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Frugal Friday: Budget Birthday Ideas

When FishBoy12 was just a wee tot, I went all out for his birthdays. At the time I wasn’t sure I could have more children, so why not? And even once I had three or four children, the Creative Birthday Party Queen in me just didn’t know how to give it a rest.

Most sane people don’t sew 16 knight-in-shining-armor capes the night before a birthday party, do they?

Thankfully, God let Debt put the brakes on my craziness. And my husband sighed with relief. The Birthday Express had come to a screeching halt. But, that doesn’t mean we didn’t celebrate. We just searched for more meaningul ways to celebrate and give thanks for the Birthday Kid.

Ways to Save on Birthdays
1. I bake the cake myself. My kids love my cakes, even when I think they’re total flops. It’s so sweet. The bday child chooses the theme and I try to do it up big. I have been known to go a little overboard on the candy. But, it’s the one little indulgence I allow my Inner Creative Birthday Party Queen.

2. We pass on the helium balloons and extra decor. Every year I splurged on a tank or two of helium. While helium balloons are a delight, they’re also an extra expense we can do without. I don’t buy fancy plates any longer, but opt for solid colors that work for multiple occasions. But, we do have a decoration box filled with streamers from by-gone days which we still bust out to make the kitchen festive for birthdays.

3. We don’t have big parties. While I love the idea of a big bash, the truth is that it’s a lot of work, stress, and expense. And since we stopped doing them, the kids aren’t any worse for wear. Cake, presents, and no school are really all they care about. Sometimes we invite another family over to join our family celebration; other times, the Birthday Kid gets to invite a friend on an outing.

4. We look toward family outings for special celebrations. We try to give the Birthday Child some options, whether it’s the activity of the day or the menu plan, we let him choose. Everyone makes him feel special by devoting the bulk of the day to the planned festivities. Since I teach our children at home, I have the liberty to set the school schedule. Birthdays are school holidays. This week FishPapa and the boys went to Legoland to celebrate FishBoy9’s birthday, then we reunited at home for a special dinner and birthday cake. (Since Mondays are Homeschool Days at Legoland, their tickets were a reduced price, about 60% less than regular admission.)

5. We buy one or two presents. Rather than a boatload of gifts, we try to focus on a few important presents that the Birthday Kid particularly desires. Usually this is a fun tshirt and a bigger present like a requested book or video game. The parents gift those and the brothers usually pool their money and buy something that FishMama refuses to spend more money on: Lego.

How do you keep birthdays from getting out of hand — and over budget? I would love to hear some new ideas for saving money on birthdays.

Got a great money-saving tip? Share that as well.

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Comments

  1. Hoosier Homemade says:

    We celebrated my middle son's birthday last Sunday and just had 5 friends over. They were the people that mean the most to him. It was very nice. And although I cooked alot, we've had lots of leftovers this wk.
    Thanks for hosting!
    ~Liz

  2. I just did a post on birthdays. We had a carnival party for my daughter's 8th birthday. It was frugal by our standards, but I could have done it even cheaper. But it's in our budget and we can afford it, so we did. I love going "all out" for birthdays, too! Here's a link to my birthday post – http://savingmoneyirl.blogspot.com/2009/11/hold-party-at-home.html

  3. Amy Rainey says:

    A couple of years ago I invested a little time and money into Wilton cake decorating classes. One was at my community center, the other at a craft store. The classes cost $20 each, and there was a supply kit for each. Over a year I might have invested $75. It has been some of the best money I ever spent. I'm no professional but I now have the knowledge and tools I need to pull off every theme the kids have come up with so far. Even Bakugan! The cakes cost nearly nothing to make,and taste so much better than the supermarket variety. Also, I have been able to bless some friends with cakes for their children's birthdays/births as well. It is fun to be able to create in this way and to end up with a result that I am proud of.

  4. How funny! I coincidently was posting a birthday party themed Frugal Friday today!

    We hosted an Abby Cadabby party this past weekend for our now 3YO. She had a blast.

    Reading Amy's comment, I wish I had the time to take a Wilton class. I think it would be so much fun..in the meantime, I wing it.

