How to Plan a Cheap Children's Birthday Party

Two Parts:Planning the PartyBuying Supplies on a Budget

Planning a kid's birthday party can be fun. Having to plan for a cheap party is less enjoyable. Most people want to give their children the party they want, but realistically, that may end up costing a fortune. Knowing how to plan a nice birthday party while sticking to a budget can help you create a memorable birthday party that won't break the bank.

Part 1
Planning the Party

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    Choose a low-cost venue. Before you decide the specifics of a party, like what to serve or who to invite, you'll need to choose a location for the party. If you're sticking to a budget, you'll want to find a venue that is either free or very low-cost.[1]
    • If you're throwing a relatively small party, you can host it at your home or in your backyard. If the party will be too big for your home or yard, try booking a picnic area in your local park.[2]
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    Decorate the venue. Regardless of where you decide to have the party, you'll want to decorate the venue. This will help customize the space, ideally to make it unique to your child's interests and hobbies.[3] Rather than paying a professional decorator, you can find and display your own decorations at a relatively low cost.
    • Instead of tablecloths, you can buy a cheap roll of plain white paper and drape big sheets over the tabletops. Then leave crayons out for the kids to draw and doodle on the paper. It won't cost much, and it will add a fun element of creativity to the party.[4]
    • Balloons are fairly cheap, even if you buy them with helium from the store.[5]
    • Decorate the tables with small, low-cost party favors. You can leave a small bowl of individually-wrapped candy at the center of the table, or put out a small bushel of freshly-picked apples for guests to take home.[6]
    • If your child wants a theme birthday party, you can make things simple by buying plates and napkins with that theme's design on them. You can also cut costs by buying balloons and napkins that are the color of your theme - for example, red and blue for a Spiderman party, or teal blue for a Frozen party.[7]
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    Make your own invitations. Another easy way to cut costs for the party is by making your own invitations. You can use recycled paper on hand, or for even greater savings per project, try sending out an e-vite to the party.[8]
    • You can find free templates and sample invitations online. Search for "party invitations" to find examples of easy party invitation templates.
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    Cut back on the guest list. If you're trying to plan a party on a budget, the reality of the situation is that you may need to invite fewer people. Each extra kid who's invited will require additional food and drinks, plus any party favors or supplies for activities you have planned. If you're worried about hurt feelings from your child's peers, consider inviting only friends and classmates, rather than leaving the invitation open to siblings or other outside friends.[9]
    • For infants, it's best to stick to family members and/or close friends. No two year old is going to remember how many people were at a party, and the smaller, more-intimate setting will make it feel more like a family get-together.[10]
    • If the child is in preschool, a general rule for the number of other kids to invite is the child's age plus one. So, for example, if your child is three or four years old, invite four or five other kids from preschool.[11]
    • For older kids, it's more a question of how many classmates your child is actually friends with, and how many people you can reasonably accommodate (in terms of space and cost). However, if you do invite several classmates, you'll want to avoid sending invitations to all but one or two kids, as this will alienate the uninvited kids and may cause tension.[12]
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    Consider combining parties. If your child's birthday falls around the same time as one of your other kids' birthdays (or a friend/classmate's birthday), consider combining the two parties into one bigger party. You'll then be able to split the cost of the party with the other parent (if it's a friend's birthday), or at least consolidate the costs instead of having two parties (for siblings).[13]
    • Ask around among your friends' parents to find out when their children's birthdays fall. You can bring up the idea of combining parties casually. Say something like, "Our child's birthday is only a short while before/after. Would you be interested in combining the two parties together and having one big party?" Just make sure the other parent isn't planning anything too extravagant that would break your budget.

Part 2
Buying Supplies on a Budget

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    Make your own food. Instead of paying for the party to be catered, try making your own food (if you feel up to the challenge). Baking your own cake will save quite a bit of money right off the bat, and you can offer simple party snacks like chips and dip, pretzels, and small sandwiches or deli plates.[14]
    • If you don't feel up to doing all the food on your own, consider asking your close friends or family members if they'd be willing to help make a dish or two for the party.[15] It may be best to avoid asking the parents of your guests, however, as you don't want them to feel they must bring something in order to attend.
    • You can also opt for something relatively low-cost, like a sheet pizza and wings.
    • For soda and juice, go with off-brand or generic beverages. Kids won't taste the difference between brand-name soda and off-brand soda, and it will save you quite a bit on supply costs.
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    Provide your own entertainment. Rather than hiring a party entertainer by the hour, you can teach yourself some magic tricks or balloon shapes and provide your own entertainment.[16] If you want to encourage an outdoor outing (weather permitting), you may want to look into having the birthday party at a nearby park, or organizing a nature walk after everyone's had cake. Look for parks and guided nature walks online to find a wilderness area near you.[17]
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    Plan games. You can organize a board game tournament, or have the kids play traditional party games that are easy to organize on a budget. Some classic examples include pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey and musical chairs.[18] You can also organize a bean bag toss or a game of Simon Says.[19]
    • Another cheap and easy game is building an obstacle course in the backyard. You can use materials you already have, or opt for low-cost obstacles like hula-hoops and jump ropes. Just be sure that everything you use in the obstacle course is safe and will not cause any potential injuries.[20]
    • You can also organize easy-to-play games like kickball or capture the flag. These games are fun and will cost virtually nothing to buy supplies for.[21]
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    Use DIY projects for the kids. If your budget doesn't have much room for entertainment, consider choosing a variety of DIY projects or crafts for the kids to participate in at the party. That will keep them busy and engaged, and it will allow them to work together on a common project.[22]
    • One fun example of a DIY project involves using crayons or non-permanent markers to draw on cardboard to make a play castle or doll house. All you'll need is some cardboard (from moving boxes or a large refrigerator box, for example) and drawing materials.[23]
    • You can also use more traditional projects, like finger painting. Or look online for cheap and easy children's craft projects.[24]
    • Look into children's craft classes at a local or chain craft store, like Michaels. They often have free or low-cost (approximately $5 per child) craft classes, which could be a fun birthday outing, if your party list is small enough.[25]
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    Choose inexpensive party favors. Instead of buying expensive party favors, fill a paper or plastic bag with candy and stickers to give out as party favors. If your budget allows it, you may want to get one or two more expensive toys and hold a raffle to see which kid gets the big gift.[26]
    • If you want to get toys for the party favors, look around online to find toys you can buy in bulk. Some large-quantity toy orders, like plastic figurines, can be bought by the pound at certain outlets.[27]


  • Try to be cost effective, not cheap. With a little planning you can put together a quality party on a tight budget, and your children and their friends can still have a great time.


  • Food allergies can be fatal. Make sure your food and beverage options are safe for all of your guests.
  • Don't let games become dangerous or get out of hand.

Sources and Citations

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Categories: Budgeting | Parties for Children