By Meg Favreau
The Fourth of July is a great time to celebrate with friends and family. But if you're buying food, drinks, decorations and festive outfits, Fourth of July parties can get expensive fast -- and holiday travel isn't cheap either. Follow these suggestions to have an fun Independence Day on a slim budget.
1. Host a potluck. If you like entertaining, hosting a Fourth of July party can be fun (especially if you live somewhere with a great view of the local fireworks display). But providing food and drinks for several people can be expensive. Keep costs down by making this year's party a potluck. Just make sure to assign people different categories of food to bring -- you don't want your potluck to become "that party where 20 people brought potato salad."
2. DIY your RWB (red, white and blue) outfit. Instead of going out to buy new American flag duds, take a look through your closet. Do you have clothing items you don't normally wear together that could be paired for a red, white and blue outfit? If you don't, it's still not necessarily time to buy new. Instead, head to the thrift store to put together a patriotic look. Or consider getting an accessory, like an American flag bandana, instead of an entire outfit.
3. Skip the fireworks. Well, don't skip them entirely -- but there's probably a display happening near you, so you don't need to buy them yourself. And, while they're fun, fireworks aren't exactly safe. There were eight fireworks-related deaths and about 11,400 injuries in 2013, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. If you want to have fun with your own fireworks, just buy a few sparklers.
4. Make sangria. If you are providing drinks for a party, sangria is one of the best beverages you can make. It's a delicious way to dress up inexpensive wine, and you can make a big batch ahead of time, so you don't have to worry about preparing cocktails when dealing with guests. And if you want to make your drinks festive, you can make a red sangria, a white sangria and a non-alcoholic blue drink like Berry Blue Kool-Aid.
5. Make your own decorations. There are so many cute decorations that are easy and inexpensive to make yourself -- plus, this can be a fun activity to do with kids. Think of things like garlands with red, white and blue stars cut from construction paper or sparkly napkin holders made with red, white and blue pipe cleaners. If you're looking for some inspiration, search for "Fourth of July decorations" on Pinterest.
%VIRTUAL-WSSCourseInline-884%6. Shop after July 4 for next year. If you do want to purchase decorations, wait until after the Fourth, when they'll be on deep discount. Then, save them for next year. This is a great way to stock up for any holiday.
7. Take advantage of free activities. One great thing about the Fourth of July is that it's usually chock-full of free entertainment: parades, live music, decorating contests for kids and much more. If you take advantage of some of the entertainment, you can ensure free activities stay free by packing a cooler of snacks and cold drinks from home.
8. If you're traveling, don't overpay for hotels. If you decide to travel for July Fourth, be careful about where you stay. If you're going to a city that's a hub for American history, such as Philadelphia or Washington, D.C., hotel rates will probably be higher than usual. Instead of booking a hotel, look into renting a house or apartment through a website like Airbnb.com or VRBO.com. Many east coast cities also have excellent public transportation, so you could consider staying in the suburbs and taking a train in for events.
9. Go camping. The Fourth of July is also a wonderful time to consider camping, and what better place to celebrate American than in one of its national parks? Many parks offer advance reservations for camping spots, and popular parks can fill up, so make sure to check online before you load up the car and drive.
Meg Favreau is the senior editor for the personal finance blog Wise Bread, which covers rewards credit card mistakes and other personal finance tips.
By Meg Favreau