Children’s Birthdays On A Shoestring Budget

by Frugal Brian


It seems like birthday parties have become more of a place for kids to go to get goodie bags and treats than a time to hang out and celebrate with friends.  Many kids really don’t care about going home with some special treat from their friends birthday bash, so don’t worry about buying special party favors to give each child in attendance.  Having said that, if you really must (or want) to give each kid something to take with them besides a smile and good memories, then there are things that you can do on the cheap to keep your party budget small.

Take some time and think of creative birthday activities that require the children to make while they are there.  Things like art projects or paper mache along the lines of a theme for the party are always good ideas for younger kids.  For older children, there usually isn’t a big calling for goodie bags to take home.  Something as simple as taking a picture with a digital camera and printing the pics out is a great idea for older kids to take home with them from your party.

Theme Parties

Depending upon the age of your child you can easily create a theme.  For younger children, pick a popular cartoon or kids show and do a bit of research.  Fashion activities around the theme to add a bit of spice to your party and make it more memorable and fun.  For example:  Have a Dora the Explorer party for younger kids wherein you have the kids go to different areas around the house collecting items to achieve a goal, similar to the show.  Make sure to include other characters from the cartoon in your activities.  Kids have to find cut outs of a certain number of animals and take the animals back to their ‘home’.

For older kids, a bit more creativity might be necessary.  You might ask them all to dress in clothing from a different era and do a murder mystery theme.  You could also do a pop star party where each child brings some of their favorite music with them to the party.  Plug a cheap microphone into the stereo and have a karaoke party!  If you don’t have a microphone or stereo, ask around to your friends, co-workers, or even the parents of the invited children.  Chances are someone will have what you need.

Food for Your Celebration

You don’t have to break the bank to have basic birthday foods at your party.  Inexpensive things like cake you make yourself and generic ice cream will help keep the cost low.  If you plan on feeding parents and children more than the sweet stuff you can always put together a simple taco salad bar.  Chances are you can feed 20 people for close to $1 each this way.  Always remember to check with the parents of the children you are inviting to see if there are any food allergies to take into consideration.  Take appropriate precautions to avoid serving the allergen at your party.  Simply providing alternative foods might not be enough since most people that suffer from food allergies can have life threatening reactions from simple cross contamination.  If you’re inviting someone with a food allergy, simply don’t include the allergen in your party.

Drinks are fairly simple for your soiree as well.  Punch, juice, lemonade, and generic soda are all very inexpensive.  Worst case scenario, you have water for everyone and if they require something else, you can always tell them in the invitation what beverage(s) you will provide.


If you would like to avoid the hassle of cleaning up potential messes at your home, think about hosting the birthday party at a playground.  Find your local neighborhood playground and invite the families over.   There are always tables that you can cover with table covers.    The children will have a great time since they love running outdoors.  It is easy to clean up after the children and throw away everything that is trash afterwards.


It is customary for people to bring gifts to a birthday party for the person of honor.  If you are concerned about people spending too much money for your shindig, then make sure you include the ‘gifts are optional’ line in your invitation.  If gifts are optional, then make sure you don’t make a grand event of opening the gifts during the party.  This might make someone who opted to not bring a gift feel a little awkward.

For those wishing to purchase gifts for a birthday party another is throwing, always consider the age appropriateness of your gift.  Younger children and toddlers shouldn’t be given things with small parts or pieces because of choking hazards.  Finding something that younger children like isn’t really that hard.  Head to a thrift store or a store where everything is around one dollar in cost and you can find a number of things to make sure your gift to the special birthday boy or girl doesn’t exceed your range.

Birthday parties don’t have to be money sucking black holes in order to be fun and original.  Take some time to think it through, be creative, and you will be sure to have a great party on a shoe-string budget.

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