How to Throw a Baby Shower on a Budget

If your friend or relative is expecting, here's how to plan a budget-friendly baby shower she'll love.

Three women at a baby shower

You can save by ditching paper invitations for digital ones and asking some guests to attend the shower virtually rather than travelling.

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Most women in their mid-20s and beyond have attended their share of baby showers. For those planning the festivities, though, the parade of pastel cupcakes, onesies and finger foods can cost a pretty penny. Here's a look at strategies for planning a baby shower on a budget.

Browse Pinterest for ideas. The popular online pinboard is a treasure trove of inspiration for do-it-yourself décor and food, says Lisa Kucik, owner of event planning company The RSVP Events in Plainfield, Ill. She offers a few ideas: "Use framed ultrasound pictures or decorations from the nursery to decorate tables. Colorful paper lanterns are inexpensive and not only versatile when it comes to theme and gender, but also a great way to fill space." Pinterest is also a good source of free printables for games, banners and other party items. 

[Read: 9 Ways to Save Money When You're Expecting a Baby.]

Choose a color scheme. Without a cohesive color scheme tying it all together, DIY or dollar store decorations can sometimes look disjointed or uncoordinated, points out Sarah Laing, 30, of Ontario, Canada, who has recently planned three baby showers and used various shades of tissue paper flowers. "If you have one or two colors, it tends to look a little more classy," she says. Instead of the traditional pastel pink for a girl or blue for a boy, consider yellow, green or whatever colors the mom-to-be loves. Then stick to that color palette for consistency's sake.

Find a budget-friendly venue and food. Hosting a baby shower at a restaurant or renting a venue and hiring caterers can cost hundreds (or in some cases, thousands) of dollars. Instead, consider hosting the shower at someone's home or free space. One of the showers Laing helped plan was held under a pavilion at a local park. "A lot of people bring their kids to baby showers, so [a park] gives them something to do," she says. Laing also suggests enlisting invited friends and family members to prepare food so that "everybody feels like they've been a part of it."

Send digital invites. In lieu of paper invitations and postage, consider sending digital invitations offered by sites like greenvelope.com, evite.com or punchbowl.com. "Digital invitations [are] a great way to not only save money, but also be green and save on paper," Kucik says. "There are so many cute digital invites out there that can be personalized to fit any theme or gender." She also suggests that the mom-to-be sends out digital thank you notes after the shower to save time and money.

[Read: 8 Products Your Baby Doesn't Need.]

Create activities on a budget. Keep guests entertained with activities that won't break the bank. One idea Laing likes is an advice jar: Each guest writes down advice for the new mom and slips the paper in a jar. The recipient can frame the advice or store the jar as a keepsake in the nursery instead of getting a formal guest book that sits in a closet gathering dust. You could also play shower games or buy plain white onesies at a dollar store and have guests decorate them with fabric paint for the new baby.

Let far-flung guests attend virtually. When transportation to a shower is too expensive, guests can now "attend" through video tools such as FaceTime, Skype or Google Hangout (Google's free video chat tool). Megan Elliott's best friend lives in Hawaii, where her friend's husband is stationed in the military, while Elliott lives in Colorado Springs and much of the mom-to-be's family lives in New Mexico. Despite the distance, the 26-year-old didn't want her friend to miss out on a baby shower, so she planned one to take place via Google Hangout last summer.

Guests sent their gifts to the expectant mom in advance so she could open them live on video, while they watched from computers in other parts of the country. Elliott also sent her friend a banner she created that matched the shower's Dr. Seuss theme, and she planned games they could play via video, including guessing the size of the new mom's stomach based on a photo slideshow. Her advice for others planning a virtual shower? Send the gifts well in advance, and test out the video tool so it runs smoothly on the big day. Also make sure that all guests understand the shower is taking place online rather than in person, and tell them the start time in their local time zone.

[See: 10 Baby Products You Should Never Buy.]

Have sweets serve double duty. Kucik suggests buying a professionally decorated cake or cupcakes. "This, unlike other food, will be the center of pictures and is often what the guests remember," she says. "Make it your centerpiece, so it serves two purposes."

Like cakes, candy centerpieces can be decorative and delicious. For her sister-in-law's baby shower, Laing borrowed candy dishes from a friend who purchased them for her wedding. Laing filled the dishes with bulk candy and allowed guests to serve themselves from the "candy bar."