Want to be that mom who throws a great party without taking out a loan just to do it? Here’s how to save money when planning a birthday party.
This article will tell you what to spend on and what to save on to get the most out of your party budget and how to save money when planning a birthday party.
At the end of the day… most kids are all about the play and fun… not the over the top table settings that get wrecked by the end of the party and when was the last time you caught a kid who would rather eat all their food than play.
So by focusing on the stuff that kids really care about, you can save money and still have one of those AMAZING Pinteresty parties, at least in the kids’ opinion… and when you are throwing a birthday party for kids, that’s what counts, right?
Where to save:
Invitations and Printing:
This first one I am a little torn on. Some years I spend the money on a cute esty designer invite. Other years I purchase them. It realy depends on the theme… if I can’t seem to find good invites, then I purchase the Etsy designs and use my printer. Ink is so expensive, so all of the stuff you can print out…i.e. Cupcake wrappers, Waterbottle labels, etc… costs alot to print. It does look nice but how much does it add to the fun factor… In the end all of it ends up in the trash. So pick and choose on this one… if it’s super important and in the budget, go for it.. but don’t feel pressured because that’s what the Pinterest parties do. Perhaps just print out the invites and stop there…or just purchase pre-printed ones from the store and save alot of money on printer ink.
That Picture Perfect Treat Table and Background Set-up
The only person who takes a picture of that crazy candy table with all the decor is the person throwing the party… so they can put it on Pinterest and get all those repins. Listen… those pictures you see really are amazing… but there is always a couple problems that immediately come to mind.
If people at the party consumed all the sugar treats that were on that table… plus cake or cupcakes… their guest, especially kids.. would go home on a sugar high or just plain sick or option #2… no body wants all that extra stuff and that means money wasted.
Again for just a few hours, you might not need alot. It can also depend on the ages of the kids, but if you throw a party in between normal meal times.. say 2-5, then you can scape by with a selection of snacks and cake/ice cream and everyone should be filled up enough during the party, without alot of waste of food and ready to go back home for their regular meal. No solution is perfect of course.. you may want to host a party during meal time… but if you are looking for a way to save, considered scheduling your party in-between meal times. Another great way to save if you are a morning person is having a breakfast birthday party. Breakfast food is usually cheaper and it’s something unique since most people have their parties in the afternoon or evening.
We usually host a party from 2-5 and here’s my sample menu:
- Individual bags of chips
- Cheese cubes or String Cheese
- Veggie Tray (mainly for the adults) I buy mine for $10 from Sam’s club
- GoGurts (As long as I have a place to keep them cool)
- Grapes or seasonal fresh fruit… maybe a watermelon or Sam’s Club has presliced apples approx. 2 lbs for $5
- If the theme I am usually also has gummies that have the same theme, I might buy packs of gummies that match as well (example: Cars gummies for a Cars theme birthday)
- Juice Boxes and Waters… I might even do those small bottles of waters for the kids.. in the picture here I also had some Sunny D’s on hand.. it was February and everyone had colds so I brought some of those that I had at the house anyway
- If you think the adults will want pop, then choose 2-3 kinds… a diet and regular and perhaps a sprite or caffeine free option (especially if there are older adults that will be there). Otherwise… maybe just coffee or iced coffee for the big people in addition to water… everyone has their own beverage preferences so this can be hard, but keep it simple and choose things that will appeal to the majority of your audience.
Did you notice something interesting about this list? Does it seem like stuff you would pack for lunches? Yes? Well that’s the idea… these are foods that most kids would like,will not over-indulge in and get sick AND… when the party is over… I can use anything left over my own kids lunches and snacks… 😉 It’s a great way to not waste food.. especially when people are bad about RSVPing… don’t even get me started on that… that could and may be its own article!
If I do end up hosting a party during a dinner time, just add Salad and Pizza and you have enough for a dinner and for kids too much on if they get hungry before the pizza arrives and enough for the adults as well.
Where to spend:
Now one person may choose to spend on these areas and one person may choose to save… but after throwing parties for my kids for the last 6 years, here’s what I have learned that make for the best parties.
Whether you are choosing to host your party at a location that provides entertainment or having it at home they kids need stuff to do. It doesn’t mean that everything has to be organized either. Free-play is often the best, but usually kids need an activity or two to get them jump started or to regroup them when things start to get a little crazy. I usually try one game at the beginning and then a couple organized activities towards the end, which is when they are on their cake sugar high and getting tired at the same time.
I have actually found that the best place for my son’s birthday which is during summer (thankfully) is at a park. I pay to reserve a shelter (which is only about $40) and the kids have a small swimming pool and playground. I do ask that parents stay since it is a public place and there is just 1 of me to run a party and make sure that everyone is okay.
If you don’t have the luxury of warmer months and have to host your part indoors, community centers, rec centers, YMCA’s and even hotels can provide not super expensive options. But if kids are smaller (like 8 years or under) and your house can accommodate space for the guests, you can probably forgo spending money on a specific location and have the party at your house. After about 7 or 8 years old kids, especially boys, can become pretty active and an indoor party at a house, might not be enough space, depending on how many and what sort of play space you have available. So you will have to make a judgement call what will work best for you. Of course there are always, the normal options of things like Chuckie Cheese and party centers that specialize in kids parties, however, those options can become expensive quick.
