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Cheap Kids Birthday Party Ideas

Published January 05, 2015        by Matt

Cheap kids birthday party ideas

It seems these days that kids birthday parties are getting more extravagant, more expensive, and over the top. This of course has made it increasingly difficult for the frugal mom to plan a fun party on a budget. While throwing your child a birthday party is high on any parents list, most people don't want to spend a fortune for the celebration. Therefore, the first thing you should do when planning the party is establish a budget and don't go over what you set out to spend. Here are some great tips to keep the costs down while still making sure that your child has a birthday that he or she won't soon forget!

Tip #1 - The easiest way to keep the cost low is to limit the size of the guest list and keep the party small. You don't have to invite your child's entire class or the whole neighborhood to have a fun party. And don't forget that you also don't need to spend a small fortune on your kids birthday gift.

Inexpensive Birthday Party Locations

Depending on the time of year and your budget, there are some great options for the location of the party (other than your home). If you do decide to throw a party outside your home, be sure to include your child in the location decision. If the child is young, you may want to bring them to the location prior to the party so that they can get comfortable and excited about the upcoming event. Most kids look forwarding to opening their presents at the end of their party. So whatever option you choose, make sure you set aside a special place where all the party goers can place the birthday gifts.

1. Town Park Shelter. Many local communities offer rental shelters at the parks where they have picnic tables, grills and play equipment for the kids. The older children can go play while the adults hang out. The food doesn't have to be gourmet, instead keep it simple and easy like barbecuing hot dogs or burgers or a couple baked lasagnas with salad. Follow up with a fun birthday cake from your local warehouse club, grocery store or your own kitchen.

kids birthday party
Image by strupler on Flickr

2. Fast Food Restaurant. Both McDonald's and Hardees offer kids parties that include a party hostess, food and cake at reasonable prices. The other great thing about these restaurants is that many have Playlands or plastic ball pits so that the kids can be entertained while the adults chit-chat and relax a bit.

3. Children's or Science Museum. If you have a larger budget, a local science or children's museum can be a great place to hold a birthday party. Some places have party hostesses and provide some supplies, so just check what they provide in your city. You may only need to bring an online birthday cake and presents.

4. Movie Theater. Many towns have inexpensive or dollar show theaters that will rent out the entire theater or give you big group discount as well as discounts on snacks and soda. Some movie theaters will let you bring in some of your own snacks and a cake so just check and see what can be done at your local theater by speaking with the manager.

5. Pizza Place. Many pizza restaurants have all you can eat lunch buffets or group buffets for around $4 per person. These kinds of restaurants often have game rooms where the kids can play a bit as well. Check with the manager to see if you can bring in your own birthday cake and decorations.

pizza place kids party
Image by nadio on Flickr

6. Church Fellowship Hall. Many churches will either let you use the fellowship or dining hall for free or they charge a small rental free. In either case, this would be a good inexpensive option if you plan to invite a lot of guests (that won't fit in your home). Bring food, cake, games and decorations and you should be all set.

7. Neighborhood Club House. If you live in a planned community, chances are that you have a club house in your neighborhood or apartment complex. Often these rooms are either free or can be rented for a nominal fee by residents. The club house would likely give you more room than your home, but it would still be close enough that you could set up the birthday party relatively easily.

8. Local Fire Department. Often times, local fire departments have rooms that they will allow local residents utilize for free or for a nominal fee. Some fire departments will even give the children of a private birthday party a tour of the department and let them try on some of the firefighters' gear and get their photos taken. These pictures make great keepsake gifts for children.

Cheap Birthday Party Invitations

The invitation is the first clue that your guest's will have about the theme of the child's birthday party so try and choose one that ties in well.

cheap kids birthday party invite
Image by Janet with Kid's Birthday Parties on Flickr

1. The cheapest option is to invite your children's friends and family via e-mail using The drawback of this method is that you would need everyone's e-mail address. However, it is FREE and guests can RSVP right online at Evite.

2. Most people have a computer these days so designing your own invitations is also a great option. Microsoft Publisher has pre-made card templates so you just choose clip art that matches the party theme and fill in all the details like the date and time of the party. You can print the invites on your printer, fold them and then either hand them out to friends and family or mail them (of course, this means you'll have to pay for postage).

3. You can also design invitations using photos of the kids like the one shown to the right in programs like Adobe or Paint Shop. Just choose a standard photo size like 5x7 or 4x6 for the background to create your invitation masterpiece. Then you can just upload the invitation image to or or any of the other online photo processors to order the invitations. They will mail them to you or you can pick them up at the store. If you are looking for a custom design that is relatively inexpensive, this is a great option.

