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Throw Your Labor Day End of Summer Bash on a Budget

Labor Day is around the corner, this year falling on September 3rd. Labor Day is the signal that summer is over, so end your summer with a bang and throw a party! With some advanced warning you should probably try to take September 4th off from work and make it a four-day holiday. Trust us, after this party you will need a day to relax and gear up for the work week.

Throw Your Labor Day End of Summer Bash on a Budget


How to Start

The best place to start is to decide how many people you want to have over and who you want to invite. Your initial reaction might be to have everyone you know over, but curb your enthusiasm. You want your friends to have fun, but you're going to want to have fun too. And if you invite too many people over, you are going to be too busy to enjoy the party yourself. Keep the number of invites on the smaller side and plan for a total of 12 or 16 people. This gives you some flexibility with seating without getting too crowded. 


Invite your friends with a text or email, or try the new app called Hobnob. There are options to send free invitations, but if you want something more personalized or to add pictures you can do that too. List the start time for your party and be sure to add the time it ends. Also, include what you would like your guests to bring such as appetizers, drinks, etc.


Labor Day was created to honor the American labor movement and all of the contributions that workers have made to our country. Think about having some red, white, and blue colors in your decorating scheme. This is a great chance to use some of those 4th of July decorations again. Especially if you went bargain hunting after the 4th and scooped up some great deals on decorations, dishes, tablecloths, etc.

It will get dark a little earlier than over the 4th of July so have some lighting for outside. There are enough choices for creative outdoor lighting that it will only be limited by your time and budget... and maybe by the tools you have on hand. Ideas that include using your succulents to create a chandelier, small colored paper bags over string lights, and ribbon held tea lights hanging from the trees are available from Buzzfeed

This is also a great chance to enjoy the flowers of summer. If there aren’t any flowers blooming in your yard head to the Saturday farmer’s market. You could grab a few large bouquets with late blooming sunflowers, asters, coneflowers, and hydrangeas. Or better yet, maybe you have a friend with a green thumb. Ask him or her if they would like to contribute flowers instead of bringing a food item. 

Country Living put together some fun and unique ideas for flower pots that you can find right in your house. This will definitely help keep you on budget, but still add some color and life to your party. A word to the wise: do not use the idea that shows a hollowed-out cabbage to hold your pretty flowers. Stinky!


Bring a sense of adventure or discovery to your party. You can do this by making local beers the primary drink. Whether you live in Helena, Bozeman, or Butte you can showcase the wide variety of microbrews from your local breweries. Ask guests to bring a growler or two of their favorite brew. Encourage them to think out of the box, or try new things. If all of your friends go to the same brewery there won’t be much variety.


Crooked Furrow Helena’s newest brewery offers a coffee oatmeal stout.

Lewis & Clark Brewing Company helps support a different local non-profit every Tuesday night. Their newest brew is Bitcoin Bitter, and at Coachella Music Fest 2015 their Tumbleweed IPA was served in the Craft Beer Barn.

Started in 1998, Blackfoot River Brewing has a wide range of brews to offer. But every week they offer two different ales served by a hand pumped beer engine. This changes the carbonation and mouthfeel of the beer and is a great way to try something new and different.


Bozeman offers over nine breweries for you to choose from, so your guests can get creative in what they bring! The selections at MAP Brewing include Northbound, the 2016 Gold Medal winner from the Montana Brewer’s Association and Stick Shift, the 2016 Gold Medal winner from the North American Brewers Association.

Supporting local nonprofits on Sunday, Bozeman Brewing Company features their most popular Bozone Amber Ale and 11 other choices for their August lineup.

Horse Thief IPA is one of the favorite brews at Outlaw Brewing. They also have a gluten free option, The Gambler American Amber.


Skinny Cow is not a brew for dieters it is just one of the original beers offered at Muddy Creek Brewery in Butte. Storm the Door Vanilla Porter is their most popular beer and has a great back story as well.

Located in the historic Grand Hotel, Quarry Brewing offers microbrews that are all gluten reduced. Open Cab Copper is their Irish ale with caramel undertones. Or, if an English pale ale is more your style try the Shale Pale Ale.


Keeping all of those growlers chilled will be a challenge because of their size. Get a wheelbarrow, and fill it with ice. This novel idea will add to the party spirit. If you don’t have a wheelbarrow borrow one from the neighbor, or get a kiddie pool and fill that with ice. You don't have to spend lots of money to keep those growlers cold, and you will get brownie points from your guests for your creativity.  

When stopping at a brewery to enjoy the samples they are often served flight style- small glasses that arrive on a wooden paddle. For your party, finding the wooden paddles will be a challenge. But pulling off something similar to flight glasses is doable. Flight glasses are anywhere from 2 ounces to 6 ounces. Glassware will set you back quite a bit, unless you do some careful shopping. You do not have to go fancy, shop around and find some good deals online or in store, like this online store where 5 oz juice glasses come in sets of six for a reasonable price.

Remember now, you aren’t having a beer tasting party (but that might be a fun idea for your future party-planning self). Instead, the variety of beers is part of the entertainment. This approach is a win-win because your guests are participating in creating the fun and having everyone bring a drink keeps your party expenses down.

