Most people spend around $200 for kids’ birthday parties, but is that necessary? Here’s how to have a cheap birthday party your kids will love for just $20!
Cheap Kids Birthday Party Ideas
Corlin writes: I have a daughter who is turning 5 this month and I usually spend too much on the whole thing. Do you have any suggestions on how to cut the cost? We are having the birthday party at home this year. I plan to make cheese and crackers and veggie and fruit platters. Any other short cuts?
Tawra: We keep our kids’ birthday parties simple. We usually only provide cake and ice cream for food and Kool-aid for drinks. We also limit the number of kids to between 5-7 friends if a lot of family will be there so we don’t have more than 15 people with family. We didn’t have parties with friends from school until our son turned eight and our daughter turned seven. Prior to that, we only had family parties.
It is helpful if there are several adults present to make sure everything goes smoothly. We usually have one adult working on cake, another re-filling punch and possibly another just making sure the kids are doing well.
Check out our video about cheap kids’ birthday parties and how we had several $20 kids’ birthday parties!
Here are some details of our first two kids’ birthday parties with their school friends:
BJ’s first birthday party with his school friends.
This was the first party I’ve thrown for one of the kids. It ended up being really nice and I learned some things too!
First, we sent out invitations but no one called. I had to call everyone and they all said they were coming. I’m glad I called because I would have expected no one to show up!
One kid brought his sibling (The mom didn’t tell me she planned to bring him). I now know to buy extra party favors. Mike asked me if I had prepared for a few extra kids and I said no because I didn’t think everyone would show up. Sometimes you have to improvise. We ended up telling our kids and my niece and nephew that we would give them something else later.
For party favors I bought some bags of fall Hershey’s kisses on clearance for $1.30 each. We had a treasure hunt and the bags of kisses were sitting in a basket at the end of the treasure hunt trail. (If you live in a hot climate like we do, this is not the time of the year for chocolate waiting for kids to find it outside!)
About the treasure hunt: We made ten clues that sent them running all over the place. We have a half acre yard and we sent them from the back of the lot over to the neighbor’s house two houses away, about a half block back and forth. That was way too much. We made 10 clues and they were completely worn out from running so much. Some had to sit down and rest before they were done. Next time I will make 10 clues, but have them clustered closer together so that they follow clues between the front and back yard only. Even though they were tired, they still loved it!
We made a pin the tail on the Furby game and played “Furby Says” (“Simon Says” with a Furby theme ;-). I drew a Furby and painted it on brown paper that I had. Then we cut out tails out of white paper and put the kid’s names on them. They enjoyed it too.
It’s funny, because even though the kids liked the games, they would have much rather just played on our swing set (which cost us $20) and our tire swing (free). The kids were actually more excited about playing together in the yard than they were about playing structured games.
The kids had just as much fun at our homespun party as they had at other kids’ birthday parties where parents rented gymnastics clubs, paid for swimming at the YMCA or took the kids to some other costly venue. I was excited that I didn’t have to spend a lot of money for the kids to have a good time. Since I hadn’t ever done this before, I was wondering if some would complain that it was “boring” just playing in our backyard, but they still remember that party fondly today.
For party decorations, I used crepe paper that I found at a garage sale for .25. I bought balloons, napkins, plates and cups for $1 each at a dollar store.
We covered the table with brown paper (we’ve had a huge roll of it for years) and lined the Furbies down the middle.
I made the Furby Birthday Cake myself by making a 9×13 cake and putting one of BJ’s Furby toys in the middle. Then I just piped on a purple border using a decorating bag and that was it! The cake cost $1.25.
I was able to do the entire kids birthday party for:
$14.30 party favors
$4.25 for decorations and invitations
$1.25 for the cake
.40 for Kool-aid Total = $20.20
I was trying to keep the party cost under $25 so I was excited that it cost even less than that!
Everyone had a blast and it was easy clean up. It was 70° outside so we were able to have the party on the deck (God was showing favor on me! :-) so I didn’t even have to vacuum!
Elly’s first big birthday party.
