8 Tips for Frugal Birthday Party Planning

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!

14 thoughts on “8 Tips for Frugal Birthday Party Planning”

  1. LOL, I followed the number of guests = age of the birthday child up until my kids were 8. And that made the eighth birthday a pretty big party!

    After that, we let the kids decide how many guests, and typcially they would want to have somewhere between 4 and 6 guests, a really manageable number. 8 boys + the birthday boy running around the house can be pretty frenetic!

    I agree that parties shouldn’t cost a fortune to be fun, without a doubt. What kid remembers whether all the tableware matched! The dollar store is one of my favorite places for finding birthday treasures. ;)

    My daughter is a March baby, and four years ago (I think it was the 13th b’day party) I planned a Spring theme birthday party. We found these great wooden bird houses at the dollar store, bought paint for them and that was one of the crafts everyone enjoyed during the party time. Girls at this age pay particular attention to making their works of art beautiful, and have fun working together as a group.

    Thanks for a great post! It’s good to see common sense rule rather than huge excess. Enjoying your blog.

  2. I think you have a pretty good list of how to organize a party there.

    The key is planning, plan ahead and you won’t have to worry about anything at the last minute, however, for the rest of the world who forget or do leave it for the last minute, then just use the internet!

    We run a online party shop, and the amount of customers who make the fatal mistake of planning late is amazing, yet it doesn’t necessarily mean the parties going to go wrong! Just try and think of every angle.

    The best bet is to decide if you want a themed party or not. For arguments sake, let’s say you do. Take Winnie The Pooh for instance.

    If you check our section under Winnie, or any other party site for that matter, you will notice the page is organized for the entire party, most sites will have all the other necessary items under that section as well.

    The best thing about it is the budget. If you do order your supplies online, then you can pretty much guarantee a great price, or at least we do.

  3. My son wanted a Diego/Dora party this year. I printed out nearly everything I used on nickjr.com Mini coloring books for the goody bags, a pin the spots on Baby Jaguar game, clip art to decorate lunch sacks to use as goody bags, and other stuff too. There is so much printable stuff there, defintely a good starting point for any frugal party, whether it’s character themed or not.

  4. I think that baking your own cake is a brilliant way to save big bucks on a birthday party. Where I live, you can’t get a decent birthday cake at the bakery for under $30! But if you stock up on cake-baking supplies when they’re on sale at the grocery store, like I’ve done in the past, I’ll be you can get that cake baked for less than $5.

    Here’s a link to how we handled birthdays on a budget this year:


    Great post.


  5. That veggie tales cake is adorable!

    We don’t do the bd party thing anymore. None of the kids invited ever showed and I was tired of my children being disappointed. We do the big family thing and they still get tons of presents. Just no hurt feelings.

  6. Beautiful job! My mom used the age/guests rule as well. I don’t think it ever bothered me. I didn’t even invite the full number as I got older. By the time I was 11, it meant a sleepover party with my best friend.

  7. We follow the age=number of guests formula too, as well as utilizing friends. One year, we had a boa constrictor at DS’s party and it was a huge hit. It cost me nothing…one of the teenagers DH plays basketball with was happy to come to the party and bring his snake.

  8. Thank you, thank you! My oldest son’s birthday is Saturday and unfortunately I didn’t plan very well. I have to plan everything in 2 days and I’m going to have to quickly read through the links here. I should probably start planning my youngest son’s birthday now (it’s next month).

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