Looking back I can say that my mother spent a good bit of money on my birthday parties. I always had a great present and normally we hosted anywhere from three to twenty of my friends. For my sixteenth birthday, we had a cookout complete with a FAME cake and she bought me a brand name guitar. She was a single mother and she is amazing.
I want to pass this on to my girls as well and I know that I am not the only one. At the same time, I don't want to have to shell out three hundred dollars for one night every single year. As I look for ways to host the best birthday party ever, I figure I might as well share them with you. If you have some great birthday party ideas that are inexpensive and worked well for you, please share!
Ways to Have an Affordable Birthday Party
1. Location, Location, Location
Opt to have a location where there is no cost. Your house would be ideal but if that doesn't work for you, ask around.
I had several parties back to back a while ago and we found a park that normally charged several hundred dollars to use a pavilion. There were two reasons why we were able to use the pavilions for free: the first party was in a month that didn't count because it was so cold that most people would not use them. The second time was because nobody else had reserved the spot.
It worked out well because we brought water balloons, and ice cream cake, and friends. The best part? Hearing the boy say, “I don't like that! I don't like girl things.”
2. Plan a Good Time
If you are not wanting to feed everybody a full meal, two to five is the perfect time because it's after lunch (and naps) and before dinner. This means that snacks, drinks, cake, and ice cream should be more than enough.
Another great idea if you are wanting to do a dinner is to consider the season and what your child likes, and then plan accordingly. For example, if your child loves the outdoors, why not do a bonfire with hot dogs, chips, and S'mores. If they have a winter birthday, opt for inexpensive (maybe made in the fall and canned) soups.
3. Skip the Goodie Bags
I have never seen a point in purchasing a goodie bag filled with candy that is pricey per pound and keeps their parents pulling their hair out. And the one dollar trinket? They will stop playing with it in a day or two.
My suggestion is to completely forgo the goodie bag all together or opt for something that is economical for you and you know will be used longer. For example, for our youngest daughter's fifth birthday, I made tutus for all the girls. This worked out well because I had just started making tutus and this was an opportunity to show people what I was doing while making her and her friends smile!
4. Always Be on the Lookout
Always be on the lookout for a good deal on party items. A few weeks ago, we were at Walmart and there were plates, napkins, and cups with my daughter's favorite singer's face and design on them. She was overjoyed and even though it was ten months until her birthday it was too good of a price to pass up.
If I fear that she will not be into the same thing on her birthday, I can use the items for her school lunches.
5. Purchase Plain Decorations
One of my most prized possessions is a one dollar table cloth. Bought last year around Thanksgiving, I had my students write what they are thankful for. This will continue, hopefully, from their freshman year until their senior year. They will be able to look back and see how much their lives have changed.
I actually started this with my oldest daughter's second birthday, though that one got lost. People who came to their birthdays would write good thoughts and wishes on the table cloth.
And it cost one dollar.
Kids are always going to want the plates and accessories that are their theme but for price sake and for the sake of not going overboard with the theme, it might be best to stick with plain paper plates or even opt to use real plates if you have them.
6. Do It Yourself
The best part about being a Family and Consumer Science teacher is that the school helps me pay for educational opportunities for myself. Next month, I am starting cake decorating classes.
I think the price is good, I get five lessons that are three and half hours each and only seventy dollars. If you, like me, have two children and then have eighteen birthdays that you host, that's a dollar and ninety cents per cake in addition to the purchase of the food items. Say the food items cost you seven dollars, you paid about nine dollars per cake.
That alone saves so much money! Added benefit? You get to have a great time learning something new and make new friends in the process!
Our tutu year and every year since I have made the invitations myself. I think it is fun and economical. The picture costs me about five cents and I add some splash on it using stuff I already have bought for my planner.
I do not always have pictures but get creative with the decorating, making each invitation unique. I also add a “who what when where RSVP” on the inside using an ink pad and stamp set that I bought at Hobby Lobby for half off.
There is another website who says to do the exact opposite and from the aspect of money is time, I get it. I also get it if you are not crafty anyways. I don't recommend spending the money on invitation stuff if you are not going to do more with it besides that.
