I love a good kids birthday party! I can only imagine the things I could accomplish if I didn’t have a limited budget. But, unfortunately, I do. If you can relate, don’t worry, because that doesn’t mean your party can’t still be awesome! Here are five tips that I use to create an awesome celebration on a budget.
Tip 1: Plan ahead…
Décor: If you go ahead and pick a theme/color scheme earlier in the year, then you can keep you eye out for décor items to go on sale. Or, watch for them at garage sales and thrift stores. Plus, it’s easier on your budget to spend a little here and a little there rather than running out and buying it all at once. one year I knew I was doing a teepee theme and I found this cute triangle shaped shelf at a garage sale. I wrapped a tablecloth and ribbon around it to make it look like a cute teepee picture display!
Food: Go ahead and pick a date and time that is suited for your budget. Scheduling a party during a non meal time means you can provide snack type food. Or, if it’s cheaper for you to just provide, for example, pizza for a lunch rather than snack foods, plan it at lunch time. Honestly, I’ve found people don’t tend to eat much at parties so you don’t really have to go overboard either way.
Entertainment: If you have your theme picked and a round about date and time set, then you can go ahead and pick out your venue. Do you want a small backyard party? Something a little fancier? Usually there are free parks with playgrounds in towns and churches that you can use, but planning ahead and booking it early saves you from having to spend money on another venue because you have run out of options. I personally love small backyard parties like we had as children! Also, look into cheap or free services in your area that go with your theme. We just had my son’s policeman party and a couple of the officers stopped by for a minute to talk with the kids. They loved it and it was free!
Party Favors: Once again, keep your eye out for off season sales. After summertime, bubbles, water toys, etc. go on sale. Do you need hearts? Keep an eye out after Valentine’s Day for heart shaped candies, etc. Look for winter themed toys after Christmas and so on.
Tip 2: Keep it Small but Impressive…
Décor: Decorate a small space. Pick one room or area and dedicate that area to all the décor. I just recently dedicated the sunroom to our policeman themed party rather than having it spread out through several different rooms in the house. Once, I even transformed the living room into Mario World. Another time I turned our living room into an ice cream social. Then there was the time I turned the front porch into a circus tent…Ok you get the point, haha, obviously this is my favorite part about birthday parties…the decorations! But my point is, when you focus all your attention into one area, it looks like you’ve done more than if you were to just spread it all out.
Food: When it comes to food, less really is more. I’d rather have one fancy, well presented cupcake than 10 subpar desserts to pick from. Just pick a few things and make them really stand out. Plus, you always get left with so many leftovers after a party…nobody needs that, haha! For my pirate party, I kept the food simple but kept it in theme making it fun. Other than the cake we just had “Fish and Chips” aka goldfish crackers and potato chip, Pirate’s Booty, salt water taffy and ocean water to drink!
Entertainment: Do something simple like coloring sheets or bubbles, but make them impressive by printing out coloring sheets that match your theme and setting up a coloring station or setting up a bubble station with cups for refills and a good selection of bubble wands. Just because it’s not some kind of grand entertainment doesn’t mean it can’t be impressive!
Favors: Once, again, less can be more. Let’s be honest…how many of you go home after a party and throw away all the junkety-junk (that there is a southern word) toys when your kids aren’t looking. Don’t judge me…you know you do it too. I mean they played with that airplane one time before the wings fell off and I refuse to keep putting it back on there. So, great idea, just give them one really nice thing to take home…like a fancy cookie wrapped in cute packaging!
Tip 3: Presentation is Key…
Décor: Use nice pieces that you already have! Everything doesn’t have to have a cartoon characters face on it…You don’t need all the matching décor that exist for the Frozen theme, haha! Buy things that you can reuse, for example, neutral colored birthday banners. I reuse those tissue paper pom poms all the time…bc who has time to fluff up new ones everytime…am I right? Also, use décor items that you have in your home. Chalkboards, wooden boxes, nice tablecloths, old bottles…etc. I love a more curated look for a party rather than it looking like someone just hit up the party aisle at Hobby Lobby. Rather than having the “Little Blue Truck” image on everything, I focused on the farm aspect of it and incorporated pieces of decor that I already had!
