9 Tips for Saving Money on Birthday Parties Without Sacrificing Fun

by Ashley Eneriz · 4 comments

My daughter’s birthday is in two weeks. Although I think that all-out birthday parties are a little excessive for kids, I do think it’s fun to celebrate these special days. The only problem is that even the simplest parties can add up in costs.

Do you have a party coming up? Here are a few tips for saving money on the birthday parties without sacrificing a fun experience.

1. Check the Dollar Store

I was in Target getting a few items and was going to buy plastic tablecloths for the party. They were about $3 each. I needed five, which would have cost me $15 — just for the tablecloths. Factor in the cost for the cups, plates, cutlery, and streamers I wanted to buy and my total was going to be close to $35.

I wasn’t going for any themed items either, these were just plain colored decorations. The character designs cost a lot more, of course. Instead of buying tablecloths at a store like Target, I stopped at my local Dollar Tree to compare prices.

I was happy to find each of my party needs at only $1 per piece. Therefore, I spent about $10 on party supplies instead of $35 plus.

2. Use Etsy for Custom Invitations

I love the look and ease of customized invitations (rather than the fill-in-the-blank ones you buy from the store). The only problem is that custom invitations cast cost a lot of money.

There are many Etsy sellers that offer adorable personalized invitation PDFs. Just search for your theme to find a downloadable invitation from $5-15. The seller customizes it according to your party details and then sends you the image file.

I sent mine to Costco’s photo department for prints. I had cute, customized invitations for about $0.40 each (of course, envelopes and stamps added an additional charge).

3. Keep an Eye Out For Groupons

Keep your eyes peeled for local deals on party packages, on sites like Groupon. I was able to save over $100 on a small animal party package, that included an animal trainer bringing over several small and furry animals to my home.

This tip takes a bit of planning ahead since you have to be on the lookout for upcoming deals and discounts. But you could find great deals on jumper rentals, table rentals, and even photo booth rentals for your party.

4. Take Advantage of Used Decorations

I’d purchased specialty decorations for my husband’s birthday party last summer. After the party, I carefully tucked them away to use again for my party. We purchased a few additional decorations, but the cost was very minimal. Once my party was over, we again carefully packed away the decorations; we’ll offer them to some of our friends that will hit the same milestone too.

6. Buy Generic Birthday Decorations

Retailers jack up the price of any decoration that relates to birthdays related to milestone-years. Sometimes you may want to spend a little extra for a balloon that specifically says “Happy 18th”. Other times, it’s just the as fun to get a balloon that says “Happy Birthday” to save costs.

6. Start the Party Later

I love to cook, grill, and smoked meats, so I’m always tempted to invite people over for a full meal and make something awesome for my guests to eat. When you’re talking about 30-40 guests, however, the cost becomes way too high. This year, we planned a start time of 8 pm so that we could provide light hors d’oeuvres and keep the food costs down.

7. Mix Up Clearance Finds

We are having a Minnie Mouse party for my daughter this year since she loves Minnie Mouse. However, just buying everything from the Minnie Mouse aisle from the party store is expensive and generic looking. Instead, I found a lot of party clearance items at Target.

I’ll be mixing-and-matching cheap printed napkins, goodie bags, hanging lanterns, and other party decors for a fun and unique look. This will make the party feel as if it’s customized to my daughter’s taste, without the large price tag.

8. Make Affordable and Easy Food

The one aspect most people look forward to at parties is the food. I will be keeping the food simple with a few easy-to-make salads, pastas, and sandwiches. Pinterest is a great resource for fool-proof recipes, like Cuban sliders. Look for recipes you can make ahead to save yourself the stress.

Birthday parties are a lot of fun but also a lot of work. We chose to have very small celebrations for my daughter’s first and second birthday.

Now that she understands what a birthday is, we wanted to celebrate. We will probably not have another big celebration until she turns five or six.

9. Use Games for Entertainment

It’s great to catch up with my favorite people, but the best parties to me have some sort of games for entertainment. At my party one year, we played a few rounds of Catch Phrase, followed by Cards Against Humanity.

I had an out-of-this-world time at my birthday party that year. I caught up with old friends, shared laughs with everyone, and made memories that’ll last the rest of my life.

How do you save money on birthday parties for kids?

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  • Chris Muller says:

    So, full disclosure, I don’t have any young kids, but your article hits home with parties I’ve thrown for my adult friends. Specifically the dollar store idea… Places like Party City make incredible amounts of money because they’re tapping into a market that is always very “last minute” and “needed”. It’s like birthday cards… Nobody really wants to spend $5 on a card, but you have to get them. It’s the same thing with party favors – if you’re throwing a party you have to get them, so what’s easiest? Go to your local party store and get charged an arm and a leg for plates, balloons, etc. I’m not sure many people think of the dollar stores in these times of immediate need, as they may be less convenient or potentially not have what you want. I’ve found them to be incredible values, though. In fact, I bought some big plastic bowls (for chips, etc) at my dollar store for a party years ago and we still use them every time we have a party.

    I also love your idea of keeping food simple… Oftentimes we think we have to plan this huge spread of amazing foods so everyone will remember the party… Not true. Get some pizza, make some chili, whatever. Keep it cheap. Especially for a kids party.

    Awesome post, great ideas, thank you!

  • Jordan says:

    Definitely some great ideas here. I think there’s absolutely no shame in just asking the person who the party is for what they absolutely want at their party – so you can be sure to spend for that, and maybe save on the things that are less important to them. Thanks for sharing these tips!

  • Helen says:

    This is a great article and all those ideas are great for cutting the costs of the average birthday party. However, one way missed out was cutting the number of guests. If you keep numbers low you can spend less on food, entertainment and take-home gifts.

    Perhaps limit the number of guests to the child’s age plus one. So a child who is going to be five can have six guests.

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