Do you struggle with planning birthdays because of the expense of it all?
Honestly, I used to not be much of a celebration type person. That is until I had children, and I was told that I had to be because it would be important to my kids.
So I struggled through the first few years of doing birthdays the way everyone expected, but it didn’t take me long to realize that my budget couldn’t afford the norm and these parties did anything besides build super happy memories.
In fact, my young children would usually leave in tears from being overstimulated. That is when I began making changes. I began celebrating birthdays in our own way and within our budget.
Birthdays on a Budget
Here is how we do birthdays around our house:
1. DIY Decorations
If you purchase the matching spoons, forks, plates, cups, napkins, balloons, and streamers, you are easily padding expenses into the birthday celebration. It didn’t take me long to realize this.
Again, I’ll be honest, for my son’s first birthday I went all out. We had matching everything. I even had a personalized banner made with his picture on it to hang on the front porch. It was a big deal!
However, as the years went on, I realized that I couldn’t afford to do that for every birthday.
So I began getting creative with our décor. I will purchase balloons because they are usually pretty inexpensive. You can buy some here.
Finally, I like to make fun centerpieces. Here is a great tutorial on how to make a colorful monogrammed centerpiece. It is a great idea that I just might try this year for my boys’ birthdays. I don’t go hog wild with the decorations, but it is enough that my kids know it is a special time and that is all that matters in my book.
2. Don’t Buy a Present
Before you think I’m a terrible person, I love making homemade gifts. This is probably why my youngest is the DIY king. He literally makes his grandmother a special gift every week and mails it to her.
So I don’t think DIY presents are a bad thing. It inspires our kids to think outside of the box and make something from the heart when they see us do it.
But don’t think that a DIY gift has to be something dinky. You can make your child a DIY toy, you can make your husband a cool DIY gift, or you can even make the Mrs. a unique gift as well. There are lots of great tutorials out there. Put some thought into it and see what you can come up with.
However, don’t think that DIY always means free because it doesn’t. But it does usually mean a great gift for less than you can buy.
Plus, it is a gift from the heart. So I encourage you to think outside of the norm and create a gift for the next birthday with your own two hands.
3. You Are the Cake Boss
I know some people call up the local bakery and pay an arm, leg, and a kidney for an adorable cake. That is great for some people, but my finances just can’t handle that.
Instead, I make my kids’ cakes. It is really fun because you get to scroll through Pinterest and find cute but easy cake ideas. There are a ton of them, like this lion cake or this super easy gummy bear cake.
Actually, one of my favorite cake ideas lately is this Depression cake. It is a recipe that was developed during the Great Depression. It requires no milk, eggs, or butter. It is very inexpensive to make and is really delicious.
So you could easily make it into a regular sheet cake and then decorate with sprinkles and candles. You are capable of making a great cake.
Not to mention, your kids will love it too because they can help and even lick the spoon!
4. Homemade Ice Cream
After you make a delicious cake, you can’t forget the ice cream. But don’t think that you have to run and buy a bunch of ice cream either.
In reality, you can purchase an ice cream maker that you can use over and over again.
So as you can see, your kids can have a ton of ice cream to accompany their cake with just a little extra effort and for a lot less money.
5. Experience Over Presents
Birthday presents get more and more extravagant every year it seems. That is okay if that is your preference.
However, our family is trying to live a more simple life. We recently downsized our life which means we don’t have as much room for ‘stuff.’
So we have decided to give experiences as a gift instead of a toy or something more traditional.
For instance, my youngest loves to play golf. He is his daddy’s child. With that in mind, we have been known to load a card for the local putt-putt location so we can go putt-putt as a family whenever we want.
Much to my surprise, he loved this gift because it is something fun he gets to do over and over again. Whereas a toy gets a little boring after you play with it for a while.
So try to think of something fun you can do as a family and give it as a gift. If you are still going to do a party, I recommend going with a smaller experience (like putt-putt, movie tickets, a trip to the skating rink, or even a coupon booklet for trips to the park) instead of doing something really extravagant because you’ll incur a lot of expense that way.
6. Experience Over a Party
As my older two children have outgrown the ‘party scene', I still want to do something special for them without it costing us a fortune.
So now, in the place of a party, we give an even bigger experience.
For instance, when our middle child’s birthday rolls around, he loves to go to Great Wolf Lodge. We are a homeschool family so we get a discount. It works really well because we only go for 1 night, but we get to play prior to check-in and after check-out.
Not to mention, since our family lives far away, they buy him gift certificates to use at Great Wolf Lodge in the place of gifts. It is fun and helps cut down on the expense for us.
So I don’t mind sharing, our budget for our kids’ birthdays is usually around $200 per child. We can usually pull off a night at Great Wolf for around that amount.
But I also bring food for us to eat while we are there, and we leave the hotel at night to eat a cheap dinner elsewhere. You have to think outside of the box a little, but you can make it work.
For our oldest child, he likes to head to the beach since his birthday is in summer. We are fortunate that we have a family member that has a beach house, and they allow us to use it from time to time.
So we’ll head down and stay for a few days. With this, I pack all of my food from home, cook the whole time I’m there, and we go to the beach. We are really only out the gas to get there so it works quite well.
Now, I realize not everyone has a family member with a beach house so you could take a camping trip for a fun experience, rent a hotel room for a night just to take in the sights somewhere else besides home, or you could go to an amusement park. This would all depend upon what your birthday budget is.
But as you can see, you can have a fun overnight experience for a birthday celebration and it can be something special and memorable.
7. Dig In!
Regardless of what we do for a gift for our children, they always get a homemade cake and the meal of their choice.
Never forget, birthdays are a great time to celebrate the life of a loved one. The best way to commemorate that is with a good, old fashioned family dinner. That way you can laugh and make memories.
After all, that is what life is all about, enjoying it and making memories to reminisce on for years to come.
So allow your family member to decide what meal they’d like (within reason) and then make it for them. It is that simple.
8. Use Your Homestead as a Theme
A lot of people like to go with themed birthday parties, especially if they are inviting quite a few people.
Well, as you all know, my family and I live on a homestead so when we have a birthday gathering, we use what we have. What I mean, is we have a smaller house but lots of land.
So we usually set-up the gathering outdoors where people can take in the views of the mountains and the animals.
Then we keep it simple. We set-up tables and chairs with DIY centerpieces and serve simple, home grown food. It is very budget friendly and there is no need to do a ton of decorating.
So if you live in a neighborhood, then go with a picnic theme. If you live on a homestead, use rustic and country designs as your theme, and if you live in a city, then use that as your theme. It is all about working with what you have.
Well, you now have 8 tips for ways to celebrate birthdays on a budget. I hope that it gives you some good ideas!
But I’d like to know how you celebrate birthdays on a budget. Do you have a favorite cake or ice cream recipe? Do you take a special trip? If so, where and how do you keep it inexpensive?
We’d love to hear from you. Just drop us a line in the comment section below.