Birthday Parties for Kids: 4 Creative, Budget-Friendly Tips


I’ll never forget the first birthday party my oldest daughter and I attended for a friend we met in Mommy and Me group. I expected the old fashioned kind, where the kids, all about one year old, sit around in a circle and chew on stuff and make cute faces while we moms, tired from lack of sleep, drink coffee and complain about the weight we couldn’t lose.

This was not that party. I knew that as soon as we were greeted by real life fairies at the front door.

As we were led to the backyard by the fairies, my heart dropped. I was clearly underdressed and under-prepared for the elegant table settings, incredible decorations, and exquisite menu that awaited us. (They had more than one course, these one year olds!)

Throughout the party, the fairies (three of them) fluttered through the crowd taking pictures with the kids.

In all fairness, the hostess was a party planner (go figure) who was one of the most creative people I've met. Her daughter's first birthday bash was elegant for sure and for a while I felt nervous whenever I planned a party for my girls. Over the years, though, I've perfected the art of a budget friendly but fun birthday party. While I’ve never had fairies in attendance, I DID have a clown last year. Yes, it was my eight year old daughter dressed in a clown suit; she’d spent a week learning how to make balloon animals, an art she still knows to this day! And the face painters? They were older girls in our neighborhood who came by for an hour to help out. And best of all, the kids had no idea the birthday party didn’t cost more than a monthly mortgage payment!

This weekend I’m throwing a Fancy Nancy party for my youngest, who is turning six. I’ll post about it after, in case anyone would like some ideas to use in the future; in the meantime, here are a few tips I can give for hosting a great birthday party that won’t break the bank.

Pick a theme.  I always start by asking my kids what theme they want. Sometimes I suggest themes, like the carnival or mermaid themes of the past. Sometimes the girls tell me what they want, like Fancy Nancy this year. Then I start searching ideas online; you’ll be amazed at what great ideas you can get from those who have thrown these parties in the past!

Shop the dollar stores. You don’t have to put out a ton of money in decorations. I get our tablecloths, plates, napkins and cups at the Dollar Tree. This year my daughter wanted a Fancy Nancy party so I purchased clear plastic cups and tied them with pink ribbons (I’ll post pictures next week). My total was $1 for a stack of twenty cups, which is more than enough for the pint-sized guest list, and $1 for the ribbon.

Make your own cake. You really don’t have to be a baker to bake a great birthday cake! Baking is definitely not my strong point, but each year I create cakes for the girls, which saves me a ton of money. First we determine the theme; then I look around online for some creative ideas. I have several types of cake baking pans: a long sheet pan, which I used last year for the mermaid theme; several sizes of glass round pans, which I’m using this year for Fancy Nancy; and a variety of square pans. Sometimes I combine them, using one square, one round, as I did for the carnival theme last year. I then purchase cake toppers based on the theme. We got sea animals for our mermaid/beach theme last year and a set of Scooby Doo figurines the kids could play with for the carnival theme last year. This year I’m using butterflies and zebra striped candles. After the party, I wash the toppers off and they become toys for the girls.


Get crafty . . . with the kids.  Whatever theme you pick, there are bound to be numerous ideas online about crafts you can do with that theme. For instance, this year I found felt purses at the dollar store that the girls will decorate for the Fancy Nancy theme. The purses cost $1 for three; the foam stickers, another dollar. The fabric paint to write their names: less than a dollar. I also got a package of lip gloss rings and a package of plastic bracelets to put inside the purses as their goodies. We’ll be making paper flower bracelets and placemats to go under their plates.  The crafts will take up about half an hour of time and will give the girls things to take home when they leave.

What creative, budget friendly ideas can you share for birthday party ideas?

Photo via Kathy Murdock

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Birthday Parties for Kids: 4 Creative, Budget-Friendly Tips

Kathy Murdock works as a full time writer and web designer. Recently planted in the middle of the deep south from the busy streets of Los Angeles, when she's not coding Wordpress websites or writing about women in business and thrifty motherhood, Kathy spends time photographing alligators, playing with her family, and running. ... More

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  1. These are really good ideas! wish I saw this Last month before my sons birthday party!

  2. Alison Lee says:

    Love your ideas, Kathy.

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