Birthdays on the Cheap

Birthdays are expensive. Shoot, I’ve said that before. It’s usually true, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are five ways to cut birthday party costs.   Note:  If you’re trying to cut costs on an adult party, just replace the word “kid” with “guest of honor”.

1. Location, location, location. The amusement park/pizza place is nice if you like bad pizza, but it’s certainly not cheap. The inflatable playground may be the talk of the school for a day or two, but it’ll flex your debit card in ways it’s just not used to. Why? Kids, being kids, are capable of entertaining themselves. They’ve got imaginations that should make most adults weep with envy. If that fails, make them play a board game or in the worst case, some video games. Lock the wild young’ns in the basement and let ’em go nuts for a couple of hours. It’ll be a blast, I promise.

2. Why invite the world? How many friends does your kid actually have? I’m not talking about all of the kids in school he’s not fighting with or every kid on the block that hasn’t TP’d your house. I mean actual friendship. If they don’t play together regularly, nobody will be offended about missing an invitation. Invite the entire class? That’s just nuts. Thirty ankle-biters smearing cupcakes on the wall? No thank you. You kid will have more fun with 2-3 close friends than 20-30 acquaintances.

3. Toy flood. What was the last toy your kid played with? The last 10? How many toys have been completely neglected for months or years? How many stuffed animals are buried so deep in the pile in the corner that they are wishing for a fluffy Grim Reaper to come put them out of their misery? Don’t buy your kid clutter. It’s a hassle to clean up–and you will–and it trains them into bad habits for a lifetime. One or two things that they will treasure(or, better yet, wear!) will work our much better for everyone than a dozen things to forget in a toy box. Too many toys guarantees that the kid won’t get attached to any of them.  Down with kid-clutter!

4. Designer Cake. Who needs a fancy cake? Correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t you going to start a fire on the thing, then cut it up and give it to a dozen little runts to rub in their hair? If you can’t bake it yourself, a quarter sheet is cheap at the big box grocery stores and will guarantee leftovers. Nothing starts the week better than chocolate marble cake for breakfast on Monday.

5. Food. Don’t. That was easy. Scheduling is an important way to keep costs down. Don’t have the party at lunch time. For small children, 1:30 PM is about perfect. The parents won’t stick around once the kids are ready for a nap. For older kids, 4PM means they will need to be home for dinner. That cuts the menu down to kool-aid, light snack food, and cake. It also ensures that the party won’t drag on forever.

It’s possible to have a budget birthday party without being totally lame.  Give it a shot.  Your kids won’t mind.

This post is a blast from the past.

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    1. I’m all for birthday parties, but agree that they can be done economically. I suggest parents ask these questions:

      1) Will your young kid really remember that you spent $50 for a designer cake instead of a $15 good cake?

      2) Is the birthday party for the child, or for your happiness as a parent?

    2. I am the kid for the parties I plan. This last year I skipped the cake and we all went to dinner and a bar crawl together. In total, it cost me $0. Everyone paid for me on my birthday!

      It is way different for real kids though, I’ll give you that.

    3. I never thought about a sheet cake, but I haven’t thrown any ankle-biter parties yet. I’ll have to keep that tip up my sleeve!

    4. Some great tips!

      I like using the rule of thumb to invite 1 kid per year of age. So a 3 year old would have 3 friends to their birthday party, a 7 year old can invite 7 friends and a 12 year old can invite 12 friends. Keeps the numbers manageable… and the kids won’t think you’re being MEAN by putting a cap on the number of kids. They’ll know you’re just following the rules!

    5. We don’t have kids yet so we have been able to avoid this. We won’t be able to forever though. You make some great suggestions that I think are very reasonable. One thing I have always thought of is activities outside. They cost nothing and can be a lot of fun.

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