We have a large family; with 4 kids of our own, cousins and friends, I've both thrown and observed many birthday parties over the years! I have found many ideas to keep me in budget.
::Party Location:: Have the party at home. It can be inside, outside in a backyard, or even in a decorated garage! Public parks can be a great possible place to have a party, too. Look for one with grills for public use, swingsets and a playground for the kids. If there's a little built-in entertainment, you won't need to plan as many games and activities for the kids! A sledding party or skating party at a municipal ice rink is a great idea and usually does not cost anything at city parks.
::Plan Plan Plan:: I shop all year. I pick up party favors and invitations when I see them on clearance throughout the year. I even found a stack of kids birthday party invites at a sidewalk sale a few summers ago for 10 cents per package. I bought them all (hey, with 4 kids we'll get around to using all of them!) and now my little ones can pick the ones they like best for their own party. I get paper plates, napkins and silverware for free or nearly free after coupons and stash them away. I also snag toys and games when I see them on clearance and keep them in the gift closet so my kids always have a present when they get invited to a birthday party. Post-holiday sales are a great way to find party supplies and gifts on the cheap. You can almost always find plain red napkins and plates on closeout after Valetine's Day. They're a festive color and will go with multiple themes, so why not pick them up and store them for the party? I store everything in one spot so I know what to buy when the party is getting close.
::Mind Your Menu:: Food is expensive! Thoughtfully pick the food you're going to serve and stick with it. Don't get caught up in special dietary needs of one or two people when you're trying to feed 30! Usually a simple turkey sandwich or cheese and crackers will be enough to satisfy those who absolutely can't eat what you're serving. Everyone else can be flexible! Remember that you need to do what is right for your budget. hot dogs, sloppy joes and taco's are all great choices. Also, skip the alcohol! Have a punch bowl or lemonade for everyone instead of alcohol and sodas. If you really want, to serve soda go with 2 liter instead of cans. A simple , frugal menu can be achieved for a variety of themes! If your child wants a pizza party try “take and bake” or Little Caesars, check your local coupons for the best deal. Or skip the meal altogether and have a cake and ice-cream party! My kids really only eat the desert anyway! bar One party we attended had a Build-Your-Own-Sundae dessert bar: a bucket of vanilla ice cream with all different types of toppings – it was a blast. This year we made our own ice cream cake and it was a hit. I found the recipe online and it was simple. If you are in doubt about trying to make your own cake make one before the party to try it out. Cupcakes are a great idea, no one has to cut cake and they turn out cute!
::Think About Invites:: Invitations can be handmade or printed out on your computer; there are lots of templates online. . Sometimes we use a photo of the “Birthday Boy/Girl” and print up information and glue it to the back of the photo.
::Don't Forget the Dollar Store:: The Dollar Tree in my area has great party supplies. Solid color or white plates matched with more expensive character and theme napkins. Michaels is another great place to pick up items with that40% off weekly coupon! They carry birthday cake supplies, decorations and lots of other party supplies.
::Go Easy on Games:: Usually, the most basic games are the most fun! Every year we make a homemade piñata for one of my kids. It is super easy and super fun for kids! The “filliing” can be simple – candy bars, Dollar Store toys, Fruit snacks, surprise gift bags, etc. It's way more about breaking open the pinata than what's inside! Egg races, 3-legged races, and scavenger hunts are other easy and entertaining games.
::Don't Ditch your Decorations:: Lots of commercial decorations can be reused from year to year. My kids also enjoy art projects, so they love making homemade banners and posters for the Birthday boy or girl! One of my kids favorite things is to blow up balloons (bought at the dollar store) and tie them on our mail box and railing outside. It's so easy, traditional, and all of the kids love doing it. The littlest ones love going to the window and seeing their work!
–Remember the Birthday party is all about the celebration, not what you serve or the amount of money you spend! remember to HAVE FUN!
Your Turn: What ideas do you have for throwing a fun party on a budget?