6 Tips to Control Birthday Party Costs

birthdays on a budgetPhoto credit: Kid’s Birthday Parties via Foter.com/ CC BY

Birthdays are often an excuse for extravagance. Celebrities might spend $5,000 on a cake or buying an $187,000 playhouse for their six-year-old. Or maybe you know families that hire a yacht for their 10-year-old’s party or host 50 kids at Disneyland for the day — 50!

Yet there are those of us who want to try and keep the birthday spending on a tight budget. After all, it’s the thought that counts, right? Plus, paying off credit card debt or keeping up with the mortgage payments is probably more important than a big, blowout bash for a nine-year-old.

Pop that Birthday Budget Balloon

Here, then, are six strategies to help you keep birthday party costs under control:

Accept Assistance.

No, there is no federal assistance program for party planners. But, you likely have friends and family who would be willing to help:

  • Instead of paying $70 to a bakery, ask a friend to contribute a freshly baked cake.
  • Ask grandma and grandpa to suggest some old school games that will save you from paying for a roving arcade truck or a big bouncy house out back. Kids like to play, after all. Maybe offering them some options they haven’t encountered before will win points for novelty while also giving family members a chance to prove they’re still pretty awesome.
  • Invite young cousins and neighborhood friends to be crafty and draw or paint decorations for the party. It will look homemade, sure, but the birthday honoree will also feel the love of their family and friends whenever they look about them.

Party Outdoors.

If you’re looking at a warm weather birthday, you might host a movie night on screen in a backyard, a field day at a neighborhood park, or an obstacle course in the cul de sac (having warned the neighbors first). These options are more affordable and again will encourage creativity that can make your party distinct.

budget birthday

Photo credit: ND Strupler via Foter.com / CC BY

Think Strategically about Timing.

Planning a party over lunch or dinner might suggest you will be offering a meal. Inviting folks between 2 and 5 saves you from this expectation — snacks will likely do the trick.
If you are going to serve food, keep the menu simple and find a friend who can let you borrow their membership to a bulk store such as Costco or Sam’s Club.

Price Package Deals.

If celebrating the big day is happening at a party venue, shop around to see who offers the best deal. Sometimes a party sticker price seems more expensive than a competitor. But compare it line by line to see what’s included in each offer.

Plan Ahead.

By keeping an eye on sales you can often find party items at reduced costs. This is a good way to keep control of party decoration costs, paper supplies and plastic cutlery, and anything that goes in the loot bags (if you decide your guests can’t go without swag).

Go Digital.

Spending money on paper invitations and envelopes, plus postage (if necessary) is an unnecessary expense for the budget conscious. It’s easy to set up an electronic invitation online at a site such as Evite or Punchbowl.

Budget Birthdays Special Too

Of course, the easiest way to cut party costs is to cut out the party. But, if that simply isn’t going to fly with the birthday boy or girl you are feting, take another take and keep the guest list small.

Yes, I believe I everyone deserves a big day on their birthday — but that doesn’t mean anyone should have to break the bank to make it happen.

Winter Birthday Party Blues

We all know, scheduled c-sections aside, we can’t usually choose when our baby’s born. Few of us are able to actually schedule conception after all.

This leaves many a parent struggling to plan a winter birthday party for a child. Sure, we pride ourselves on the fact that our child is still in school and can be feted appropriately (at the schools that still allow birthday celebrations in class, that is). But, we envy those who can invite everyone to the house to play in the backyard or who can host a neighborhood pool party with lifeguards providing watchful eyes while the parents enjoy some relaxation in the sun.

As proof, I point you to my son’s second birthday. Ridiculously (hindsight is 20/20) I planned a beach-themed event. I live in the southern United States, so it didn’t seem that crazy. Yet the day of the party arrived and there was an actual snow storm. Not even what my Canadian self would describe as a “Charlotte-snow-storm” where the snow is barely on the ground long enough for us to witness it. No, a real one. We spent the morning sledding, then came home to a number of party guest cancellations because people couldn’t get out of their driveways. Fortunately, I’d learned from the first-year-old Charlie Brown party to invite many people, and we still ended up with a crowd. They were greeted outside our door by this snowman

Winter Birthday Party

Since then, we’ve enjoyed most of our parties somewhere else where the kids can run around like crazy inside, and I needn’t clean up.

But I might have thought differently if I’d read beforehand this great advice (edited below) for winter birthdays from a Philly Parenting blogger:

  1. When in-house, always have a plan. Chunk the party into 15 to 30 minute segments (younger ages need smaller chunks), and allow some time to play freely, but not enough time where things can reach dangerous levels of chaos.
  2. When inside, consider rotating. For bigger crowds, use “stations” where kids rotate in small groups through three or four activities.
  3. Make preparing food or materials part of the party. Decorating cupcakes, designing their party bags, making slime or playdough can help focus the madness and keep kids occupied.
  4. Watch a movie. Or host a BYOD (bring-your-own-device) party — Minecraft marathons work similarly well.
  5. Set up a photobooth. This is super easy, cheap, and especially fun for the school age/tween crowd. Share the photos with parents and kids electronically after the party.
  6. Brave a slumber party

She suggests that’s the last resort. Having now hosted two of them for birthdays, I know why.

In the meantime, indulge me in this other memory from our snowy/beachy party — my son had no problem enjoying the beach-themed cake I made.

Winter Brithday Party