Birthdays are a special time for kids of all ages. The problem is that it can be a very expensive time for their parents. If you're on a tight budget, forking out $200 for your son's 12th birthday can be just too much.
But there are ways that you can have the birthday party of their dreams on a budget:
Choose An Affordable Location
If your guest list is huge, stay away from the places that have "per guest" fees. Even though everything is included, paying $15+ a person, including parents, kids, and babies, can quickly add up. Instead, hold the party at your house, a local park, church rec-room, or community center and then use some of the money you saved to get something cool like a special cake, cool prizes for a scavenger hunt, or awesome party favors.
Choose A Time
Time of day is an important thing when it comes to planning your child's birthday party. To cut down on costs and hassle, don't schedule it around a typical meal time - between 11 AM and 1 PM or 4 to 6 PM. That way, your guests won't be expecting food and you won't have to clean up a massive mess. Instead make it a "dessert party" and serve only cake and ice cream.
A theme will make any party even cooler and memorable for your child. Try to stick to something your child is interested in, like Legos or baseball and incorporate the special theme into the party favors and decorations.
Do you have an idea for a theme but no suggestions on how to do it or what you buy? Use Google or another search engine to brainstorm. Online party supply stores are a great source of ideas too…and they might even be cheaper than the store down the street.
Keep an eye on costs as you shop for stuff. Plates and cups with trademarked cartoon characters can be double or even triple the cost of plain colored ones. Your best bet is to buy one or two things that have your child's favorite cartoon character on it and then backfill the rest with items that have complimentary colors.
Choose Your Guests
Parties are all about being around the people that love and care for you so it's probably best to start off your list with family members and close friends that you want to attend. Then fill in the rest of the spaces with any classmates, playmates, or teammates that you child gets along with well.
Choose Your Invites
Once you've decided on who will be attending, send out invitations. There are many options when it comes to invitations - it doesn't have to include the expensive cards you find at the stationary stores.
- Design Your Own - Use your computer and printer to make a cool invitation flyer. This works great when you don't have a lot of money or a really unique theme.
- Photo Invites - Photo invites or photo postcards can be cool to send out but expensive if you have them done by a local company. Look online for more affordable options. Most photo printing companies will have this option available, along with easy-to-use design software to allow even the worst artist to create a cool-looking invitation.
- Use Evite.com - If you have everyone's email address, use Evite.com to invite everyone and organize your RSVP list. You can also use the sign to update your attendees about changes to your party plans and send out thank you notes.
Many parents think you have to hire an entertainer to keep the kids out of trouble. This is not true. There are many other options out there to keep the kids entertained:
- Games - Have a few games planned to get the party going. This can include smacking the piñata, Pin the Tail on the Donkey, or even Pop the Balloon. If it is an older child's party, dig out all of your family's board games and clear enough space for the kids to play if they want.
- Movie - Pick a movie that is age-appropriate and fits in well with your theme. This is a great way to get the kids to calm down while you are preparing the cake and ice cream. Just make sure that you include the movie title on the invitation to ensure that no parents object to the movie. The last think you need is to upset Little Billy's mom because she didn't know you were letting the kids watch Night of the Living Dead at the party.
- Dress Up - Ask your friends and family for old clothes and let the kids play dress-up. To make it special, take digital photos for the parents to enjoy later on.
- Crafts - Plan to make something (decorate cookies, make hats, paint T-shirts, do a cut and paste project, etc) that your guests can take home. Not only will this keep the kids busy for a few minutes but it could serve as your "party favor" too!
To save a whole lot of money, make and decorate your own cake. If your child wants something special (like a fire engine cake or a Barbie cake), search online for ideas on how to do it yourself. This way, you not only save money (those specialty cakes can cost as much as $100!) but you also get to customize it for your child.
If you're not up to making and decorating a cake, then buy a rack of cupcakes from a local bakery or store and let the kids decorate them. (This can double for "entertainment" too!)
Choose Your Food
Even if you're doing a cake-only party, it's always good to have a few snacks and drinks available for the adults and kids to enjoy throughout the party. Here are a few inexpensive party snacks to keep in mind -
- Veggie Tray - Skip over the expensive party trays at the store. Instead, buy bags of carrots, celery, radishes, broccoli, cauliflower, and other snack-friendly veggies and slice them yourself. Pour a bottle of your favorite salad dressing into a bowl and you have the perfect tray of snacks.
- Fruit Tray - You can do the same for fruit - slice up melon, pineapple, peaches, pears, and apples, and place on a tray with a side of toothpicks (for easy eating) and watch the kids swarm!
- Pretzels / Chips - Buy these at your local wholesale store. If you are extremely cost-conscious but worry about your street creed, buy the generic brand of chips and then dump them into a nice party bowl. No one will know the difference and you can save some money!
For drinks, you can either buy them in bulk from a warehouse store or have a few pitchers of juice, tea, punch, or koolaid for everyone to enjoy while at the party. And most importantly - don't forget the ice!