Kids’ birthday parties have gotten out of hand. Celebrities began the trend with birthday bashes that outsized Hollywood Movie Premiere. Thanks to the trickle-down theory, private parties for the little people must now have everything from a guest performer to a theme with lots of bells and whistles. Before you rent that bouncy princess castle or buy all-thematic accessories, consider the following nine bargain-basic tips.
1. Plan Ahead
Wait until the last minute and you’ll likely spend more on unanticipated extras. Decide what you want to accomplish, set a budget and slowly chip away at all you need to accomplish. You might also enlist the help of family and friends to keep your stress level down.
2. Limit the Guest List
Does the entire class really need to attend? Invite only your child’s closest friends, but be tactful. Mail or email invites, rather than have your child distribute them in school where everyone can see.
3. DIY Invites
Personalized invites are as close as your computer. Use a special photo or download free birthday clip art to make your own creation or, if you want to go electronic, check out websites like AmericanGreetings.com or the very popular evite.com.
4. Use Discount Gift Cards
Buy discount gift cards from sites like GiftCardGranny.com to pay for all the party supplies. You can use them to buy everything from cake mix to gas for running around town.
5. Dollar Store Decor
Party stores have unholy markups on the simplest supplies. Shop a dollar store for all your basics and save up to 70 percent on everything from balloons to party favors. You’ll also find a decent selection of wrapping paper and reusable gifts, as well as plates and cutlery for the birthday treats.
6. Banish the Bouncy Castle
Don’t spend a fortune on those celebrity-style extras. Instead, hark back to a simpler day by organizing one of these simple games from AmazingMoms.com.
A dancing elephant might be a bit overboard, but bouncy castles, inflatable toys, and face painting are all common forms of birthday party entertainment. Entertainment may be considered part of the package at some venues. If not, there are plenty of local suppliers to give you inspiration.
Feeling crafty? Seek inspiration to find an on-theme DIY activity to save costs in the entertainment department. For example, allow children to make their own goody bags from a collection of chocolates, sweets, and games each child selects for themselves.
Another idea for entertainment at a kid’s birthday party is to plan for unique games, plenty of snacks, and dance-offs, which translate to a birthday worth remembering—and the cost is minimal.
Whatever you decide to do, don’t bankrupt yourself. Run a few ideas past your little one and get an idea of what they want.
7. Take Back the Cake
Kids look forward to the birthday cake, but not because of any icing artistry; they’re just interested in the sugar. Make your own cake or cupcakes, toss on a few sprinkles and add the candles. That should satisfy all but the pickiest child while saving you over 80-percent at the bakery for a custom order. For an added touch of excitement, let the kids play pastry chef with a cupcake decorating activity.
8. Simplify the Food
Kids don’t care about fancy appetizers. They’ll be equally happy with potato nuggets and other finger food. Buy generic — they’ll never know — and use grocery coupons to save a few extra dollars.
If you plan on catering the party yourself, you should be pleased to know that most kids’ birthday party food ideas are easy to make. If the weather is nice, planning a picnic or backyard BBQ will keep costs down and prevent sticky fingers from making a mess in your home.
Remember, kids may not want to stop and eat if they’re having fun! Depending on the age group, you may be stuck with a heap of leftovers if you assume every child will want a full meal.
To avoid wasting food (and money), don’t overdo the food budget. Keep it simple. The kids will be happy and you can apply your savings to other areas.
If you’re renting an event space, make sure you factor their food policies into your plan. Some venues don’t allow you to bring your own food. Some party packages include food or snacks, so find out the details before booking.
9. A Party for Two…or, Three
If your son or daughter shares the same birthday (give or take a few days) with a school friend, neighbor, or relative who is close in age, consider hosting a joint birthday celebration and share the costs with the other child’s parents. Make sure everyone is on the same page though as far as the budget, guest list, and other party expectations to avoid any uncomfortable situations which may arise from a lack of communication.
Andrea Woroch is a consumer and money-saving expert for Kinoli Inc., which operates a group of money-saving brand sites called The Frugals. She is available for in-studio, satellite, or skype interviews and to write guest posts or articles. As a nationally recognized media source, Andrea has been featured on NBC Today Show, FOX & Friends, MSNBC, ShopSmart Magazine, Kiplinger Personal Finance, CNNMoney, and many more.