How to Throw a Great, Cheap Party for Your Child

Have you ever thrown a birthday party that you know cost way too much? Have you felt frightened to venture back into the territory of kids' parties as a result? Fear not - you can hold a fabulous kids party with little money, and still have your kid in awe. By keeping it small, picking a fun theme, and providing snacks, a cake and a variety of games, you can throw a memorable party without spending much cash.


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    Keep the Birthday Bash Small. Usually between 5-10 kids is plenty. Some people go by the rule: as many children as the birthday child's age.
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    Pick a Theme. Having a theme to work with can help guide your party planning. While not strictly necessary, it's fun and can lead to creative party decorations, games, and food. Some ideas:
    • Pink party: Recommended for girls. All decorations, food, drinks, and so forth are pink. Guests are invited to wear pink.
    • Pizza party: Highlight is make-your-own pizza. Games can include pin-the-mushroom-on the pizza (a spin on pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey). Turn your home into a pizza parlor and play Italian music!
    • Pool Party: Great for active kids, and appeals to a lot of kids. Guests each get a beach ball as a favor.
    • Spa Day: Great for older pre-teen or teen girls, guests are invited to bring bathrobes. Play soft New Age music, make facial scrubs, do pedicures and paint each others nails. Food can be light cuisine such as fruit, salad, and sushi. Use Asian-inspired decorations such as bamboo.
    • Foreign Land. Exotic locales can be inspirational: Texas, Japan, Paris, Ancient Egypt, Hawaii, Hollywood, New York, New Orleans...all of these lend to special menus, activities, and games.
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    Pick an Inexpensive Venue. Save a lot of money by looking for low or no cost party locations. Such as:
    • Your house, or possibly a friend or relative.
    • Library (Many have community rooms that are free or low cost)
    • Place of Worship. Many churches, temples, and the like have meeting space that can work for a party.
    • Local park. Sometimes you have to pay to use a shelter, gazebo, picnic area, beach, or entrance fee. However, it is often less expensive than other choices and may offer amenities such as tennis, swimming, recreational fields, natural areas, and more. Be sure to schedule in advance!
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    Consider the Food Issue. The largest expense of a party tends to be food and drink. It is also easy to under-estimate, as you also have to consider if you need additional napkins, cups, plastic utensils, and so on. Some things to consider:
    • Dessert party: Keep it to cake or cupcakes, ice cream, milk, juice or soda. For a birthday party, kids focus on cake anyway.
    • Potluck: all guests bring a favorite dish. This cuts down significantly on cost and can sidestep dietary issues.
    • Frugal Meals: Some foods such as spaghetti is inexpensive while still a crowd favorite. Sandwiches, pizza, chili, hamburgers, hot dogs, and stews are also cost effective if made at home.
    • Make from (near) scratch. Buying pizza can add up, but you can save a lot of money by making your own, if you're a good cook.
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    Make the Cake, (or decorate a pre-made grocery store one) . If your little one is fond of a cartoon or TV character, go to the dollar or bargain store and look for a small toy you can add on the cake. Otherwise, be creative and create a free hand design on top. You can use food coloring to change the color of the icing. Some examples:
    • A monster truck themed cake.Dye the frosting green, and use crushed chocolate cookies to make a track on top. Buy a small pack of cheap cars and crush them with a hammer, set them on the cake and put a nice monster truck to put on top to make it look as though the cars have been crushed by the monster truck.
    • Princess cake: Frost a pink cake, and decorate with small princess figurines and roses.
    • Rainbow Cake: Make colored layer cake, frost with white frosting, cover with colorful candies.
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    Get Crafty! Instead of buying all the decorations for the party, try making a few. If you have children, likely you already have craft supplies.
    • Small, inexpensive packets of construction paper or craft foam can be turned into paper chains, banners, signs of any color combo you want. Plus, your child can help make them and give them control of aspects of the celebration.
    • Fold hats out of newspaper and have the kids decorate them at the party.
    • Make a banner from a large sheet of paper, and use poster paint to write letters. Use it as a guest book for when people arrive. Or use a plain sheet with a magic marker. Your child will have it to sleep with and all of his or her friends can draw on it at the party.
    • Autograph a pillowcase. Using fabric markers or permanent markers, put a piece of cardboard in the pillowcase, and have guests autograph the pillowcase.
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    Balloons are inexpensive and fun. Dollar stores often offer them very inexpensively with helium. Regular balloons may not float, but are terrific for colorful and easy decoration.
    • Put confetti in your balloons for a special touch.
    • Hang one from the ceiling with candy in it and draw names for it when the party is about to end as a prize. Or everyone gets one as a "goodie bag'.
    • You can take permanent markers and write messages on balloons for a personal touch.
    • Balloons are also fun for games such as relay races, volleyball games (good for small kids), and water balloon toss or fights.
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    Make goodie bags. Buy things at the dollar or bargain store. Go for the party packets and toys where you get more than one item. Look for such items as stickers, cars, candy, etc.
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    ...Or not. All too often, goodie bags end up as a collection of cheap plastic toys and candy. Even at the dollar store, these items can add up quickly--surprisingly so! Get a bit creative. Perhaps guests can go home with a bandanna from the cowgirl party. Or a garden party can end with the guests taking home flowers for their own homes.
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    Make the games. If necessary, make up games as well. Even half a croquet set can be used to make a mini golf course that is a mix between golf and a demo derby (give points for knocking someone's ball, and deduct points if you miss the ball you aim for). Other great ideas include pass the parcel, musical chairs, drawing shapes around bodies on large pieces of blank paper etc. Visit the library to borrow books on party
    Don't forget to clean up the mess


  • Check dollar and bargain stores for inexpensive items to use.
  • Check for ideas and cakes you can make yourself, using the internet.
  • Make a budget and stick to it.
  • Shop thrift stores for things you can reuse or remake.
  • If you know someone who makes cakes or provides pony rides, see if there is anything you can barter for. For instance, if Mary Smith down the street is famous for her neat cakes, see if she would trade you a cake for some other service that you can provide her in turn. You never know unless you ask. And you might make a new friend into the bargain.
  • Check with family members or friends who might have left over birthday party items.
  • Ask around your friends or family if they have any leftover goodies suitable for the part that you can get from them for free.
  • Check Pinterest or tumblr for ideas.
  • Instead of buying a piƱata, make your own. Fill a big balloon with candy and let the kids pop it.


  • Some themes are difficult to do, try to broaden the theme, so instead of Buzz Lightyear, for instance, try to go for a space hero party.
  • It can sometimes be a lot of work. Know when to save and when to buy. Hunting down 2 thrift stores and 3 dollar or bargain stores for silver balloons doesn't make sense if you know you can by them at the balloon shop. You may save a few cents but it's not worth it when you figure in your time and gas usage.
  • Sometimes you may not find what you want.

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Categories: Parties for Children