Looking for ways to celebrate a birthday that doesn’t break the bank? Try these on for size.
Over the years our family has thrown a number of birthday parties. We don’t do them every year nowawadays, but there was a time when every child celebrated with a large friends party. Overtime and through much trial and error, I’ve learned what works for our family and how to make it fun as well as budget-friendly.
Here’s what I’ve learned about planning a budget-friendly birthday party:
Consult the guest of honor.
Ask the birthday child what he or she would really like to do to celebrate. I think some parents spin their wheels dreaming up the big celebration that they think their child wants when they might really be surprised at some simple requests. Most kids just want time to play with their friends, eat cake, and open presents.
They don’t need or want all the bells and whistles you might be scheming about.
On the flip side, just because you’re asking, doesn’t mean you have to meet the child’s every whim, either. But, do have a conversation about what’s most important versus what they’re happy to give up.
Choose a theme.
I love themes because they help limit and give direction to the celebration. They also fuel creativity. A theme ties elements together that a child loves, like Legos, princesses, hockey, or Hobbits.
If you find the theme so limiting, however, that you’d have to spend more money to keep to the theme, expand it enough to stay under budget.
Narrow the guest list.
Keeping the guest list small is a great way to keep costs down or to spend money on a more memorable experience. Ice skating for four may be more fun for your child than a grand party of ten.
One year our son just wanted his best friend to spend the day with us and then go to the Science Museum. Since we already had passes, it made for a fun and easy outing/birthday celebration. We duded it up a bit by making sure we had dinosaur pancakes before we left and a dinosaur cake after supper.
Indiana Jones Birthday Cake
Bake the cake.
Baking your own cake is an easy way to have your cake and well, eat it too. For about five dollars of ingredients and a few theme-centered toys, you can create a homebaked and decorated cake that will rival any that the local bakery can produce. At least in your child’s eyes.
And those are the ones that matter.
But really, I promise that it’s not difficult. Check out these cake tutorials as well as these more recent cakes from the FishFam repertoire:
Consider outsourcing carefully.
Using an outside vendor or location as party central could be a great deal — or a money pit. Before you outsource, count the cost and see if it can stack up to a more DIY method.
Think outside the box. Maybe you take the girls for manicures and pedicures at the local beauty college or take the kids to a minor league sports game. JessieLeigh did both these things recently and they were great hits with her kids and their friends. There are plenty of ways to outsource without spending an arm and a leg. And you’ll have a great time!
Make the pinata.
Making a pinata is super easy. Blow up a ballon, cover it in newspaper strips dipped in glue or flour paste, allow it to dry, and then paint or cover with tissue paper. Be sure to check out the easy-peasy paper bag method, too. Just ignore my very pregnant stomach in the tutorial.
The kids are going to beat it up, anyway, so don’t worry about it looking perfect. Fill it with dollar store candies, snacks, and plastic toys.
Be willing to be different.
Don’t do your party exactly the same way everyone else does it out of obligation. If you like the method the crowd has going, by all means, follow it, but don’t feel like you have to keep up with them in order to have a special celebration. Being different allows for your family’s individuality as well as your budget.
This fall FishBoy12 invited his friends over for pizza and a movie. They played outside until dark, came inside and ate us out of house and home, and then settled down for a viewing of The Amazing Spider-Man, a brand new release. It was a great time and a great reassurance as we enter the teen years, that big kid birthdays can be fun, yet cheap, too.
Mix it up each year.
If you do a friends party one year, a best-friend sleepover the next year, and a family adventure the third year, you’ll be less likely to get caught up in the bigger, better, badder cycle that has been known to hit families. Mix it up for variety as well as for your mental health.
One family I know alternates kids. One year the older child gets a friend party; the next year the younger child does. This helps Mom keep costs and her sanity under control.
Whatever you do, don’t feel like you have to spend a ton of money to celebrate another year with your child. Set a budget before you start, focus on the purpose: celebrating a life, and stick to your resolve to enjoy it without going over budget.