A Great Birthday Party

by Debbie Swanson

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Your child's birthday party is on the horizon. It is an exciting time for a child, but also a time when parents' best intentions to save time and money are often thwarted. These tips will help trim the party cost, while still providing a fun, memorable event for your child.

  • Have it at home. Social pressure drives parents to pay high prices to hold the party at the latest kid hot spot. But the party in your own backyard or family room is often the one your child will remember for years to come. To a child, there is certain magic about peering out the front window, watching your guests arrive.
  • Buy candy post season. Make a habit of checking the stores right after major holidays. Stock up on discounted, non-perishable candy for favor bags or pinatas. Stay clear of seasonal markings. Don't buy chocolate Christmas trees to be used at a spring party. But pink heart lollipops fit nicely into many girl party themes, as do colorfully wrapped chocolates.
  • Pick up paper goods year round. The same idea applies to paper plates, cups, and simple decorations. After Easter, pastel colors are often marked down. Red will be cheaper after Valentine's Day. Seek out solid or otherwise plain items that will blend with the anticipated party theme. Avoid any holiday markings.
  • Buy craft kits in bulk. An age-appropriate craft is a great way to keep a crowd busy, and kids enjoy taking home their creations. Check the Internet for craft companies that sell kits in bulk, or head for a craft superstore. Be sure to assemble a sample with your child prior to the party.
  • Invest in theme-related decorations wisely. Be smart about when to pay more for theme-adorned decorations. Plates, cups or a centerpiece toting the party theme are a fun addition to the table. However, party napkins are so course and rough that most guests never use them. Instead, purchase regular napkins or cocktail napkins in a fun, complimentary color. Streamers are typically hung where guests can't distinguish between those adorned with princesses or brightly colored, gaily hung streamers.
  • Shop smart and alone. Do the bulk of party shopping without your child. Make a list at home, then stop first at a department store or drug store chain. Pick up paper goods, small toys for loot bags, and other staples. Visit specialty stores last for theme-related accessories.
  • Plan time to shop. Notoriously, guests RSVP at the last minute. To avoid dashing around the stores at the eleventh hour, give yourself at least one full weekend between the RSVP date and the party date.
  • Skip the meal. Avoid having your party around mealtime. Most kids are so excited to be at a party that they have little interest in sitting down to eat a meal. Many a parent has generously invested in several pizzas, only to throw away plate after plate of barely nibbled slices. Instead, have snacks available during the party, and cap it off with cake and ice cream.
  • Make your own "pin the tail" game. Adapt the traditional "Pin the Tail on the Donkey" game to your party. For example, if you are hosting a princess party, make "Pin the Crown on Belle." Draw, buy a poster, or print out a large picture of Belle. Cut out paper crowns for each party guest to pin on Belle's head. Adapt this game to almost any party theme, such as pin the hose on the fireman, pin the bone on Clifford, etc. Let your child decorate the pieces.
  • Open the presents! Some parents wait to open gifts after the guests go home. The birthday child is anxious to open gifts, and party guests who helped pick out or wrap the gift would enjoy seeing their friend open it. Opening gifts is an easy way to keep your partygoers occupied and happy for a few brief moments.

Planning ahead and staying within your plan will help keep cost and effort under control. And remember to have fun!

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