The cost of party favors can really add up. I've heard stories about over-the-top favors people send home with their guests, such as the Coach purses rumored to be given out at one New York City bat mitzvah. The New York Times referred to such practices as party peer pressure, but you can avoid overspending while still offering guests a great gift.
Favors That Work Overtime
One way to save money at parties for young children is to make the favor do double duty.
If you choose wisely, favors can also serve as a decoration, activity or both. Some ideas include:
- Bouncy balls—you know, the big ones displayed in cages at discount stores—buy enough so you have at least one for each guest, then scatter them about your lawn before a child’s birthday party. The balls make for festive décor, and then each guest gets to take one home.
- For a cowboy- or cowgirl-themed party, purchase a package of bandannas or plastic cowboy hats (you can usually get them by the dozen from party suppliers) for kids to wear during the party. They are fun for role-playing, and also make great props for a photo booth. When the party is over, guests get to wear them home as their parting gifts.
- Another fun party favor for a western or horse-themed party, are these sock hobby horses. They take some time to make but come in at less than five bucks a piece. You can even assemble the sock stick horses and have kids add the faces and manes as a party activity.
- For an art-themed party, have the children draw pictures at the start of the event. During gift opening and cake cutting, ask a helper to place each child’s masterpiece in an inexpensive frame and then present the artwork to guests just before they leave.
- Choose a party theme where the guests will make their own favors. For instance, a tie-dyeing party sends kids home with whatever garment they dyed at the event.
Here are some more ideas for inexpensive favors:
- Bake cookies or other treats and package them in cellophane baggies tied with ribbon.
- Burn a CD of the guest of honor’s favorite songs.
- Give a packet of seeds decorated with ribbon.
- Give handmade soap.
- Collect gently-used secondhand books throughout the year and give them as favors. Garage sales often offer the best deals.
- Candid shots or photo booth poses of the kids enjoying themselves make nice favors when printed during the party, framed and handed out to guests as they leave.
The best way to save money on favors is to plan them well ahead of the party. Doing so gives you time to shop around for the best deals and time to be creative if you opt to make the favors yourself.
If you have a green thumb, for example, you could plant herbs in inexpensive terra cotta pots and use them to decorate the tables at a garden-themed birthday, a bat mitzvah or a graduation party. Then—again—send each guest home with an herb pot at the party’s end.
That’s the kind of favor that works if you’re thinking ahead, but all the grow lights in the world won’t make those seeds sprout if you’re scrambling for an idea the day before the party.