You know how every couple on House Hunters “looooooveeessss to entertain”? Yeah… that ain’t me. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate people, but hosting can be exhausting AND expensive, and those are two things that don’t sit right with me. But since being a parent pretty much requires you to throw birthday parties, I’m always on the hunt for some secrets to keep it CHEAP.
That’s my goal in life, I guess! Nothing bothers me more than overpaying for things. So after enough birthday parties, showers, and the like, these are the strategies I use for planning and hosting a party on a budget.
1. set a budget (& actually track it)
If you’re familiar with your regular living expenses, then it’s easy to get an idea of how much you can spend. But that is only a starting point. If you want to spend more or less, that is entirely possible. The point here is to pick a reasonable amount and stick to it.
For my daughter’s first birthday, when I was the sole breadwinner, I decided to spend $100 total and actually pulled it off. That was not an accident.
Instead of letting costs creep in, plan your purchases and see if they fit into the budget before buying. This counts for food too, but more on that later!
Expected savings: unlimited? Spend/save as much as your heart desires
2. go digital & minimize printing
Invitations are an easy way to waste money. They are necessary, but they don’t have to cost you anything. I love designing them in Canva. They even have birthday invitation templates ready to go, so all you really need to do is add your details, save the picture, and send it to your guest list.
There are still some straggling older folks without the capacity for receiving digital invitations, and those are the only circumstances that I will send invites for! Unless it’s a formal event (think *Bridal*), these things will end up in the trash.
The store bought variety can be cheap as hell, but postage adds up, and this is an easy way to save $10-$15 of party expenses.
Expected savings: $10-15
3. avoid themed bundles
This might not seem like a huge saving, since you can get a giant pack of decorations for $20 or so, but the idea is to not buy intentionally disposable one-time-use crap. It’s essentially throwing money away, and for something that’s pretty much unnecessary. The party will still be a party without stuff hanging from the ceiling.
Expected savings: $17-25
4. buy repurposable party supplies (& use them!)
Typical decorative items from those themed bundles are reusable. Those cheap paper pom poms, hanging swirls, and garlands are worthy of more than they get credit for! Instead of writing them off as a loss, the frugal thing to do is to save the stuff that can be used again. My husband mistakes this for “hoarding”, but I always consult my party supply stash before shopping for anything new.
If you haven’t started a supply stash and you really want to decorate, opting for solid colors is ideal and dollar stores are chock full of that stuff.
Expected savings: $17-25
5. Ask for help
Everyone knows it takes a village, so when family or friends offer to help, there should be no shame. Tapping into someone else’s supply stash or letting your aunt make her potato salad is ideal.
Shaving off some the responsibility of hosting a party will save money and sanity. yay.
Expected savings: i mean whatever you make of it!
6. Do it at home
Hosting a party elsewhere always seems like a good idea. I mean, you don’t have to open your home to a sea of people and kids hopped up on sugar, but even renting a pavillion at some park can run you a few bucks.
If you opt for a more traditional, chuck-e-cheese like route then you’re forced into expense minimums and crappy, overpriced food ?
Expected savings: $50-200
7. skip the goodie bags
Omg… GOODIE BAGS. I was so torn on this topic before my daughter’s first birthday. Seriously researched what to put in them, if they were even necessary, etc. I determined it’s not worth it.
Between the effort it takes to buy the junk, stuff the bags, trying to make them cute for pictures lol it ain’t worth it! Because more than likely you will have more than you need and hanging onto an extra handful of bags for yourself. Ditch ’em.
If you can’t bear the thought of letting kids leave empty handed, then a simple favor is a perfect alternative. Something along the lines of a
Expected savings: $25-40 + sanity
8. go easy on gifts
We all want to give our babies the very best, but we also need to dial it back a bit. This is NOT My Super Sweet Sixteen, and your kid is not going to kick and scream if there isn’t a range rover rolling up at the perfect moment.
Since you’re already throwing the party, I am giving you permission to lay low on gifts and keep it simple. Because in my mind, the gift is a party expense and you better believe that is budgeted.
And, I don’t know who needs to hear this, but your kid is going to get enough surprise presents at their birthday party.
Expected savings: $30-75
9. Make. The. Cake.
If you didn’t know, store bought cakes are surprisingly expensive. Yes, even the sad little generic ones. But the best part has to be that baking a cake is insanely easy.
Want to make it special with some fancy decorations? That’s fine, because YouTube is chock full of simple DIY cake tips and it’s going to be eaten within a day. Spend the $8ish on some mix, icing, sprinkles, & candles and be proud AF when it’s gone and everyone loved it and you didn’t overpay for sugar and flour.
Expected savings: $25-50
10. Schedule outside of mealtimes
If you receive an invite to a party from 2-4, I’m confident you would assume you should eat before, right? Obviously! I can guarantee my family would be clawing at the walls begging for food around 9, 1130, 4, and 7. It’s bizarre (and the hunger schedule always shocks my husband..??)
Scheduling the party during those typical hunger lulls doesn’t mean you can’t buy any food, but you don’t need to buy 15 pizzas. Finger foods, salad, and hors d’oerves (plus cake & drinks) is perfect and also inspires party-goers to leave at the suggested time. it’s a win-win!
Expected savings: $50-100
Please share your frugal hacks!
I’m always on the hunt for more money saving strategies, so please share your tips if I left out a winner. Thank you!!