I love throwing birthday parties for my kids. L.O.V.E.
There is fun, craftiness, connecting with my kids, watching their faces light up when they come downstairs to find a salon in our living room or a jungle in our kitchen.
Every time I come up with a theme, I do extensive research and planning beginning at least a month out. It always surprises me to find how much money people spend on birthday parties (like several hundred to a couple thousand- no joke), but it is actually pretty fun for me to figure out how to do pretty much the same thing on a budget. Granted, my Dora backpacks are paper bags instead of actual backpacks, but hey, that alone saves me about $90. I will do a few posts in detail about my birthday party ventures, but first, I’m going to talk a little bit about my process.
1. Budget! Figure out how much you can afford and know that someway, somehow you CAN make a crazy awesome birthday part with whatever you can come up with. And remember, even if you can’t go to extremes or you don’t have a crafty bone in your body, all your kid really cares about is having some fun with family and friends.
2. Pick out a theme. I keep an eye on the birthday kid about a month or two before I know I will need to start planning their big day. What t.v. shows, games, or activities do they enjoy the most? Even if you decide not to do something specific, still pick a general color scheme and have a general idea of what your kid will enjoy. I know- of course we moms and dads know our kids, right? But trust me- they can drop Blue’s Clues and become Dora’s biggest fan pretty quickly, so just pay extra attention to their interests around their birthday.
3. Research. The internet is your friend. Pinterest, Google images, and even amazon can be helpful to find ideas. I’ve found that I can put together a pretty complete list of games, snacks, desserts, food, decorations, and party favors. I print out or write down every idea that pops. Here are a few sites that are helpful:
4. Make an invitation list, and let your research cool for a day or two. Figure out how many kids your little one can handle. Ideally, you would invite your child’s age plus one more child, but hey, if your kids popular, what can you do? Just make sure you feel comfortable with the amount of kids and adults that will be attending.
5. Pick a venue. I pretty much always choose my house. It’s not huge, but it’s free. If you feel like you need more space and you are on a budget, solicit family and friends for their space or have an outdoor party at a park or include your own backyard in the festivities.
6. Narrow down your list of ideas you like. For food, I decide how much I want to make. I enjoy finger foods and snacks as opposed to a full meal, like pizza or grilling out, although cheap pizza did save me once when I didn’t have time to fix a ton of homemade stuff. For decorations, choose ideas that go together, and remember you can change the color of everything if you make your own homemade version. Here is where you pick out your invitations. There are a ton of nifty free printable invitations on sites like nickjr.com. I normally end up copying something I’ve seen on Google Images. Note: Don’t forget to actually send out your awesome birthday invites. I literally forgot to send mine out once. Luckily I had verbally told everyone and it was a success, but it was a close call.
7. Take your list and figure out how much of it you can make at home with cheap stuff from the dollar store and Walmart. For instance, for my daughter’s princess party, we played Kiss the Frog Bean Bag Toss, but instead of a wooden frog, I had a friend of mine trace the picture from the internet of the frog onto a fold out presentation cardboard poster, and then I cut out the mouth and painted it. Know what you can do and figure out how to re-create your favorite ideas to fit your talents, budget and time.
8. Make a schedule for your party. My parties normally last two or three hours max. We have food, a game or two, sometimes a craft, and time to open presents.
9. Buy your supplies! My favorite places to go in the past have been Hobby Lobby, Walmart, The Dollar Tree, and Home Depot. I normally hit up the Dollar tree before anything else. You’d be surprised the things you can find there. Walmart always has an abundance of free cardboard boxes (call ahead) and they have fabric (if yours has a craft section) for $1/yard or less. Hobby Lobby can get a little expensive, but if you sign up for their emails, you will get 40% off one item every few weeks at least. So, if I have a couple things I can only get at Hobby Lobby, I literally just go to get one thing every week with my 40% off coupon.
10. Find your inner craftiness and break out the glue, scissors, paint, and cardboard. Now comes the fun (and time consuming) part. Here is where you might have to spend a few nights up late working on that poster or painting that frog or putting together those party favors. Just hang in there! Enlist your significant other, friends and family to help you cut, glue, paint, tape, and sew.
11. Make as much of the food as you can the night/day before and have close friends and family sign up for an item or two if they can, such as drinks, ice, paper plates and cups, veggie or fruit trays, etc. Here is where I ease up on the homemade stuff. I normally make a few homemade things and buy the rest. I’m not a cake decorator, so I generally order my cake. It takes up quite a bit of my budget, but for me, it’s worth it. If you would rather spend all your time on decorating an awesome cake- go for it. But try to make your load a little easier by buying pre-made snacks or go for Little Caesars $5 pizzas.
12. At this point, all you’ve got left is to do as much decorations set-up the night before (or the few hours before, depending on location/time of the party) and enjoy!
This might seem like a lot of work, and you’re right. It is. But you save money by doing everything yourself (or almost everything). And when your kids and your kids’ friends are smiling and laughing and having fun and your kid says, “Mom, you’re the best Mommy ever!”, you will know it was worth it. Above everything else, remember to keep it as simple as possible, to ask for help, and to give yourself a day of rest asap to recharge and take a breath. Good luck and have fun!