Party on a Budget (part 1)

coloful balloons in the skyAs my son's second birthday rapidly approaching, I'm sitting here thinking, how can I put this party together without breaking the bank.  So I grabbed my pen and paper and started with a basic list of what I wanted and needed:


Now that was the easy part.  As I'm sure many of you are asking yourselves those very same questions as you start to plan your little ones special day.  I hope these series of ideas will help and always, I would love to hear of any budget-friendly ideas you may have.  email them to or just comment.

List of Budget-Friendly party planning ideas:

First and foremost, keep a planner checklist on hand.  It will help keep you organized and a great to stick to your budget and your to-do list.  Nowadays, there are plenty of apps and free worksheet you can download that will do the task.  Let's take a look at other important aspect of planning a party:

1. Generic is better: 

Themed-parties are great, like Disney Cars, Kung-Fu Panda, Avengers, & Iron man to name a few are great but cost more.  By keeping the theme simple, like color coordinating the decoration will be more cost effective.  However if you are dead-set on theming your party, you can.  Combine the two ideas together.  For example have the smaller cake plates (which cost less than the dinner plates) with your characters and keep the dinner plates and utensils matching colors.  For example, an Avengers party will have the dinner plates red, the cups blue, utensils the two colors, and the cake plate Avengers.  You can incorporate an Avenger Pinata or foil balloon with the theme while keeping the rest of the balloons matching colors.  By all means,go crazy and get lots of balloons, I'll show what you can do with the extra later.  The kids will love it.

2. Time:

Timing is everything, so goes the saying.  The same holds true here.  Have your party time between 1:00 p.m. - 2:00 p.m., after lunch.  Dinner time food is more expensive, wherein you have to provide more than hot dogs and burgers, but a party set between 1:00 - 2:00 is ideal as most of your guest have already eaten and serving a kid-friendly menu will be better.  Try to keep the party to a 2-hour time span.  Anything after that will start to cost.  For one, your guests will get hungrier and more thirsty and you have to provide more of everything.  Two, toddlers worked on a time frames.  And after two hours, you are asking for trouble because they will start to get cranky, which will stress you out, because little Justin wants to take a nap and refuse to walk on his own and want MOMMY only to carry him.

3. Buy Bulk:

I've seen this so many times.  Parents get all these cute little juice box and kid-size drinks only to have them take one sip and leave a full box on a table next to their half eaten hot dog.  A complete waste, instead buy a 2-liter soda or gallon of juice.  One you can control the amount they get and it cost less especially if you stock up at Wal-Mart or BJs.

4. Double the fun:

Two for the price of one.  Maybe a friend or neighbor's kids birthday is coming up too.  You should approach them with a joint party idea and SAVE BIG.  Once you've come to a compromising party idea, split the cost.  It will save both of you lots of money and not to mention the kids will love it.

5. Venue:

Home is where the heart is.  Try hosting the party there, that will save you money.  If you live in an apartment or somewhere you can't host it, look to a neighborhood park.  Most of them are FREE.  You just have to get there early to set up.  Some parks, if you're planning to utilize their pavilion, may ask for a reservation fee, but again try to stay within your neighborhood, because as a resident you may pay less.  Check out the clubhouse in your complex, if you have one.  You may be able to use it for FREE.  I am totally against reserving anything beyond those two ideas for a kid's birthday.  SO NO HALLS, BIG MEETING HALLS, OR ANYTHING CLOSE.  It's a kid's birthday, they need to run off some of the sugar they will be eating.

6. Food:

Again, see # 2 and 3.  To go a little further, you know those fruit platters that the grown-ups love so much, well those are expensive and half of the time they throw in a fruit that no one eats.  So buy your own fruits and cut them up yourself.  You can even add cheese or lunchmeat.  It will cost less than the pre-packaged at the store.  Check out this link for in-season fruits in your area:

There is also nothing wrong with serving pizzas.  Kids love them and for the adults too.  You can still serve a fruit and cheese platter, Caesar salad, maybe some finger sandwiches.  Remember the party is for the kids.  Another idea I came across was a taco bar for the grown-ups, using pitas instead of hard shell, so they wont go stale from being left out too long.  Also enlist the help of family and friends for a special dish.  My mother makes a great rice and peas dish.  I always have her make the rice for my events.  I have another friend who makes a great crab salad.  You can also serve Trail mix as appetizers.  They are great and easy to create.  Again, use your own dry fruits and nuts, pretzels, or anything delicious. 

7. Guests:

I know this will be hard but try to limit the amount of guests.  Your child does not care if there is a 20 people or 100 people as long as they have fun.  The bigger the party, the more you have to spend.

8. Cake:

Skip the specialty store.  Publix have a great cake or bake one yourself.  Compare the price for having a pull-apart cupcake cake versus a sheet of cake.  I love pull apart cakes because I don't have to worry about cutting and standing guard.  Homemade cookies are great, plus as added bonus, the house will smell great if your party is at home.  Use fun shape to bake your cookies.

9. Favor Bags:

I see some people say skip this step but I don't agree.  Favor bags are fun, you just have to be budget conscious.  Buy candies and toys in bulk.  You don't have to fill the bag to the top.  You can even buy extra balloons and add them in the favor bag.  Remember I said earlier get extra balloons.  Well here's what you can do with all those blown up balloons:  Give each kid one to two on their way out.  They will love it and make a lasting impression.

10. Games:

Skip all the expensive party games that you may not even remember to play or have the time for.  Musical chairs are always fun.  All you need is the chair, that you already have there, music, and have your guests ready for some fun.  You can even have two games going on.  One for the little ones and another for the adult, so no one is left out.  Balloon toss are fun too.  Have your guest pick a partner and form two lines facing each other.  They will take turn tossing the water-filled balloon to each other without dropping it, with each round, moving further apart.  Which ever partners are left with their balloon win a small prize. Pin the tail on the Donkey is another fun classic game.  You can even design it yourself.  Get a big-size construction paper and draw a character or anything and have a blind-fold guest try to pin either nose or the sun above the house.  Easy.

11. Entertainment:

Kids love to jump, bounce, and run around.  So having a bounce house or water slide, depending on your region, is always a great idea.  As far as music, a DJ is an added extra, if your budget allows for that.  A well made CD or an Ipod plugged into a speaker will be just fine for the kids.  Besides, they will be too busy bouncing and running around to notice anything different.  

I hope the above list helps.  Again, I will be doing a series on this topic.  Our next post in the series will include some recipes, packages, and decorations inspiration to make your little one's day special and your party budget-friendly.  Comment with any other ideas, I would love to read them and email me some pictures of your budget-friendly events, it will be great inspirations for other readers to try.

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