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, 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
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
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. In a couple of weeks I’ll be hosting a barbecue, and I’ll be doing so with the goal of hitting a specific per-person price point. Then I’ll write it up with more specific details. If you have any requests for an amount or certain dishes, let me know in the comments. I’m up for a challenge!