Sign up

Birthdays on a Budget

Birthday parties are a celebration of our children's life. Parties also create memories for our kids and ourselves. However, sometimes parents get carried away with decorations, elaborate cakes and goodie bags. If the party breaks your budget, then it becomes an unnecessary stress for you as the parent. With some planning, you can put on a fun-filled party that easily stays within your budget and everyone will enjoy the day.

 Set a Budget

Magazines and blogs are great resources for birthday party ideas. However, they can look intimidating because everything matches, and it looks expensive. With a little imagination, take a look at the pages for ideas and then create your own version that matches your budget. Kid's parties do not have to be costly. “In our culture, we've become conditioned to equating special occasions with spending a lot of money, but the truth is, the amount we spend has little to do with how much the kids will enjoy,” says Lynn Colwell, coauthor of Celebrate Green.

Idea: For a young child, have a color party where you decorate with only household items that are ‘the’ color. Choose your games, activities and food by the specific color.

Brainstorm Ideas

Talk with your child and ask them what they want to do at their party. Kids have clever ideas so let them help plan. See what you and your child can dream up if you could not spend any money or if you had $10 or $20 for the entire party. You will be surprised with what you can come up with if you think about the many possibilities.

We are so accustomed to buying something we need for the party rather than thinking through what could be used already on hand. “Many parents purchase items but later realize they can go without, so know the return policies of the stores and keep receipts,” says Corey Colwell-Lipson, coauthor of Celebrate Green.

It's also healthy modeling for your child to see you present the challenge of how to have fun on a budget, and come up with ideas instead of just buying the solution. By inviting your child to participate in the planning, it tells them you like their ideas. Your child may want something at their party that fits the budget but they may need to compromise on another item they want.

Idea: PJ party sans the sleepover - All guests can dress in PJs and bring pillows and blankets. The kids can watch an old movie or the latest kid's movie and be served popcorn, candy and cake. Depending on the age of the kids, at 9 or 10pm, the parents can pick up their sleepy heads.

Games and Activities

Kids have the most fun when they are active at a party with games and activities. Colwell-Lipson suggests that parents consider combining party elements for ease and cost purposes. “Activities that double as take-home gifts, food that doubles as decor or activities that double as food will help out the budget,” says Colwell-Lipson.

Cupcakes or plain sugar cookies can be baked before the party, and the party activity can consist of the kids decorating their own cupcake or cookie. Then the guest can take home their creation.

Another idea is for kids to decorate picture frames or paint flower pots. Give your guests recycled materials such as boxes, bags, toilet paper rolls and plastic containers. Have scotch tape, yarn, scissors, string, glue and markers and let them create. Yes, they will make a mess but they will have fun doing it.

No Goodie Bags, Please

In our party culture, we hand out goodie bags that we fill with small candies and junk toys. “Give the guests a good time, not a bunch of junk that will be tossed in the toy box or just tossed,” says Colwell.

Other Ideas

Some families invite entire families over to celebrate their child's birthday. Everybody gets a chance to enjoy themselves because the adults can visit and the kids can go play, too.

Some families start the tradition of having a birthday party for their child every other year. It builds the anticipation for the ‘party year,’ and it helps kids learn appreciation.

Use a homemade piñata and fill it with candy. Have a scavenger hunt.

As a parent, you want your child to have special memories of their birthday. However, kids love to participate in planning their own party and will have more fun without you, as the parent, stressing over it. With simple planning, you will be able to put on a memorable celebration and enjoy the day, too.

Jan, mom of five and freelance writer, admittedly was not good about letting her kids make a mess at parties. But she'll be a ‘messy’ grandma.


Calgary’s Child Magazine © 2021 Calgary’s Child