I’ve always prided myself of being a thrifty Mom, finding good deals on almost everything. This time, I even surprised myself with how much I saved on throwing my son’s birthday party at home. This post is a long one, but worth the read if you’re looking for some tips on how to execute a party on a budget AND if your kid decides on an obscure party theme.
I also need to note that I love birthdays. Anyone that knows me, knows birthdays are always kind of a big deal. I mean, when else is a day all about YOU!?! This love (obsession) has rubbed off on my kids. They don’t necessarily have super high standards for their birthday, rather they love all things to do with their birthday. As their Mom, I try to do all I can to make them feel extra special around their day.
In years past, we’ve thrown parties at various venues for kids. Each time, we paid A LOT of money. It always pained me to pay so much for a party that was two hours (or less). But, the fact that all the work during the party was handled by the venue, my house was clean when I came home, since kids weren’t running a muck in it, and my son was over the moon happy outweighed the cost.
This year, when we asked our son what type of party he wanted and where, he not only chose a theme that doesn’t have many items available for sale, he also said he wanted a party at home. My first reaction was panic, how am I going to entertain a group of boys for a couple hours?!? I stressed over it for days, tried to think of ways to convince him to have a party out. Eventually, I accepted this is what he wanted and challenged myself to see how I could pull off this party on a budget, while exceeding my son’s expectations.
One of my biggest suggestions for planning on a budget, is to start planning and shopping as soon as possible. This way, you have plenty of time to figure out exactly what you want to do, and save money by finding the best deals.
For the second time, my son chose a theme for his birthday party that isn’t one you can easily run to the party store and pick up a bunch of things for. He wanted a Plants versus Zombies 2 (PvZ2) theme. If you’re like most people, you have no idea what that is. It’s a video game that my son got hooked on by watching others play on YouTube. Since then, he’s collected basically every PvZ2 book and toy out there. I knew I had to get creative, so I hopped on Pinterest for some ideas. We also tied in some games/activities, based on the time of year (spring).
Games/Activities-Total Cost $34.82
Pin the Eyeball on the Zombie: This is a spin on the classic game, Pin the Tail on the Donkey. I took a piece of paper from the kids easel pad, broke out some pencils, and honed into my artistic side. For the eyeballs, I cut out circle from printer paper and put a black dot on it. This game was a HUGE hit. I had enough eyeballs for each kid to go once. They loved the game so much, they asked to go over and over again. So, we just kept un-sticking the eyeballs and re-sticking. All of the kids were laughing and having a blast! Since I had all of the items on hand already, the total cost: $0. Pro-tip: This game can be adapted to most themes. For example: pin the horn on the unicorn, pin the bow on Minnie, pin the tail on the puppy, etc. So many possibilities!
Photobooth: This is one activity that was set up, but not used. Everything for this activity was purchased at the dollar store. The banner was a dollar and photo props were sold 7 in a package, so I picked up two. I huge the banner on the wall as a backdrop and put the props in a basket for the kids to use. If we hadn’t done the egg hunt, this is something that would have gotten use. Total cost: $3
Decorate your own cookie: The kids loved this one AND I used it in place of a goody bag. The kids proudly brought this home as their favor. Prior to the party, I made a batch of sugar cookies (cost: $2.50). Using my cookie dough scoop, I made a bunch of basic circle shaped cookies, so all were uniform. Tip: make the cookies ahead of time and put in the freezer so you’re not scrambling at the last minute.
For the decorating part, I purchased a few jars of vanilla frosting (cost: $3.00). I took some of the frosting and dyed a few different colors. For this theme, I did grey and green, and left the rest white. I split up the frosting into various small bowls, so everyone had access to frosting. If you’re going to do all the same color frosting, I’d suggest doing one small bowl for each kid. Tip: separate all the icing into small bowls the day before and store in the fridge, take out a little before the party starts so the frosting is smoother to spread. Using what I already had in my baking stash saved some money. I had a bunch of rainbow and chocolate sprinkles, mini marshmallows, cooking icing, and chocolate chips on hand to use for decorating (cost $0). To have more options, I purchased a few different kinds of sprinkles, sugar eyeball accents, and colored sugar to decorate (cost: $5). I put plastic spoons that I already had in each little basket from the Target dollar spot that had the sprinkles, etc. (cost $1). Tip: separate all the toppings into smaller bowls or containers the day/night before and store in one large Tupperware to keep fresh.
