Budgeting a barbecue requires planning ahead, but it's worth it to save money while throwing a fabulous outdoor party. #barbecue #budget #party
Parties and Get Togethers

Budgeting a Barbecue 101

Budgeting a barbecue is not exactly my favorite activity, but I was once a broke college student and I need something to write about, so here we are. According to a 2015 study, barbecue costs rose 30% in just ten years, so that’s sort of a bummer. Plus all those constant cool-looking recipes and wild decorations showing up in your news feed probably make you want to try and impress your guests. Really, all you need to do is provide them with a burger.  Now, for the purpose of this article, I do only mean barbecues where you do the cooking. Let’s talk about potlucks for a second and then get started.

You will obviously save money if everyone else does the cooking. That’s just not the point here. I suffer from potluck anxiety and think they’re kind of a hassle. Why? The hassle part is simple. I don’t want the whole back and forth of what everyone’s bringing. It’s easy at work, where everyone has to stare at the signup sheet, but it’s not so easy when you’re spread out. As for the anxiety part… Once we had a potluck and this woman brought a “taco ring.” No one touched it, we had to google a picture of an actual one, and her feelings were forever hurt. I know I cook fine, but I don’t know about the rest of you. So, no advice on potlucks (unless you like themes), but if you run out of money, have guests bring soda, paper plates, chips, etc. Those are simple, save you a little shopping, and won’t embarrass anyone.

Guide to Budgeting a Barbecue

Set Your Guest List, then Set your Budget

hands holding money
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Budgeting a barbecue really has to start with setting your guest list. Are you inviting the whole neighborhood? Just family? Get a number. This is very important. You can spend the same amount of money either way, or up it for more people, but a lot of people opens up the possibility of bulk shopping whereas a few does not. If you already shop at Costco for everything and you know you’re going to eat three gallons of mayo whether you have guests or not, you feel free to buy it. Just remember that you’re not saving money if you overbuy and waste food.

Make a List

Seems obvious, doesn’t it? If you’re budgeting a barbecue, you need to make a grocery list. No winging it, no seeing what’s on sale when you get there. I mean, you can always change your game plan if you planned on burgers but there’s a fabulous deal on chicken. But you’re going to be cooking more than one thing, right? So you should have a full list, one you take with you that you can cross off (totally okay to use a to-do list app for this if you want) as you go. This will make sure that (1) you don’t forget anything and (2) you don’t buy multiples of something you already have. Oh, and friends? Don’t put decorations on your list. Let’s be honest, no one cares if your house is decorated for a barbecue.

Choose to Hoard or Last Minute Shop

I realize this sounds kind of conflicting, but you have to know what kind of shopper you are. Some people will do better budgeting a barbecue if they don’t have to store food for longer than a week, but others will want not be able to stick to a list if they do it at the last minute. If you’re an advanced budgeter or couponer, you should go ahead and hoard. You can pick up the best deals for non-perishables (like baked beans) and then hide them away somewhere. If you are more likely to eat everything you hoard and have to rethink your game plan, go ahead and shop last minute.

Coupon, Coupon, Coupon

roasted corn
Photo by Fernando Prado on Unsplash

Couponing might sound like a tedious old man’s game, but friends, it’s all on your phones now. Whatever grocery store you use, I’m sure they have an app. Download it, load up their digital coupons, get the rewards card, etc. Then get your Ibotta and Checkout 51 deals too. Don’t know what those are? What, have you been living under a rock? These are apps that offer you cash back if you get specific brands or amounts of things. You should go through all these apps after you do your list, but before you do your shopping. You won’t necessarily see the savings right away, but you only need to get to $20 to cash out, and it goes straight to Paypal. So easy. Oh, and pro-tip for North Carolinians – you can’t see the alcohol deals if you set your address as North Carolina in Ibotta, but they are there if you plan on drinking.

Some of you may be thinking geez, these are pretty obvious. I guess, but this is budgeting a barbecue 101. You have to get started with the basics. If you don’t read my blog regularly, you might not know this, but I love to experiment. For example, I once checked to see what Pinterest-worthy coolers actually worked to keep your drinks cold outside.I recently did some budget experimentation. So, if you’re ready for some more serious barbecue budgeting, read on!

Host a Budget Barbecue for 25 Guests

Cheap barbecues are possible, but you need to budget. Follow a couple of budgeting rules to host your own fun barbecue party! #party #barbecue #budget #barbecuepartyThrowing a barbecue on a budget is not as hard as it sounds, but you have to plan ahead. Save money with these simple steps and have a great backyard barbecue! #barbecue #outdoorparty #budgetparty #financeNeed to help to throw a barbecue on a budget? You've come to the right place for budget tips, so get ready for a great backyard party! #barbecue #outdoorparty #finances #budget #partyonabudget

You may also like...


  1. Reesa Lewandowski says:

    Oh I can so easily go overboard on BBQs! They’re just super fun! Thank you for the tips!

  2. I love your tip to save money by having people bring chips, napkins, etc. That way you still control the main menu but save money on some of the little things that don’t matter as much.

  3. Oh, can’t wait for your follow up post. Yes, I’d like to know a price per head count. I aways over buy!

  4. I am really getting into the coupon thing. I started a year ago and am finally starting to see savings. I like your tips especially the one about planning.

  5. I really understand the anxiety over this specially if there isn’t a list, heck, even if there is a list one never really knows if people understand the list beyond Joe: Drinks, Jill: Ice, Kimmy: Just get here! I rather budget like you mentioned and get it all done and have less worries!

    1. Beth Davidson says:

      Yes exactly! I’m glad I’m not the only one who thinks potlucks can be more stressful than doing it yourself.

  6. We regularly host BBQ’s during the summer. They are my favorite! I agree that planning is a must. We also ask our guests to bring at least one item to contribute, which helps a lot.

  7. These are really great tips! I love to entertain in summer but it can get pricey so being able to cut corners on costs would be a good thing.

  8. Great tips, especially since summer is coming up! I love family and friend barbecues/get-togethers. I am definitely a planner and couponer when it comes to parties and saving money!

    1. Beth Davidson says:

      Excellent! The more you plan, the more you save!

  9. These are such good tips. I’ve often been surprised by how quickly the costs of having a barbecue can go way higher than expected!

    1. Beth Davidson says:

      Don’t they always? It’s crazy.

  10. These are all really great tips. My other half always goes overboard when we have a barbecue. I think he forgets there’s only two adults and two kids and it’s more like he’s feeding the 5,000! LOL

    Louise x

    1. Beth Davidson says:

      Then I’m coming to your house and planning my barbecue by stealing your leftovers! Muhuhahahaha!

  11. What great tips you have here! I’m totally in the midst of planning a welcome summer barbecue!

Comments are closed.