How to throw a child’s birthday party – without breaking the bank


Happy birthday to my little son!

I know I promised to post the next part of budget series, however I’m still tweaking it (and trying to figure out how to post a downloadable template), so thought I’d add this entry in the mean time about budgeting for certain very important events: namely, kids birthdays. I thought it would be fun, especially since it was my own little son’s first birthday this past weekend.

Its seems like nowadays birthday parties have reached the status of weddings when it comes to lavishness – largely thanks to sites like Pintrest, Facebook and Instagram which motivate (or pressure) people to show off how much they must clearly love their kids by showing the world how awesome a party they threw them. Back in my day, that was achieved by having your party at McDonald’s or Pizza Hut. But now there are just so many more options and ideas, it can easily get out of hand.

But I have to admit, I’M one of those people – I LOVE celebrating birthdays – especially my kids’ birthdays. Even though a part of me is a bit sad that they are growing up so quickly, I’m nonetheless so excited about the next phases of their life and I do want to make it special for them and create a fun memory for the whole family (and post the results on Facebook). But special doesn’t necessary mean expensive. So I’ve come up with some great ways to make the day special without going out of control and breaking the bank.

1. Set your budget and stick to it

Whether its $50, $500 or $5000, its always good to come up with an amount that you can afford and that you WANT to spend. This will also help you focus on the type of party you will have and the number of guests to invite (even having your child pick one best friend to take to the movies and for pizza afterwards could end up being much more fun than a huge and expensive party).

Now, I’m NOT one of those people who disapproves of throwing big birthday parties for kids. In fact, for my son’s 6th birthday last year, we threw him a pretty fancy Lego themed party, where we had a company come in and organize Lego based activities for the kids. But I was able to keep costs in control by following my budget.

2. Plan in advance

The sooner you start to plan your party, the better for your budget. Especially if you want to do a bigger party, planning ahead will not only help you spread the cost (all the better for your cash flow), you will likely get a better deal.

If you are on a tight overall budget, working a small amount into your budget every month for birthdays is always a good idea, especially if you are one of those people to whom a big party is important.

3. Do some research

If there is a specific theme or activity you  want for the party, make sure to do some research before you commit (i.e. tell your child) to avoid disappointment if it turns out to be too expensive.

I wanted to rent a large room for the Lego party because I just didn’t have the room at my house (and didn’t want to spend hours cleaning before or after). So before I sent the deposit, I researched various community centers in my neighborhood and found one where I could rent a large room for $20/hour. I did have to look around because costs varied and were as high as $75/hour.

4. Do it yourself (or as much as you can)

Doing things yourself will almost always save you money. For the party, I made my son’s cake (it was awesome). We opted out of the party organizers catering package and bought our own snacks and drinks. However, we did end up going with a pizza chain’s $5 pizzas instead of making our own because when we did the math, we realized that the cost would be pretty similar to making them from scratch (vs the cake, which would have cost upwards of $50 from a bakery). In the end we spent less than $50 on food for 15 kids. I also made the invitations and thank-you cards by printing out a template online and used plain envelopes  instead of buying them.

5. Consider the age of your child

Personally, I don’t make a big deal over birthday parties for babies and toddlers. They are too young to remember it, appreciate it and I doubt many of them even enjoy it. My friend, who did throw a big party for her daughter’s first birthday admitted to me that she thought it was totally unnecessary and looking back wishes she had made it more low key. For my son’s first birthday I decided I didn’t want to spend a bunch of money or exhaust myself on a party. But I did want to make it  fun for the family, so I took to Pintrest and found some good ideas for a cake. My mom offered to make dinner and I spent the remainder of the budget on some birthday hats, the present (a new crib sheet – he loved it, lol) and the photobook of his first year that I plan to make over the next few weeks. We had a wonderful (stress free) evening and got some great “cake smash” photos.

6. Don’t go overboard

It’s so easy to get carried away with the fun and excitement of a child’s birthday. But always remember its just a party and its not worth it to go over the top for (and blowing your budget). With the Lego party, I knew the organizers would be giving out small prizes to the kids so I decided to make the goody bags as cheap as possible. They were mostly full of leftover Halloween candy (don’t judge me, his birthday is early December and those candies have a very long shelf life) and some stickers from the dollar store. And the kids loved them (at least, they said they did to my face). I also totally skimped on the decorations. Other than a colorful tablecloth and cups/plates from the dollar store, the only traditional decoration I bought were some (dollar store) balloons (which ended up doubling as party favors, since each kids decided to take one home).

7. Skip a year…or two

Throwing a big party for your child every year can end up costing your family a lot over the years – especially if you have more than one child. Plus, I feel like it sets a precedent and perhaps a sense of entitlement of a big party every year. To avoid that, I’ve decided that we won’t do big birthday parties every year. The Lego themed party we threw our older son was for his 6th birthday. It was a ton of fun and he and his friends had a great time. But this year I plan to keep it low key (except for the cake, which, like always, will have to be fabulous), just like his 5th birthday.


Lego birthday party


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