Birthday parties without the (wallet) blowout

Our triplets’ birthday is coming up soon and I have been trying to start planning their party. This is the first year that they are actually aware that they are having a birthday and that there will be a party. I was so disappointed to realize that doing a party away from home was quite expensive. Somehow we have never done one somewhere else for them or their older brother.

So instead, I will continue with my tradition of planning fun and inexpensive parties at home or someone else’s home (thanks Lori & Larry and Sara & Danny!).

Here is my roundup of tips on how to save while planning a child’s birthday party:

Places: Host at your home or someone else’s (friend or family member), in the backyard, or at your local park

Invitations: Make your own on the computer. Let your child help you design them. An older child can help with the writing and a younger child can help with the cover art. Or use http://www.evite.com and email them to your guests. Email helps you save money on postage and save time on collating and addressing invitations.

Decorations: There is nothing wrong with generic decorations. You can always choose just a few character or theme-specific decorations and mix them with the plainer ones. We always let our older son choose just one thing at the party store to decorate for his party.

Activities: Try planning a few “centers” that kids can participate in. For example: a few games, a craft, and time to enjoy the food. One year we incorporated a craft into the snack and let the kids decorate their chocolate chip cookies with carrots, icing, raisins and the like to make a face! You can find many great themed party activities online. My favorite site is http://familyfun.go.com. You can also do a search for the particular theme on Google (i.e. dinosaur-themed birthday parties) and you are sure to come up with tons of great ideas. Activities that are great for any theme include: relay races, treasure hunts, dancing, and craft projects.

Food: Instead of buying store-bought cakes and prepared foods, do it yourself! Or if you are not handy in the kitchen, ask for help! You can also use making the cake as a fun project to do with your child. They will enjoy the one-on-one time with you and be proud of their creation. Family Fun and Parenting magazine (http://www.parenting.com/) often have great cake ideas. (And as a favor to moms like me, serve something healthy, not just all junk food!)

Favors: Instead of going overboard on party favors that often break or get lost with other miscellaneous toys, purchase one item that all the kids may like. One year we gave guests the plastic mice and bugs we used for our scavenger hunt. A friend recently gave away plastic watches. The focus should be on the fun and the birthday child, not the loot the kids go home with.

Asking for help: Instead of bringing a gift, ask family and friends to help with preparing food or getting supplies. Don’t be afraid to ask. There is always at least one good friend (thanks Michelle) or family member who would be willing to set up or clean up or bring something you need. I am sure you will return the favor!

You can even let your older child do the planning. Check out this innovative idea from one parent who gave her daughter a budget and let her plan her whole party!

http://familyfun.go.com/parties/party-planning-ideas/the-birthday-budget-706333/

01/2011: My older son with his homemade cake, courtesy of Daddy.

To make sure you haven’t forgotten anything, check out these party planning checklists.

Child’s At-Home Birthday Party Checklist:

http://www.realsimple.com/holidays-entertaining/birthdays/childs-home-birthday-party-checklist-00000000038932/index.html

Child’s Away-from-home Birthday Party Checklist:

http://www.realsimple.com/holidays-entertaining/birthdays/childs-away-home-party-checklist-00000000038933/index.html

Additional Source:
– “Planning a Birthday Blast on a Budget” from Scholastic.com at http://www.scholastic.com/resources/article/planning-a-birthday-blast-on-a-budget

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