How To Plan a Holiday BBQ on a Budget

One of my absolute favorite holidays is the 4th of July. The warm weather, fireworks, and excitement everyone has for time spent with family, not to mention the day off from work, make it an excellent day to celebrate.

While many in the country choose to go camping that week, we typically stay as far away from the craziness as possible, most often inviting a group of friends or family over for a barbeque dinner and drinks. Perhaps you enjoy doing the same as well but have just looked over the budget for July and cannot figure out how you can afford to purchase food and drinks for a large group. Don’t worry, I’ve put together a quick and easy plan to help you host (and feed) sixteen people for under $20.

Tip: If you are planning to host a gathering in your home, you’ll want my FREE Hosting Checklist to help you prepare! Grab your copy HERE.


No good barbecue gathering happens without food. These are a few of my budget-friendly choices.

Hot Dogs

Hot dogs, specifically the Bar S brand, have always been a favorite around our home. Of course, there are more expensive brands we enjoy as well, but on a budget, these are our go-to. We typically have quite a few kids around, and hot dogs are always a crowd-pleaser, especially when barbecued.

Total Hot Dog Expense: $0.99 X 2 = $1.98


Make sure when you go to pick out the buns that you check to make sure you have enough for all of the hot dogs you purchase. The packages of buns are normally a different size than the packages of hot dogs, and normally I end up with more hot dogs than buns. In this case, and knowing the group I am inviting over, I’m okay having one hot dog per person, so that is all I’ve purchased.

Total Bun Expense: $1.19 X 2 = $2.38


We are a split family when it comes to chips so, whenever possible, I always purchase two bags: a tortilla-type chip and what I refer to as a specialty chip. In this case, I chose a bag of our favorite tortilla chips, as well as a bag of Doritos. Everyone will be happy.

Total Chip Expense: $2.99 + $2.39 = $5.38

Baked Beans

You could go to all the work of making your favorite bean recipe, or you could simply, as I do, head down the canned bean aisle and pick up a can of Bush’s Homestyle Baked Beans. They are my favorite and are so easy to place in a pan on the stove, heat, and serve.

Total Bean Expense: $1.79 (one large can)

Cake Mix

No great barbecue dinner is complete without some sort of dessert. I thought it would be fun to bake cupcakes, so I purchased a cake mix. I already have all of the ingredients to go along with it, but if you don’t, you might want to pick up the oil (I use avocado oil) and eggs needed. If you do, this may add a small additional expense, but you’ll have eggs left over to include in other meals and the oil always comes in handy for future use.

I personally am going to make a cake, but you can decide if cupcakes would be a better decision for you and your guests.

Cake Mix Expense: $1.95


I don’t want to make a mess this week, so I’m purchasing the frosting in a can, however, it can be cheaper to make it at home if you already have the ingredients. It’s so simple to make and tastes wonderful, so if you prefer to make it at home go for it!

Frosting Expense: $1.39


No barbeque is complete without pickles. Our family prefers the Claussen sliced pickles, but of course, you can pick your own favorites to have around. Make sure to get them good and cold before serving. Due to their popularity, we have also been known to use pickles as a dessert alternative in our home. I’ve never heard a single complaint, either.

Pickle expense: $2.39


We normally have condiments in the fridge already, so I don’t add this cost into this gathering. I do recommend checking your fridge and cupboards ahead of time so you don’t set all the food on the table only to realize that you have no ketchup or mustard. The disappointed looks on everyone’s faces will be enough to have you wishing you could crawl under the table and hide.

Total Food Cost: $17.26

Paper Products

Our BBQ is intended to celebrate the 4th of July, so I wanted to get some fun paper plates. We use paper plates like fine china in our home anyway, but it’s nice to have something decorative and out of the ordinary for a special occasion.

I found these sweet plates at Dollar Tree and am really excited to use them. The plates came in packages of 14, so I purchased two for a total cost of $2.00.

Total Food + Paper Product Cost: $19.26


You can make the choice to stick with the above cost and stay right about the $19 to $20 range by simply adding a freshly sliced lemon or lime to a pitcher of water. It makes it seem special and it’s very refreshing.

In the case of a large group gathering, we typically ask each invited guest to bring their own drink. This allows for each person to have the specific soda product, wine, or beer type that they most enjoy. If someone forgets theirs, there is normally enough to go around, and I’ve never had problems with not having enough.

If you don’t feel comfortable asking your friends and family to bring their own, but want to serve something more than water, I suggest providing something relatively inexpensive. A bottle of lemonade and some iced tea make for refreshing options that won’t break the bank. Place the drinks in pretty pitchers or drink dispensers for a festive touch and don’t forget to set out glasses or cups so your friends don’t have to go searching.


We, personally, choose to keep decorating for holidays to a minimum around the house. Often, I will have some flowers sitting on the counter, and every now and then we will get a new festive tablecloth for the occasion. In this case, we are eating outside, so I went ahead and purchased one little bucket container for the center of our outside table and added a plant to it. It’s not the perfect fit, but it does help the table feel more festive and only cost me $1 (I already had the plant).

Ready, Set, Party!

You now have everything you need to host a successful party for the upcoming holiday for right around $20! Of course, it doesn’t have to be a holiday celebration, you can have a barbecue gathering at any point during the nice weather months of the year, so don’t shy away from it! You can also ask people to bring bits and pieces of the meal so you don’t have to pay for it all yourself, but sometimes it’s just nice to let family and friends show up to a meal you take care of completely.

Tip: If you are planning to host a gathering in your home, you’ll want my FREE Hosting Checklist to help you prepare! Grab your copy HERE.