Parties on a Budget – Part II

Many of us have children at home, and we like to celebrate their birthdays because it’s one more year we survived parenthood.  We don’t mind footing the bill because watching a bunch of children on a sugar high is really entertaining.  But since a lot of us are trying to cut back, here are a few suggestions on how to save on your next birthday bash. 

House Party.  Instead of forking over hundreds of dollars for someone else to host your party, consider a party at home.  The giant mouse serving pizza and the inflatables place are a ton of fun.  But having a party at home is significantly less expensive.   

“But CnC, I’m afraid of pre-schoolers.  How do I entertain little people at my house?”  Fear not, dear reader, I have some ideas.

Set a time limit.  Parents understand that children under the age of 23 have a very short attention span.  In your invitation, tell your guests that the party is only two hours: “Time: 2-4pm”.  If you were hosting your party elsewhere, they would set a time limit so the same goes for your house. 

Limit Your Guest List.  Keep it to kids in your children’s age bracket and not necessarily the whole neighborhood.  The more folks you choose to entertain, the more expensive your party will be.  People that you don’t spend much time with will understand that they may not be invited to your party.  But don’t leave out your regular associations. 

Choose Your Focus.  If your child wants to invite the whole class, make sure that the entertainment is the focus, not the food.  You’ll get bigger bang for your buck if you spend your money facilitating a good time than on food.  Most people (adults included) don’t get as excited about good food as I do.

Entertainment Stations.  Set up an entertainment circuit so that children can be entertained longer (an idea from Amy H.).

  • Indoors: play doh, blocks, balloon keep it up, coloring, video games, etc…
  • Outdoors: anything with water, bubbles, golf, bean bag toss

Plan Ahead.  You can gather items for your party when they’re on sale (yes, this goes for all parties).  Last year, my daughter’s first birthday was in August so I bought ice cream in April… seriously!  QFC had single serve Hagen Dasz for $0.50!  So I bought 40 of them.  If you’re planning on serving something specific for a party and you have a place to store it, stock up now and spread out the expense over several months! 

Do it yourself.  A large cake from Costco is about $18.  Two cake mixes on sale and homemade frosting is less than $5… think of all of the party food you can make for $13! (or maybe you can’t, but keep reading.)  Obviously it’s easier to buy a cake and serve it, but I find frosting a cake relaxing.  It can be done a day ahead of time!  If you can make all of the food items for your party and limit the convenience items, you’ll save a bundle. 

Party Favors.  If you plan ahead, you can get toys at steep discounts the day after a major holiday including Halloween, Valentine’s Day, St Patrick’s Day, etc…  Just because it’s red doesn’t mean that everyone will know you bought it after Valentine’s day.  Hide them in your party box and save it for the next kid party at your house.  They have bubbles, Play-Doh, trinkets, and candy for pennies on the dollar.  From what I can tell, Halloween is your best bet. Thanks for the idea, Marcy!

 Homemade Favors.  If you didn’t stock up after the last major holiday, make something.  Put together a sugar cookie mix for kids to make at home.  Make new crayons from old ones.  Put together an age appropriate dance mix.  Make homemade play-doh with your birthday boy or girl.  Be creative!  The parents will be grateful for your inventiveness… it adds to the charm!

 Beverages.  One of your biggest party expenditures is beverages.  Individual juice boxes or sodas are spendy.  Get reusable cups and send kids home with that as part of their goody bag.  They’re available on your baby gear aisle at the store or on Oriental Trading Company’s website.  Serve watered down juice to toddlers (their mommies do at home) and serve Kool-Aid instead of soda to older children.  At our house, we usually serve water. 

 Food.  Schedule your party for a non-meal time and you’re not expected to serve a meal.  If you think cake and ice cream aren’t enough, a big bowl of homemade popcorn and a cheese platter you sliced yourself will please a crowd.  If you are going to serve a meal, make a big sandwich instead of ordering it (right, Amanda?), have the kids make their own mini pizzas (you already have my crust recipe), or grill up some on-sale hot dogs.  Junk food is allowed!  Nutritional value is important for your daily diet but not essential for a party. 

Don’t Forget the Adults.  You may be so excited about having 30 – 4 year olds that you forgot that their mommies and daddies will be there as well.  Have some grown-up (and probably more expensive) snacks available in an undisclosed location.  My first post about parties may give you some ideas.  The parents will appreciate a chance to get away from the noise and chaos that surrounds a “kid party”. 

It’s your party!  These are my ideas for saving money on a party because I love to enertain, but I choose what is important to me to spend my money on .   You may decide on a “green” party with little or no waste or gourmet food to showcase your very own test kitchen.  Then again, you may just want to send all the kids outside to rented bouncy house.  If you focus on your guests’ good time, you can’t go wrong!

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1 Comment

  1. jean said,

    September 22, 2009 at 4:11 pm

    don’t forget to look on craigslist for used party decorations . . . (wink)


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