How many birthday parties will you throw in your parenting life? We are already at 9 for Emma and 7 for Rose. That a lot of parties, with a lot of kids, and I’m not including any of the “family” events we hold so grandparents don’t have to suffer through endless small kids underfoot!
I try to be budget conscious when I can be. You can even call me cheap if you want to. But frankly you have to be in order to survive in this ever-more-expensive life we’re living now. So indulging the kids with elaborate birthday parties can only happen sporadically in my life.
Related: Plan a Destination Party in Kingston
I’m going to share with you some of my budget conscious birthday party ideas:
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We have a lovely park across the street from our house. I realize this is not the case for everyone, but if you live in an urban setting you can likely find some sort of playground nearby to invite the kids to. At this park there’s a climbing structure, swings etc. but there is also a huge open space. A few times we’ve had the party ONLY at the park. Meet us there, we’ve brought blankets and a folding table for snacks. We set up in the shade of a tree and we will escort people to our house to use the washroom if necessary. This is a really great option for a big party, or if you’re combining adults and kids.
What to bring along: sidewalk chalk for drawing on the walkways; bubbles; lots of water and drinks; extra sunscreen; garbage bag; disposable plates and cutlery (or washable stuff and a really big basin or similar for bringing home dirty dishes); a folding table
Backyard (or inside the house) Party
If the day is rainy or you just can’t swing a park party, have one at your home. The trick to this party is to limit the guests. We’ve had 10 7 year old girls (plus Emma, and Rose, 5 at the time) in our small home and it was a bit of chaos. We’ve learned from our mistakes though – now no more than 7 or 8 including our kids.
Ways to stay budget conscious:
- Decorate your own loot bags. We use brown paper lunch bags, markers, stickers, and any other craft stuff taking up space in our house.
- Make your own decorations. Tissue paper flowers in vases are always lovely.
- Print colouring sheets off the internet for everyone to colour.
- Tack a long paper along your fence (if it’s a nice day) and let the kids go crazy with markers, paint, etc. You have to be okay with a little mess for this one.
- Make your own Photo Booth – any dressup clothes, hats, sunglasses will do. Or go to the dollar store for other fun props. Take the photos with your own camera, look at them online and email them to the families.
- Mani-pedi party at home. A great way to use up the dregs of all your old polishes. Obviously this works best with girls, but you never know who else may enjoy painted toes! I use an old sheet or tablecloth to protect my floor and let the kids do it all themselves. (Need polish? Check out Well.ca for some fun colours like Starfish!)
Loot Bag Ideas
I struggle with loot bags. Mostly because I hate that my kids bring home so much crap in these bags most of the time. If you’ve read my post with non-toy gift ideas for kids you’ll know I love giving consumable items so other parents don’t end up with a ton of crappy toys that just end up in the garbage (or underfoot!)
Things I like to include in our loot bags include mini bubbles (from the dollar store), stickers from your huge bin of stickers you already have (cut up bigger sheets into 3 or 4 stickers per kid), temporary tattoos (same deal – cut some off a bigger sheet), candy (I’ve been known to share Easter candy at Rose’s May birthday if I bought more than the Easter Bunny cared to leave our for my girls), snack packs like Goldfish, granola bars – lunch pail sized things, and if the guest list is small enough I’ll send home a nailpolish with each girl, or get bath bombs or something for some girly fun.
Easy stuff here:
Buy bulk veggies and fruit and cut them yourself. You’ll save a ton instead of buying those ready-made trays.
Don’t have a party over meal time – then you can just open a bag of chips and have those fruits and veggies and you’re good.
Make a cake – go Pinterest crazy if you want to. I’m not so hot with decorating cakes, but really the kids don’t care, am I right? (I have a sister in law who makes fabulous cakes, so if you have someone in your life who’s a fab baker/decorator, ask for a cake as the gift for your kid.)
If you do want to go more elaborate (or your kids are pleading for a more “exciting” party) seriously do lay out an ultimatum. If you want more than 4 guests it’s an at home or park party, but 3 guests or less we can do something else. The number, of course, is up to you. You can still find some budget conscious birthday party ideas outside the home for a small group.
Here are a few ideas for a small group that may still be somewhat budget friendly:
Movie Party – Go to Costco or wherever and buy some tickets for the theater that includes the popcorn and drink. You save over the walk-in price and you’re not doing the elaborate “Movie Party” with the room and everything.
Swimming Party – Here our local city-run pools have open swim time. The fee is pretty small and the kids will have fun, again avoiding the “party room” business and fees associated with that.
Escape Room Party – We have a few escape rooms here in Kingston. I think they offer party options, but you can also just register as a group and off you go.
Take a small gaggle of kids to The Mall – This is age dependant I think. But let them have a mall day (and by that I mean 2 hours at most!) browsing and enjoying each other’s company. If you’re feeling flush you could get everyone an ice cream or other snack.
Logistics of these parties may be more difficult for transporting kids if you’re still wanting to do the classic Cake and Gifts part, though there are often lobbies that could potentially be used as a gathering place before or after.
What do you do for parties for your kids? We really have done a ton of different options.
We had a crazy party once for Rose that also combined Emma’s First Communion. You can read about that in Hosting a Lot of People in Not a Lot of Space. It was a bit of chaos but everyone still enjoyed themselves (or so they said!)
We’ve also done 2 Gymnastics parties, a Trampoline Party, and some park and backyard parties. My girls have attended a ton of destination parties, but I think they have the most fun at people’s homes. There they do fun stuff like decorating cookies (budget tip: make your own cookies and icing!), playing outside, various art projects, and having plain snacks like freezies and fruit and veg. I think home parties are the best way for kids to really connect.
But you can’t argue against having the mess somewhere else – that is my favourite part of destination parties!
Share your party experiences, or budget friendly ideas, with me in the comments. I am always looking for ways to keep things fun and fresh for my girls and their friends!