5 Ways to Throw a Fabulous Birthday Party on a Budget

Nesting on 04.02.12
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Photo Credit: Sarah Fernandez/Chateau & Bungalow

While I love to throw elaborate birthday parties for my kids, I don't love (nor am I able to) shell out the big bucks for them. We don't rent bounce houses or even order pizza for the whole gang, however, somehow I always manage to figure out a way to pull off a party that the kids are thrilled with and the parents are impressed by. And having just come off my daughter's birthday party last weekend, I think I've finally figured out the tricks that really make a party manageable, memorable, and affordable.

1. Join Forces

If possible, finding someone to split the party with is definitely one way to cut costs by half right off the bat. Your children don't have to have the exact same birthday. Their birthdays can be within days or weeks of each other. It's best to choose a friend who has a lot of overlap of friends with your child so that you don't have to invite twice as many people. If they have five mutual friends and each invite another two or three friends, you'll still have a manageable number. I'm lucky that my daughter's best friend is nine days older than her so we've been able to have their party jointly on the weekend that falls right between their birthdays. It's also important that you and the other parents are on the same page as to what the budget is for the party. Don't pair up with someone who wants to hire a band and have the party catered if that's not in your budget even when halved.

2. Watch Your Numbers

There is no doubt about it. Keeping your guest list down is the number one way to save money when throwing a party. When I'm planning weddings and people want all the bells and whistles, but can't fit them into the budget, I always suggest they cut their numbers. That being said, I always struggle with how many people to invite to a party. I want to include everyone (and when I do that usually means about 60 people in attendance), but when I do that I don't get to see my kids enjoying the all the things I put so much thought and effort into. Since my daughter and her friend were turning three, we decided to limit the party just to the little girls that were in their age range of two to four years old. It was really hard not to include all the siblings like we normally do, but in the end we were really happy that we went that route and none of our friends minded either. We ended up with a total of 13 kids which was completely manageable and enjoyable.

3. Do It Yourself

With Pinterest and craft and party blogs taking over the web, it's never been easier to get ideas about how to make your own party supplies. For my daughter's art-themed birthday party, we wanted to buy palette shaped plates that we loved, but at more than $5 apiece, we instead bought chalkboard paper (with a 50 percent off coupon) and cut it in the shape of a palette as a placemat and then used nut cups to create the look of paint circles for what ended up costing no more than a dollar. We monogrammed one dollar aprons that we found at the craft store using stencils and paint, and for other parties I've even made piñatas. Making your own cake or cupcakes is also a huge money saver. You don't have to make it from scratch, and buying a box mix and frosting is going to save you a lot of money even if you typically buy a basic grocery store cake. Don't worry if it's not perfect. The love that goes into homemade cakes is always visible. And when it really comes out off kilter, just cover the whole thing in sprinkles or candies!

4. Simplify Menus

There's no need to create a complicated menu. When entertaining many people feel the need to create an elaborate meal or have loads of options to cater to everyone's tastes. The simpler you make the menu, the less stressed you'll be and the more affordable it will be. Choose a main dish that can be anything easy for a group. Personal frozen pizzas, chili, and chicken nuggets (depending on the age group you're serving) are great options. Add two simple sides like salads and fresh fruits. A simple cheese plate and chips and salsa are plenty for appetizers. Every different item you have to purchase increases the grocery bill, but buying larger quantities of fewer items isn't typically as expensive (think bulk discounts).

5. Single Item Favors

Another money pit that's easy to fall into is favor bags. It's certainly nice to offer favors, but by the time you purchase the containers and then all the candy and filler toys, stickers, and whatever else you'd like to include, before you know it you've spent at least five dollars on a bunch of little (typically junky) things that are likely to land in the trash before too long. Consider buying an inexpensive single item such as a good size jar of bubbles, a coloring book and crayons, a hula hoop, one large lollipop or chocolate bar, or anything else that would suit the theme of your party, and put a personal note on it using a sticker or tag. It will make more of a statement and save you a bundle.

Throwing a party should be a lot of fun and not a huge burden. These simple tricks are sure to lighten your workload and keep your party on budget!

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