8 Ways to Save Money on Your Kids’ Birthday Party

Kids birthday parties can easily get out of control when it comes to spending. We’ve all seen the extreme examples on TV where parents drop $10,000 or more on their kids party. While I certainly don’t fall in that category, I have been surprised some years by how much we did end up spending on our kids parties, once you added it all up. Sound familiar?

Whether you fall into the camp that believes kids birthday parties are out of control and way to extravagant or not, here are some ideas on how to spend less on your child’s birthday party. That way you can spend that money on something else …. like taking the family out to dinner, hiring a service to clean up after the party, or getting a puppy. (Maybe that’s a little extreme.) Psst! Scroll all the way to the bottom of the post to download my FREE Kids Party Planning Worksheet to make planning a breeze.

1. A Scribble is Fine.
I like a beautiful invitation as much as the next person but let’s face it, it’s going into the garbage as soon as the party date has passed. For adults, a party invitation sets the mood for the event. For kids, it just tells Mom when and where to bring her child. So, why not take one of your kids drawings, write the party particulars on the bottom, make copies, and call it a day. Or save even more money and a tree by sending an evite. Above, you can see the invitation my daughter made for her Spa Birthday party.

bday cake

2. Stand Up for the Cake.
For every one of my kids’ birthday, I just make a chocolate cake and then put their toys on the top of the cake to decorate it. Plastic horses, fairies, Star War or Lego guys are all perfect to decorate a cake and make it fit the party “theme.” The kids think it is so cool to show off their favorite toys on the cake. The cake cost me $5.00.

3. More Does Not Equal Better.
Limit the number of kids. Don’t feel like you need to invite every kid in your child’s class or on their sports team or who talked to your child at the playground. More does not equal better for either Mom or the birthday child. Too many kids is overwhelming for all. Only invite the number you are comfortable supervising. My rule of thumb is if I’ve never heard my kids mention a child’s name or met the other child’s Mom, I am certainly not going to ask them to plunk $20 down for a gift for my kid. I certainly don’t like buying a gift for a kid I’ve never heard of, so why would they.

4. Kill Two Birds With One Stone.
Make sure one of your birthday party activities is also the take home favor for the party guests. If you tie dye T-shirts at the party, the T-shirt is their party favor. If you decorate pirate chests, the kids take home a nice pirate chest. If you have a cookie decorating party, the kids take home a bunch of cookies. Don’t buy an extra party favors! You’re covered already. (No birds were harmed in the creation of this tip.)

5. Don’t feed the animals.
If you plan your party time right, you don’t have to feed the guests a full meal. Plan your party from 2 – 4 p.m. and you only need to serve cake and some munchies. Don’t spend the money on pizza or hot dogs that the kids are going to be too excited to eat anyway.

wii rock band party

6. Reuse and Recycle.
Use the games, toys, and activites you already have at home to entertain the kids at the party. Have a tent? Set it up in the backyard or the dining room and they’ll play for hours. Have a Wii? Host a Wii tournament. Have a karioke machine? Throw a Diva party. Have a lot of tea sets? Host a Teddy Bear tea party. Have a cool telescope? Stargazing party! Have a million loose Lego pieces? Throw a Lego Party where you just dump all of those miscellaneous pieces on a table and tell the kids to have at it. (Actually, this is a great goodie bag idea. Collect all of those extra Lego pieces laying around that you can’t match up with any kits and put them in a baggie to give out as party favors. The kids love it and you can walk on your carpet again.)

7. Plastic Treat Bags are for Landfills.
I’m sorry but when my kids bring home one of those plastic bags filled with candy, pencils and plastic spider rings, they immediately go in the recycle bin. Moms, you don’t have to give anything – there is no rule or birthday fairy who punishes those without treat bags. Don’t waste your money. If you didn’t do an activity where the kids could take something home already (see #4) and you do want a parting gift, keep it low key. Just buy a big candy bar and tie a ribbon around it. Or go to Half Price Books, buy old comic books and hand those out. (This was a HUGE, HUGE hit at my son’s last party.) Or I like taking a photo of the guest with the birthday child and either having someone print it during the party to take home or send it to them in the thank you note. That is something that will get saved. If you do get a “goodie” bag, there are nice felt ones that the kids could reuse and just fill it with some candy.

8. Be a Doubting Thomas.
Although your son may be dying for a Thomas the Train birthday party, you don’t need to buy the Thomas plates, napkins, cups, and tablecloth. Party supplies with licensed characters cost more. Stick with the less expensive solid color pieces and just search online for pictures of Thomas, Dora, or Elmo and print them on your color printer to prop up around the table. You’ll still have a theme but at a lesser cost.


I hope these tips have helped you keep the kids birthday party budget from spirally out of control and convinced you to get a puppy. (Adopt don’t buy, and you’ll save even more money.) Download my FREE Kids Party Planning Worksheet to make planning your child’s next birthday party a breeze.

What did I miss? How else can you save money on a kid’s birthday party?

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Tags: Kids Birthday Party Ideas

1 Comment - Leave a comment

  1. The tip about having the party between 2 and 4 is a great one!!! Best way to avoid a full out meal.

    Aisha G of HartlynKids
    5/29/12

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