Throw A Great Birthday Party And Save Money
In my humble opinion, the expense and extravagance of children’s birthday parties have gotten out of hand. The home adorned from roof to floor with ornately themed decorations. The themed candy table with each type of candy in its own themed container with its own themed scooper into themed containers. The custom iced cookies – so perfect that they look like something mass produced by machines as a theme park souvenir. The kinds of decorations that tons of hours and tons of money are spent prepping. You know the Pinterest to the hilt parties I am talking about. The kind of party that leaves you feeling like you could never measure up as a mom. The kind of party that makes you wonder if your kids know that they are special too. You leave pondering where the endless hours came from or if someone was paid to do all of that hard work. It is nice but it feels like it screams, “We are #1!” Do you want to be number 1? Do you want your child to feel like they are #1? SURE! OF COURSE! But…Do you want many to leave your party feeling inadequate? Do you want to make other children feel like they are less than? Do you have endless supplies of money and countless hours of time to fill? If you answered yes to any of those questions than please stop reading now and resume your party preparations. If you answered no continue on to find ways towards a happy in between.
Oh good, I am not alone…Whew, I was worried for a moment.
News Flash: Kids love running around squealing with other kids. Kids love balloons. Kids love cake. Kids do not really care if you had the fanciest invitation. Kids do not really care if they had custom iced themed sugar cookies…in fact, they probably would have preferred a giant tray of the best homemade chocolate chip cookies you could make.
The point here is that if you take a moment to ponder what is important to your child you can prioritize your expenditures of time and money. The first step is to ask your kid what theme they want and what they would like best about a party. If your child is the rare exception that says they want all the bells and whistles I am sorry and they probably have much disappointment to forward to in life. Most kids, on the other hand, are going to have a list of wants. That list likely includes who they want to have come, the theme, maybe a piñata and/or a jumper, a favorite food, and a cake idea.
Sounds like a lot! right?! Please notice that nowhere in there will most children say they want custom invitations printed on lace or that the jumper just must look like sleeping beauty’s castle, that food must be catered, that the goody bags must be small princess purses completely bejeweled.
So where to save some money!
Limit the Crowd: Do not allow yourself to get sucked into inviting everyone you know, or everyone who has ever invited you to their party, or everyone who is somewhat remotely related to you. Invite those you love and wish to share the day with. Invite those who your child yearns to have by their side on this occasion. If you find yourself having trouble with the idea of inviting just a couple of the kids from their class there are ways around it. Sending invites to school with your child can result in hard feelings. However, you can email the class mom for the phone numbers of specific parents. You will need to plan ahead so that their permission can be gotten and there is still time to get back to you. Someone may have hurt feelings. If it is going to hurt your feelings to not get invited to their next birthday party then invite them is my motto…but personally I do not desire to have my every weekend day booked with birthday parties so this gets to be pretty easy.
Invitations: I like having some fun on Etsy. For about 5 bucks you can get your child’s invitation customized on Etsy with whatever theme you want. You can print it at home on the thin card stock through your standard printer. Pretty cheap and still nicer than picking up a pack with the lines you fill in like we grew up with. Hand deliver the invitations. When you are not inviting the whole world this it pretty easy to do if the people are local. You know it got there and it feels like you personally care…bonus no postage.
Decorations…the slippery slope: Know what your kids desire. Mine love balloons. I like to order few mylars online that match their theme. There are several discount balloon sites out there so all you have to do is search for princess balloons or Winnie the Pooh balloons. The selection online is endless. A local party store can inflate them and you can supplement with some inexpensive latex. The balloons and cake themselves make lovely centerpieces. Kids do not care if each table has an ornate centerpiece. Children tend to pick party themes that are well represented in their toy collection. Utilizing their own toys is a great way to make them feel like they were involved in the decorating and like their toys are special enough to be decoration worthy. You can use their figures as balloon weights, hang them from the chandelier, spread them around the room whatever works.
Feeding the Crowd: Cheap colored table covers are often nicer than the character ones that just start to be overwhelming. Basic color paper plates are cheaper than the character ones and I highly recommend saving a few dollars here. If people are just eating food on them a coordinated color saves $$. Then you do not feel as badly about splurging on the character printed plates for the cake. The food can be simple pizza, hamburgers, and hot dogs are time-honored traditions for a reason. The is a time and place to be a galloping gourmet but birthday parties are not one of them. If you want to spend the money go ahead but the catered themed food will be lost on the children. They won’t want to stop running around long enough to eat a piece of pizza, which they would surely prefer to the pretend sushi rolled sandwiches you could have spent hours preparing in honor of the mermaid themed party.
