Save Money on Kids’ Birthday Parties-Learn From My Mistakes

My princess with a "real" princess
My princess with a “real” princess

If you have children, you’d probably say it’s the best thing you’ve ever done. While I totally agree, I also admit that kids are expensive. My lovely, little daughter is turning six today, so in honor of her birthday, I thought I’d share some mistakes I’ve made  tips on how to save money on kids’ birthday parties.

If you have a birthday party for your kiddo before age 4, you’re doing it more for you than for them. They could care less at this point. Our daughter’s first birthday was a big production. We had lots of people over, supplied food and beer (not for the one year olds!), and bought an expensive cake.  A one, two, or three year old does not care if there are 30 people having a dinner party at their house. If you want to have a party for you and your family, that’s fine, but pot luck or hot dogs with a Duncan Hines cake mix works just fine.

When they hit preschool or school age, they WANT to have a party. They start planning months in advance.  How can you plan a birthday party and not break the bank?  

Limit the Number of Invites

There are tons of kids who invite the whole class to birthday parties. Granted, not all of them will show up, but do you really need 20 six year olds at a party? We chose 8 kids to invite, with the hope that 6 will show up. Obviously if you have a big family, you might automatically have more people than this. In that case, I’d maybe select 2-3 good friends to invite along with the relatives.

Don’t Have the Party During a Meal Time

 If you are trying to cut expenses, don’t have the party during lunch or dinner hours. If you have it at an off time, you can get away with cake and ice cream only.

Use the Dollar Store

Party decorations, supplies, and parting gifts are perfect items to buy at the dollar store. Our dollar store also does helium balloons at a fraction of the cost that other stores charge. We’ve ordered online also, but I’m always tempted to throw in extra things like cake toppers or character candles that we really don’t need. Candles last about three seconds. The cheap ones work great.

Make Your Own Cake or Use a Discount Store

You can get really carried away with cakes. We paid $40 to the specialty bakery one year for a Rapunzel cake that looked like a drag queen. If your child isn’t set on a specific character, a homemade cake works great. Mine just has to have a princess cake this year. Since I have limited baking skills, we will get one at Wal Mart, even though I hate Wal Mart as much as Holly does. It will set us back around $15. For me, that is one expense I will splurge on because I actually love birthday cakes with all the lard icing (we won’t talk about where the lard settles).

Avoid Impulse Buys

 I do think you should let your child have his or her special day, but you don’t have to go into debt to buy a birthday present. It can be tempting to feel the need to get them something “really good”. The dumbest present we ever bought was a couple of years ago. It was certainly an impulse buy. We bought a trampoline, mainly so the kids could use it for the party, but we felt it would be a fun thing to have as well.

It was very fun, for the four days we had it. Then, we had 60 mph wind storms that blew our trampoline across three neighbors’ yards, where it came to land after taking out a very expensive vinyl fence. Thankfully, it missed the dwarf goat pen. I would have been beside myself if our wayward trampoline had killed the livestock!

Apparently trampolines need to be anchored down in our area.  It cost us $300 for the trampoline, which was smashed to bits beyond use, and another $360 to fix the fence. The kicker was that we had just stopped using credit cards. We obviously weren’t in the no spend mode yet, but we bought this with a debit card. A credit card would have likely covered a damaged purchase.  Not very good planning on our part. Impulse buys seldom are.

Let Kids Be Kids

Last year, I told our party guests not to bring gifts and instead asked them to have their children make a picture or card for our daughter. While a few were fine with that, other parents thought I had three heads. It is just expected that you bring a cheap toy to kids’ birthday parties. It makes people feel weird if you don’t. I guess I’ll have to accept that, and I’m letting it go this year. If you have a kid of birthday party age, I would recommend stocking up when you find toys on sale like Money Master Mom, Mandy does. Then, you can pull them out without having a last minute shopping trip that could blow your budget.

While the cheapest thing to do would be not to have a party at all, what fun is that? We’ve been planning for a while and aren’t going overboard on drag queen cakes or expensive gifts. That being said, I’m not taking all my advice because we decided to have the party at the bowling alley. It will cost about $80, but all we have to supply is the cake. All in all, it’s much cheaper than birthday parties we’ve had in the past. I hope the error of my ways can help you save some money on your own child’s birthday party.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever seen at a kid’s birthday party?

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Written By
Sydney White is a Texas-born stay at home mom who enjoys spending time with her family, bargain hunting and, of course, writing. She is currently the editor-in-chief of Snipon.com.

45 Comments

  1. This is a great source of tips on how to save money on birthday parties. Kids’ birthday parties can be expensive but if you know where to find the right stuff for the party then you will be able to spend just the right amount that fits your budget. There are things we can buy that will make them happy and their friends as well. We don’t really need to spend too much on food and on the party favors.

    1. We love the dollar store for a number of reasons. It’s a great way to spend a rainy day. Give the kiddo two dollars and let them pick out two things!

  2. When I was little I always had theme parties. I remember wanting a dog themed party once. My mom made everything for the party the cake, the decorations, the food etc.(she was a single mom and on a budget, but super creative). I’ll always remember those parties (and now think of how hard my mom worked to make them fun and memorable).

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