Food: This same concept can be used for serving ware. Use what you have, but be sure you are investing in pieces you love so that you don’t mind displaying them for a special occasion. What about your collection of white dishes, or all that galvanized stuff you’ve been obsessively buying right now…you know you have, haha! Or, whatever trend was your favorite, I’m sure you have a stash of some kind of serving ware that you just love. Birthday parties are the time to let them shine! Just think how much more appealing Oreo cookies are on a silver platter than out of the box!
Entertainment: Contrary to popular belief, kids don’t need you to spend a lot of money on them to be entertained. Sometimes it’s fun to splurge on entertainment, but if you are on a budget…that can be a budget killer! Just do a “normal” activity, but in an impressive way. We did a ” Little Blue Truck” themed party this summer for my 2 year old. Of course, we had to have the book read at the party. I just sat out a haybale for the storyteller, had the kids sit on the ground around her and handed them farm animal facemasks (that I print out myself and worked double duty as photo props) to use to interact with the story. You wouldn’t think they would’ve had as much fun as they did, but they did! Kids can make anything into fun, so read a story, watch a small movie while eating popcorn, do a video game competition, do theme related games…just present it all in a grand way!
Favors: Packaging is key in making favors seem more impressive than they may actually be. I said earlier to keep it small, but if you insist on sending them home with a bunch of junkety-junk toys (there’s that word again) then at least make it presentable by using nice packaging with cute labels! Put it all in a nice bag with a ribbon and a thank you tag. Tags are so easy to print from home, so that’s super budget friendly too! A good tip is to buy Avery labels/stickers and use their website to create your logos on them. Beats trying to fit your own image onto a round sticker!
Tip 4: DIY, DIY, DIY…
Décor: Making your own decorations is so much more cost efficient than buying things already made. Signage, banners, paper decorations, cardboard cutouts, photo props, and the list goes on. Pinterest and Google can be your best friends for finding ideas and printables!
Food: Catering can cost a ton. Even ordering from Deli’s can be expensive. My advice for staying on budget is to make your own food. If you aren’t comfortable cooking ask a family member or friend to help you out! For our Mario party, I didn’t even have cake. I just made some cupcakes and added some cute plastic figured on top. These figures were also a gift for my son to have after the party was over.
Entertainment: Make your own games. Cardboard or scrap wood is usually pretty cheap if not free and you can let your imagination run wild making up games to match your theme. You can also find props and prizes pretty cheap at dollar stores. Scavenger hunts don’t cost anything but a piece of paper and a little imagination and the kids usually love those!
Favors: Printing your own labels and tags for favors is much cheaper than paying to have some print out. I mentioned earlier that avery.com is a great tool for making and printing labels and such. I also buy a pack of cardstock every year and print most of my cards, invites, tags, etc. all year long. I also have HP Instant Ink for $3.26 a month. That saves me a lot on the cost of ink every year!
Tip 5: Think Outside the Box
Décor: Don’t discount the dollar stores! Craft and party stores aren’t the only places to find cute decorations. The party aisle in dollar stores have become quite impressive over the last few years. I usually always buy my tissue paper pom poms from here. I don’t think anybody will notice any difference and I would hope nobody at your party is sitting around critiquing your pom poms, haha!
Food: Serve less food in a fancier way, for example, instead of having a ton of drinks to chose from, just have lemonade or water in a fancy dispencer. Or serve milk in fancy glasses with a cookie on top. Take ice cream to the next level by serving it in old fashioned sundae glasses. The options are endless if your just think outside the box a little!
Entertainment: Make your favors do double duty. Buy favors the kids can play with as an option for entertainment. Once, for a pirate birthday, I provided foam swords, eye patches and paper pirate hats as favors when they first came in. The kids entertained themselves the whole time running around like pirates. For our recent policeman party they got a bag of police gear to play with, but not before making it a game of find the stolen goodie bags!
Favors: Consider buying a bigger package of something and dividing it up for favors. I once bought a box of crayons, divided them into bundles of three and wrapped them together with burlap string accompanying a coloring page. I also did this with a big package of those small plastic farm animals. This could be done with a lot of small toys or things like play dough, and also candy!
I hope that these 5 tips help you out with making your next party awesome on a budget, but the most important thing to remember is to make it fun and don’t stress about it. Your parties should be about the one you’re celebrating and not about who did it bigger and better. If you like to do bigger celebrations then do it! If that sort of thing stresses you out then don’t! Either way your kids are going to think it was awesome because it was a day devoted just to them!!!