If you choose to host the party at you home or a place that doesn’t provide complete entertainment for the kids, you will probably need 2 games… maybe one at the beginning and one at the end.
Usually in the beginning I’ll find some sort of activity that goes with the theme to get the kids warmed up and going. They usually take it from their playing, running and making up their own games. During the party they can snack and if we have pizza at some point that provides them with a little break and down time.
At the end I usually give our the prizes, so the last thing might be the Pinata or if we are doing a Pirate Party, like for my son’s last birthday, we did a scavenger hunt for “treasure”.
By buying some fun, inexpensive things to play with during the party, they not only provide entertainment, but gives the kids a souvenier from the party. Again, for the pirate party, at the beginning kids got a pirate bandand and a foam sword… instant play fun while at the party and something they can take home which kids love too.
Not all parents are on board with temp tatoos, but if you see them as harmless fun, which I do, temporary tattos are a fun “station” for the kids to do while at the party best of all they are only a couple bucks for a few sheets which is usually plenty for 8-12 kids.
A word about Pinatas…
It’s been a couple years since I have bought Pinatas and here’s why.
Pinata’s themselves are usually $10- $20 in price. Then you have to fill them which is another $15+ dollars. I know they are also alot of fun… but.. when it comes down to it… the pinata is not resuable and goes in the trash and the only stuff you can fit is candies and cheapie trinkets… which end up junking up the bottom of the toybox. At the end of the day, it end’s up being around $5+ a kid anyway… saying you have maying 8 kids… if you have more, then you might be able to justify the cost…. (we usually don’t have more than 10 kids at our parties). On top of it all… someone always ends up crying because the prize distribution.
After about 3 years of pinatas I finally noticed this pattern and had enough. So unless it will make or break a party… I am saying no to the expense of pinatas. I did make a Death Star pinata two years ago and while fun.. making one is a lot of work and mess and you still have to fill it with goodies. But maybe making one may be a solution for you as well. P.S. It’s obviously not the most professional pinata -lol but kids had fun and at the end it was in the trash anyway. See… kids don’t require perfect!
So if I don’t do really do pinatas anymore what do I do? I try to find something that they kids can play with at the party and take home with them as a party souvenir, for instance.
At my daughters paw patrol party, each kids got to “adopt” a puppy that they could take care of at the party and take home after. I even returned the extra ones after the party which was nice (note: the ones I returned were not played with at the party… I am not that cheap – lol). Sometimes one nice thing is much better than all the cheapy plastic junk they sell in the party favor kits, so unless you have your heart set on it… do not give in to the cheapie favor kits.
Okay… now onto the biggest money suckers of every party… Decorations… it takes a strong person to keep this simple. Resist the urge to go crazy ga-ga on the decor…I have tried to even sell bundles of reusable decorations after previous parties, thinking that I would get some money back and save another parent a lot of money… never once happened…even tried to give the extra stuff away… apparently people don’t want banners, ceiling hangers, table top decor that could be reused… somehow we all got a little too good for used decor. The second reason is that kids look at it for a couple of seconds and move onto the activities at hand. Be selective. A few balloons and a couple of key pieces to fit the theme usually go a long way.
Balloons… these give you the biggest party value if you do it right. I usually spend the money for a bouquet that matches the them (Usually about $15 from PartyCity with free helium). Then I divide that bouquet up and buy balloons from the Dollar Tree. Dollar Tree is also great for balloon weights.. don’t buy those at the party store. Do not use latex for floating helium balloons, they don’t last long, just a few hours usually. Go with the foil which last for days.
There are a several uses for latex using regular air (not helium). There is this pack of 20 plastic sticks for $2 which could make for cheap gifts for your guest,and these holders that let you stick a bouquet of 3 on your wall. that you can attach a non-helium latex balloon to. Otherwise they would only be good to tape to your table or let hang out on the floor so the kids can bop them around.
Choose a few key decorations to go with the theme. For instance, we choose a pirate flag for my son’s pirate party and one birthday banner… other than balloons that was it.
What I usually don’t buy anymore is the wall hangers, ceiling hangers, table top decor… but if you don’t have a focal decoration, you may want to choose one of those items as your main decor piece… don’t choose all of them.
Think out of the box…
For instance, if you are hosting a construction theme party, order construction zone tape instead of streamers… you could run the tape down the table and add small construction vehicles which the kids can take home as their party souvenier… Fill a few low height plastic tubs with sand… instant sandbox to play construction with their new toys…
It doesn’t take much…
Stuff that it… parties don’t take alot of stuff… but to stay in budget and create a party that everyone will enjoy… it does take some planning.
Take the time to plan, think out of the box, make sure you think about who is there.
Little kids just love to play… let them play and have fun… make sure they have snacks as kids will snack rather than sitting down for a meal when they’re surrounded by friends, make sure everyone is included.
Get other parents in the action… don’t be afraid to ask for help…most parents end up standing awkwardly around.. watch their kid, but not 100% sure to say to the other adults or whether to pitch in and help… so they are happy to help and it makes them feel included and breaks the ice.
Okay… this was a lot more than I thought this would be… but over the year’s you learn alot from hosting parties. They one thing is to not compare yourself to those Pinterest pictures. The kids at those picture perfect parties may not have had near the fun as parties which are 100% focused on the stuff kids love. Do what works best for you. Happy Hosting! Share your best how to save money when planning a birthday party tips or let me know what you think about the ones mentioned here in the article in the comments!