We decided to have a big party for Elly and 13 kids from school came over. It worked out great.
First God was good and it was 55° outside (Her birthday is in January and we live in Kansas.) so they could go out and play on the swing set and tire swing while everyone was coming. We were also able to play our games outside. (No, 55 degrees isn’t even close to being normal for January in Kansas!)
Elly wanted a penguin party. For decorations, I put a dark blue piece of material I had on the table. I used regular white paper plates and napkins and then purchased some white disposable cups for $2. We put her white Christmas tree with penguin ornaments for the centerpiece and her set her stuffed penguins out around it.
We decorated the room with streamers. We purchased them from a garage sale for .25. Mom found a 36″ hanging penguin on clearance for .50 after Christmas and we hung that down from the center of the ceiling fan with some balloons ($2).
For games, we planned a race where the kids carried baby stuffed animals between their legs, like penguins do, across the yard to see who would get to the finish line first. We also did a treasure hunt. The treasure was a bag of assorted candy for each child that we bagged using after Christmas clearance candy. (About $2) We set them all over the front yard for the end of the treasure hunt. (Yes, we learned not to send them to the next state for the treasure hunt this time! ;-)
I made the penguin cake, which took a long time, but it did turn out cute. I burned the first cake so the total cost was about $2 for the cakes. :-)
I had a Victorian dollhouse that I started putting together when I was 18 years old. I never did get it all done. Well, Elly has wanted that thing for years, so I spent two weeks during David’s naps fixing it up. It really needed a lot of work, but it turned out cute and she loved it!
The birthday party turned out really nice.
Here are the clues for the treasure hunt in case you are planning your own sometime and need ideas. No, they don’t all rhyme. I was going brain dead by the time I did them. ;-)
I think all together we spent about $20 for everything for her party and gifts.
As you can probably see, if you put a little imagination into your parties, you can give your kids great parties without a lot of cost. Generally, kids will appreciate these parties just as much as expensive hosted parties.
I just wanted to say that growing up my mother always had house parties since that is all we could afford. All of my friends would have parties at fast food places or rollerskating so I begged my mother. When I was 11, my mother saved up forever to let me have my party at the skating rink. I had to pair down on the number of kids that I normally had because it cost so much and a couple of days before my party, I got poisen ivy on my ankles and couldn’t roller skate at my own party. I had a horrible time and was happy to go back to my home parties after that.
For the most part, we have all three of my kids parties at home too. We have had a few out because we were moving or because they just wanted to try it and at that time, we could afford it. They will all agree (ages 4,12 & 15) that house parties are the best. I guess it helps that I really get into their parties and put a ton of thought into each and everyone.
This year we are having a construction party for my 4 year old. I bought the hard hats from Oriental Trading for 5.99/dozen and bubblewands in the shape of tools also from Oriental Trading for 5.99/dozen. I am making the cake and I had a coloring book with construction trucks that I have used in many ways. I copied (at work…free) some of the small trucks, cut them out and wrote “Thank you” on then to attach to the tools for a special added touch. I also copied (free again) more trucks for them to color at the party and to make personalized placemats for the kids. I plan on having a table set up with the coloring pages and crayons, using my son’s truck that we already have to hold the crayons. Don’t know what my total will be for this party but it isn’t going to cost too much as you can tell.
Just like you, when I was a kid, we didn’t serve “real food” at my birthday parties, or hold them at expensive facilities. My parties were held at home, and we just had homemade cake, ice cream, and punch. We played a few simple games (with some small token prizes), opened gifts and ate cake! I never missed the goodie bags, the clowns and pony rides, the huge decorations, or going to McDonalds or Chuck-E-Cheese. We had fun, which is the point anyway, isn’t it? I think parents should think back to their own childhood parties and remember what really mattered, and scale back to the basics.
We had our son’s Cub Scout pack over one Saturday. After lunch, the kids had the most fun just running around in the yard and also getting firewood from our shed and dropping it down the chute into the woodbox in the basement. The first snowstorm of the winter was just a few days later and we were thrilled to have a full woodbox!
