"Growing old is mandatory; growing up is optional." ~Chili Davis
Being a proud mom of 4 beautiful geniuses, birthday party planning can be a stressful time in my life. I have a birthday in May, two in July and one in August. Adrian just barely made it to July, his birthday being July 1st. Thank God he came when he did or I would be mighty busy for every month of summer. It's kind of good that their birthdays are pretty much grouped together because I get to knock them all out and still have some free time during the rest of the year. And I'm glad they're in the summer because with the holidays fast approaching, I just don't think I'd survive if I had to juggle birthdays and holidays.
Since I have so many birthdays to plan, nothing warms my heart more than discovering cheaper ways to do them every year. When my first two kids were the only kiddos that I had, I went all out. Sometimes spending entire paychecks to make sure they had the most fab birthdays imaginable. The bad part, besides being broke for the week, was that they were too young to even understand their birthdays and how to have fun at them! They didn't know that the big jumpy things were meant for jumping and they didn't even play with the expensive toys I bought for longer than five minutes before growing bored with them. I suppose I spent that money for my own piece of mind. By the time my third child was born, I had quickly grew out of throwing extravagant parties. I started buying only one or two gifts instead of the whole toy store and stuck with inviting just my close family members. I have a pretty large family so my kids are always content with the amount of guests that attend. Below you will find some easy and cheap ways to throw a fab party for the kiddies without living in poverty for the rest of the month:
Plan in advance:
By planning at least 4-6 months in advance, you have more time to shop for deals. I am totally of guilty of waiting til the last minute to buy some key items I need for a party. By doing so, I end up having to pay full price for something. If I would have planned and was able to shop around, I probably would have saved A LOT of money. But live and learn I guess...
Keep the guest list small:
As I mentioned before, I only invite close members of the fam, If your kid(s) don't have a lot of cousins like mine do, stick to only inviting your child's closest friends. Not only does this prevent you from having to shell out a bunch of cash for tons of goodie bags and games, but it's easier on the kids because they don't have to entertain so many friends. Nothing's worse at a kid's birthday party than having children that feel left out. Also, the fewer people you have, the less food you have to provide. Buying refreshments can get super expensive, super fast.
Utilize the "just a dollar" stores:
These stores have got to be some of the best inventions of all time. They carry practically everything; from decorations and gift wrapping to party favors and goodie bag fillers. And you can get tons of balloons here. Specialty party stores like Party City charge you an arm and leg for balloons. There's also a good website called Oriental Trading Company that provides cheap party stuff and favors in bulk or by the gross at extremely cheap prices. You can even opt for receiving their catalog by mail. But beware, this is a very addictive purchasing outlet!
Host the party at your house or a grandparents house:
This one is a no brainer. You don't have to spend the extra money for a venue and it keeps the party more personal. I have always had my kids birthday parties at home and it's definitely less stressful (except for the cleaning up afterwards). You don't have to pack up all the gifts and balloons in the car to cart back home and you get to make your own rules. For my oldest daughter's 3rd birthday, I had the party outside, luau style. I set up long tables and served a buffet. This was a good idea because clean-up was minimal and the kids could be as loud and obnoxious as they wanted. And my house was still standing by the time everyone dipped out. Another good idea is to have the party at a local park. My sister likes to go this route and it's great if you do plan on inviting a larger group of people. Most parks have pavilions that you can use at no cost (call and check to see if you need to make reservations) and if you pick a park with a playground, there's really no reason to come up with games for the kids to play. The only downside to this is of course, having to pack the car up to bring the presents, food, etc. and having to take it all back.
