First things first, you shouldn’t feel guilty about being, lets call if frugal, on your child’s birthday. Sometimes sacrifices have to be made and although we would love to give them everything, we just can’t. Luckily, there are a lot of areas where you can make cuts without sacrificing the success of the party. You do not need a lot of money to have a good time, if you are prepared to put some work in.
1. Choose A Budget Friendly Venue
Chuck E Cheese is great, for kids at least, but it can get expensive. Sure, your kid would love it but they would also love getting all of their friends together and playing in the park. Check with your city and reserve a picnic area for the day. Most cities will have areas that you can reserve, they are not all first come first serve. Reserve your spot early and you will not have to worry about trying to beat people to the park to get a spot.
If you live in an HOA community with amenities, consider renting out the clubhouse. This will usually give you a party room and pool access. Some might require a 100 dollar or so deposit but you should get that back. Take some kids add water and cake and you have a great time.
If all else fails, have a party at your own home. It is completely free and you won’t have to lug a bunch of presents home or feel the need to clean up immediately afterwards.
2. Look For Entertainment Deals
In the months leading up to your party keep an eye on discount sites like Living Social. You might be able to score a cheap venue or party entertainment. There are always deals that are perfect for parties on these sites. Anything from discount putt putt tickets to inexpensive petting zoos to cheap bumper bowling. You never know what can show up so check your local deal site often before your kid party.
3. Shop Dollar Store Decorations
You can’t even tell the difference between dollar store decorations and party store ones, until you look at the receipt that is.
Streamers, table cloths, napkins and plates, all for a dollar. Why spend big bucks on something that you are going to throw away. You can even get helium filled Mylar baloons for a dollar.
While you are there, do not forget the party bags. A few dollars in plastic junk and you have some very happy children. You really can not beat the dollar store for birthday parties.
4. Be Frugal With Food
Make your own food when possible for the best savings. Having to feed a bunch of kids can be extremely expensive and can kill your budget.
Simple food ideas include things like hotdogs, hamburgers and even sandwich sliders. Look online and you can find a lot of creative ideas to dress up a home made offering. Check out these ham and cheese sliders for inspiration.
As far as the cake goes, unless you are a master baker, go with cupcakes. They are a lot more forgiving and easier to decorate. You can frost them, add some sprinkles and then put a simple topper like a plastic ring on the top. Almost anyone can make a cupcake look store bought.
If a cake is a must, try a warehouse tore like Sam’s Club. They can make half sheet cakes for a fairly low price that will beat any other bakery around. Top notch quality too.
5. Time It Right
The time that you plan your party for while greatly affect the cost. Mainly because of the cost of food. If you start your party at noon or 5 PM, you will have to serve a full meal. Have your party from 2 to 4 PM and you could get away with just snacks and a cake. That is a lot of money saved.
In addition, if you go with a venue for your party, non peak times will be less. A few lanes at a bowling alley will be a lot more expensive on a Saturday night than they would be at 3PM on a Tuesday.
6. Get Creative
Kids love to do just about anything fun, even if it does not cost a lot. Get creative with your kid’s party.
One way to do that is with party games. Think of things like pin the tail on the donkey (use double sided tape, not an actual pin, trust me), ring toss, potato sack races, duck duck goose etc. Perhaps make an obstacle course with events and give the winners awards.
A party can be cheap but still memorable if you use your imagination or a lot of online searching.
7. Skip It Entirely
If your child is very young, you might just want to skip the party entirely. A one or two year old is going to get very little out of a party. It is mainly work and a huge expense for you.
Instead, get a smash cake and take your kiddo to the park. You will get a lot of pictures for the future, they will have fun and you will save money. At this age, you do not need 500 dollars to spend on a party.
Don’t feel bad about skipping the whole production. At a young age, it really is a total waste. For my first daughter’s one year birthday, we threw a huge party. It was a lot of work, expensive and she fell asleep half way through it. We learned our lesson.
In the end, kids do not care if you spent 50 dollars or 500 dollars on their party. As long as they can have a good time with their friends and maybe get a few presents, all will be good.