Friday, February 17, 2012

Frugal Party Ideas

As the mother of 5 children between preschool and high school I’m the lucky recipient of many, MANY birthday party invitations. Little Johnny’s having a pony party, complete with pony rides. Jane’s mom rented out an ice skating rink, in July. Gio’s mom rented bounce houses, a face painter and a DJ.

These were all fun parties, but so are the backyard parties I favor.

Here are some ways to have fun without going broke.

-Party favors aren’t necessary but if you want to have them think creatively. For a princess party I purchased plain foam crowns for a few dollars from Oriental Trading Company and provided markers and random cratf supplies for the kids to decorate them. A pack of crayons and a small coloring book is nice for preschoolers, while $1 glow-in-the-dark items seem to be a favorite of my teens.

-The entire neighborhood doesn’t have to be invited. I know everyone says “one guest per year”, but that’s not always practical when you have a large extended family you’d like to invite, but that doesn’t mean you need to invite everyone you know.

-Invitations can be forgotten, have your child call the people you’d like to invite or have your child send invitations via Facebook or Evite. If you really want to send invitations make your own, check Pinterest for thousands of ideas.

-Skip party years. It’s ok not to have a party for your child every year. When I was a child we had parties every 2-3 years. My kids don’t even ask for parties anymore. My younger kids are happy to spend the day with family and my older kids enjoy going to the movies with 1 or 2 friends more than a party.

-Plan your party between meals. Planning your party between meals means you don’t have to feed your guests and you’ll be spared the prolonged visit from the aunt who will stay for hours after the party ends (we all have one!) Having a set end time can help with this, too.

-If you opt to feed your guests make a simple main dish and a green or cold salad. If someone asks if they can bring something tell them to bring a drink or loaf of bread. Spaghetti, salad and garlic bread makes a nice meal and it’s easy to feed a lot of people for little.

-Decorations can be skipped, can be homemade, or can be purchased inexpensively at the dollar store. They can also be saved and reused.

-Forget the disposable table ware and go for reusable. At a local big box store I found 4 packs of plastic dinner plates, for $.20 on clearance. That beats the price of disposable any day! Look at thrift stores, or just use what you have. Instead of buying disposable table liners use colorful bed sheets.

-Entertainment really isn’t needed. Most kids are happy just to run around with their friends, though if you really want entertainment look to local artists. I hired a children’s singer for a party once and for $70 (plus tip) he came to my house and performed for an hour. That’s not as cheap as letting the kids run through a sprinkler but it was a lot of fun and cheaper than renting a bounce house!

-If you’re into themes keep it simple. Movie & popcorn parties are fun for any age. Costume parties are appropriate any time of year. My husband celebrated his 29th birthday with a chili pepper party, instead of gifts everyone brought a sauce to share.

These are just a few ideas. Tell us how you celebrate birthdays frugally!

2 comments:

  1. homemade cake rather than store bought cake - BIG savings.

    balloons and streamers go a long way towards decorating and you can get both cheaply from the dollar store.

    If you choose to do paper, don't go with a theme but with a color. You can get solid plates at the dollar store. So, princess theme, pink plates. Princess plates cost a lot more!

    One year, I took my daughter and 4 friends ice skating. We had cake and ice cream here first. The cake was just a sheet cake with white icing and happy birthday written on it. The decorations were little skater figures made out of card stock. As the girls came in, I took pictures of their faces and then put their faces on the figurines. Each girl got to take home her figurine after the party.

    Games older kids like - scavenger hunt - take photos of objects in the neighborhood. They have to find all the clues and be the first team back to you.

    Ultimate croquet - set up a croquet game where they have to go around obstacles - up ramps, under tables, etc. Make it as large scaled as possible.

    Rather than a DJ - open Pandora and let the kids put in their favorites

    Pirate Party - get everyone a bandana as their party favor. Each person also gets a long balloon shaped into a sword (make a little 4 at the handle end).

    It's easy to make "pin the tail" games. You can do one for almost any theme. Just get a posterboard, draw the theme and pin something to it. Pin the crown on the princess. Pin the skate on the skater. Pin the horn on the triceratops. Pin the patch on the pirate. You get the picture.

    Any art project is fun for little kids. Make a mosaic with beans and seeds. Great if you have a nature party. beaded jewelry for dress up parties. etc

    Have a cooking party. Let the kids help bake the cake and then make ziplock baggie ice cream. Each child gets to decorate their own cupcake. They love it! If you are doing a whole meal, you can do little mini pizzas. They get to pick their own toppings.

    Twister is loved by all ages.

    Charades is fun for all ages.

    If you can stand it, a sleepover is really cheap. A few movies, some popcorn, nail polish. Supper can be something easy. Breakfast can be something like pancakes. Filling but cheap.

    We once did a "You've Got Talent." Everyone dressed up and did a performance. We videoed them. Each girl got a copy of the DVD. They had a blast.

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  2. Really great ideas! It is definitely true that kids will find ways to entertain themselves. Most kids are happy just to have their friends over to play.

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