At the end of August we celebrated our sweet little girl’s 2nd birthday with a small party of just family but lately I keep hearing, and reading about, elaborate parties that parents plan for their kids. Parties that cost a lot of money and take a lot of effort on one’s part to plan and put together. It might have something to do with the community I live in, or to all the ideas on Pinterest, but it seems to me like parents often are trying to outdo one another by hosting bigger and better parties.
I read an article that the average birthday party can cost parents on upwards of $500 for food, decorations and activities alone!
I don’t know about you but that number seems quite excessive. I spent quite a bit less than that to plan and host my daughter’s simple birthday party.
Both of my kids have had simple birthday parties though some may argue that since they are only 3 and 2, there really hasn’t been a need to host a big event yet. Still I have a hard time imagining where I would ever justifiably plan a big event of a birthday party for either one of my children as they get older that would cost my family a huge expense.
Not only do we just not have that in our budget, but I simply just don’t want to set the example that my kids need an elaborate party to celebrate the day that God blessed us with them.
So in this Pinterest world where there are hundreds of thousands of pins of creative party ideas and the possible pressure from the community you live in to plan a big event, what are you to do?
How can you plan a budget friendly, simply birthday party that will create memories and honor your special birthday blessing?
Well with a little planning, intention and thought, you absolutely can plan birthday parties on a budget!
Keep the Guest List Simple
Do you really need to invite your child’s entire class? Or every family acquaintance? There is a new mindset that in order to be fair and to not leave anyone out, we have to invite everyone. I don’t buy into that line of thinking at all.
Currently, for both of my kids, we only include immediate family (grandparents, aunts and uncles) in their birthday parties. As they grow older and begin to develop friendships, then obviously we will begin to include their few friends as well but we won’t be inviting their entire class just because that is what is deemed acceptable.
Wouldn’t you rather invite people who actually know and love your kids? While they can be friendly with everyone in their class, are they actually friends with everyone?
If you are worried about fairness of not including other children then don’t pass out invitations at school, rather take the time and effort to mail a few invitations. Also you can teach your child about being aware of other’s people’s feeling by being sensitive to not talk openly about their party in front of children who aren’t invited. This is a great teaching moment with your kids because I’m sure at some point they have, or will be, excluded from something too. It’s a part of life and I don’t want to sugar coat it for them.
Keep the Food Simple
Sometimes it not necessarily the party itself that costs a lot of money but it’s the food that can be a budget buster. While providing a meal might be nice, there are there other more frugal options to consider when it comes to serving food at your party.
You could set out a snack table with cut up vegetables, crackers, cheeses and dips. Or you could forgo the extra food altogether and just serve cake and ice cream, just be sure to specify cake and ice cream only on the party invite so your guests can eat beforehand.
Since we currently only include immediate family into our kid’s birthday parties we ask them to help with the food. I’ve been very fortunate to have a mother and mother-in-law who are always eager to bring a side dish or drinks to whatever family get together we host, including birthday parties.
More often than not, family members would love to help but they don’t want to intrude by offering help. It never hurts to ask if they would be open to bringing something like a vegetable tray or a cooler of ice. To make it easier on them try suggesting simple, easy to bring items that don’t require a lot of effort or money.
Choose 1 or 2 Classic Decorations to That Are Timeless and Reusable
For my son’s 1st birthday I invested in a bright yellow plastic table cloth that could be easily cleaned and stored for future parties. Since it was yellow, it was neutral enough to go with just about any theme and since it is plastic it cleans super easily meaning that I can reuse it over and over again. Many times those paper table clothes that go with the party’s theme are cute, but once someone spills something on it you have to throw it away.
I also purchased a simple Happy Birthday banner that I hang across the window. Again it’s classic in colors that can be used for everyone’s individual birthday parties.
Both of those decorations cost me less than $10 over three years ago and I have used them for both of my kid’s birthday parties since then. Frugal and durable, simple classic decorations can be used again without having to buy specific themed decorations that would only be used once.