Keep the themed party decor at a minimum:
Of course anytime you buy branded items, such as themed plates, cups, napkins, and table cloths, it's gonna cost you so much more than if you purchased generic styled decorations and accessories. I used to go for broke by making sure my kid's parties always had everything that came with their selected theme. For my son's 2nd birthday, I spent oogles of money on everything "Atlanta Braves". We had the plates, we had the cups, we had the banners, we had the too sweet, over-priced cake... but since my son is going to play for the Atlanta Braves when he's fresh out of high school (whether he wants to or not) I decided it was okay to splurge for it. But my wallet and bank account despised me for awhile after that soiree. So I decided that I would never buy everything-themed again. Now I will buy the cake and a couple balloons in the theme of my kid's choice and maybe the table cloth, but the rest of the stuff I will buy in corresponding colors. For Savannah's Monster High party, I purchased black and purple paper plates, cups and napkins from the Dollar Tree. I also bought black and purple plastic table cloths from the Dollar Tree to make these really cool ceiling drapes. (See photo below). And instead of buying individual helium-filled latex balloons, I bought a bag of balloons (from SURPISE!... the Dollar Tree), blew them up myself and hung them upside down from different lengths of yarn. It turned out to be very beautiful... and cheap! Check out my Pinterest board for more cheap, DIY decorations:
Instead of serving a big lunch or dinner, just serve finger foods and snackage:
Buying food for a party can get really expensive. Even to this day, I tend to go a little buck-wild in this department. If I buy hot dogs, I end up buying all the condiments (including relish), chili, and every type of hot dog wiener (tehe, I still snicker when I have to say this word) known to man. Always gotta have cheddar and jalapeno filled Johnsonville brats... Then I gotta make sure I have a variety of chips and drinks, and vidalia onions (a must in a Southern girly's kitchen) and potato salad and coleslaw and... see? It get's out of hand and expensive quick. So, to alleviate this issue, I recommend veggie platters, fruit platters, finger sandwiches and crackers with cheese slices. But stay away from the pre-made platters. The convenience will end up costing you a hoard of money. Trust me on this. Buy bagged baby carrots, full stalks of celery, containers of grape tomatoes, cucumbers and bunches of broccoli. Then, cut that up yourself. Yeah, it's a little on the time consuming side but it beats spending 20 bucks on a pre-made platter. Do the same for the fruit and cheese. Your bank account will surely thank you. Also, instead of buying canned soda, buy 2 liters bottles. In generic form. Buying generic soda will save you nearly half of what you would spend for Coca-Cola or Pepsi products. And you don't have to worry about people (kids in particular) opening canned Cokes and only drinking a sip out of them, leaving the rest behind to get flat and fly infested.
Shoot, just make your own games! Even classic games such as musical chairs and pin the tail on whatever you want can be fun and exciting for the younger crowd. If the kids are a little older, you can throw dance contests or scavenger hunts. Get creative! And if you're not that creative of a personality, check out the internet or PINTEREST ( did I tell y'all that this is the best site of all time?) for some cool DIY games. Check out my Pinterest board for some of these cool games, too:
Don't waste your money on cheap toys that will get broke as soon as the kids start playing with them. Just buy one or two huge bags of Kiddie-Mix candy and stuff the bags full of it! You can't go wrong with this. Buy some stickers from your local "just a dollar" store and throw them in there, too. You can pick the bags up from those stores, too. Believe me, kids will be more excited about all that candy than ant cheap ol' toys anyway.
And the piece de resistance (sorry, I don't know how to work the accent marks)... THE CAKE:
If I had to splurge on something, the presents and the cake would be it. But I haven't always had the funds to buy a big, custom made cake. If you don't wanna dish out the big bucks for the cake (and I don't blame you one bit), bake a sheet cake (cake mix and frosting are really cheap), print out or cut out pictures of your kid's theme of choice from a magazine, glue onto some cardboard or poster board and just stick directly into the cake! It looks great! I did this for Hannah's "One Direction" cake. Then I just picked up some writing icing, wrote "Happy Birthday, Hannah" and ta-da! Custom cake without that horrid custom price!
When it comes down to it, your kid doesn't need to have a lot of money spent to make them feel like the most special kid in the world on their special day. As long as they have fun and feel like you have done everything you can to make them have a fantastic day, who needs expensive parties that will be probably be forgotten within days? Honestly, my kids have never said "Hey ma, I had such a great birthday because you spent SOOO much money on it!". No my kids have told me, "I wish my birthday never ended because I had so much fun!" And most of those times, I spent less than 40 bucks on everything, presents included. Kids just want to feel loved. And love is priceless.
I hope you have found my tips helpful! I am definitely an expert on birthday parties considering I've already hosted 30 0f them within the past 11 years! I'd love hear your tips, too!
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