Nothing is quite as exciting to a child as a birthday party. We may lose the desire to celebrate as we get older, but to a child, a birthday is a magical thing. As parents, we want to make those occasions special and sometimes that wish can lead to a big dent in our finances. It doesn’t have to. With a little creative thinking, you can make sure your child and party guests have a great time, without worrying about crashing the budget (we can even learn some money lessons from birthday parties). You can even let your birthday girl or boy have some fun in helping with some of the party preparations. Here are a few ideas on how you can save money when throwing your child their next birthday party:
Make Your Own Invitations
Remember that this party is for and about kids. That means there’s no need for fancy stationery and gilded envelopes. The invitations you send out will probably be stuck to the refrigerator until the day after the party, then end up in the recycling bin, so there’s no point in wasting a lot of money. Have your child help you create a custom invitation. Use your computer and printer or just get out the crayons and colored pencils and then shoot some copies. Be creative.
Don’t Rent A Location
Your home is just fine for entertaining children. The kids won’t care, as long as fun is on the agenda. If your house is small and the weather permits, move the party outdoors. Restaurants and amusement park parties are nice, if you have room in the budget, but paying for a dozen or more children is going to add up in a hurry.
Don’t Get Lavish With Decorations
As with invitations, kids aren’t likely to be too concerned with decorations. Sure, if you’re planning a theme of some sort, you’ll need to put a little time and thought into it, but not necessarily a lot of money. Work it out with the birthday kid ahead of time and let him or her help “set the stage”. Some crepe paper and balloons from the dollar store will go a long way, and while helium balloons are cool to look at, the party guests can actually play with balloons that won’t float away.
Substitute Projects For Favors
It’s always nice to send something home with your child’s party guests, but any party favors that won’t end up crumpled, broken and worn out in no time are going to be a little pricey. As a unique alternative, why not have the kids create something fun to take home? Simple origami projects, friendship bracelets and a host of other quick craft ideas can keep the youngsters busy and give them something to show off when they go home. Kids can even make their own birthday hats when they arrive, with just some construction paper and glue. A Google search for “birthday crafts” will provide a surprising number of ideas and instructions.
Forget The Caterers
Planning and preparing the birthday party goodies yourself can be fun and rewarding, provided you have the time. Here’s another opportunity to involve your child in the birthday preparations! With literally thousands of fun kids’ recipes available online, you won’t have any trouble coming up with a menu. Build some sandwiches and cut them into shapes with cookie cutters. How about pigs in blankets? Gummy worms in cookie crumb “dirt”. The possibilities are endless.
Forget The Meal
If money’s tight, a birthday party needn’t be a free meal. Plan it in the early afternoon and explain that it’s just a cake and ice cream party. You’ll have more time for fun and less mess to clean up. Parents should have no problem with feeding their children ahead of time and they’ll have fewer worries about what their kids will be eating. The kids will be ok with it; they’d rather have the cake, anyway.
Bake And Decorate The Cake Yourself
You knew this one was coming, didn’t you? I can sense some of you cringing at this idea. Relax. There’s no law that says you need to make a cake from scratch. Any inexpensive cake mix will get the job done and you’ll probably just need oil, eggs and water. But, maybe your problem is the decorating part. No need to worry there, either. Yep, it’s time to turn to the internet again. Here’s just one example of pages of instructions for fun cakes: http://www.dltk-kids.com/crafts/birthday/cakes.html Cupcakes are a popular idea, too, and even easier to decorate, not to mention you don’t have to slice a cake.
Scale Down The Guest List
Admittedly, this may be a tough one. Many kids will want to invite the whole class, either because they’re just naturally outgoing, or simply don’t want to make choices. Alright, yes, some kids simply want more gifts. In any case, if you don’t have a lot of room and a lot of money to spend, it’s perfectly reasonable to ask your child to limit the guest list to actual friends. Not only will you save some cash and probably your sanity, parents of children that don’t know yours well enough to know what to buy will be appreciative. This tip could even save you enough money to get out of having to resort to the one directly above.
Use The Fun Things You Already Have
There’s a very good chance that children in the same age range as your child will enjoy doing the same things. That means you probably already have games, toys and such on hand that the kids will like. If you’ve got a Velcro dart board, badminton set, building blocks, or other fun stuff on hand, you can probably keep the kids occupied. If you’re having the party in the back yard, you’ve got even more options. Think “day camp”.
Make It A Sleepover
“What?” Yes, you might actually find yourself saving some money by having just a few kids over and making it an all-nighter, if the kids are old enough. “How can that be?” Well, the first reason is simple: there’s only so much room, so there will be less guests. More importantly, though, once the treats and presents are out of the way, some birthday magic happens. The kids will find ways to entertain themselves, from movies, to games, to telling ghost stories. You might even find time to watch a little TV yourself.
(Photo courtesy of Will Clayton)