To make it easy for the kids to bring the cookies home, I found some adorable cookie treat baskets with bags and tags at Walmart (cost $3.94, $1.97 each for pack of 8). Prior to the party starting, I had the table all set with the cookies, frosting, and toppings. At each setting, I had a paper plate, plastic butter knife, and the cookie treat basket. This activity took a good amount of time. The kids partaking were all around seven years old. Younger kids may have a shorter attention span for this and older kids may really get into it. I’d say the kids did this for about 20 minutes. I made extra cookies and let the kids make as many as they wanted. I purchased extra cookie baskets, just in case. It was so adorable seeing how each kid had their own spin on the cookies. Total cost: $15.44
Bunny Ring Toss: This game didn’t really go with the theme, but when we spotted it at the store and saw the price, we had to grab it. The set came with the blow up bunny and four rings. All you had to do with throw the rings and try to get on the bunny’s ears. So simple and they loved it! Total cost: $2.50
Easter Egg Hunt: We totally veered off theme here, but this was something my son begged for. Because of the time of year and how our weather is, we had to wait until a couple days before to make the final call on this activity. Lucky for us, we got a great spring day! Walmart had packs of 48 plastic Easter eggs for $1.97 each. I purchased two of these, along with two bags of candy that were $2.97 each. The night before the party, the kids and I stuffed the eggs with either one or two pieces of candy in each egg. About a half hour before the party started, I scattered the eggs all over our yard. Some kids saw the eggs when they arrived and were so excited for it. They all kept peeking to get a look at where they were. I used plastic bags from the grocery store for the kids to collect the eggs. Of course, if you wanted to get all Martha Stewart, you could find some sort of cute themed bag or basket and label for the kids. Tip: label the bags with each kids name prior to the party, so there is no confusion when it’s egg hunt time. Also, make sure whatever type of bag you provide, has handles so they can easily hold while finding the eggs. The kids LOVED running around trying to find the eggs. After they found all of them, they all counted their eggs and traded their loot. Total cost: $9.88
Punch a Cup Game: I have no idea what the real name of this game is. Basically, it’s a fun way for each kid to get a prize after games. I’ve seen it at other parties and always thought how it’d be easy (and cheap) to duplicate. I made this by using a foam poster board, gold wrapping paper, red solo cups, tissue paper, and stickers; all of which I had on hand. First, I wrapped the poster board with gold wrapping paper. Then, I hot glued each cup to the board. For the prizes, I went to the Easter basket filler section of Walmart and picked up a few random toys that would fit into the cups. There was a wide variety of these type of things, they were the only items I had to buy for this activity. I put one toy in each cup, covered with a couple layers of tissue paper, taped on the side, and decorated with stickers. Each kid took turns punching the cups and getting their prize. Since there was a variety of items, some kids weren’t happy, so I encouraged them to trade. If you’re doing this activity with younger kids, I’d suggest doing the same things in each cup, to avoid any tantrums. Additionally, if we hadn’t done the egg hunt, I would have thrown a few pieces of candy into each cup. If you decide to do this activity, be sure what you’re putting in the cups isn’t too heavy. The cups stuck well to the board, but I could see them all falling off if the items inside were too heavy. This was a quick activity, but something they enjoyed. Total cost: $4
Other ideas I had, did not do, but are also cost-effective are canvas painting, potted plant painting, and cupcake decorating.
Decorations/Paper Products-Total Cost $6
One of my favorite parts of throwing parties is decorating! It’s so much fun to me to decorate your house and transform it for the special day. Because of this, we have a lot of birthday decorations that we save and use from year to year. This includes vinyl tablecloths, wall decor, etc. We did need a few new things to complete the look.
