Creative and cheap birthday party ideas

Blow Out the Candles, Not Your Budget!

by Kimberly Danger

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Children's birthday parties are a big deal. Anyone with a kid under age ten knows that they're anticipated as much as Christmas. What theme to choose? What games to play? What birthday supplies to bring? Who to invite? These are the big questions that kids begin to ponder months in advance.

With birthday parties even bigger and more expensive today than ever before, a frugal mom may feel defeated before she even puts her guest list together. However, the real focus of your child's party should be spending time and having fun with friends and family, which doesn't have to cost a lot. Here are some suggestions to keep the budget down, while turning up the fun.

Keep the Guest List Small

Don't feel guilty about limiting the size of the party. Experts recommend that the number of kids on your guest list should match your child's age. Your child will have just as much fun with a few close friends to help him celebrate, and no one will be overwhelmed.

Compare Costs of Locations

In most cases, the most economical place to hold your party will be your home. However, some places like gymnastics schools, museums, bowling alleys, and pizza restaurants offer birthday packages that are worth considering. Be sure to ask what their price includes. Most don't include decorations or party favors, so you'll have to add that when figuring your cost. Other ideas include a fire station tour, visiting a pet store or animal shelter, or a simple visit to the park.

Don't Do Go Overboard on Themed Merchandise

Barbie or Spiderman may be your theme, but that doesn't mean you have to buy the plates, napkins, and invitations to match. Buying all the stuff on the party aisle can kill your budget. Instead, look for a few choice items with your child's theme, and fill in the rest with matching colors. For my son's recent Thomas the Tank engine party, we bought one simple Mylar balloon (these are often available at your Dollar Store) and filled in with coordinating plain red and blue napkins, balloons, cups, etc.

Make it a Cake-Only Party

Planning your party after mealtime serves two purposes; kids aren't going to be hungry (translation: cranky), and you won't have to incur the cost of a meal. Instead, focus on the cake and ice cream. Making your own cake will save even more. There are some great websites with instructions on simple cake-making for every theme imaginable. If you're not all that creative, a simple sheet cake can be made to look "professional" with some sugar sprinkles (great for covering up a bad frosting job) and some small toys or inexpensive objects (matchbox cars, silk flowers, dollar store trinkets) that serve as cake toppers.


Homemade invitations add a personal touch and can be a special keepsake for your child. For themed parties, look for coloring pages on the Internet that can be scaled to fit an invitation, cut them out and have your child color them. A simple photo of the birthday child dressed to fit your theme or holding a sign that says "Come to My Party" can be a fun way to get the word out.

Looking for discounted party supplies? Check out Shindigz discounted and clearance items with party supply savings up to 85%.

Make-and-Take Party Favors

Simple craft activities can keep your guests entertained, and provide them with a nice keepsake to take home at the end of the party. For loot bags, buy plain lunch sacks and have guests decorate them with stickers and markers while waiting for others to arrive. Piñatas can be easily made with balloons and paper mache. Other fun activities include decorating a terra cotta pot, a craft foam picture frame, beading a bracelet, etc.

Kimberly Danger is the owner/publisher of, an online resource for parents interested in saving time and money. Portions of this article are excerpted from her book 1000 Best Baby Bargains, available online at Ms. Danger lives in Southern Minnesota with her husband and two kids.

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