How to Plan a Kids Party Without Breaking the Bank

My family loves to celebrate, and birthdays are the perfect opportunity to have a party. We make an extra big deal about my son’s birthday because it shares the same week as Christmas. The only snag we run into is payrolling the festivities so close to Christmas. Because of this, I have learned to make our small budget stretch by using these few simple tips:

1. Pick a Color Scheme That Lasts

We avoided a character specific theme and established a color scheme that would last for our first few parties. Year one’s theme was “Little Man,” with handmade bowties and fun mustaches. Year two we went with a “Choo! Choo! Look Who’s Two” theme. Both years allowed us to steer toward red, bright green, and royal blue hues as our party colors. That color scheme worked for my husband’s surprise 30th birthday party and easily added some pizzazz to other informal gatherings year round. I hate having three blue plates, four pink plates, half a strand of red streamers and a hodge-podge of mismatched balloons leftover. Now, we do not waste these extras, they just get tucked away for our next shindig.

2. Re-Use Wherever You Can

I recycle decorations for as long as I can get an item to last. A few ceiling hangers (especially for the younger years) arranged differently each year can fill a space and get everyone in the birthday party spirit. We also have a “Happy Birthday” banner I found at the dollar store that can be re-hung each year and makes a great backdrop for the classic blowing out the candles shot. We switch it up by adding in some construction paper cut-outs with the year we are celebrating or adding a sign with our son’s name. The trick here is to remember where you tucked those decorations away for next time—so label that box!

3. Splurge on a Few Big Items Each Year

Adding one or two splurges can keep things varied for each party. Seek out a mylar balloon that your kids can enjoy for a few weeks after the party or splurge on a table centerpiece unique to the event’s theme. We purchased two new trains and set up train tracks on the table for our train party. The trains were a bit more than I would normally spend on a toy, but they doubled as a cute prop and fun extra present for my son—and since he still plays with them today, I know the extra cost was worth it. Just remember to keep the splurges minimal to stay on budget.

4. DIY to Fill in Any Gaps

Printing pictures from the Internet can also make inexpensive decorations. Print some cheap bows yourself for wall decorations for a Minnie Mouse party then splurge on real hair bows for party favors. My sister has a Cricut, so when I pay for decorative paper (usually ten cents a sheet), she can easily and affordably create more decorations for our walls or tabletops. Balloons are fun to chase around and quickly fill up a room with minimal effort on your part and can be sent home with your guests. Coloring sheets and kid crafts also go far to decorate a tabletop. Peruse the Internet if you are stuck for an idea and then think of a way to re-create it for less.

5. Plan a Menu That Will Last

This is a hard and fast rule in our home: we never prepare food in bulk that cannot hit the freezer afterward. I have been preparing bulk foods regularly for years now (because my husband is a youth pastor)—and I hate wasting food. I also cannot stomach baked potatoes for a week straight, so my planning has adjusted. Things like taco meat, pulled pork, or cheesy potatoes freeze really well and can be pulled out a month later, instead of needing to be eaten all at once. Food is one of the biggest costs at a birthday party, so do not throw away good money with food that will go bad before you can eat it. We also only buy food that our family enjoys eating, so resist the urge to make a scene out of broccoli if no one in your house will eat it afterward. Your grocery and party budgets will thank you.

6. Make Your Own Cake or Cupcakes

In a pinch, I have been known to order a grocery store cake, but typically I like to make my own. A box mix and some icing and sprinkles can easily cost less than ten dollars, which is at least half price of a bakery cake. The tutorial below  is how I dress up my affordable cupcakes. I use an extra medicine syringe because they are less messy to refill than a Ziploc bag and I do not have professional icing bags. Last year I printed out the body of a train, syringed white chocolate and added some M&M’s for the train’s wheels. My train loving two-year-old went nuts when he saw his train cupcakes! The trains also hid the fact that I am a terrible cake icer, so the trains were a win-win!

What are your best tips for an affordable kids birthday party? Leave a comment and let me know!