You want to throw your child an awesome party without breaking the bank? Here are tips for sticking to a budget.
Timing is everything
Plan your party from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., says Danielle Walker, author of Against All Grain: Celebrations. After lunch and before dinner is the best time to party, when guests don’t expect a full meal.
Stretch your planning
Start supply-hunting early; it’ll give you time to compare shops. Plus, you’ll save yourself from running out at the last minute to buy overpriced things you’ve forgotten.
In a Parents survey of nearly 1,500 parents, 73 per cent said they sent paper invitations for their kid’s last birthday party. Next time, send your guests a free electronic invitation; you’ll save what you’d normally spend on paper invites.
If your kid’s birthday falls close to a buddy’s, consider a dual party. You and the other child’s parents will split the cost—and responsibilities. Just make sure each kid gets her own cake.
Avoid party-store traps
Don’t pay a markup for party-store items that you could find elsewhere for less.
Tap your network
For entertainment, think about your personal connections and community resources, suggest Steve and Annette Economides, of MoneySmartFamily.com. For example, the couple once asked a friend who is a police officer to come to one of their son’s parties in uniform; likewise, their local college has bowling lanes where rounds were less than half the price of the commercial bowling alley.
When kids are still little, consider skipping a traditional birthday party altogether, suggests Simple Matters author Erin Boyle. “My husband and I celebrated our daughter’s first birthday with a picnic.”
Make themed favours
Try a personalised craft activity; it eliminates the need for hired entertainment and takes the place of a costly goody bag. “I type ‘blank’ or ‘DIY’ on party-supply sites, to see what comes up,” says Jodi Levine, of SuperMakeIt.com, who suggests you pick something related to your theme—whether it’s plain tote bags or white umbrellas.
Prices aren’t always better if you shop online, but hitting the Web for your favors and decorations may help you avoid impulse purchases. Here are a few of our favorite sites for discount party supplies:
amazon.com; birthdayexpress.com; bulktoystore.com; dollartree.com’ orientaltrading.com; papermart.com; partypalooza.com and save-on-crafts.com
Make a semi-homemade cake
Karen Tack, coauthor of Cake My Day!, suggests baking an inexpensive box mix, but substituting buttermilk for the water for a firmer, less-sweet cake. Then frost the cake with a homemade buttercream, combining milk, unsalted butter, vanilla, and confectioners’ sugar (many boxes of the sugar have the recipe).
Dress up humble supplies
Use what you have on hand to make plain party supplies feel special, as they typically cost half as much as decorated supplies. For example, use a hole-puncher to jazz up paper plates and napkins (punch holes around the outer edge of each plate and one corner of each napkin to create a design) and binder- and dot-stickers to decorate plain balloons. Buy a few key items to establish the theme, like a special foil balloon, and stick to affordable basics for everything else.
Price out the party places
Not up for hosting at your casa? It may be more cost- and time-effective to let a venue do the work.
Elevate the everyday
Take advantage of kids’ vivid imagination, suggest Steve and Annette Economides, who say one of their most successful party games was a treasure hunt for “gold” (spray-painted rocks) that the kids took home as favors.
Embrace no-cost activities
Instead of hired entertainment, be prepared with a few free activities like these classic games you can play for next to nothing: Freeze Dance; Keep-Up-the-Balloon; Musical Chairs; Hot Potato; Charades;
Red Rover; Three-Legged Race; Duck, Duck, Goose; Button, button, who’s got the button?
Utilize your library
For a free activity, borrow books, videos, and DVDs from the library that correspond to your party’s theme. Storytime is an especially good way to calm preschoolers down after physically active games.