With Labor Day coming up, many of us will be hosting our last big summer party until next year. But with back to school also in full swing—and all the spending that comes with new clothes, shoes, back packs, and supplies—we’re looking to keep our festivities affordable. Here are 5 tips for how to host a stylish party with fabulous food and drink on a budget.

Related: 11 brilliant food and drink summer party hacks for easy entertaining

Save money on your fab summer party by being smart about what to buy and how to cook meat like this Grilled Chicken for a crowd at Cook The Story

1. Buy inexpensive cuts of meat in bulk.

If you’re going to be serving meat, which can get expensive for a crowd, be sure to look for family-sized packs that are priced more affordably. And skip the fancy stuff: Less expensive cuts like chicken thighs (which are more flavorful than breasts anyway) and flank steak are perfect for when you’re feeding a large group. If you’re looking for tips on how to grill for a crowd, we’ve got that too.

Related: Grilling for a crowd: Tips and over 10 easy ideas for your next outdoor party.

Hosting a big summer party doesn't have to mean blowing your budget with these tips, including bulking up on affordable apps instead of mains like this Bruschetta Bar at What's Gaby Cooking

Bruschetta Bar | What’s Gaby Cooking

2. Go heavy on the appetizers.

Honestly, who doesn’t love making a meal of great appetizers? Cut down on the amount of more-expensive meat that you have to buy (and cook) by creating a robust and elegant Bruschetta Bar like this one that we found at What’s Gaby Cooking. There’s a lot of stuff in the spread, but a smart combination of inexpensive store-bought staples (like hummus, salsa, fresh pesto) and easy recipes (caramelized onions, sautéed mushrooms, roasted cherry tomatoes) makes a fab presentation without spending tons of cash.

 

We love these tips on how to host a summer party on a budget, especially how to put together a fancy cheese plate like this on at Honestly Yum using just supermarket ingredients

Cheese Plate | Honestly Yum

3. Make a fancy cheese plate with not-so-fancy supermarket ingredients.

No party is complete without a cheese plate and with our tips on how to make a fancy cheese plate with supermarket ingredients you can put out a killer spread on the cheap, like the gorgeous cheese plate we found at Honestly Yum (above). Make it big enough and combine with something like the Bruschetta Bar (#2) and you may be able to skip proper mains all together.

Related: Easy make-ahead appetizers for your Labor Day cookout.

Save on booze at your next party by asking everyone to bring a bottle and providing a bar of mixers like with this Mimosa Bar at Green Wedding Shoes

Mimosa Bar | Green Wedding Shoes

4. Ask your guests to help with the booze… in a clever way.

Booze can really add up. Since guests always love bringing something, be specific and ask them to help with the liquor. (Did you really need those flowers anyway?) Instead of feeling like a cheat, turn your request into something fun by setting up a gorgeous mixers bar similar to the Mimosa Bar that we found at Green Wedding Shoes or turning it into a beer tasting party.

 

Skip expensive cakes at your next summer party. Instead, save money (and time) by presenting ingredients for s'mores beautifully, like in this S'mores Party Bar at What's Gaby Cooking

S’mores Party Bar | What’s Gaby Cooking

5. Skip the elegant (but pricey) bakery desserts.

Part of having fun at your own party is making sure that you don’t take on too much work and, for me, that means relying on store-bought desserts. The only problem is that stylish cakes and other impressive bakery goods that look fabulous enough for a party can also cost a fortune. Instead, get creative with inexpensive grocery store sweets like graham crackers, marshmallows and chocolate, or plain old ice cream.

The S’mores Bar that we found at What’s Gaby Cooking strikes me as the perfect way to end a final summer hurrah. Or come up with a novel way to serve ice cream to a crowd like this hack that we spied at Real Simple. Sure, it’s nothing more than ice cream, but the clever presentation makes it party worthy.