Birthdays are a special time, but they can quickly break the budget after you have a party, give a gift, and any other tradition you have. Our tradition is the birthday person gets to decide where to eat out. That in itself is great as you don’t have to compromise with other family members. It’s their day, they choose where to eat! These are some ideas to watch expenses and still have a great party.
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Planning a Birthday on a Budget
Don’t have the party during meal times. This will reduce food costs, by not having to feed everyone a meal.
Set a budget. List out all of the items you will need including food, decorations, activities, and more.
Having a party at home or at a park will generally be less expensive than going to an entertainment location like bowling or skating. If you don’t have a party at home or the park, check for coupons or Groupon for discounted prices. For parties at a park, check to see if you need permission or to reserve a pavilion.
Limit the number of guests. It will reduce the cost and a smaller group can all visit and play better than 40 people.
Skip mailing out invitations. Call, text, or use social media to invite them.
Food for Making it Special
Make your own cake, cupcakes, or cookie cake. Buying them is an easy expense to avoid.
There are some grocery stores that sell really good cakes and cookie cakes. Many of them are good prices too. Remember that even though you’re working with a budget for the party, you get to decide how it will get allocated between the things you want to get. The time you have to prepare for the party will also make a difference in what you have time to make versus buying.
Cake mix and icing are cheap and you can decorate them.
Cupcakes are a big thing at parties and can be arranged to look like a cake. It’s easy to serve too.
Another option includes leaving the cupcakes plain and let the party guests decorate them and then, of course, eat them too. They can decorate them according to the party theme if you have one. Keep it simple and give every one of a little cup of icing. If you want less clean up, make that cup a disposable one.
Various types of candies can be put on the top for decorations. I’ve seen multicolored sprinkles at the dollar stores. There are fancier ones at the craft stores which generally have a coupon you can use with it. There are sprinkles all one color, shape, and size. They also have multiple shapes, colors, and sizes. They have various colored sugar. These toppings usually go on sale after the holidays too. While some of them are very specific to certain holidays, I try to buy some that can be used for multiple occasions.
Cookie cakes can be made at home. Get some icing and decorate it to make it fancier.
You can do the same thing that we went over with cupcakes with cookies. If you let the guests decorate cookies, I’d suggest making large individual cookies so each person can personalize theirs.
Activities for Cheap Party Ideas
These are great things to do for a party.
Treasure Hunt – this can be done by individual guests or they can break into teams. Treasure hunts can be as short, long, simple, or complex as you want. You can get creative and think of your own clues or search for ideas on Pinterest. Give each guest the clues of things to find and a bag to put them in.
Treasure hunts can be varied according to themes.
Art Activities – Each guest can paint on a canvas, tote bag, t-shirt, their initial made of wood, or picture frame. Have paint and brushes available for everyone. Watch for sales at craft stores. Plastic tablecloths are available at the Dollar Tree for $1. It’s great for keeping your area protected and easy cleanup! These items can be considered “party favors”.
Whatever you choose to let them paint on, such as a t-shirt or plain canvas, save money by watching for sales. This is where planning can help save money. In addition to watching sales, many of the craft stores have coupons. There is nothing wrong with using a coupon. You get the same thing for less money.
They can all paint the same thing by having someone walk them through it step by step. Another option is to have books or magazines for them to look through to choose a picture and refer back to it as they draw and then paint. It would be fun to have it match the theme of the party.
Board Games – there are so many to choose from…Monopoly, UNO Cards, Bingo, etc.
Board and card games are great activities. If you think about it, it’s actually something that a good amount of kids may not do much anymore in our generation of electronics. If there are more party guests than the number of players the game recommends, have multiple games going on at one time. Bingo is a game that there can be as many players as there are bingo cards available. Don’t worry if there is not enough chips to cover the numbers as they are called. Dry beans can be used instead. The guests can play just one card or however many cards you decide. Some board games like Connect Four will only allow 2 players. While Connect Four may not be the best game since it does not allow a lot of the guests to play at the same time, you could have a friendly competition where the winners of various games play each other.
The bottom line is that whatever games you have available can probably be used with some planning involved. If you don’t have a game, ask family and friends what they have. One of the favorite games of my family is from a garage sale. I love finding games at garage sales. I’ll only buy them if they look like they’re in good shape because I want my chances of having all the pieces in good clean working order be there.
