Children's birthday parties are becoming a big business. Event services website GigMasters.com reports that 70 percent of parents spent at least $300 on their child's birthday party, while 14 percent spent over a grand last year. Of course, that's money not all families have or want to spend on a party.
Fortunately, with a little creativity and do-it-yourself spirit, it's possible to plan a kid's birthday celebration without spending big bucks. Here's a look at ways to cut costs without sacrificing the fun factor.
1. Find a low-cost venue. Party rental venues such as local play spaces, trampoline parks, bowling alleys or arcades will do much of the work for you (blowing up balloons, putting up streamers, assembling goody bags), but they can also come with a bigger price tag. Audrey McClelland, SheKnows.com’s parenting expert and founder of MomGenerations.com, says hosting at home is likely your cheapest option unless you score a discount for planning a party on an off-day like a Sunday.
If you don't have a big enough house or backyard for hosting a handful of kids, then consider low-cost options like a local park or YMCA. "A local park always seems to come with picnic tables and a grilling area, which is a really great option to be outside with a large group," says McClelland, a Rhode Island mom of four sons.
2. Use digital invitations. Instead of printing or buying paper invites, send digital invitations to your guests. "If you are on a budget and short on time, but still want it to look nice, it is probably most efficient to use Evite, and spend your effort elsewhere like decorations, party favors and so on," says Helen Holden, a mother of 4-year-old twins and founder of the birthday party-planning website CountingCandles.com. Sending digital invitations to guests' parents also eliminates the potential for hurt feelings when paper invites are distributed at school.
Still, if you do decide on paper invitations, then get creative to forgo the store-bought invites and save money. One of McClelland's sons made construction paper invitations for a Minecraft-themed birthday party based on the popular computer game that uses blocks to create new worlds. Pinterest also has plenty of printable invitations and other ideas for DIY invites.
3. Get kids involved in DIY projects. Having the birthday boy or girl choose a theme, decorate a homemade cake or brainstorm ideas for activities can provide a creative outlet while keeping costs low and making the party more personalized.
Miami mom Jane Watkins recently planned a dragon-themed party for her daughter's eighth birthday. Using two refrigerator boxes and two oven boxes, Watkins constructed a "castle" that her daughter painted with help from neighborhood kids. Watkins says she likes this DIY approach because "it builds up the excitement as we looked for cardboard boxes, and it sparks that creativity in kids and parents."
After her daughter suggested they have a golden egg hunt (since dragons apparently lay golden eggs), Watkins bought Easter eggs wrapped in gold foil and hid them around the yard.
4. Let the theme inspire food and décor. Choosing a theme can help create a cohesive look and feel for the party. But you don't need to buy character-licensed plates or napkins to pull it off. "The key is to make all the decorations match your theme and tie together," Holden says. "For example, if your theme is 'Frozen' and all your decorations are tied together by a common color of blue, then you will need fewer decorations to make it work."
You can also tie the activities and goody bags to the theme. At McClelland's son's party, the kids decorated their own Minecraft figures using Rice Krispie treats and candy. She wrapped up their creations and sent them home with each child as the party favor.