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Are You Ready for Some Tailgating?

In the south, cool autumn temperatures are still a long way from reality. But another harbinger of fall, high school and college football games, are already kicking off—along with another important fall season tradition: tailgating.

A tailgate party may be as simple as hotdogs and chips, or an elaborate dinner party that carries on long before, during (and even after some) games. Whatever the style, many of us find tailgating, rather than the game inside the stadium, is the whole point of fall football.

Regrettably, the cost of serving up barbecue and burgers, even in a parking lot, can quickly add up. So, in honor of National Tailgating Day, here are some tips to help you spend small, but score big with your friends.

Be Flexible

Check your grocery store’s weekly circular for coupons and other special deals on food and beverages, and plan your menu around the best sales. In addition to printed coupons, check out free digital apps, such as SnipSnap or CouponSherpa, which allow you to browse, store and use thousands of coupons directly from your smartphone.

You can also save money by skipping prepared dishes. Pasta salad and baked beans will feed a crowd for pennies per person if you make them yourself; and prepping raw vegetables costs half what you might spend on a fancy fruit or veggie platter. Likewise, forego expensive store-bought cakes, and instead serve cookies or gelatin cups—in your team colors, of course.

Go Big or Go Home

Small, individual cans of soda are much more expensive than 2-liter bottles. For adult beverages, buy in bulk at a wholesale club. Visit a local dollar store to load up on basic party supplies such as plates, cups and napkins in your team’s color. And if you’re on a tight budget, please don’t even think about paying a premium price for “official” branded serving pieces, banners, flags or hats. Instead, look online for free printables of your team’s logo, print it on iron-on paper, and transfer it to flags, banners and other outdoor décor.

Divide & Conquer

If paying for all the food and drinks yourself still seems too much of a financial burden, turn your tailgate into a potluck. When you set up the party, your friends will likely be very happy to bring their own beverages, meat to grill, and a side dish to share. Just like the game inside the stadium, tailgating is at its best when they whole team is working together.