It’s just about time to dig out that Union Jack, brush up on the lyrics to God Save the Queen and celebrate the birthday of Queen Victoria. Canadians will be gathering together this weekend to enjoy the unofficial start of summer. And whether it’s at the cottage, in a campground or at home in your backyard, chances are a barbeque will be taking place.
But for those that enjoy being the host of the party, BBQs can be an expensive event.The food and drinks can add up fast when you are trying to impress your friends and family. So, in honour of ol’ Vicky who was known for being frugal herself, here are some tips for how to have a great BBQ on a budget.
- Keep it simple – Your friends are nice people, but they aren’t royalty! So, don’t feel obligated to offer roast pheasant, Cornish hens, or rib-eye steaks. There are two types of food that people expect at a barbeque – hot dogs and hamburgers. They are the classic staples of backyard cookouts and they are relatively inexpensive. You can very cheaply pick up enough to feed the 20 people who RSVP’d, the 10 that didn’t but came anyways, and the 5 people who just wandered into your backyard after being drawn to the smell while out walking their dog.
- The four letters of frugality – I want to shake the hand of the person who first came up with the BYOB concept. That wise penny-pincher made planning a party a whole lot easier, and a whole lot cheaper. Having your guests take care of their own alcohol needs is going to save you from running out of beverages and is going to prevent the party from getting out of hand. If you’ve ever been to an open bar wedding, you have probably seen how people tend to imbibe more when they aren’t paying for it. The other benefit of BYOB is that not only are you going to save money by not having to buy any booze, you may also end up making money when you return all the empties!
- So, you think you can cook? – Potlucks are a great way to ensure a plethora of food is available at your party without you having to do anything. But, when you outsource your side dishes, you are always going to end up with enough macaroni salad to feed an army. To ensure that you get some high quality casseroles and salads, and not something whipped together right before coming to your home (or purchased on the way), I suggest you turn your potluck party into a cooking competition. Call it the “Baker Street Cooking Idol”, “Windsor Ave has Cooking Talent” or another catchy name that will entice the men and women on your invite list. Dig out one of your kid’s old trophies and declare that the winner will be able to proudly display it on their porch for the next year. If all goes well, you’ll have a delicious smorgasbord of food items that didn’t cost you a cent.
- Waste not, want not – The morning after a good party is always the same. You stumble downstairs and discover a disaster zone. You wonder why your friends felt the need to order a second hamburger when they only ended up taking one bite before leaving it next to your family portrait on the mantle. As you start cleaning up, you make the decision that everything is getting thrown out because you can never be too sure, especially when it comes to food left out. If you take the time the night before to properly wrap up and refrigerate all the leftovers, you’ll have food for weeks. Leftovers are a great way to save money so, before your party starts, stock up on your Tupperware and Ziploc bags and once the guests start leaving, you start cleaning. You’ll definitely be pleased because cooking the next day is the last thing you want to do.
Follow these simple tips and you can have a great party on a budget. God save the Queen – and your money!
Editor's Note: Please welcome our new contributor.
Jeffrey Schwartz is the executive director of Consolidated Credit Counseling Services of Canada and president of the Credit Association of Greater Toronto. Consolidated Credit is a national non-profit credit counselling organization that teaches consumers about personal finance.