Decorate with Presents, Pictures and the Cake
When my son turned one and I began to sort through Pinterest looking for party ideas, I kept seeing over and over again tables decorated where the cake was the main centerpiece and presents and photo of the birthday child where used as accent decorations. It was like a light bulb went off in my mind, why wouldn’t I decorate with things that we would already be using at the party anyway?
The birthday cake, or cupcakes, are a very important part of any birthday so why not display them at the center of the table?
My other favorite idea includes placing photos of the birthday child around the table or house of the last year. It’s fun for both the child and the family to see photos of just how much they have grown and developed over the previous year. For my son’s second birthday party, I included his 2 year photo on the cake table as part of the decoration. He loved seeing it and so did his grandparents. Most likely you already have several photos printed but even if you had to print out a few photos they would still be cherished long after the celebration ends.
You already a few presents wrapped and ready to go, either from yourself or from family, display those on a side table or in another prominent location and add to them as guest arrive. You could even spread them out across the room in groupings of two or three. They are already colorful and bright and may include a bow or two, so why not use them as part of your party decor?
By using some simple, multi-purpose decorations such as the cake, pictures or presents, you are saving money on not buying or making themed decorations that you probably won’t be able to use again after the party is over. Plus if you include the cake and presents as part of your decor you have two less decorations to take down after the party is over since they will either be eaten up or unwrapped and opened!
Forgo the DYI Projects for Simplicity
Sometimes we think that if we make our own decoration or centerpiece ourselves, we will be saving time and money. Sometimes that it true but depending on how crafty you are, it could be the opposite.
For my son’t first birthday I made a caterpillar cupcake cake to look like The Very Hungry Caterpillar but since then I have learned the lesson that I am not good at decorating my own cakes and the time it took me cost about the same as just purchasing a cake. So now I set the birthday party budget to include a small pre-made cake. I know my talents and cake making isn’t one of them! If you are super creative and have the time and patience to make your own birthday cakes, have at it!
There have been several other decorating projects that I pinned for various other holidays that, once again, took way more time and effort than I had planned. I have learned that I am not super crafty. That’s just not who I am, so realizing this lack of talent has greatly reduced my stress level when it comes to approaching DIY projects.
However if you are super crafty and can knock some amazing projects out of the park, then by all means go for it! My point to to recognize where your strengths, talents and time lie so that you don’t commit to a project that leaves you so so worn out you can’t even enjoy the party you are creating if for.
Focus on the Reason WHY You are Celebrating the Birthday
Your precious child only turns a specific age once and these special days are a way to honor the special gift that God has blessed your family with. I don’t want to spend all of my time and energy focusing on planning the “perfect party.” Rather I want to focus on the child who is celebrating the milestone of becoming another year older.
Parties with friends, games and food are nice but sometimes just having a simple celebration with the family can be just as special, especially if your budget just doesn’t allow for a full blown party. Many families opt in for the tradition of serving a favorite breakfast or dinner on each family member’s birthday. Or do a special activity together as a family such as bowling. miniature golf or maybe even a movie. The point is to not get so wrapped up in the planning of a party that you forget to just stop and celebrate together as a family, creating special memories and to just enjoy one another.
If you are planning a birthday party sometime soon, it’s important to have a plan in place so you don’t go over board and spend a lot of time or money trying to create the “perfect party.” I’ve created a simple planning sheet that I use to help when thinking through the basic components of each of my own children’s birthday parties.
Today I’m excited to be sharing with you my FREE Party Planning Sheet. You can use it to plan for any type of party you may be having, whether it be your child’s birthday party or another event you are celebrating that you are hosting.
On the Party Planning Sheet there are spaces to jot down ideas about a theme or color scheme if you want one, a place to write down decoration or activity notes, a guest list, a menu and even a place to write down any supplies that you need to buy or to be on the lookout for.
What are some tips or tricks you can share from your experience of planning a birthday party on a budget?
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