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Birthdays On A Budget

Child's birthday party on a budgetWhen birthday parties break your budget with elaborate decorations, cakes, and goodie bags, they create unnecessary stress. But with some planning, you can put on a fun-filled party that stays within your budget and that everyone will enjoy. 

Set a Party Budget

Magazines, books, and blogs are great resources for birthday party ideas. However, they can be intimidating if everything matches and looks expensive. Look at the pages for ideas and create your own version that matches your budget. Kids’ parties do not have to be costly.

Brainstorm Party ideas

Talk with your child and ask him what he wants to do at his party. Kids have clever ideas so let them help plan. See what you and your child can dream up if you could not spend any money or if you had $10 or $20 for the entire party. You will be surprised with what you can come up with.

We are so accustomed to buying something we need for the party rather than thinking through what could be used already on hand. “Many parents purchase items but later realize they can go without, so know the return policies of the stores and keep receipts,” says Corey Colwell-Lipson, coauthor of Celebrate Green.

It’s also healthy modeling for your child to see you meet the challenge of how to have fun on a budget, and to come up with your own ideas instead of buying the solution. By inviting her to participate in the planning, it tells her you like her ideas. Your child may want something at her party that fits the budget—but she may need to compromise on another item.

Party Games and Activities

Kids have the most fun when they are active at a party with games and activities. Colwell-Lipson suggests that parents consider combining party elements for ease and cost purposes. “Activities that double as take-home gifts, food that doubles as decor, or activities that double as food will help out the budget,” says Colwell-Lipson. For example, you can bake cupcakes or plain sugar cookies before the party, and kids can decorate them as a party activity. The guests can take home their creations.

Another idea is for kids to decorate picture frames or paint flowerpots. Give your guests recycled materials such as boxes, bags, toilet paper rolls, and plastic containers.  Have on hand Scotch Tape, yarn, scissors, string, glue, and markers and let them create. They will make a mess, but they will have fun doing it.

No Goodie Bags, Please

In our party culture, we hand out goodie bags filled with small candies and cheap toys. But is that necessary? “Give the guests a good time, not a bunch of junk that will be tossed in the toy box or just tossed,” says Colwell.

Remember to think through all of your activities to make sure your space, room, or backyard can handle all your guests. Before the party, put away important papers and anything breakable. Check with all of the parents for food allergies.

As a parent, you want your children to have special memories of their birthdays.  Kids love to participate in planning their own party and will have more fun without you, the parent, stressing over it. With simple planning, you will be able to put on a memorable celebration and enjoy the day, too.


Jan Udlock, mom of 5 and freelance writer, admits she was not good about letting her kids make a mess at parties.

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