From shows such as My Super Sweet 16 to paparazzi shots of the latest celebrity kids party, it might seem that the only way to give your child a decent celebration is to take out a second mortgage. Fortunately, while extreme events are TV-ready, most people are not spending tens of thousands of dollars on their children’s parties. You can throw a fantastic kids bash on even a tiny budget by following these simple tips.
Everything costs more if you wait till the last minute, from airline tickets to traditional holiday foods. If you’re in a rush, you have no time to comparison shop, take advantage of sales, or download coupons. Start planning the party several weeks in advance, and begin the shopping process as soon as you know the theme. Not only will this give you time to make informed decisions, but you may even be able to break up the expenses over two or more pay cycles.
Paper invites have largely gone by the wayside except for weddings and formal events. Take advantage of the digital revolution by using a free option from a site such as Evite. You can still design a fun invitation, but without the expenses of printing and mailing.
Keep It Simple
From the food to the venue to the tables and chairs, your child and his friends are more concerned about having fun than keeping up appearances. A backyard or a picnic shelter at a local park can be just as exciting as the latest pricey venue if you use your ingenuity. Buy food, paper products, and drinks in bulk at a warehouse club. Borrow extra tables and chairs from friends, and use colorful disposable tablecloths to tie everything together.
Serve hamburgers and hot dogs with a few side dishes, or order a stack of pizzas with a coupon from your favorite shop. Or, for even more savings, host the party in the afternoon, well after lunchtime but before dinnertime, and serve snacks and cake rather than a full meal.
Make the cake the star. You don’t need to pay for an expensive, highly themed cake from a celebrity cake decorator, but a nicely decorated cake can become the focal point, letting you save money in other areas. Many grocery stores and warehouse clubs have surprisingly nice cakes at reasonable prices, so shop around a bit.
Avoid the urge to spend a fortune on goody bags. Bake up a few treats and tightly wrap them, or pick up some cute small toys at your local dollar store. Gift bags, balloons, and streamers can also be found at a huge discount at a dollar store.
Check your local thrift stores for décor items that match your theme. For example, thrift store parasols and floppy hats can dress up a tea party for just a few dollars.
The more adults involved, the easier it is to save money by doing things yourselves. Ask the child’s adult relatives to pitch in with everything from serving cake to keeping trash under control. Teenagers can run games, blow up balloons, and keep an eye on younger children. If your friends or relatives are great cooks, you might even be able to turn the party into a potluck.
Rely on the Classics
Games and activities are the core of any children’s party, but that doesn’t mean you need to shell out a fortune. The classics are the classics for a reason—because they consistently amuse large groups of children. Freeze tag, dodgeball, Red Rover, scavenger hunts, basic arts and crafts…run a quick internet search for inspiration, or think back to what you enjoyed in your own childhood. Just make sure that there are options for all ages and skill levels—if your star athlete wants a party packed with physically demanding sports, consider setting up a secondary area with simpler games for younger or less fit children.
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