Don’t let a birth­day party break the bank

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FEATURES - Kris­ten Hagopian

I have al­ways loved that my kids have Au­tumn birth­days. Not only is it my fa­vorite sea­son (aren’t the leaves get­ting gor­geous?), but I get the per­fect chance to un­leash my most out­ra­geous “Birth­day on a Bud­get” ideas on ev­ery­one early in the year. Ego­ma­ni­a­cally, I hope I’m per­haps even set­ting the tone for less pricey birth­day bashes for class­mates later in the year. Don’t get me wrong, if you can af­ford a blowout bash, knock your­self out, but if you’re like me, you want to keep the party sane and the bank ac­count in­tact. My rule is we in­vite ev­ery kid in class hop­ing they can come, cousins, aunts and un­cles are a given, and this year’s guest list re­sulted in about 30 peo­ple here at the house for Rob­bie’s birth­day last week­end. It was fab­u­lous! Best part, it cost less than $100. I can’t tell you how many parents I’ve con­nected with who don’t hes­i­tate to shell out hun­dreds of dol­lars on their kids birth­day par­ties (one lo­cal emailer con­fessed to spend­ing $1,200 on her ele­men­tary-school-age daugh­ter’s birth­day bash), and then a month later they can’t af­ford util­i­ties. But fear not — with a cou­ple of proven strate­gies, you can throw a fan­tas­tic party for a frac­tion of what you might have spent last year.

Ba­si­cally, suc­cess­ful par­ties have three things go­ing for them — yummy food, great fun, and tre­men­dous presents. Best part, this tri­fecta of birth­day bliss doesn’t have to cost a lot. Let’s break it down.

Fab­u­lous — yet fru­gal —

food: My go-to kid birth­day menu con­sists of lots of snacks, hot dogs, chips, cook­ies, and my sig­na­ture sugar move – min­ion cup­cakes. Cup­cake on the bot­tom, (twinkie cut in half) min­ion on top with some quick lines of black frost­ing and smar­ties can­dies for eyes. Easy to make, even eas­ier to serve, al­ways gets rave re­views, and costs less than $10 for a party of 30 peo­ple. SWEET! Hit­ting fab­u­lous lo­cal dis­count gro­ceries like Swann’s Pantry Out­let in Ex­ton kept the to­tal bud­get for all food to just $50. Gotta love it.

Great fun: This al­ways starts with lo­ca­tion, and I don’t mean some des­ti­na­tion fun spot at $20 per kid. That’s in­sane — I’d be spend­ing up to $400 for a cou­ple of hours of fun. When it comes to lo­ca­tion, I’m talk­ing about my own house, with mon­ster swing set (you al­ready know the story on that one) big back yard and (if the gods are kind) fab­u­lous weather. Trust me when I tell you, 9-year-old boys love a good yard they can tear around in. Be­tween the swing set and the big back yard we were good for at least an hour. Note: Be sure to swing by the Dol­lar Store to get at least a dozen bal­loons to tie up around the house, it in­stantly puts a room into the birth­day spirit! To­tal Spent: $20

Tre­men­dous presents: My big­gest re­quest for birth­day guests is to spend no more than $10 on a present. Parents love it, and it shreds any wor­ries on the “more is more” gift men­tal­ity for a kid party. That be­ing said, my hus­band and I like to sur­prise him with some big­ger gifts, so long as they don’t break the bank! My nineyear-old has launched into a solid Lego ob­ses­sion, and I adore it. Le­gos re­quire imag­i­na­tion, long-term plan­ning, dex­ter­ity, and no bat­ter­ies. What’s not to love? I’ll tell you what’s not to love – the price of Le­gos! They cost about a zil­lion dol­lars per pound. Craigslist to the res­cue, where I con­nected with a won­der­ful lo­cal mom and pur­chased ap­prox­i­mately $500 worth of Le­gos for $25 cash. Mis­sion ac­com­plished. To­tal Spent: $25.

If you have a kid birth­day com­ing up, have a fan­tas­tic time, cel­e­brate un­til the sun goes down, and never apol­o­gize for keep­ing the bud­get as tight as you need to. Fru­gal On!

Kris­ten Hagopian is a Syn­di­cated Ra­dio Talk Show Host, Columnist and Au­thor of Bril­liant Fru­gal Liv­ing. She co-hosts WCHE 1520’s Morn­ing Show, and “Dad and Daugh­ter Talk Real Es­tate” with lo­cal Keller Wil­liams Real­tor John Her­reid Wed­nes­days at 5 p.m. (www. john­her­ She re­sides in Ch­ester County with her fam­ily. You can find her on­line at www.Bril­liantFru­galLiv­

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