Great Ways to Save Money on a Kids' Birthday Party

Ideas for hosting great birthday parties that are easy, inexpensive, and fun!

Ways to save money on birthday parties - girls decorating for party
Having kids create and put up their own decorations is a great way to save money on a party. Jamie Grill/Getty Images

Unless you’re a professional party planner, you probably face the prospect of organizing your kids' birthday parties with a groan and a sigh. Where will the party take place? How many children should you invite? What will be the entertainment? And most of all, how much will it all cost?

The fact is, many great kids' birthday parties don't require a lot of fanfare or expense. Some of the best kids' birthday parties my son and I have attended were simple, DIY celebrations.

The trick is to think about the activities your child likes to do and then try to come up with birthday party ideas that can incorporate his interest. Here are some great ideas for how to save money when you're planning a kids' birthday party on a budget:

1. Have a separate celebration at school. Ask your child’s teacher if you can bake some cupcakes and bring them to school. That way, you can avoid having to host a large, expensive party at home.

2. Invite a few friends. If your child wants to have a few close pals over for some celebrating in addition to (or instead of) a classroom celebration, arrange a small play date/mini party. Ask him to limit the number of kids to a small group—say 4 or 5 friends—and take everyone out to a movie and pizza.

3. Design and create your own birthday invitations for the party. Making a personalized birthday invitation is a fun opportunity for your child to express her creativity and is a great way to save money.

4. Make your own decorations. There's nothing as wonderful as kids' art to use as decoration at birthday parties. Help your child cut some construction paper into interesting shapes. Get some glitter and glue and make drawings to post around to accent crepe paper and balloons. Make origami cranes and flowers out of colorful paper (it’s not as hard as it looks!) And follow my easy step-by-step instructions to create easy and gorgeous DIY paper starbursts with kids.

Kids love to create things and hang up their work--take advantage of this, and let them be proud of how much they can contribute to their own party!

5. Make your own fun. Put on some music and have a freeze-dance or limbo contest in the living room. If the weather’s nice, set up a badminton net in the backyard or have an obstacle-course party. One mom and dad I know organized a museum scavenger hunt for their 7-year-old and his friends. Another couple hosted a cardboard house building contest in their back yard.

6. Get creative with food. Sure, there's the old standard birthday party food—pizza. But if you wanna offer some other choices without spending a lot, consider cutting turkey and cheese sandwiches into fun shapes with cookie cutters. You can also set up a cookie-decorating station. And some yummy and healthy snacks, like healthy after-school snacks, are a must.

7. Pick a fun DIY kids' birthday party theme. You and your child can decide on a fun idea for a party and do it for cheap at home.

Whether you decide to host a kids' party at home with fun games, take the kids outside for some outdoor party games, or set up some crafts for a fun kids' crafts party, choosing a favorite kids' party theme and making it a DIY affair at home or the park can make it much easier on your party budget.

Another helpful tip for a successful kids' birthday party: If you’re planning a celebration around an activity in your house, such as a treasure hunt or movie, be sure to have something else ready to go. Grade-schoolers' attention spans usually won't last through a 90-minute movie. If they finish an activity or get bored, you will definitely want to have another activity ready or you'll run the risk of having kids run amok through your house, chasing each other and wreaking general mayhem (unless that's okay by you, in which case, let 'em loose!).

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