  5. I can't believe you made all those knight costumes! Crazy…yes…bt how fun! Glad to read about your family tips…THanks!

  6. We do things that make the birthday child (or grown up) feel special: they get breakfast in bed, they get to choose the dinner menu, I also go all out on cakes (my Grandma made wedding cakes for a living, and my cousins and I all had the most magical cakes – I try to recreate those memories). I made a fabric "Happy Birthday" bunting a few years ago that we hang up, and we have a special plate that the birthday person gets to eat off.

  7. Smockity Frocks says:

    Great tips!

    We only let the kids invite friends when they turn 5, 10, or 15. The rest of the time we have family parties.

  8. I have always made homemade "fancy" cakes. They never turn out professional looking, but I know my kids feel special because I took the time. Their friends are always amazed that you can make cakes at home.

  9. Melissa, Multi-Tasking Mama says:

    We don't do big parties either. If our boys want to go somewhere special they can pick one friend to come or they can have 3-4 over for a party. Great tips!

  10. Corrie @ "Cents"able Momma says:

    My 6 year old is so jealous that your boys went to Legoland this week! He knows where on the globe Legoland is :-), but I doubt we'll make the trip from MI anytime soon.

    Til then, he can obsessively create Lego rocket ships!

  11. This is a GREAT post. We are getting to the age where my daughter sctually cares what we do. So, I am going to use some of these tips:-)

  12. We get our helium balloons from the Dollar Store as they are soooo much cheaper! They also have cheap cards, bags, etc., too. :D I also make the kids' birthday cakes. I try to make their birthday special without spending a lot.

  13. I don’t know that my ideas are seriously “frugal” but they are things we do to make the day special. We have high ceilings with 3 dangling lights in our “living” spaces area. I buy colored streamers (like for my most recent 1 year old’s birthday I did a Rainbow theme, so all 6 colors were bought) and hubby and I hang them up the night before the kids birthday. When they wake up, they all see the streamers hanging from the ceiling and really enjoy them. We leave them up until doors are starting to bump and pull on them, and when I pull them down I drop them on the floor and let the kids roll around and play with them for the day! They really enjoy that (much like the same with the cardboard box idea!). I make all my kids cakes homemade as well, and try to avoid buying “molds”. Instead I find some way to make the desireed cake with existing cake pans (i.e. butterfly cake with two heart shapped 9″). This year I’m going to make a wipe off “Menu” sheet for my oldest, and I’m going to let her pick whatever she wants for the entire day (breakfast to dinner) for her actual special day. Than that same wipe-off menu will be used for all the other kids on their days. I don’t do kid parties until they are 5 years old, I figure before that a family party is all that’s necessary. And as my oldest (who will be 8 next month) chooses to do things that are more costly, or more involving (slumber party etc) we will narrow it down to just 1 friend.

    I am doing the big party this year and we are doing it at the pool. I spoke with the manager at the pool to determine what was the best deal/package to get for this party – and he advised me to skip the “pool” packages, and to instead have the party on one of the evenings when the pool only cost 2.25 per kid (vs the normal 3.75). The pool packages offer a lifeguard to play games with the kids, but the manager told me he has rarely seen any kids enjoy playing the games with a stranger! Plus the kids usually just want to entertain themselves for the duration. As well, for only $15 we can reserve two tables and chairs for the party!

    I have other issues when it comes to parties: We have 3 sets of Grandparents in town, plus our family of 6 – which makes already for a big sized gathering for EVERY KIDS party. It’s a lot, and can be overwhelming to add in a friends party, buy my Dd does have her friends (even though we homeschool too!). Last year I through 2 seperate parties (1 for the kids, 1 for the grandparents a week later) and then in the middle of that was the actual birthday (which I prefer to make really special then). It was like a full week of birthday bonanza! And crazy! But I’m at a loss for what to do for the parties….either I combine all of them into one big party (cause my friends tend to stay and hang out with their kids!) Or we end up with party week all week long! Tips or ideas on how to handle all of that, and what other people do to handle giant families plus any friend! All of my friends – don’t have that much family in town (or any!) so they just do the 1 kid party for their kids! Not sure what to do!

  14. We do a special birthday breakfast, the birthday boy or girl picks the meal, we use our special dishes to set a pretty table. My daughter loves flowers and her birthday is in August, so I pick her a big boquet from my garden. I also decorate the cakes myself, and our local party store rents out Wilton pans for only $5, which save me from investing in pans that I will probably never use again!

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