Tips for Planning a Birthday Party on a Budget
My daughter’s best friend’s (since kindergarten) daughter paid me the ultimate compliment the other day. “Vicki,” she said in her ever so sweet (and tiny) voice with an ear-to-ear smile, “You’re so nice. I’m inviting you to my birthday party!”
As moms, we know that our child’s birthday party is huge deal for them (and for us!) My daughter is 22 years old and I remember (like yesterday) all the handmade invitations, personalized DYI bingo boards filled with sweet little stickers that marked all her favorite interests and things! (ballet shoes, puppies, kittens, love and friendship stickers).
To most children, there are 364 days of the year and that one very special me day!
How can we, as moms, make that day extra, extra special…on a reasonable budget? It’s true that with so many bills to cover each month, it’s hard to spend much on a birthday party. The good news is there are ways to throw that blowout birthday bash that will make your kiddos super happy without breaking the budget.
A few ways to “party on” without the high price:
Location, location, location: You don’t need to rent out an expensive trampoline center or reserve half a bowling establishment. Check out a beautiful neighborhood public park where you will have the room to have some great games, spread out, and end the party with some fun time on the playground surrounded by all your friends and family. Price: Zero. Seeing grandma on the swings: priceless.
Invitations: In the weeks leading up to the birthday, get the excitement going by making them. You can send out free Evites or a simple E-mail will do. Even better is asking your child to get creative and make a personalized invite on the computer that you simply print out and then hand out at school to save on postage. Facetime, Skype or call the older relatives who not only get an invite, but a special chance to say hello!
Guest list: You never want to leave anyone out, but sometimes it’s best (and necessary) to keep a party to just close friends and family. The less people you invite, the more you can keep costs down. Don’t ask your child to choose. As the mom, you can make a list of five friends and then ask your child if there is anyone else who needs to be on the list, but give them a limit. “You can ask two more friends,” you might suggest. I’d rather cut costs elsewhere than limit the guest list. The more the merrier!
Decor: If you go to the store and pile your cart high with balloons, streamers and piñatas, it can easily add. Remember that anything with a licensed character on it costs more. Try the dollar store for these things or vow to buy them once, carefully take them down and then reuse them. I’m still using the “Happy Birthday” banners that I (literally) bought 20 years ago! You can make your own piñata. You can also ask your kids to make colorful pictures to cover the walls for the party. Once, again, priceless artwork and personalized bday decorations!
Food: If you throw a “dessert party,” at 2 or 3 p.m., you can easily bypass lunch as guests come with full tummies. It’s also easy to make your own cupcakes and serve with ice cream and toppings. One great idea came from a mom who purchased 15 doughnuts when her daughter turned that age. She arranged them in a tower on a platter and then put sparklers in the middle instead of candles. (She did this outside on a hot summer day….I wouldn’t do this inside the house!) Make sure to cut up some fruit for the adults or kids who don’t want or need all the sugar. If you want a full meal then check the paper for coupons for the local pizza parlor. Ask another mom or dad, aunt or uncle, to pick up the food to avoid delivery charges. Or take aunt Chelsea up on her offer to make her world famous (aka family fave!) chili. You do the cornbread and the cake.
Drinks: Yes, milk and water are healthier, but there are kids who will beg for soda pop and juice. If they’re not there, most won’t miss them. If you serve large jugs instead of cans or boxes, you save money and create less trash, which is good for the environment. Most kids are very conscious of drinking water, so fill up big pitchers with your own purified water, add some (well washed) strawberries on top and other fruit and have festive and naturally fruit flavored healthy beverages.
Party favors: Stickers, puzzles, books, treats, an eco-friend craft, and so on make for great favors and can all be found at those discount or dollars stores. Also try small writing books, puzzles, a green craft or a tiny (safe) plant that’s eco-friendly. One mom gave a watering can and seeds, so the kids could grow their own flowers and veggies after the party.
Entertainment: Instead of hiring professional entertainment, gather costumes from friends and family to host a giant dress-up party. A second-hand store is a great resource for finding discount costumes, too. Pile all of the dress-up clothes in a trunk and let the kids’ imaginations run wild.
Set up different arts-n-crafts tables around the house for a crafting party. Have each child bring a white pillowcase to decorate with stamps, fabric markers, and patches for a fun activity.
Have the little ones (4 years and under) make an “all about me” book with handprints, drawings, and a Polaroid photos from the party. For the older kids, have them make popsicle stick photo frames to put their Polaroid party picture inside of as a keepsake.
Older kids also love making videos. Break the older kids into groups and give them a topic. Ask them to make their own “commercial” and then later you can have “screenings” of all the videos. Plus, they’ll love it if you send the videos to their parents.
You can also provide the kids with materials to make DYI bingo games. Instead of numbers on the board, use fun stickers of your child’s favorite characters and colors – such as baseballs, puppies, hearts, Sesame Street characters, and so on.
The important thing is the feeling of love and togetherness from a birthday party. It’s a gathering of friends and loved ones to celebrate the most special present of all time: Your child.