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How to Host a Budget Party

Budget birthday parties are making a comeback. Even with the current economy forcing many families to cut back, you don’t need to cancel your child’s birthday party. We’ll help you plan an inexpensive party using these ideas. All you need is a little imagination, and that doesn’t cost a thing!

Budget parties require a few thoughtful strategies, starting with:

  1. Guest List – Limit the guests to 8 or less. Many party items such as invitations and favors come in packages of 8, so you will only need one package instead of two. Often we are forced to buy another package when our party includes 10-12 guests, leaving half the items wasted.
  2. Location – Host the party at home or a local park. Children won’t care where the party is held as long as they are having fun with their friends.
  3. Food – Keep food costs down by holding the party in the afternoon so it doesn’t include a full meal. Prepare most of the food and the cake yourself.
  4. One more tip – Consider having a joint party with another family. Celebrate both kids’ birthdays with one party and split the cost.

Looking for a bargain? Check out these Party Supplies on Sale!

How to Save on Invitations

  • Send the invitations by email.
  • Make invitations at home using construction paper and stickers.
  • Find clip art that fits your party theme online and create a unique invitation on your home computer. Roll the invitations into a scroll and tie them with a piece of twine (for boys) or ribbon (for girls) and deliver them yourself. It feels extra special to the kids and builds excitement before the party date.

How to Save on Decorations

  • Use toys and holiday decorations you already own. Toys that match the party theme can be grouped together to make a table centerpiece. For example, use binoculars, a plastic safari hat and a map grouped on a tray for a jungle party, or a clean toy dump truck for a construction party.
  • Christmas lights, either clear or colored, can be hung around doorways or windows. Many Halloween items can be used for other parties: skulls for a pirate party, pumpkins for a farm party, witches and ghosts for a wizard party, etc.
  • Buy selectively, meaning buy only one or two main items with the party theme design, and go with solid colors (which are cheaper) for everything else. For example, you could buy the table cover with the fancy Elmo design, but choose cheaper solid red plates and forks.
  • Balloons can be your main decoration. Kids of all ages love balloons, so set the mood with clusters of cheap, solid color balloons all around the party room. Pick colors that coordinate with the party theme, or use any leftover balloons you already own.
  • Streamers are super cheap, so hang them over the food table and from the ceiling in the party room.
  • Wrapping paper can be used to decorate a wall or your front door. Just tape it in place and add wide ribbon from side to side. Then tape a large bow somewhere along the ribbon. Aluminum foil on the front door will sparkle in the light and matches any theme.

How to Save on the Games

  • Don’t bother hiring an expensive entertainer for the party. Choose from these tried and true party games that kids love to build your party plan. The kids will have a blast, and you’ll save a bundle!
  • Plan a treasure hunt with lots of clues that send the children running around your yard/home and hide the birthday cake as the “treasure”. This costs nothing and keeps the kids entertained. You could also hide all the goody bags as the “treasure”.
  • Use free printable coloring pages as an activity.Check out the Crayola website for over 1000 free coloring page designs.
  • Use washable markers to set up a face painting activity. Ask an artistic friend to draw designs on the guests’ faces. Or just pick one or two easy designs that you can draw yourself, like a rainbow or a snake.
  • Pinatas are a great party activity that kids love, they are reasonably priced and they come in dozens of different shapes to match just about any theme. If you’re feely crafty, it’s not too hard to make a piñata using these directions.

How to Save on the Food

Let’s assume your party is scheduled during the afternoon, so you don’t need to serve a full meal. Here are some other ways to keep down the cost of the party snacks:

  • Stick with kid-friendly food but give it a new and fun name to match the party theme. For example, cereal snack mix can be called “Puppy Chow” for a Dalmatian or Blue’s Clues party and Pixie Stix candy can become “pixie dust” at a fairy party. Chicken nuggets can become “Gold Nuggets” for a pirate party, and pretzel rods can be called Dino Bones for a dinosaur party. Be creative with the food signs and the kids will love it!
  • Use cookie cutters to create special sandwiches, cookies, cheese or ham slices.
  • Let the food do double duty as an activity. Set up an ice cream Sundae bar with some toppings and whipped cream, and let the kids make their own sundaes. Or do the same with pizza ingredients but use English muffin halves for the crusts. Or set out little cups of frosting and sprinkles for the kids to decorate their own cookie or cupcake.
  • Make the birthday cake yourself. Kids love a homemade cake even if it is far from perfect. The cake doesn’t have to look professional to please a child. And honestly, kids just don’t seem to notice the imperfections in a homemade cake. Your child will be thrilled with a special cake made by mom, no matter how it looks to us adults. I’ve found some of my kids’ favorite birthday cake ideas at Family Fun.com.
  • Check out our Party Food guide for more food suggestions.

How to Save on the Goody Bags

  • Let the guests make a craft as one of your activities and then take it home as their party favor. Here is a list of great kids party crafts that can double as a party favor.
  • Limit the favors to just one or two items plus some candy. For example, buy a roll of stickers and cut off pieces to put in each goody bag. Or buy a package of ten Hot Wheels cars (or mini nail polish, hair barrettes, sidewalk chalk, etc.) and divide them up to fill the favor bags.
  • Wrap three homemade cookies in saran wrap and tie it closed with a ribbon as a party favor.
  • What about dollar stores? Choose carefully, because many of the items sold as party favors are junk that will break almost immediately. You’re probably OK with shaped whistles and play money.
  • Don’t overlook party favor sets sold online at  Birthday in a Box. They offer more than 150 different favor sets to match any theme and prices start at $2.99 per set. Most parents can’t assemble goody bags themselves for that price!

Looking for a bargain? Check out these Party Supplies on Sale!