4. Other homemade invitation ideas might include downloading scalable coloring gift book photos from the internet (or from a Dollar Store color book) and then have your child color them. Just write the party info on the colored page and use those as the invitations. Or use colored card stock paper from a craft store and attach a photo of your child using photo corners or stickers. Write the party information on back for a cool, custom birthday party invitation.

Inexpensive Decorations

Of course, you want your decorations to tie in with the party theme, but you don't need to go overboard with the themed items. Save money by using a few key themed items such as balloons and then use color coordinating plates, napkins, etc. If you buy every single themed item, you will go over your budget in a hurry.

For example if you are having a Spiderman themed party, perhaps buy a few mylar Spiderman balloons and then use red, blue and white crepe paper, plates, napkins, and cups.

Inexpensive Food & Drinks

The easiest and least expensive option is to have the party start in the afternoon at say 2 PM and put on the invitations that cake and ice cream will be served. That way guests will know to eat lunch before they come to the party. Just make the birthday cake or cupcakes yourself using small themed items such as horses for a cowboy party or matchbox cars (which can serve as the kids favors) to decorate them. Check out Coolest Birthday Cakes for 1000's of homemade birthday cake ideas.

birthday cupcakes
Image by catbeurnier on Flickr

However if you feel that food is a must, the best advice for keeping it inexpensive is to make the food yourself rather than having the party catered. Enlist the help of friends and family to create a buffet of food that kids love. To save money, buy in bulk at one of the big warehouses such as Sam's Club or Costco. Go for inexpensive items such as hot dogs and pastas for the main course. Large bags of chips, pretzels and other snacks are a great addition. Serve soda pop from 2 liter bottles instead of individual cans because kids tend to leave them sitting and forget which can is theirs. small cups are much cheaper and less wasteful.

Inexpensive Kids Birthday Party Games

Be sure to ask your child what games he or she would like to play at the party when you are making the grand plan. Many of the classic games can be adapted to fit in with the theme of the birthday party. For instance, pin the tail on the donkey could be converted to pin the tiara on the princess for a little princess themed party. Of course, when choosing the games, be sure to consider the location and make sure that there is plenty of room to play the game. Obviously a game of laser tag wouldn't be good choice for an indoor room at your church.

1. Classic Favorites - Play games like pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey, hot potato, duck-duck-goose, red light/green light, musical chairs, Captain May I or Simon says.

2. Egg Hunt - Places like Sam's Club now sell huge buckets of plastic eggs pre-filled with candy and other little trinkets for kids. They come in different colors and themes such as camouflage making them an excellent year round choice. The great thing about the egg hunt is that everyone gets a little prize.

3) Lifesaver Relay Game - Split the kids into teams of 4 players and give each kid a toothpick. Each team is given one lifesaver candy and team members stand in a straight line next to each other. Each player must pass the lifesaver from their toothpick to the next person in line's toothpick (they can use only the one hand that their toothpick is in). If the lifesaver falls to the ground, the team must start over. The team that passes it down the line and back up the line to the original person wins the game.

4) Pinata Game - Use your creativity and make a pinata using balloons and paper mache that fits in with the theme of the party. Buy in bulk a bunch of candy or other little trinkets to put inside the pinata.

Spiderman birthday fun
Image by adamcarroll on Flickr

5) Wrap The Mummy Game - You just need to buy super cheap toilet paper in bulk. At the party, break the kids into pairs with one child as the wrapper and one child as the mummy. In a set amount of time, have the kids wrap the toilet paper around the mummy. When the timer goes off, whoever has the best wrapped mummy wins the game.

Cheap Birthday Party Favorshappy birthday treats

If you are handing out birthday candy gifts and prizes during the games at the party, it isn't really necessary to give separate take home favors. Just hand each kid a brown paper lunch sack that has been decorated with themed stickers, glitter or sketches by the birthday child when they arrive at the party. Put their name on the sack and then they can just fill it with all the loot and prizes that they collect or win at the party. They'll have a great little bag of treats to take home with them at the end of the day.

If you want to give other birthday party favors, consider buying some inexpensive trinkets such as bracelets, foam crafts, little cars, etc. in bulk from some novelty party places like your local dollar store or online at Oriental Trading Company.

Finally if you are at home in the kitchen, you could bake little goodies for the kids to take home. Chocolate chip cookies or cut-out sugar cookie gifts that go along with the party theme are great choices too.

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