In 2017, CNBC estimated that Americans would spend over $7 billion on cookouts and other 4th of July celebrations. With most firework shows and beach bashes canceled for the summer of 2020, this year might look a bit different. It can be a challenge to throw a last-minute party on a budget, especially one you're putting together with the coronavirus pandemic in mind. But it's not impossible.

The first step is remembering what's really important about this holiday - celebrating independence and freedom. And, it is critical to remember that the best part of any holiday is spending time with the people we love. We'll help you save money on your bash, spend time with the people you care about, and keep everyone safe and healthy, too. Everything else is secondary.

CDC Recommendations for Events and Gatherings

Though we're all likely itching to get our lives back to "normal," the fact is, threats of COVID-19 are still running rampant throughout the United States. In recent days, there have been countless articles released about family members becoming infected by loved ones that had no idea they were carrying the virus, or worse, knew that they were positive for the virus but disregarded the facts.

Quite simply, we have to be careful and limit our exposure to others so that we can get our country back to healthy. And that means that this year, our 4th of July celebrations may need to look a bit different. According to guidance provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention related to events and gatherings, the lowest risk for infection remains virtual-only events, activities, and gatherings. After that, the CDC specifically mentions “smaller outdoor and in-person gatherings in which individuals from different households remain spaced at least 6 feet apart, wear cloth face coverings, do not share objects, and come from the same local area (e.g., community, town, city, or county),” as more risk than virtual events, but lower risk than medium to large-sized in-person gatherings.

If you want to celebrate Independence Day 2020 with loved ones, you can still do so. You just need to take some extra precautions to keep you and your guests safe.

Keeping Healthy at your Small-Sized In-Person 4th of July 2020 Gathering 

If you’ve made the decision to host a small-sized in-person 4th of July 2020 gathering, it is vital that you take a few critical steps to limit the spread of the virus at your event. The last thing anyone wants is to find out they unknowingly spread COVID-19 to a family member or friend. So, be sure to follow these suggestions to keep you and your family in good health.

1. Remind your guests in advance that if they are ill, they should not attend your event. Consider “looping them in” to your event through a virtual connection at some point during the day. There are a variety of ways to conduct virtual sessions so that you can share some screen time with your loved one who is sick at home.

2. Ask your guests to wash their hands frequently during the gathering. Consider posting reminder signs at doorways, or strategically placing hand sanitizer containers in visible places at your party. Have hand sanitizer containers at each table where guests will be eating, and post one at the beginning of any food table with a sign that gently reminds your guests to sanitize their hands before taking any food items. Your hand sanitizer should be at least 60% alcohol to be effective, and sanitizer should be rubbed in until hands are completely dry.

3. In addition to asking your guests to wear masks, make sure that they also cover their mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. Guests should proceed to dispose of the tissue promptly after, and should then sanitize their hands.

4. Rather than hugs and handshakes, consider elbow bumps or ankle taps as a greeting. And with Tik-Tok becoming quite the rage, why not plan a new dance move in advance and use that to get some laughs amongst your guests? Make it easier on your guests by posting a few reminder signs throughout the home or party site to discourage physical contact.

5. Before and after your event, be sure to properly sanitize all areas. All frequently touched surfaces should be cleaned and disinfected. This includes door handles, sink handles, table surfaces, countertops and cabinet doors, the refrigerator door and handle, stairway railings, etc. During the time of the pandemic, you can’t be too careful, and your loved ones will appreciate your extra efforts. Don’t be afraid to close off certain areas of your home where you might not be able to adequately clean the space.

Seven Tips to Celebrate a Physically Distanced 4th of July 2020 on a Budget 

If you have decided to move forward with your socially distanced small-sized in-person event, and want to ensure that you are still keeping your tight budget in mind, take a look at these suggestions.

1. Choose evites over invites

We’ll start with one of the easiest tasks on the list: letting everyone know when and where to show up. Paper invitations, envelopes, and stamps add up quickly. Since you can find free electronic invites on a bunch of different sites now, you can skip the hassle and pocket some savings! Try or Paperless Post. You can even try Facebook, assuming most of your friends are social media aficionados. And evites are pretty much instant, so that’ll help on the last-minute front, too. Not to mention, no paper invites means less risk of coronavirus contamination.

2. Potluck or pre-packaged?

Under normal circumstances, making your party a potluck is fun, interactive, and keeps the host’s costs down. You can make it even more fun by creating a theme. The theme could be summer, red, white, and blue, or another festive idea. This is a great way to save money on a staycation, too by tying your Independence Day celebration with your 2020 summer vacation from home.

However, knowing that we are still in the midst of a pandemic, foods coming from multiple places might not be the best of ideas. Thus, pre-packaged options might be the best course of action this year. With a small-sized gathering, pre-packaged options can be quite affordable, and any guests will appreciate the extra effort you have taken.

3. Don’t like the pre-packaged option? Go low-cost on the grill

Few 4th of July goodies add up as quickly as the ones that go on the grill. If pre-packaged options aren’t your preference, then know that you can still skip the steaks and seafood options and opt for the more affordable, everyday meals. Cheeseburgers, hot dogs, and snacks will be great additions to chips, dip, and some fresh fruit. There will be plenty of options and you can still keep your costs down.

4. Borrow before you buy

For things like tables and chairs, renting them can be pretty expensive. See if any of your friends, family, co-workers, or neighbors have equipment that you can borrow instead. And while you’re setting up the yard, be sure to keep social distancing in mind. Leave enough distance between tables or chairs to ensure the health and safety of your guests. Even with proper spacing and social distancing in play, your guests will still be close enough to chat, laugh, and have a great time with. Be sure to also properly clean and sanitize the tables and chairs, especially if they have been borrowed from someone outside of your family.

5. Shop dollar store decorations

Dollar stores are often overlooked. But these budget-friendly stores offer many more options than you might think. You can find mini American flags, patriotic paper dishes and napkins, and so much more. While you’re there, grab enough hand sanitizers or sanitizing wipes to place one on each table. Bonus points if you find ones that match your theme! And remember that dollar stores are great places to stock up on household items that you may need too, helping you save more and keep your budget. Just be sure to wear your mask while shopping to prevent the risk of contamination from others.

6. Find coupons for everything else

For anything that you can’t get at the dollar store, look for a coupon before you head out to stop. If you have time to order online, you can use websites or browser extensions like the ones offered by Honey or Rakuten to clip virtual coupons or collect cashback. You can find printable grocery coupons through websites like, too. And when you’re done, hold onto the receipts. You can use apps like Ibotta and Fetch Rewards to scan them and earn cashback on certain items.

7. Play yard games

When we’re not trying to do our part to lower the risk of viral infections, a great strategy to keep costs down is to dig through the garage for volleyball nets, cornhole boards, and any other fun backyard games you can find. But right now, it is best to avoid any games that throw the social distancing attempts out the window (think: Twister) or may result in some unplanned littering (hold onto that Monopoly money for another day). For now, focus on fun, outdoor backyard games that can be played with social distancing. Hide and seek, no-touch relay races, Simon Says, etc. 

If kids will be in attendance, they’ll be happy playing hide-and-seek or roasting marshmallows to make s'mores. And to make up for the canceled fireworks displays, small boxes of sparklers are an excellent alternative. They’re affordable, easy to find, don’t require multiple touches from more than parents and children, won’t set your grass on fire, and are a crowd-pleaser for party-goers of all ages.