The Cake: Here I splurge. I feel like it can double as an impressive centerpiece and allow for a fancy looking party with some key pictures that will allow you the chance to look back on the party and feel like you made it special. This is especially true if you get all those fun balloons in the shot. Cake and Balloons…in my opinion it is where the money should go. That said I have gotten quotes from custom cake bakeries for cakes that they think should cost $400 dollars…umm yeah right. We are talking about flour, butter, and sugar here, right? So I have found ways around it.
1. Put a shout out on a facebook group for your local area for someone who does custom cakes at home. I did this and in 2 hours had over 60 suggestions. I found a cake lady who does amazing work for pennies on the dollar of a big bakery. If you want the look of a fancy cake with molded fondant but not the cost of all that art work use toys. I have gotten creative over the years using figures, the tops of bubble containers you name it!
2. Supplement with cupcakes or do all cupcakes. CUPCAKES are easy and they look so fun to kids. Kids see a pile of pretty frosting and a topper stuck in the top. Pure kiddie heaven. Why complicate things? A small awesome cake surrounded by dozens of pretty cupcakes who could ask for more? Your kids will be impressed. I once bought a plain multi-tiered stand for cupcakes. It’s uses are endless, I lend it out. It was an awesome investment. With cupcakes, it is all about display.
3. Do it yourself. The homemade cake tastes better. A doctored up cake mix is quick and easy. Cupcakes are easy. They cook quickly and you can swirl on a pile of frosting with a simple piping bag. Etsy has cheap cupcake toppers you can print at home glue onto toothpicks and create your own toppers in an instant. Sugar crystal sprinkles add some glitz to the cupcake presentation and can be sprinkled over dozens of cupcakes in a second. If you are more ambitious kids still love the results they get from those shaped Wilton pans. It takes patience and time but one year I did all 4 ninja turtle faces. I used an old 1980’s ninja turtle face pan and made 4 of them with different color masks. The kids were all crazy impressed. My kid got to blow out a candle on each of them because he was turning 4 and all 4 of them combined were cheaper than a standard half sheet cake at my local grocery store.
Entertainment: Spare yourself the disappointment of the low-quality character appearance. Kids playing with kids is entertainment. A piñata is entertainment. If your child wants a jumper a standard jumper can usually be pretty inexpensive. If you have kept the party small you won’t need the jumbo one with the slide. If you intend to have a party that lasts for a couple of hours though a couple of simple party games, some free play time, eating time, and cake and presents fills that time quickly. I try to remember that people like to have some time to do other things with their day as well. One worthy exception to this rule of keeping the fun cheap is education. I believe if you are having an educational party and the kids are all going to walk away knowing more about reptiles or about birds of prey than by all means if you can afford it bring in the educational entertainment. The kids learn, they have fun, and the parents can leave feeling like their child gained something from the experience.
The Take Home Gift: Parents don’t want a bag full of stuff from quarter machines and candy. Those goody bags add up too! If you buy the ones with the matching character and go get a bunch of matching pencils, and rings, and tops and candy…geez. It is customary to send kids home with a thank you gift from your party, though, so what is a parent to do. There are options. Cheaper and more appealing options! An easy one is to print from home a design you found on Etsy. Good choices include candy bar wrappers or little bag toppers. Then you just put a few pieces of candy in a trimmed off Ziploc snack size bag or wrap a Hershey bar up for each kid. The birthday child can participate in preparing these fun gifts as well, so it actually serves the intended purpose of being a thank you from your child to their guest. As a parent, I would much rather walk out of a party with a single item than a bag of junk. We all know that junk is going to end up scattered all over the car floor or at the bottom of a toy box. One day it will make it’s journey to a landfill where it will never break down. There are tons of creative ways around this dilemma. Just think about your theme, think about your budget, and pause for a moment to think about how you or your child would feel about the item in question. I am a huge believer in a single item!
So I preach moderation from start to finish. Moderation!! Moderation for your wallet. Moderation for your time. Moderation for you sanity. Perhaps most importantly moderation for the sake of your child’s expectations in life. When a child is given extravagant birthday parties it establishes an expectation of extravagance. Is this beneficial in their life? It is probably a good way to teach them that having the best and most expensive is the way to go. Teaching moderation, on the other hand, is always a good lesson. We can teach them through our choices to spend where they see the greatest benefit, to get in there and do things for themselves, to not present themselves as greater than others. Those seem to me to be much more valuable lessons all the while saving some money and some sanity while giving them a wonderful party that they will love!
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