Photo Booth – make your own photo booth. This would be a great activity in addition to painted or decorated picture frames. Choose a backdrop of a wall, or use a sheet, table cloth, or party streamers. Christmas tree lights and balloons are other ways to decorate them. You can get cute props like these to make it fun for them to use for a general party. One thing to check is the lighting in this area. More lighting may need to be added for a better picture.
Try a theme party and you can decorate the picture area accordingly.
It could be themes such as a Western, Disco, Beach, Hawaiian Luau, Mardi Gras, etc. There are so many great themes to pick.
Western themes could include a plain sheet with various cutouts like a wagon wheel, horseshoe, cowboy hat, boots, horses, etc. Another option for a backdrop is to use the $1 plastic tablecloths. They come in a variety of colors, so choose what works best with your theme. Use what you have at home by adding other items to the background. Perhaps you have boots and cowboy hats, you can use them too. Cute props include bandanas. There are inexpensive western photo booth props that you can get too.
For a Disco theme, you can use a plain sheet or table cloth as the backdrop and add various things to it. There are also tinsel background curtains that can serve as the main backdrop. Have any vinyl records? Bring those out and incorporate them into the decorations. There are disco party theme photo booth props like hats, disco ball, big shoes, lava lamp, sunglasses, and more. Some of the dollar stores have a glow in the dark necklaces, etc.
Beach themes can include blown up floats used for the pool or beach. You don’t need to have a plain sheet as a backdrop for any theme, especially if you have a wall that can be used. Beach balls are great props. You can re-purpose the use of the beach balls for other activities too. Sunglasses and sand toys make good decorations and props.
- Hawaiian Luau
If you go with a Luau theme, you could also get props like grass skirts and Hawaiian Leis. The backdrop could include a plain sheet with various Hawaiian decorations on it. Use paper cuts out of pineapples, tiki totem, or any tropical beach cuts. You can also use grass skirts to hang from the backdrop. The old fashion paper streamers always are an easy way to bring a festive look to parties. The guests can also come dressed in Hawaiian shirts. Of course, if the budget allows, there are lots of preprinted backgrounds and other decorations that you can buy.
- Mardi Gras
Mardi Gras themes can be used especially around Mardi Gras season. The main colors are purple, green, and gold. Decorate a photo booth area with the various Mardi Gras beads, masks, and doubloons. Feathers and streamers add more festive bling.
Balloons can be used with any themes too. If you want balloons with helium, check out the Dollar Tree stores. If you don’t want to go through the trouble of getting helium balloons, you can use the plain balloons and hang them from a string or ribbon from the ceiling.
Have them do this activity with the photo area first if they are also decorating picture frames. The pictures can be uploaded and printed out at a local store while they paint their frame. If someone is available to pick up the pictures, the guests can go home with both the pictures and picture frames. If not, you can send copies of pictures to them at a later date. Polaroid type cameras like this one will print out the pictures immediately.
The pictures can also be texted to them if that works best.
Minute to Win It Games – There are many of these games. Depending on the number of guests, guest can do this as an individual or break up into teams.
Examples of Minute to Win It Games
Water bottle 1/2 full – count how many times you can toss it and it stands up when it lands in a certain amount of time.
Empty cola can – place three cans at the bottom and two on top. Have two of these stations so two individuals or teams can participate at the same time. Use rubber bands to see who can knock them all down before first.
Relay game of sentence – this is a team activity. Everybody listens to music with headphones and the coordinator of the game says a sentence to the first person. As this message gets passed from one to another, the original sentence gets distorted. When it gets to the last person in the line, the team gets 1 point for each correct word of the original sentence.
2 empty water bottles with $1 bill between them -whoever can pull the dollar out without the water bottles falling, gets the dollar. The first water bottle is stood up with the $1 on top and then the next empty water bottle is on top of the $1.
Birthdays are a time of special celebration, but they can easily break the budget. Try some of these cheap birthday ideas. Do a party at home with Minute to Win It games, board games, or treasure hunts. Make it an art party, where you can design your t-shirt, paint a frame or canvas for your house. Make your own cake, cupcakes, or cookie cake and skip the party favors to save money. Plan a time where you don’t have to feed a big meal for everyone. By eliminating little expenses, the savings will add up. And that makes another reason to celebrate – saving money!