Don’t let a birthday party break the bank
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. johnherreid.com). She resides in Chester County with her family. You can find her online at www.BrilliantFrugalLiving.com