Essentially this is a weigh-your-options kind of deal.
I will say though, I disagree with the e-invites. It's one thing to create a Facebook page to remind people but in a time when people only get bills in the mail, I think it is something nice and extra to do for people who care enough for your child to come. Even if your invitations only go to the school- a paper invitation is better.
7. Have a Joint Birthday Party
My daughter was born two days before my birthday. This means that on the year we opt to go out to eat instead of having a big shin dig, she and I pick somewhere nice and celebrate both of our birthdays at the same time.
So long as your kids are around the same time and they are okay with it, you can combine two parties into one. I would still have two cakes and do something to make each child feel special but combining parties could save in many different ways.
Even better if you can do it with one of their friends instead of one of their siblings. This way you can split the cost fifty-fifty with the other parent.
8. Use Craft as an Entertainment
Instead of paying to have entertainment, make your own. As I stated before, we did a water party, complete with water slide, water balloons, and lots of fun. A friend of mine did an art party where the kids got to make their own paintings. She purchased the products wholesale and they had such a good time many of them didn't want to come outside to have cake and ice cream.
Even better? Using art at a party means that the guests still have a take-home gift that will be cherished.
9. Decorate with Toys
This may not seem like a way to save money but hear me out. My daughter was very into American Girl. Instead of having a birthday party at American Girl, we decided to host our own. I had all the girls bring their dolls, we created a real life doll box, and decorated with her dolls wearing different outfits.
When she was younger, she wanted a princess cake, so we made a simple sheet cake and added a tiara and wand that, together, cost one dollar.
This year the theme is looking like it might be animal jam. Between now and her birthday, I will find reasons to purchase Animal Jam toys for her no matter if it was for being good or Christmas. These toys will be displayed at her birthday party and I promise, will make her just as happy (if not more so) as a non-usable decoration would.
10. Think About Your Numbers
Don't assume you have to have a big shindig every year. I know a family of five that informed their children they could have friends over on their fifth, tenth, and sixteenth birthdays.
Likewise, many times my girls are at their grandparents house when they have their birthdays and therefore the birthday parties are just family as the grandparents live two states away. Benefits of being summer babies I guess.
This does mean that when they do have a birthday party at home it is a bigger deal and when they have friends over, we treat it as a special occasion.
My last few when I was growing up was sleepovers with one or two friends. It was special and made me feel good to have my friends by my side. I was able to drive and worked so I might have gone out to eat with some more friends but my mother only coordinated the sleepovers with food, especially the (dirt) cake!
One of the first things I did when I was pregnant with my oldest was look up freebies for her and there are so many for children and adult a like. If you haven't yet- that's okay, now is as good of a time as any!
A few of the ones that I know give away a discount or a freebie is McCalisters, Starbucks, Chuck E. Cheese, Toys R Us, and Old Spaghetti Factory.
We don't necessarily do this at the birthday party. Instead we make a special day and do something different.
Here's how we do it: A day or two before their birthday we take an afternoon and hit up as many of the birthday freebie places as we can. There were so many different places and my girl still talk about our first (free) event to this day!
12. Stay Organized
Have you ever had to purchase something because you forgot where you had put the original item? With birthday parties this could turn into a big thing.
So my biggest suggestion is pick a theme and make a list of everything that needs to get done. Sometimes just writing things helps people to remember what needs to be done and when.
When you start making your list think of things in the order that they need to be done. If you have the supplies for the project, make sure to mark that too. Have a second list of items you need to purchase.
Although this list covers things that we discussed doing differently, it is still useful and helps you to look at the timeline in an appropriate manner.
Your child will remember the great things at a birthday party. While there are exceptions to the rule, for the most part they will not remember the gifts they were given. They will remember what they did and what it was that made them feel special.
When I turned thirteen my mother took me to a pizza place that I loved. But what really set the event over the top was that the pizza place had “Happy 13th Birthday, Tiffany” on their sign. I felt as if I was famous.
It is the small things we do to make our children feel special that make the biggest difference. No money needed!