Ultra Cheap Idea – Bake a cake (from a mix you purchased at the the store with a double coupon of course), reuse candles from the last kid’s birthday, ice cream is optional, immediately family only. (Okay- I am only sort of kidding here, we have actually done this and our one-year old didn’t seem to mind a bit)
Cheap Idea – Bake a cake (from a mix you purchased at the the store with a double coupon of course), reuse candles from the last kid’s birthday, serve ice cream and a bag of chips and salsa, serve iced tea and lemonade for drinks. Invite extended family as well.
These two ideas work well for young kids. They don’t remember their early birthday years anyway, they just like to look at pictures of themselves with cake all over their face, arms, head, etc….
Relatively Inexpensive Idea – If your child has a birthday that falls soon after a holiday, buy paper plates, napkins, and decor from that holiday on clearance and use it as a party theme. For example, I have two girls who have birthdays shortly after Valentine’s Day. Each year I purchase heart shaped plates, napkins, and other decor for 75% off the regular price.
I purchased a heart shape cake mold a few years ago with a coupon from Michael’s. My girls love their heart birthdays and look forward to helping me with their cake and decorations. This would work with many other holidays as well, pumpkin or spider themed birthday after Halloween, a snowman party after Christmas, a leprechaun party after St. Patrick’s Day.
Moderately Priced Idea- If you have children who have birthdays that are close together combine the party. A few years ago we had a combined birthday party for 3 of our kids at the neighborhood pool. We asked for no gifts, or gifts that could be for all three kids combined like a movie, book, or art supplies. This saved us money in that we only had to do it once, and it saved our guests money because they only purchased one gift.
Expensive Idea- Spend their college savings account on their 5th birthday by going to Chuck E. Cheese or some other annoyingly loud place that serves cardboard pizza. Invite 20 of your child’s closest friends. My children love this idea, I don’t.
One way around it is to take just your family to Chuck E. Cheese during an “off” time and celebrate. We did this last year and it was actually pretty fun considering we were only one of two families in the entire restaurant.
One of the easiest ways to save money on your child’s birthday is to keep the party small. I know some people who advocate the “one friend per year old plan” So if your child is 4 he would invite 4 friends and so on. This works when they are little, but the parties will keep getting bigger and most likely more expensive as they get older.
If you just must have a party and invite gobs of people here are a few other ideas for keeping birthday costs down.
Make your own invites.
With all the computer programs and printer capabilities available this one is a no brainer.
Skip party favors or have party favors be part of the activities.
Purchase small white bags at a craft store. Part of the party activities can be to decorate the bag with crayons, markers, paint, stickers, whatever you are willing to tolerate. Then have a pinata filled with candy, when the pinata breaks the kids fill their decorated bags with the candy and that is their party favor.
One time consuming, but really fun idea we used one year was dino eggs. I purchased a bag of little plastic dinosaurs from the dollar store. Then I made play-do and shaped it into small eggs with the plastic dinos inside. I baked the eggs on a low temperature until the eggs hardened. On the day of the party, we hid the eggs all around the yard. The kids then searched for the eggs and got to keep the prizes when they cracked the eggs.
Make picture frames.
Many craft stores sell foam kits, but you can be really frugal and use Popsicle sticks. Put together the frame, decorate, and then take a picture of the guest and the birthday kid. Print out the picture, glue it into the frame, and you have a nice souvenir for the birthday guest to take home.
Keep food to a minimum.
Don’t schedule your party around a meal unless you want to feed everybody. Cake, ice cream, and lemonade will be plenty for a 10am or a 2pm birthday. Bake your own cake. If this is intimidating to you, bake cupcakes or brownies. One fun idea is to bake cupcakes and have each child decorate their own. You won’t have to decorate anything and you have a party activity as well.
Planned activities are not required.
If it is the right time of year weather wise, have the birthday at a neighborhood or community park. Bring a cake and a cooler of small water bottles. The kids will have so much fun at the park they will usually have a hard time taking a break to eat cake. Have a pool party. The only downside to this is having too many kids in the pool. Make sure you have plenty of adults to supervise this one. If you don’t have pool, have a sprinkler party. Fill up some wading pools, water guns, water balloons and let the kids have fun. Many malls have play areas for smaller kids. I have seen many families meet here for birthdays and then have cake in the food court. Check with a mall manager before scheduling this.
We do not have huge parties at our house. Last year my five year old decided to go to Krispy Kreme for his birthday. For about $10 (the cost of a dozen donuts and some milk) he had one of the best days of his life. When the manager found out it was his birthday, not only did he get a free donut, but we also got a behind the scenes tour of the shop.
Even though our kids don’t have huge parties every year, it doesn’t make their special day any less special. The older ones are allowed to sleep in and if it is a school day they get the day off. They usually are allowed to plan our menu for the day (within reason), and we sing Happy Birthday at every meal.
Their siblings all make cards and wrap homemade or thrift store gifts. I usually make a video slide show of their life, which they watch over and over. (This is easy if you start on their first birthday, then you only need to add on another year every time) At dinner we go around the table and tell the birthday kid why we are happy they were born, and of course we retell their birth story.
Throughout the day they receive phone calls from relatives and friends wishing them a happy birthday. Since scaling back on parties, I have not heard one complaint from my children. In fact, I think they enjoy it more that the attention is focused on them and not cleaning the house, shopping, and getting ready for a party.
What do you think? Do you have a frugal birthday idea? Leave a comment and let me know.