Planning an Awesome Kid’s Birthday Party on A Not-So-Awesome Budget


When my oldest daughter’s first birthday began to approach, I knew I wanted to throw a great bash. It was, after all, going to be one of the most memorable birthday parties in our little family––the first of many for our child and future children. I hit the Pinterest boards, and quickly started accumulating some fantastic ideas. I’m a creative person in general, so images of handmade centerpieces, wall decorations, and themed snacks quickly filled up my personal Pinterest board.


My first mistake, however, was I seemed to be under the impression that I had the time to accomplish all of this. I soon realized that if I had really wanted to accomplish this “dream first birthday party,” I should have started when I was still carrying my daughter around in utero.


My second mistake was forgetting that I was not, in fact, married to a Rockefeller, Trump, or Gates. The foreseeable costs quickly started to add up, and as I scrolled through my Pinterest birthday board, I made the decision that we simply couldn’t afford the party that I wanted to throw for my daughter…especially since she would really have no memory of it.


Did this mean that I scrapped all my awesome ideas? Umm––no! I’m a resourceful person. Accomplishing the party wasn’t going to be impossible. I would simply have to make some changes to my plans in order to meet our budget, which was considerably low at the time.


#1: Digital Invites


One thing that blew my mind–pricewise–was the cost of invitations. I started out looking on Etsy…ha. Yeah, that wasn’t going to happen with our budget. I thought about even making my own, but with time constraints and the cost of decorative paper, printer ink, envelopes, and stamps, they were almost as expensive. I could have simply relied on generic party invitations from Walmart (and there’s nothing wrong with that), but I really wanted something that stuck to our party theme. Then it hit me…digital invites! There are countless E-vite websites available. That, coupled with simple Facebook invites for reminders, was enough to get the message out to family and friends, and I didn’t have to sacrifice budget or party concept for them either.


#2: Simple Menu


While the thought of fancy, decorative hors d’oeuvres was almost too much to turn down, I knew that it would put a serious dent in our budget. Instead, my husband threw burgers and hot dogs on the grill, and everyone was perfectly happy with that. I made a few side dishes that I knew my daughter would appreciate, such as a fruit bowl (she LOVES fruit!), and added a few bowls of chips and dip to the table for the other guests.


For older kids (perhaps around 7 to 12 years old), a money-saving food idea is pizza. Not necessarily ordering pizza, although that’s an option, but making pizza. A day or two before the party, whip up some easy pizza dough in bulk (enough for all the young guests), purchase some toppings (like meats and veggies), and on the day of the party, allow each child to roll out and top their own personal-sized pizza. They’ll have a blast, and they won’t have to settle for a pizza with toppings they don’t care for.


#3: Buy in Bulk


Let’s face it. This birthday party thing is pretty much an every-year event. And if you have multiple children, it’s a multiple-times-a-year thing. There are basic party supplies that are always needed, like favor bags, balloons, streamers, etc. So when you purchase these items, buy in bulk. It’s more economical, and as long as you get basic colors and designs, you can reuse them for future parties throughout the years.


#4: Affordable Games


I remember one of the most fun activities I did at a friend’s birthday party as a kid was a relay race, in which we had to go around to various spots in the backyard where water balloons sat and pop them by sitting on them. The parents of my friend didn’t have a pool, so this was a fun summer birthday game that got us covered in water (it, of course, eventually led to a water balloon battle), and it was super budget friendly–just the cost of a bag of water balloons and water to fill them.


Kids don’t need fancy activities or games. They can be entertained with the simplest of ideas. So keep the activities and games simple and fun. As long as they are getting messy, are permitted to be loud, and can run around to release the sugar rush from cake and candy, they are happy.


#5: Make the Birthday Cake


Even if you’re no “Ace of Cakes,” chances are you can at least whip up a boxed cake and throw on some icing. Kids don’t really care about what the cake looks like. Hey, if it looks terrible, it might even be the source of some laughs. As long as there’s plenty of icing on top and ice cream to go with it, you can please the crowd for just a few bucks, rather than ordering a $75-plus cake, which, while pretty, will still get eaten anyway.


So there you have it!


The good thing is, these budget-saving tips work for older children as well. Plus, let’s face it, the older children get, the less they care about the actual party and the more they care about the presents and fun with friends. Keep the party focused on that, and you’ll have a happy birthday boy or girl–and a happy wallet.

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