Birthday Parties on a Budget


As a parent to three young children, I’ve planned and thrown my share of birthday parties (11 and counting!) I fall squarely into the camp of “it’s ridiculous to spend $300+ on a kids’ birthday party,” so most of our parties have been on the cheap. I see you, mamas, who want to make the occasion special without breaking the budget. As you begin to plan your child’s next party, think about each of the major components and figure out where you can get the most bang for your buck!


Obviously, it costs $$$ to reserve party rooms and pavilions. The home party is a no-brainer, as it doesn’t cost you anything to use your own space! If it’s seasonally appropriate, head outside, and all you need to do is make sure you’ve mowed the lawn and have enough lawn chairs (you can always ask guests to bring extras). If outdoors isn’t an option, a large family/dining/play room works just fine. But, don’t drive yourself crazy cleaning and polishing beforehand (because you’re just going to have to sweep and mop up crumbs and spills anyway). If your place isn’t well-suited to host, then take advantage of a free local attraction (common areas of most public parks, splash pads, and even the Zoo!)


While most kids will entertain themselves if left to their own devices, it helps structure the party to have at least one (semi) organized activity. With face-painters and balloon-artists costing upwards of $100, save money by using what you’ve got on hand already. Host a movie screening, put together an easy craft (that can double as a party favor), or simply play outdoor games like tag and simon says. Sometimes all it takes is a swing set and a kickball to keep them entertained for an hour.


If you want to plan a party that involves a meal, ordering one-topping pizzas or a giant sub sandwich feeds a crowd of 30 for $50 or less. You can also get around having to feed a crowd by planning parties for off-meal times like mid-morning or late afternoon. Shopping at Sam’s, Costco, or Aldi can also save you money on bulk purchases of paper good, juice boxes, snacks, etc. If you’ve got the time, make and decorate your own birthday cake/cupcakes and you’d be surprised how much money you save on that generic sheet cake (YouTube videos and Pinterest boards offer helpful inspiration and how-to’s).

Party Favors/Other extras

This may be the easiest area to slash costs, because party favors are not required for any party (you heard me right!) If you’d like to send your little guests home with something, hit your local dollar store for tons of options. I also like to browse the dollar spot at Target for fun seasonal options (am I the only one who thinks they should rename it the 3-5 dollar spot?!)

Guest list (less people = less $)

Finally, just as you likely learned if you’ve planned a wedding, the bigger your guest list, the bigger your overall cost will be. The quickest and easiest way to keep your budget down is to limit your guest list. Decide whether it’s going to be a family-only party, just the classmates from school, or let your child choose a handful of close friends.

The most memorable birthday party that I’ve thrown to date was my eldest son’s second birthday at the Zoo. Rather than booking one of their packages, we created our own. We had our guests meet us at one of the cafes, where we brought in cake donuts and purchased hot chocolate. Because the weather wasn’t 100% ideal that day, we virtually had the entire place to ourselves (the sea lion trainers even had the sea lions ‘perform’ Happy Birthday during the regular feeding time!) While it may take a little more effort and creativity, planning and hosting your own birthday parties can save you some serious cash and create some really fun memories.