How to Throw A Great Birthday Party on a Budget

The above headline would have been laughed at by mothers in the 1970s. In that great decade, kid birthday party activities consisted of playing Pin the Tail on the Donkey and the pop-the-balloon-by-sitting-on-it relay game. Moms would mix up a Betty Crocker cake mix, cover it with store-bought frosting, and put sprinkles on top. There were no goody bags. Decorations were made of crepe paper.

Parents today have higher expectations placed upon them. Kid parties start when the babies are still in the womb and parents explode pink or blue confetti cannons to reveal the gender of the baby. One-year-old parties are extravaganzas, featuring a professionally decorated individual cake for the toddler to “dig in to.” Photos are artfully taken and posted to various social media.

How do you stay on a budget when people have such high expectations for these events? How do you sell pinning a tail on a cardboard donkey to a group of eight-year-olds when the little girl down the street had an actual unicorn at her birthday party? Here are tips on how to plan a fun party and also stay within a budget.

Don’t worry about keeping up with neighbors, family, and friends. 

This will be difficult, but someone needs to say enough is enough. Children’s birthday parties, especially for children under five years old, should be simple affairs. They aren’t going to remember them. Your Pinterest-loving friends may gasp at the simplicity of your party, but they will also secretly admire it. Your child’s birthday party is not an opportunity for you to put on a show for your friends. It’s a time to celebrate your child. Resist the urge to consult Pinterest for the latest in cake decorating or chalkboard decorations.

Have the party at your house or a local park

You may not want ten three-year-olds running around your home, but if you have a three-year-old, you are going to have to get over that real soon. Kids make messes and destroy things. Put away your cherished knick-knacks and white sofas for a few years. If you are lucky enough to have a child who was born during the summer, you will have cheap, easy birthday activities for their entire childhood. Tell your guests to bring a swimsuit, put out a sprinkler and serve the parents margaritas while the kids play in Slip N Slides. Kids love this, and it is cheap and fun.

Don’t worry about elaborate decorations

Most of the time, kids under twelve do not notice decorations. Why spend money on something that your kid doesn’t appreciate and other kids don’t see. Consider picking up a bunch of helium balloons at discount party supply store. Send each child home at the end of the party with a balloon.

You know your child is going to have a birthday party each year. It shouldn’t be a surprise. Pick through the sale items are your local party store. Buy party hats, plates, and napkins when they are on sale.

Gather goody bag supplies throughout the year

Keep a stash of goody-bag junk in a closet throughout the year. The McDonalds toy that your kid has no interest in may become a treasure to one of his classmates. Look through the dollar bin at Target. Buy candy when it is on sale.

Spend money on activities rather than on gourmet cake or decorations

Kids are going to remember what they did and how they felt at a birthday party. Worry less on creating a picture-perfect event and more about showing the kids a good time.

Think before you invite

Some classroom teachers have rules that party invitations should not be passed out to classmates at school unless everyone is invited to the party. Make sure you follow this rule. Nothing is more hurtful to a child than being excluded from an activity by their classmates. This will happen soon enough as kids age.

Invite the special needs child in your child’s class. Invite the child who is on the autism spectrum. Make a point to ask the parent of those children on how you can accommodate food or activities to enable the child to participate. Chances are, the parent will make the accommodations themselves because they will be so happy that their child received an invitation to attend an activity. Even if you have to spend more money to make arrangements for a special needs child to participate in the party, this is money worth spending.