Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Guest Post: 10 Tips For Planning A Kid’s Birthday Party on a Budget

Thanks to Laura for writing this great guest post for me! I'm starting to plan my daughters' birthday parties, so I'll be using a bunch of these tips in the upcoming weeks! Also be sure to check out the amazing Lightning McQueen cake that Laura ended up making for her son's party!

I have been planning my son’s 3rd birthday party and thought I would share some ideas on saving money for a child’s birthday party.

1. Plan Ahead of Time
Don’t wait until the last minute (I can sometimes be guilty of this!). You want a couple of months to scope out the clearance and discount aisles at party discount stores, Target, Walmart, as well as the Internet to see if there are party items and décor that you can use that are a great deal.

2. Pick a Theme or a Non-Theme
If your kid is like mine, he/she has a number of favorite toys. Choose a birthday party theme based on: what your kid likes and has expressed a desire for a certain theme party, AND what discounted party items you can find at the stores or online ahead of time. (For example I saw a ton of “Bob the Builder” and “High School Musical” plates, invitations and party accessories in the clearance aisle recently at a local discount party store that were marked down about 30-50% off regular retail). OR another option is: don’t choose a theme and just make it a plain old 3rd (or whatever age your child is turning) birthday party.

3. Clip and Save Those Coupons
I often received the mailers from ValPak and SuperCoups that hold party store coupons for $5 off a $25 purchase and $2 off a $10 purchase, as well as big discounts on balloons. Save those and use them. Also, I’ve noticed quite a few Hefty and Dixie coupons in the Smart Source and Red Plum inserts. Use those coupons during a grocery store’s double or triple coupon promotion to stock up on plates and cups.

4. Go Generic When Possible
Instead of buying every single item to correspond with your theme (ie. Table cloth, banners, balloons, plates, napkins, streamers, party favors, games, etc. all with your kid’s favorite cartoon/tv character) try to just purchase a few items with your specific theme character and focus on the supporting colors or related “generic” themes (ie. generic dump trucks and construction decorations for “Bob the Builder”) for the majority of the décor.

5. Check Out Your Dollar Store
Your local dollar store may have a selection of helium balloons that work with your theme or party colors. Scope it out ahead of time and plan to order and pick up the day of the party. $1.00 for a mylar balloon versus $3.99 at some stores is a huge savings!

6. Make Your Own Cake
Bake and decorate your own cake to save at least $10-$20. Or if you have a friend who decorates cakes, ask if she’d be willing to make one for you, barter her cake for something you do well, or if she will assist you in making a cake for your kid’s special day!

7. Send an E-vite and Hand-Deliver Actual Invitations
Save money on stamps! Send an electronic invitation via email to let the parents know the date and time so they can mark the event on their calendars. Since most of us are checking our email more frequently than our “snail mail” it is a great way to let them know quickly and give them the option of RSVP’ing online. I also recommend actual, hard copy invitations, because not everyone opens every email they receive in their inbox whether from forgetfulness or skepticism on the nature/sender of the email. For actual invitations, try to hand-deliver when you see the parents dropping off their kids at school or when you’re at church or another gathering. Only mail out invitations to those you know you won’t run into or see.

8. Plan the Food and Refreshments Based on Sales and Items Made from Scratch
If you’re planning on serving dinner, consider making something from scratch (pizza!) or grilling hamburgers or hotdogs and matching up coupons and grocery store sales for the best bang for your buck.

9. Keep Birthday Banners and Party Streamers Each Year and Reuse for Decorations
I keep and reuse all my party streamers and signs for future parties. I try to be careful when taking down decorations, so as not to rip them and keep them in good condition for future use.

10. Use your kid’s own toys as decorations for the party (particularly if they fit the theme!)
Make a centerpiece from your son’s railroad tracks and train set, or a big stuffed toy, or top your kid’s cake with toy figurines and use that as the centerpiece.

Do you have any other great frugal tips for planning a birthday (or other type of) party? Please leave a comment and let me know!
Laura is a native Northern Virginian, blessed wife to her best friend Patrick, and full-time SAHM. She was first turned on to frugal living by her parents who took her to garage sales, consignment sales, and pawn shops growing up. Laura is a relatively new "frugal blogger" and chronicles her findings and attempts at frugal living at She also contributes to her husband's business blog at

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