Custom birthday banner: I am an avid Cricutter (is that a word?). Anyway, I use my machine for almost every birthday, holiday, and vacation. Since there weren’t many PvZ2 decoration options out there, I decided to make a personalized banner. Using green card stock and brown vinyl I had on hand, I created this one-of-a-kind banner. Total cost: $0
Birthday banner and streamers: Since PvZ2 was such a random theme, I went with standard birthday banners and streamers. Since I have a stash of birthday supplies, I already had a generic bright colored happy birthday banner and green streamers on hand from previous celebrations. Streamers may seem like such a silly, old school decoration and I had second thoughts on draping it from our family room ceiling. Well, I am so happy I did it. It was exactly the decorating accent the room was missing and my son LOVED it. He thought it was the coolest thing. Kids really don’t need much to be impressed. Total cost: $0
Paper Products: This is another area that you’ll need to hit up the dollar store. I got birthday themed plastic tablecloth, luncheon plates, dessert plates, and napkins. All matched with bright colored balloons. The dollar store also has plastic silverware, but I found large packs that were more cost-effective and better quality at Walmart. I have a ton of plastic silverware from previous parties, so I did not need to purchase. Pro-tip: If you have a theme but don’t want to spend a ton on paper products, go with solid color tablecloths and purchase plates/napkins with the theme or theme tablecloth with solid coordinating plates/napkins. Total cost: $6
Food-Total Cost $34.00
Pizza: Since our party was held midday, we decided to keep it simple and kid-friendly with pizza. We ordered two large cheese pizza, double sliced. Total cost: $22.00
Cake: I don’t know about you, but my favorite cakes are homemade box cakes. Specifically, funfetti cake with rainbow chip frosting, but I digress. Of course, my kids now love the same and I’m happy to always make for their birthdays and it’s cost effective. Each year, I’ve made cakes that go along with the party theme (Cars, Thomas, PJ Masks, Minions, etc.) and this year was no exception. This cake was SO EASY. I decided to make a PvZ2 cake that was Dave’s lawn with the zombies approaching the plants. I used my 8 inch square brownie pan. I made sure to grease it with oil and flour so it didn’t stick. Tip: bake the cake ahead of time, let it cool completely, wrap well in plastic wrap and freeze. The day before the party, let it thaw and then ice. I dyed white frosting two different shades of green. I iced the sides and top with light green. To get the squares, I eyeballed it and lightly drew lines in the icing to follow. Then, using my pastry bag, I piped the squares in darker green. At first, I was doing it neatly, then realized it should be a little imperfect, as it’s supposed to be grass, so I used the pastry bag tip to have it look more like grass. Before we sang, I put PvZ2 figurines on the cake and viola! Total cost: $2.50
Drinks: Went with the typical juice boxes for kids parties. Found the juice boxes on sale for 2 for $5, small bottled waters for $3, and seltzers for $1.50 Total cost: $9.50
And, that’s a wrap!
One thing I realized when having this party, is that kids really don’t need much to be happy. As adults, we always think they have high expectations and expect so much. In reality, they are all happy to get together and play.
Because I am a planner and super organized, I did as many of the preparations ahead of time as I could. This made the morning of the party much less stressful, as there are always things that have to be done the last minute.
And, the icing on the cake, pun intended, was the party cost a total of $74.82 Huge Mom win!!
As mentioned, here are my top money saving tips:
- Use what you have on hand already and get creative! Stumped? Search Pinterest
- Hit up the dollar store
- When possible, use solid color or generic birthday supplies and spend more on the specific themed products that get more attention, like a tablecloth or banner.
- Skip the goody bags and have the kids do an activity or craft they can do at the party and bring home.
- Keep it simple! Kids are happy to run around and enjoy each other’s company
- Realize that, no matter what, your kid thinks you’re an absolute ROCK STAR and will their their party was the best ever!! You got this!