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Six budget-friendly summer party ideas worth celebrating

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Alex Brandon/AP/File

(Read caption) Chris Andreski grills hamburgers and hot dogs in Arlington, Va. in 2012. A "bring-your-own-meat" cookout is a fun yet affordable party idea for the summer.

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Summer is the ideal time for get-togethers. On top of holidays like Memorial Day, 4th of July, or Labor Day, we also enjoy regular weekend grill-outs, birthdays, and pool parties. It's a whole lot of fun, and throwing your own shindig can be very rewarding. The only problem is the cost — feeding, watering, and entertaining a group of people can be expensive. If you're thinking about having a summer party (or three), check out our ideas for wallet-friendly summer festivities. They're fun for the whole family, and you can enjoy yourself without worrying about the budget.

1. Hot Dog Buffet

It's hard to beat a grill-out in the summertime, but grilling lots of meat can get pricey. Thankfully, one of the cheapest options is hot dogs, a food young and old alike love. If you don't own the necessary equipment, head to a public park with free-to-use grills and bring along cleaning tools, charcoal, and a bag to throw out your waste. Grill up a pile of hot dogs (including some veggie dogs if you have vegetarian guests) and set-up a fun buffet of toppings. Provide the usual ketchup, mustard, and relish, and set out other options like sauerkraut, crushed potato chips, chili, cheese, guacamole, onions, and salsa. Have everyone bring a side, drink, or topping to share, and you'll be able to provide an impressive and fun spread without breaking the bank.

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2. Ice Cream Social

Nothing tastes better than an ice cream cone on a summer afternoon. Gather your friends and family for an ice cream social, and you're sure to have a sweet time. If any of your friends own an ice cream maker, encourage them to make their own flavor and bring a pint. Everyone can sample all of the ice creams, and no one is stuck with too much of one flavor. For those of us that don't own a maker, host a potluck-style sundae party. Ask everyone to bring a tub of ice cream and you can provide all of the toppings, or reverse it — provide all of the ice cream, while the guests bring toppings. Include fun details like sugar cones, chocolate syrup, sprinkles, whipped cream, and caramel. Kids will love making their own sundaes with all the fixings.

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3. Afternoon of Games

Enjoy the warm summer weather by inviting your friends over for an afternoon of games. Having an afternoon party alleviates the need to provide a whole meal, saving a lot of cash. Set-up gaming areas in your backyard, or invite everyone to a public park. Bring blankets and folding chairs for hanging out, and have your guests supply their favorite outdoor games. Many games require little more than a ball or frisbee, but are loads of fun with big or small groups. Provide light snacks and lemonade, and enjoy playing horseshoes, bocce, foursquare, and more.

4. Movie Night

Summer blockbusters can be really fun, but going to the movie with a group adds up. Instead of making a trip to the theater, invite friends over to watch a movie for a fun nighttime party. If you or a friend owns a projector, hang a white sheet outside and have a special outdoor screening. Guests can bring their own blanket and get comfortable on the lawn. If you're showing your movie inside, make it special with lots of pillows to sit on and snuggle with, dim lighting, and popcorn and drinks. Play some movie trivia to keep the party social, or have themed nights based on the movie you're playing.

5. Pool Party

If you own a pool, then let's just stop right here. Just invite everyone over to your pool and poof! You have a party. If you live in an apartment complex with a pool, invite a small group to join you one afternoon for lounging and splashing around. Provide plastic cups and a cold drink, and maybe a pool game or two. Just be sure to abide by any pool rules for your apartment building. If you don't have access to a pool at all, then find a great public pool nearby and set a time to meet there. Have fun hanging out in the water and poolside, and go for ice cream or happy hour afterwards. Some fancy hotels offer access to their pools for free or with a purchase, and can be a fun treat for a hot day.

6. BYOM Cookout

If you'd still like to go the cookout route but want to serve more than hot dogs, have a BYOM party. Ask your guests to bring their own meat to throw on the grill, and you'll shrink your cost while making sure everyone gets the main dish they really want. Have sides and fixings ready, like coleslaw, potato salad, chips, fruit, condiments, and cold drinks. People can share their offerings and mix and match to their heart's desire, and there's sure to be some extra meat left for the host.