative options. Places like Shindigz and Dollar Tree have excellent deals on everything you’ll need, from streamers to table settings.

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