The days of children’s birthday parties consisting of playing “pin the tail on the donkey” or other party games and serving cake are long gone. Now, kids parties can be expensive extravaganzas with hired entertainment, ever more elaborate inflatable jumpers, or renting a place with a high per-person tab plus food. But they don’t have to be.
If you would rather put money toward college (or the mortgage) than hire a circus to entertain your daughter and her friends, take heart. There are several inexpensive parties that can leave lasting memories instead of lasting debt.
Four big cost savings suggestions are:
- Keeping the invite list to eight to 10 kids, if possible. We threw way too many parties where we invited everyone from school, dance, soccer, etc. But, the smaller gatherings worked the best.
- Use the party favors as part of the entertainment or activities (see suggestions below). This gives the guests something of value versus you spending money on plastic items that will be tossed in days.
- Themes where plates, napkins, invites, tablecloths, cake and everything else matches are costly. If your child really has her heart set on a theme, use it for invitations, main plates and the cake; use generic but color coordinated cups, table coverings, streamers and other items to keep costs down.
- Don’t go overboard on the food. Keep it simple and kid friendly: pizza, chicken tenders, fruit. If you are feeding adults too, add a big salad, crudité and maybe a casserole.
Here are some recommendations:
A Princess Tea Party -Have every girl come dressed as their favorite princess. A craft project can be decorating their own tiara or making necklaces to wear and supply them with whichever isn’t being made. The tiaras and necklaces then become party favors. Depending on the age, you may also have them decorate their own cups (there are inexpensive kits or develop your own) to keep afterwards. The menu is little sandwiches, cookies, scones, fruit, birthday cake as well as tea, juice and punch.
A Cupcake or Cookie Decorating Party – Make batches of plain cupcakes or cookies. Set up a table (preferably outside to minimize mess) with different types of frostings, sprinkles, candies and the like. If the children are old enough, you could teach them some decorating techniques from books like Hello Cupcake. You could have them decorate aprons first and send each child home with their apron and a plate of cookies or cupcakes.
A Swimming party – If you have a pool and the weather, use them (provided the kids are old enough to be swimmers). We have done this with pool toys and towels as favors. If you want to add a craft project, have them decorate their own beach tote to take their wet stuff home in (Michael’s, Jo-Ann and the 99¢ Only Store usually have cheap ones that can be embellished.). Note: have a responsible grownup or older teen be the designated lifeguard and really watch the swimmers so you can concentrate on hosting the party.
Michael’s Craft Party – If you do not want to have the party at home, Michael’s offers a great party option in their classroom area. They charge by the project selected. So, work it out with them ahead of time what is within your budget and age appropriate. You can have the kids do everything from painting wooden jewelry/treasure boxes to decorating shirts or totes to jewelry making for older girls. You bring in the food, so that also helps control the budget.
A Sleepover – Best for age 8 and up, slumber parties do not cost too much (mostly lack of sleep). Plan a movie or activity; serve pizza and snacks at night with pancakes or something simple in the morning. You can even have a theme that ties the food, fun and/or film together, i.e., Patty’s Parisian Party, or a color theme – everything pink (strawberry sorbet, strawberry syrup on food dyed pancakes). Activity ideas can be a spa night with nail polish favors or decorate your own pillowcase.
We have broke the bank and given our children the expensive parties where we rented out the ice skating rink or bowling/arcade events. But the ones we remember most were the simpler ones, where everyone could focus on the company not the chaos. None of the suggestions here should cost that much, but the smiles and memories are priceless.