Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Thrifty Birthday Party Ideas

I'm still recovering from my five-year-old daughter's birthday party last weekend, so I thought I'd share some ideas about how to throw a memorable yet inexpensive child's birthday party.

Last year, my daughter went to a friend's birthday party.  It was held at a specialized party place - a storefront with rooms decorated by theme.  There was a pirate area complete with boat, a TV studio area, and a princess area with a castle, which is where we were.  The kids dressed up, did crafts, and played games with the teenage employees, while all the parents chatted in an outdoor area.  It was so nice, I thought maybe my daughter would like her party there, too.

So, I went to get a price sheet.  And would you believe, for 12 children, the place was asking $440?  And $18 more for each extra child?  And that didn't include everything you'd need for a party, like goody bags or food for the adults.  Oh, and I just looked online at the place, and there's a list of upgrades, including (you won't believe this) limousine service.

Well, not all parties are quite this expensive.  But you can have a great party for not a lot of money!  Here are some ideas I used.

Have it at home.

It seems like most parties my daughter is invited to are at places like bowling alleys or paint your own pottery places.  Though they may be fun, these places can be quite expensive - so have it at home!  I like home parties better because the kids can play together and socialize more - they're not so distracted by the event.  If your place is really too small for a party, then consider reserving a shelter at a local park and hope for good weather.

Use what you have.

Before deciding the theme or activities, look through the things you already have to see if they can be repurposed for a party.  My daughter vacillated between a princess theme and a Dora the Explorer theme, so we decided to do a Princess Dora theme.  Since I have a lot of arts and crafts supplies, we decided to do an arts and crafts party, where I could use some items (like beads and string for necklaces) that I already had.

Look online.

There is loads and loads of birthday party ideas on the Web.  Do a search and see what you can find!  Since we were doing a Dora theme, I used a lot of printables that I found at the Nick Jr. website.  I found a pattern for a crown there; I had the children cut and color them, and an adult helped put them together for the kids.  The children loved them!

Spend on what will make a big impression.

One of the projects we made at the party were T-shirts.  I found coloring pages on Dora and of Swiper the Fox on the Web.  I used my printer to print the coloring pages onto Wilton Easy Image iron-on transfer paper, which I had purchased at the crafts store.  (The office supply store also carries that type of paper, but at a much higher cost.)  I put a piece of cardboard inside the shirt, and the kids colored the shirts using fabric markers from the crafts store.

The whole project cost about $40, but it made a huge impression on the kids.  They loved it!  Some of them spent 20-30 minutes coloring in their masterpiece.  Plus, the shirts served as take-home items, so that I could spend modestly on goody bags with a pencil, small notebook, container of play dough, and some candy purchased cheaply at CVS.

Spend on things you can reuse.

Another project we did was to decorate cookie magic wands.  I purchased a star-shaped lollipop pan at the crafts store and used my stockpiled baking ingredients to make cookie dough.  I put a lollipop stick in each cookie and baked them. The children then decorated them with icing that I had from previous birthdays and projects.  The project cost about $10, but I got a new cookie pan out of it that I can use for future birthdays and projects.

Purchase things ahead of time.

When I was at the Albertsons closing sale back in February, I bought items I ended up using for the cake.  I made a boxed mix sheet cake (25¢) and decorated it with frosting (25¢), three colors of sprinkles (15¢ each) and the icing I mentioned above.  Total cake cost (not counting the eggs and oil): 95¢.

I didn't spend a lot on the party, but all the kids had a great time, and it was a lot of fun for me to plan.

Got any other great birthday party tips?  Leave a comment below!

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Stephanie April 27, 2010 at 7:09 PM  

Your daughter's birthday sounds like it was a blast! Kids don't really need expensive party venues to have a good time, that's for sure. My daughter is going to be one in July, and I am trying to plan her first party. I am probably over-thinking it, because, well she won't remember it or anything :)

Corrin April 27, 2010 at 8:03 PM  

Yikes! I'm not sure when kid's birthday parties got so out of control. My college graduation party didn't cost that much. LOL

Great tips! I think parties are more fun at home anyhow.

Illinois Lori April 27, 2010 at 9:45 PM  

My boys are now 16 and 18...I thought the $400 birthday party-craze was over by now! Ugh. They weren't worth it then, and they aren't now. We all need to do our children a BIG BIG favor, and teach them to look forward to simple pleasures, not over-the-top excesses. Thanks for posting these tips!


Lori Yoder April 28, 2010 at 7:09 AM  

What fun! I love the idea of the T-shirt! One year I did a tea party for my daughter out in our backyard. The girls absolutely LOVED it!!! She wants to do that again!

Canadagirl April 28, 2010 at 10:55 AM  

Yes, having a kid party at home is a BETTER and more ecconomical choice for sure ! I didn't know how much they were but WOW that takes the cake on price. ((eyes bugging out))

I loved reading your ideas. (0= I need to think what I am going to do for my two youngest sons. Their b-days are coming up real soon.


Madame Deals April 29, 2010 at 1:39 PM  

Wow! That is crazy! I love having small family birthday parties. Getting the cousins together with a few friends is what we usually do. My boys love running around outdoors which provides plenty of FREE entertainment! Thanks for sharing your ideas!

Anonymous,  April 30, 2010 at 12:08 PM  

That sounds like a blast for definitely a fraction of the cost of having the party somewhere else.

'Becca June 13, 2011 at 1:48 PM  

Great ideas! I always appreciated the time and effort my parents put into my parties instead of just spending money. My six-year-old has a party coming up and is happily planning for homemade cake, two simple crafts, and a game of Pass the Parcel. The last party he attended was a "volcano dance party" in his friend's mom's art studio which provided a big open space for dancing, with a montage of volcano video (from YouTube) projected on the wall--it was very cool and frugal!

Sandra VanHoey January 5, 2014 at 4:51 AM  

They probably had more fun at home and I loved the t-shirt idea. My daughter has many parties for my grandchildren and she even rents the big items like bounce houses, etc and saves lots by doing it this way

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