Inexpensive Birthday Party Ideas for Kids

A picture of balloons and a gift
Photo © foobean01 / stock.xchng

Throwing a birthday party for a young child seems like a competition between parents these days. But it shouldn't have to be that way. Not every parent, or kid, wants a birthday party with a limo, Ferris wheel, or live boy band. Be brave and throw your child a cheap, but quality birthday party without the bling.

Keep the Guest List Short

Though you and your child would love to invite everyone from school to soccer, a mushrooming invitation list can quickly turn an inexpensive party into an overpriced extravaganza. Cut your guest list and cut your costs. A smaller list also means your child can spend quality time and bond with their guests.

Choose a Theme

Choosing a party theme won't break the budget when it's done the right way. Even if your child wants the theme to be all about the latest, greatest movie character, you don't have to fall into the trap of buying premium goods to create the look. Chances are the other guests have already seen all the pre-made themed items. Though it's easier and convenient to buy pre-packaged themed goods, instead go for creativity. For example, if your child wants a Frozen-themed birthday party, make snowman-themed cupcakes and have photo opportunities with your child's favorite Olaf stuffed animal.

Send Digital Invitations

It's okay to ditch paper invitations for free digital versions. You can still personalize digital invites for pennies compared to customized print invites. Plus, you're eliminating pricey postage. Search online for easy-to-use templates that you can download and print out for delivery. Or go the popular, and free route of, the site that handles invites, RSVPs, and headcounts from soup to nuts.

Find a Free Venue

You want your child's party to be special. Make the party memorable even if you have it in your own home. All you need to do is be creative. Make it more fun than having it at an indoor playground or restaurant. Those commercial venues can set you back a pretty penny just to have a short party. Some of the most budget-friendly venues for birthday parties include parks, playgrounds, beaches, and of course, your own backyard. That way you can set up your own treasure hunts, indoor, and outdoor games without time limitations.

Save on Goody Bags

Kids have come to expect a goody bag handed to them at the end of every party. The cost of all those bags and favors add up quickly. Party bags tend to be filled up with useless items that are thrown away, break, or are forgotten. To handle the goody bag dilemma, you have several options:

  • Add a line on the invitation that says "no gifts, please," and you won't feel obligated to spend money on goody bags.
  • Plan a craft activity so that each guest takes home their item as their goody.
  • Wrap small items related to the party's theme, put them in a bowl or bag, and have each child close their eyes and choose a parting gift to take home.
  • If you have a treasure hunt theme, whatever treasure a guest finds he or she gets to take home as a parting gift.
  • Give out token "prizes" during various guessing games and competitions, but make sure you plan it so each child gets one item to take home.

Make Party Decorations

Make your party prep fun. From hats to decorations, you'll save a lot of loot. Other kids don't care if the party is picture-perfect. All they care about is whether they have fun and have goodies to eat.

  • Sew up a quick festive tablecloth.
  • Buy plain balloons and decorate them using craft paint and stencils.
  • Make your own papier-mache pinata.
  • Create a table centerpiece that fits in with the theme.

Skip Themed Paper Plates

It can be tough to resist those cute party supplies plastered with your child's favorite character. But, that luxury will cost you. A large package of pretty solid-color plates, napkins, and cups will cost a fraction of a skimpy package of plates, napkins, and cups embellished with a licensed character. No one will notice, especially when plates are loaded with cake and smeared with icing, napkins are crumpled on the floor, and cups are filled with drinks.

Bake a Cake from Scratch

A birthday cake from the bakery is expensive. You can make a cake or cupcakes for a sliver of the cost. Get some creative ideas by looking at photos of birthday cakes and cupcakes others have made for home-based parties. Visit a craft store and head to the cake- and candy-making section where you'll find several affordable molds, icings, and decorations. Or create a chocolate-themed birthday party that kids and adults alike will love. Decorate the party treats together with your child for more memories.

Create Your Own Thank You Cards

It's always in the best taste to mail a thank you card rather than email one. Create thank you cards that match your child's party invites. Sending them by snail mail also encourages your child to appreciate the gift and the guest for attending the party. Homemade cards are thoughtful and more memorable to a guest than a digital version.

Borrow the Essentials

Lean on your friends and family for extra furniture or festive decorations. Need a cupcake stand? Someone you know will be happy to lend you one for the event so you don't need to waste money on something you will rarely use.

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