I recently planned a birthday party for my son, Sam. I’ve never been one to get into the trend of expensive, elaborate parties for children. I tend to agree with Dr. Kevin Leman, author of Home Court Advantage, who believes children spend enough time outside the home, so it’s a great idea to have birthday parties at home, rather than at the local skating rink.

With that in mind, I try really hard to throw fun, frugal parties at home. It’s a challenge, but it can be done, if you keep a few things in mind.

Limit the Number of Guests

You don’t have to invite every child in your son’s preschool class to the party. Be tactful and mail invitations, so nobody in class feels left out. I’ve heard the general rule is to invite one child for every year of your child’s age. If your child is turning 4, that means 4 guests. There are several benefits to limiting the number of guests.

  • None of the kids will be overwhelmed by the chaos
  • Your child won’t be overwhelmed with toys he doesn’t need
  • You need to buy (or make) fewer party supplies
  • It will actually be possible to throw a birthday party at home

Plan Ahead

Chances are, if you are planning a party at the last minute, you will be spending more money than if you had planned ahead. Planning ahead allows you to bargain shop. A friend of mine was thinking of her daughter’s February birthday in August, when she was able to pick up some luau supplies on clearance. Her daughter had said she wanted a Hawaiian birthday party, so she jumped on the party supplies while they were at their lowest price. Had she tried to find leis in January, she might have had to pay a premium for them….or she might have been out of luck.

Enlist the Help of Friends and Family

My sister-in-law used to dress up as a clown for her younger step-sister’s birthday parties. Do you know someone with an exotic pet? Ask if he’ll bring his llama to your party! Think about the talents of your friends. Artist. Balloon Man. Talented Story Teller. You might find someone to volunteer their services, or at least give you a break on the price.

Use the Library

The friend who threw the Hawaiian party for her daughter rented a video on beginning hula dancing. The girls learned to hula at the party! And it was free! Do you need a specific kind of music? A movie? Check your library before spending the money.

Make Your Own Cake

No, I’m not kidding. You can do this. Look for ideas online. Familyfun.com is a great site for cake ideas. They’re frugal and cute! And just so you know it can be done, here are a couple of cakes I’ve made over the years. And I’m no professional!

(No those aren’t actual bubbles on the cake. My children’s privacy is important, so I blotted out my daughter’s real name)

Make Up Your Own Games

Musical chairs is always fun. Don’t want to use chairs? Print out pages of objects or characters and tape them to the floor. Have the children walk from picture to picture instead of sitting on chairs. Pin the blank on the blank is fun and frugal too. The year we did a Veggie Tales theme for my daughter’s party, we played “Pin the Eyes on Bob.” All it cost me was some poster board and some double sided tape.

Make Your Own Invitations and Thank You Notes

This isn’t hard to do if you have the most basic photo editing program on your computer. Or if you’re a crafty type, you could get really creative.

Finally, Don’t Stress Over It

Your attitude will be instrumental in your child having a good time. If you’re stressed, your child will pick up on it. If you’re in full-celebration mode, your everyone will have a great time, no matter how big or small the party is.

Additional Resources

Do you have any frugal party ideas? Planning sites you’d like to share? Leave a comment!