Our parties are quite simple. Some have been house parties, but most are either at the park or at my son’s house with the pool. We make different party favors: cloth bags, “All About Me” books printed off my laser printer, some craft that they make and so on… The cake is home made, lemonade is inexpensive and maybe ice cream. Chips and salsa.
We invite families. Then I’m not babysitting and I have friends too!
My children are in charge of the activities. Like you said, sometimes free play is best! But it’s good to have a plan in case that doesn’t go over do well. My teens like to plan games and I like to plan crafts.
Clean up at the park is easy!
With eight children and seven grandchildren all close by, we have at least one party a month! Two of my grandsons even share a birthday! Four years apart and right before my son’s birthday.
Lots of fun!
I know of someone who gave her three-year-old daughter a birthday party and had thirty three-year-olds at that party! Can you imagine? I can’t imagine where she found that many children of that age unless it was from a pre-school group. The mother went all out with a very expensive birthday cake -very expensive – and all kinds of entertainment. The birthday girl “didn’t like her cake,” and she was so cranky from too doggone much excitement and too many kids and gifts. It made me wonder what kind of birthday parties will be given to that child as she ages. By the time she is sixteen, there will be no surprises left! The simple at-home parties with just family or a couple of friends have to be the best. Thanks so much for showing some sense about this issue.
We had small family birthday parties when I grew up. Being a shy child, I would have been anxious and over stimulated with just the idea of having a large friend party. My mother made cupcakes for me to take to school for the entire classroom of children -that way no one was excluded from a party.
Fast forward to my children’s birthdays and I did the same thing for them. Cupcakes for school. Party for family. I inherited a punch bowl and would freeze layers of koollaid and orange juice in a tube pan with chunks of fruit tossed in and float it in the punch bowl. It looked so festive and my kids enjoyed serving cups of punch to their grandparents etc.. Colorful balloon bunches from a dollar bag. I also made a bouquet of tissue paper flowers for a centerpiece. (Carefully stored and hauled out for many parties.) I have wonderful memories of my childhood birthdays and I hope that I gave my kids happy memories.
We always try and use what we have first before buying more supplies. My grandson wanted a zombie party so we used the Halloween decorations. My grandaughter wants a woodland theme so we r taking out the Christmas trees and the stuffed animals for decorations. We will also used the lightup reindeer. Why not? We make the cake and serve punch and thats it. Its fun and the kiddos have alot of gifts from family members. They enjoy the day and have lots of fun
What do you suggest for a child turning 3 and who has a birthday in July? Keep in mind I live in south Texas where it is very hot in the summer. I rather not have the kids inside though because too many people inside the house my house gets too hot! I was thinking beach theme party?
So do you not have food at your parties? Just cake and punch? I’ve never heard of someone doing that and am curious how that works out?
Actually Morgan up until a few years ago you normally had only cake, ice cream and punch at children’s birthday parties. If family members (adults) came too then you would maybe have a barbecue or something just because it was more of a family get together but if you had it not around a meal time you just had the cake.
How does it work? The kids love it. We usually had it at a park or in a large back yard and the kids got to run and play and have tons of fun doing it. We would have a few games with prizes, a treasure hunt (where everyone found a treasure like a small sack of candy or inexpensive toy). If it was a treasure hunt and summer sometimes everyone would get a little squirt gun and they would love having a water fight with it. In the winter it was fun indoor games like bingo or something where they got prizes. Keep these fast and short though because kids have a very short attention span.
Oddly enough every time my daughter has a party like this the parents say their kids had more fun than any other party they have been too. They get tired of the same old same old let’s have a party at the pizza place. My daughter’s parties were always so different than what they are use too they loved them.
Kids aren’t that interested in the food (except the cake and ice cream of course). It is like what happens at school lunches – half the time kids don’t eat them because they would rather be out playing than inside eating. It is the adults who started the idea of let’s see who can out do each other by giving the biggest and most impressive party we can. Kids like it simple but lots of fun and fun does not always mean a ton of food or fancy places.