Birthday parties are so much fun!… to attend. They are fun to throw too, but things can get out of control fast. And by things, I mean expenses. Food alone can run you hundreds of dollars! But we can’t just ignore the occasion. So I want to share my secrets to throwing a pretty and easy birthday party under $150.
As busy moms, we almost always feel like something is falling between the cracks and isn’t getting done. And sadly this is almost always true! But I absolutely love birthdays (mine is my favorite day of the year!), so obviously I want my daughter to feel that same love <3 A birthday party is one thing that I am determined to pull together no matter what. I only started planning this party with only 3 weeks before the big day!
Basically, this is THE BUDGET BIRTHDAY GUIDE for frugal moms with too little time. I’ll let you in on what I do to save time and money planning and hosting a birthday party for my baby!
The Birthday Budget
Whether you follow a strict budget or just “swipe and pray”, decide on a price that you would be willing to pay for the whole party. Last year, I threw my daughter’s first birthday party for under $100…! This year I’m giving myself $150 because we expanded the guest list to include friends.
Your budget should cover everything party related, like:
- food + drinks
Keep track of the details
Putting it on paper just makes it real and easier to follow. Once you’ve decided on a budget, you can start tracking where your money will go and adjust as needed.
I use a Google Spreadsheet with tabs to keep track of my estimated and actual expenses. Nothing fancy, just something. I have a tab for the overview and expenses, a tab for the guest list and RSVPs, and a tab for the Menu. It helps me to see all of these things drawn out so I can see the budget and evaluate where we could save (or splurge!).
The Guest List
Before you can spread the word and send out invitations, you need to determine who “makes the cut” with the budget in mind. For my daughter’s first birthday, we decided to do a family-only party. We could have invited friends too, but our house is small and our family is HUGE. This also helped me keep the food costs down a bit.
If you don’t think your budget can withstand a full house, people will understand. Part of our decision to exclude friends was the cost of BOOZE… My family members aren’t really drinkers so there was no pressure for it there, but there wasn’t much of an incentive for a dozen of our childless friends!
We had about 20 guests this year
Mail ’em if you want, but that costs money. Money to buy the ugly things and money to send them. I decided to save money on invitations by creating and sending a digital one.
More personal than a facebook event and cuter too. I created my first invitations in MS Paint…. seriously. This year, I went with a template from Canva. There are hundreds of free, adorable templates that will make you swoon!
Then I just send them via text. If they need to be sent in the mail, then you can easily save and print your designs. Canva is my favorite online design tool.
Decorating on a Dime
I can’t stand the idea of one-time-use products. Paper plates and plasticware is bad enough. So when it comes to decorations, I try to only purchase items that can be repurposed at least once more. Otherwise, I consider it a bad investment ha!
Last year, I bought a Happy Birthday banner and paper flower garland which are making a reprise this year 😉 This year I spent less than $60 on themed goodies for our fiesta. The best part is – they can be recycled for Cinco de Mayo! Think #flexibility
The birthday decor was all from Amazon. Here’s the breakdown:
- Mexican Sun del Sol Plastic Banner $7.99
- Fiesta Paper Fans $6.79
- 24 Cactus Cupcake Toppers $8.99
- Serape Table Runner $16.99
- 3 Mini Donkey Piñatas $12.97
TOTAL: $53.73 + tax
I’ll be honest – I had A LOT more stuff in my cart, but knowing my budget of $150, it was hard to spend $117 on decorations! It helps to have a target of where you’d like the budget to be spent. Roughly 1/3 of my budget on decorations felt reasonable. My most indulgent buy had to be the pinatas! But I couldn’t resist them.
*UPDATE* – The pinatas didn’t make it into the decor! they were forgotten in the closet and showed up halfway through the party… Can’t win ’em all!
I saved all of my ideas here in my Amazon Storefront for easy access 😉
Frugal Party Food
Eating is unavoidable. Even if you plan the party for that random afternoon period between lunch and dinner, people are going to expect some libations. Not to mention cake…!
There are two rules of frugal party food
- make it yourself.
- buy in bulk
For less than $10 you can make more cupcakes than you know what to do with and another *official* cake. If you don’t have the time to slap together a ton of simple (not super decorated, that’s what the little cactus is for!), ask for help. Someone you know loves baking.
Buying in bulk at a wholesale store is the way to go. It might sound daunting to “cook” for a whole party, but it will absolutely be cheaper than 10 or 15 pizzas (and dare I say “yummier”). Anything catered is just not the best idea. If you’ve ever price-compared a prepackaged fruit salad platter to the actual fruit, you know what I’m saying. Purchasing expensive food is the last resort. I’d rather spend my money elsewhere!
Our menu (and cost) looks like this:
- Fruit Salad
- $4 Pinapple, $2.50 Stawberries, $2 Blueberries, & Grapes donated by my dad (because we forgot them…)
- 6.5lbs Shredded Chicken
- $15 at Sam’s Club
- 6.5lbs Ground Beef
- $15 at Sams Club
- Lettuce, Onions, Tomatoes, Salsa
- about $10 or less
- Tortillas (fajita sized for smaller portioned tacos!)
- $3.50 at Sam’s Club
- about $7 or less
- Cake + Cupcakes
- about $8
- Drinks (Water + Tea + Lemonade)
- donated, because it was also forgotten…
If I had to do it again, I would….
- Buy HALF as much meat lol we didn’t even unload the half that went out in the first round
- The biggest hit was the Sopapilla Cheesecake Bars I made the morning of the party. These are simply the best
Gifts and Goodie Bags
I want to start with this – I do not do goodie bags. Not just because they cost money, but because we don’t have a lot of kids coming to our parties. Instead, I gave a mini pinata to the couple kids that did come! If I had to do goodie bags, I probably still wouldn’t. Maybe a valentine-like thank you card with a lollipop lol.
I like to budget this into the party because the event is a gift in itself. But I will admit that it’s mostly for me (sorry, not sorry). This year we bought my daughter The Little Prince paperback.
At two, she is just starting to care about gifts and the gifts from everyone else were more than sufficient. Besides, she gets gifts randomly for being good sooooo….. I don’t want to use this as a free pass for not buying gifts, but hosting a party to celebrate these milestones isn’t all about the stuff she gets. I want her to enjoy her birthday for the company she receives and the happiness she feels when a crowd has a great time in her honor. Plus, it’s easy on the bank account. 🙂
Money-Saving Strategies, at a glance
My stingy secrets are out, but they aren’t as offensive as I just made it sound! It is possible to be frugal and throw a cuter party than the Big-Box-Party Stores offer. I spend less for more and don’t have to throw it all out at the end of the day. The formula for an adorable and affordable original party is simple.
- an efficient guest list
- free invitations
- multipurpose decorations
- buy in bulk
- cheap and easy homemade food
- minimal gifts
- no goodie bags!
It is too easy to lose sight of frugality when these events come up. But even with less than 3 weeks to plan, a beautiful birthday can fit any budget and blow you away.
Check out my Amazon storefront for all of my Taco TWOsday decoration ideas and cheap party staples and share this on pinterest!