Other drinks to have on hand are ice water and iced tea. Have backups ready, so refilling is an easy process. Keep these drinks with fresh glasses at a spot that is separate from the beer.


If your friends don't want to bring beer, ask them to bring appetizers. Usually appetizers are easy, and people love to make and eat them! Feel free to ask your guests to bring both an appetizer AND a growler. This gives you the opportunity to focus your time, money, and effort on one of the biggest parts of the party... the main dish.  

If you plan it right, your guests should be fairly full after the appetizers and beer. But you should still plan on a main dish for the party. How about sliders? Their small size means that people can munch on them, but if they are full from appetizers, they won't get more food than they can handle. This easy recipe is made using a 13" x 9" pan. Make two batches and you will have 24 sliders, which should be enough for everyone! Bonus points if you have leftovers to snack on the next day. 

Keep the side dishes simple and don't overextend yourself. Grilled corn on the cob is an easy and fun side that all of your guests will love. You will need butter, herbs, and heavy-duty foil. Oh, and a barbecue! Try this recipe for a tasty but simple option. Another easy and healthy side dish option is a vegetable bake. You can use fresh summer veggies in this awesome recipe. It will taste good, be easy to make, and most of all will please your guests.  The easiest thing of all is watermelon wedges. A summer classic, everyone looks forward to their freshly sliced watermelon at every barbecue. Don't disappoint! And there you have it, all the colors of the rainbow laid out on a table or counter inviting your friends to fill their plates.

Finally, you need to think about what you will serve for dessert! Think about dessert options that are not complicated to serve and don’t require last minute touches from you. You could even make something the night before for the ultimate amount of time efficiency. This fresh peach dump cake is made from scratch, but still on the easy side of things. While the dump cake is baking make a batch of brownies. Yes brownies, straight from the box. When the dump cake comes out of the oven put in the brownies. Peach cake and brownies will take care of any sweet tooth. Yum!


After all the prep work, it would be great if you could sit down and enjoy the party, but don't get comfortable just yet. You're friends might be looking for a few backyard games or activities, plus having something to do will keep the party lively and exciting. 

Have music on when everyone gets there. Make a playlist of old summer classics that you know everyone will like. You can even think back to the summer of high school or college graduation. Especially if several of you graduated within the same one or two years, you know everyone will know and love the music. Plus, it will boost the party spirit by having "throwbacks" from when you were still in school.

Don’t be surprised if your friends start asking where the cornhole game is set up. Plan ahead and make one with this DIY project. If that is too much for you to do, you can always buy a cornhole game setup. If you choose this option, plan for the extra expense and factor it into your party budget. Comparison shop and check online, sporting goods stores, big box stores, and home improvement stores too. Another game you could have in your backyard is giant Jenga. You can build this yourself for maximum savings and fun, but it does involve 2x4s from the lumber or home improvement store, sanding, and some paint. 

Time to Review

Have we covered everything? We know it’s a party and a text or email invite will let your friends know what is happening. Food and drinks? Yup, that is covered too. Decorating, music, and things to do can be crossed off the list as well.

The only things left are a budget review and a timeline to help you pull it all together. If you are going to be offering different microbrews and will need glassware, order those glasses right away. The same thing with the cornhole game. Place these orders now so you aren’t worrying about delivery later.

Don’t wait to invite your friends. If possible send those invitations three to four weeks in advance. Long holiday weekends are a big deal to everyone meaning that people plan their adventures in advance.

If you plan to make any of the games yourself, start these three weeks before the party. This will give you enough time to purchase supplies and convince a couple of friends to help you. Instead of saving it for the weekends, work on these one or two evenings during the week. Little by little you will see the projects come together and you won't stress yourself out by having to build them in a short time frame. 

Two weeks before the party check the status of any online orders. This way you will be reassured about delivery dates or know that you need to make a different plan. If you have to pull decorations out of storage do that now, and do a quick inventory. Make notes on things that are broken or things that need to be washed. This inventory will also help you when you go to the store because you will know exactly what you need to buy. 

The week of the party you can start tidying up your home. Early in the week you can do a general clean and pick up those items that never seem to make it back to where they belong. Wednesday night is a good time to start clearing the kitchen counters and cleaning out the refrigerator. The sooner you can check these things to do off the list, the less likely you are to feel discouraged when Thursday night rolls around. Remember, it’s your weekend too. Keep the music on and make it a good time.

After enjoying Friday night happy hour, come home and decorate. Keep it simple! Set out platters or any special dishes you want to use. Saturday run your last minute errands. Head to the farmer’s market for flowers, double check your lists, clean up the yard or patio, and finish any last minute party prep. Pay attention to your grill and make sure it has propane and is ready to cook for all of your guests. Sunday is a great day to start your cooking prep. This is where you can finish up your desserts and any other food prep you need. Before you go to bed, load and start the dishwasher so that on Labor Day you come down to clean dishes and you have one less thing to worry about. 

Labor Day is finally here. While you are having coffee write down a timeline of your action steps. This should include things like when your sliders go in the oven, or when you should go get ice for your growler coolers. If you have a general timeline, you are more likely to stay on top of things and not get overwhelmed. .

If you need help getting started on your Labor Day party, or building your budget so that you can stay on track, download our free budgeting worksheet below. 


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