As a parent, you want to make your child’s birthdays as memorable as possible. But sometimes, throwing a lavish party just doesn’t fit into your financial picture.
Twenty-nine percent of parents polled in T. Rowe Price’s 9th Annual Parents, Kids & Money Survey said they spent $300 or more on their child’s birthday presents and parties. For parents who have several children, these costs can easily skyrocket if you have to account for multiple festivities each year.
If you don’t want to shell out the big bucks for a birthday bash, don’t fret. Here’s how to plan a kid’s birthday party on a budget without skimping on fun:
1. Start with the right venue
Throwing a kid’s birthday party on a budget is all about location, location, location. Having the party at home or a local park are two low-cost venue options.
If you’re planning to host a bash at home, aim to have it when the weather is nice, if possible, so the kiddos can have fun outside, says Tangela Walker-Craft, a homeschooling mom and blogger at Simply Necessary Inc., which offers tips for helping families enjoy life.
“Having a party at home may save on costs, but the wear and tear on your furniture and flooring might not be worth the savings,” Walker-Craft says.
Taking the party to a park gives guests a place to spread out and play. Parks are great locations for budget-friendly birthday parties for kids because they typically don’t require an admissions fee or only require a small deposit to rent a space for the day.
If the weather won’t cooperate, or your child’s birthday lands in the middle of winter, you may have to throw a kid’s birthday party on a budget at an indoor venue instead. Keep the guest list short, since many venues base their fee on the number of children in attendance. Helen Holden, mom of two and founder of Counting Candles, a birthday party planning and idea site, says if you’re booking a kid-friendly venue, stick with the most basic package that covers food and drinks for each child. She cautions against paying for extras (which can seem very enticing), like premium packages that include decorations, party favors, goody bags, balloons or ice cream.
“This is where the costs can add up, and it’s generally not necessary,” Holden says. Goody bags, party favors and ice cream are nice to have, but if kids are running around and enjoying the venue itself, they may not really notice these add-ons.
Another tip for how to plan a kid’s birthday party on a budget: Check deal websites for discounts and promotions, or ask the venue about a discount for hosting the party at an off-peak time or day—say 10 a.m. on a Saturday or on a weekday afternoon.
2. Keep your food budget in check
When planning a kid’s birthday party on a budget, food and cake can eat up a big chunk of what you have to spend. The cost of a custom cake, for example, can run from $3.50 to $5.50 per slice, according to Thumbtack, a company that connects customers with local professionals. Multiply that by 15 guests and you could easily spend about $50 to $80 on the cake alone.
Sarah Hollenbeck, a shopping and savings expert for Offers.com, a coupons and deal website, has some tips for keeping food costs down for your budget-friendly birthday parties for kids—while still providing fuel for your young guests.
First, set a limit on the party’s duration. This way you’re not expected to feed kids all day. Scheduling the party between regular mealtimes could also help you have a kid’s birthday party on a budget. If your party runs from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., for example, your child’s guests (and their parents) may be satisfied with being served a snack, versus lunch or dinner.
Next, weigh the pros and cons of buying food and cake, versus making the treats yourself.
“If you’re a good baker and can whip up a few cakes in no time, then purchasing boxes of cake mix at the store can save you a lot of money,” Hollenbeck says. When you compare paying $2 to $3 for a box of cake mix to $50 to $80 for a cake, it’s easy to see the savings difference. But, if you’re not the greatest chef or simply don’t have time, it might be worth it to pay for food or a cake and cut back spending in another part of your party budget.
Finally, when you’re thinking about how to plan a kid’s birthday party on a budget, consider buying food in bulk from a warehouse store. You may be able to snag party platters or kid-friendly snacks without going over budget.
Twenty-nine percent of parents said they spent $300 or more on their child’s birthday presents and parties.
3. Go with low-key fun and skip the fancy invitations
Budget-friendly birthday parties for kids can be enjoyable, even if you’re not spending hundreds of dollars to rent a bounce house or set up pony rides in the backyard. Entertainment options like letting kids swing at a pinata or having them test their limbo skills are simple ways to save money and incorporate fun into the day.
Holden recommends asking friends and family to pitch in and help with activities like face painting, temporary tattoos, setting up a scavenger hunt or judging a bubble-blowing competition. Need to buy game supplies on the cheap? Check out your local dollar store’s offerings to help with your budget-friendly birthday parties for kids.
When it comes to party prep for a kid’s birthday party on a budget, consider swapping out paper invitations for digital invites via email or social media, Hollenbeck says. “You’ll save money, and there’s no risk of one of the kids losing the invite before it makes its way to their parents.”
4. Decorate for less
How to plan a kid’s birthday party on a budget can get a little more complicated if your child wants a specific theme that requires buying expensive custom decorations. Holden suggests checking social media for low-budget decorating ideas. From there, you can test your bargain-hunting skills. She tries to pick the birthday party theme well in advance to give herself plenty of time to find deals.
Walker-Craft says you could try your hand at making decorations instead of buying them if you’re crafty and trying to keep your kid’s birthday party on a budget. The DIY approach can also help you save on goody bags, if you decide to offer them.
“Instead of splurging on pre-printed bags, buy plain white bags and have guests decorate their own,” she says. Then, fill them up with inexpensive favors like pencils, erasers, coloring pages and stickers.
5. Don’t try to do it all
Planning a fun kid’s birthday party on a budget isn’t always a cakewalk. Walker-Craft says prioritizing what’s most important to your child (and friendliest to your wallet) can keep you from feeling frazzled by birthday planning.
“If money is an issue, a birthday party may have to be the gift,” she says.
If you’re trying to be frugal, consider giving your child an option—a party or gifts. You can also earmark some of your party budget for just one special gift from you. Remember, planning budget-friendly birthday parties for kids should be about maximizing fun while minimizing stress.