Monday, June 27, 2011

How to Keep Children's Birthday Party Costs Low

We just had a big birthday blowout event for our daughter’s 2nd birthday (I'll do pictures later this week). It was full of food, friends, and fun. And since we’re on a tight budget these days, we wanted to be able to pull it off without the expenses that typically come with a bash. Here are some suggestions that could help you do the same!

Bake the Cake Yourself
I know that not everyone is Betty Crocker, but the directions on the side of a boxed cake mix could not be any easier. Whether you want to do a layer cake, a sheet cake, or cupcakes, the instructions are all right there in front of you. There’s really nothing to it.

And if you want to get “fancy” and make something to go along with a theme, there are SO MANY tutorials and photo blogs on the web that surely you can find something that matches your ability level. Trust me…I’m no expert but over the years I’ve been able to pull off a Baby Einstein caterpillar, a train cupcake cake, a tank, some ninjas, a butterfly and a giant cupcake. I just look for something that is fun but has a skill level of easy. So far my kids have loved every cake they’ve had!

Don’t Serve a Meal
If you are hosting a party, pick times that will not overlap with meal time. For instance, we like to do 2:00 – 4:00 or 3:00 – 5:00. These times allow for all of the little ones to finish naps (we’re still at that age) but not require me to feed actual food to the guests. Cake, ice cream, chips, and snacks will do it. I are not obligated to feed these people!

Pick a free location
You can host it at your house, a public park, or anywhere that doesn’t cost money. We have done 4 at our house and 2 at public parks and all were absolutely free to use. The ones at the park didn’t even require me to do party games, as we had cake and then just let the children loose!

Keep the d├ęcor simple!
If you want to do a theme, that’s fine. But you don’t have to buy all matching partyware. For instance, we did a ninja theme for Patrick’s 5th birthday. The cupcake ninjas were black and white with some red accents. So the plates? They were black “dinner” plates for food and red “dessert” plates for the cake and ice cream. There was no reason to pay top dollar to have ninjas actually ON the plates. For Abigail’s party that we just had this past weekend, we did buy dinner plates with cupcakes on them but the napkins, cups, and dessert plates were all solid colors that matched the colors on the themed plates. Way cheaper than the coordinating pieces that I could have bought.

Accept Help
If you have a good friend that you don’t mind asking, request that their gift to the child be to do something special for the party. Maybe they bake the best brownies or are an awesome photographer. Maybe they can make balloon animals or can make crafty decorations. The child will likely get so many gifts that they won’t “miss” one from this friendly neighbor and you’ll keep your cost low!

Forego the Goody Bags
I know…in this day and age this seems a big outlandish, but why are we thanking children for celebrating our child? It’s not like they need to be bribed to come to a party or anything! Most of the items we get in goody bags are cheap paper and plastic crap that goes into the garbage within a week of the party’s end. If you want to send the child home with something, include a craft as part of the party activities. For instance, at Abigail’s cupcake themed party last weekend, at the end of the party, the kids got to decorate a cupcake all by themselves. Yes it was messy, but boy did they love it! I taped a plastic tablecloth to our garage floor and pulled out every tub of frosting and every type of sprinkle that we had in the house. You should have seen their creations! They had so much fun, as most of them (ages 3-6) aren’t used to that much independence with their snacks.

So there are some tips on keeping children’s birthday parties on the cheap.

What have you done to keep costs low for your festivities?

Photo credit: mzacha


  1. Those are great suggestions. Sounds like a fun party. One way we minimize expenses is to just have the "friend" birthday party every other year. On the year without the party we still have a family party with cake and ice cream. It's worked out great for us - especially because most of the families in our neighborhood do the same thing. My kids just think it's normal to only have a friend party every other year.

  2. We had one of my son's parties at Chuck E Cheese, BUT we didn't do their official "party." They let us bring in our own cupcakes and we just had friends meet us there. We picked a later start time (6 or 7? I forget) so people could eat dinner BEFORE they came. We did NOT provide pizza and drinks to everyone. That can really add up!
    Of course since it was a "destination" party I didn't have to worry about decorations. Just the cake and drinks. :)

  3. Both are you ladies have awesome suggestions! I like not doing the "big" party each year. And I LOVE the idea of not having to clean up, which is one downside of not having a "destination" party!