Friday, December 5, 2008

Frugal Birthdays!

Bridgett recently commented, asking:
"Do you have any ideas for a frugal kids birthday party? I want to do small treat bags for the guests, but am not sure what to fill them with without spending much $$. Also, I want to do something other than a regular cake, but haven't come up with anything yet. Let me know if you have any ideas. Thanks "

This has been a subject I had been wanting to address for probably about a year now but hadn't gotten it done, So thanks Bridgett for getting me excited about it again. I first starting wanting to blog about it after my friend Christy and I had talked about a situation she had experienced. Her son had been invited to a birthday party for a little girl (I believe she was turning 2) and later (still before the party) the Mother had called and was telling Christy that she just didn't know how she was going to pay for everything, and so forth. Christy felt like she was wanting her to chip in to pay for the cost of the party. Instead she tried to offer simple advice in that buying a cake mix and frosting and getting them ready along with a package of balloons blown up would make a successful birthday party for the young children. (And would cost quite a bit under $10)

Many people feel like they need to arrange for a party at McDonalds, a hotel with a pool, a water park or a Gym place. Also that they need a fancy cake that is professionally decorated or a $30 ice cream cake. They may also feel that they need to have some form of entertainment (A clown, pony rides, etc.) When you add on the gifts for the child as well as fancy invitations and take home bags for the other children it can start costing a lot of money!! In fact I read that the average child's birthday party costs from $200 -$400 dollars. No wonder people think that having lots of kids is expensive. Thank-fully things don't have to be that way!!

Just to let you know... In our house we have a policy of not having parties with a bunch of kids. We basically have family parties with extended family and sometimes some others. So we have never done treat bags or had do deal with entertaining lots of little kids at a party. I have ideas about that anyway though, so I will share them.

What we have found to be really fun at our house is to have a theme. The kids have really enjoyed this.
  • One year Mara had a butterfly theme. My mom had found a butterfly cake pan at a garage sale which she gave to us so we make the cake in that and the kids had fun helping to frost and decorate it. I had also made Fairy wings as one of Mara's presents and she wore those for the party. We also decorated with butterfly pictures and things like that.
  • Another Theme that Aaron still fondly remembers was his Bear Birthday.
  • Jonathan had fun when we had a dog cake and decorated with dog pictures. etc.
  • This year for Jonathan's we decorated with Farm stuff.
  • Mara enjoyed a Horse theme this year.
  • This year Aaron enjoyed a fireman theme.
  • Here are a bunch of ideas for parties and themes.
  • And Family Fun is the magazine that first got me excited about doing themes. They have tons of great ideas and they have them online too. Some of their ideas are not always frugal but the cool thing is: You get to chose what you do. Chose the frugal ideas and skip the others or remake them so that they will be frugal.

The benefit of having a theme is you can start googling and find lots of crafts and ideas to go along with whatever them you are having. It also gives you an idea for making the cake.

"The Cake"

I am not that good at decorating cakes (as you can tell if you look at the picture above!) but nevertheless we have had fun having "Fancy Cake" for the kids birthdays lately. Since cake decorating is not my specialty I have found it easier to stay away from the frosting decorating set and instead make fun cakes by having them be in fun shapes and using candy, coconut and other stuff with textures and colors to decorate as well as using little toys. That has been working for us. The kids really enjoy helping and with that it is easier for them to do that as well as being less stressful for me.

When they come up with some particular cake they want usually I do a bit of Internet searching to find an idea, and then I generally make the idea work around what we already have. I have also found some books with good ideas at the library. Here are some cake links that I think are pretty fun.

  • Again Family Fun wins the prize for having tons of ideas for fun and usually easy cakes to make.
  • Coolest Birthday Cakes has 1,000's of pictures of various cakes. You can get lots of fun ideas here!


  • Balloons always make an event festive and they don't cost much. That is a Win -Win.
  • If you have decided on a theme that can make it easy (or maybe hard, depending on what your child wants!). Start looking around your house to see if you have anything at all that goes along with the theme. By the way, children usually aren't that picky, even if it is just a normal teddy bear, if you are having a bear theme and you set it on the table, that can make it seem very special!
  • Cardboard boxes can be used to make trains, castles and much more to go along with what ever theme you have chosen. Your kids will probably love to help you make it.
  • Streamers are cheap and festive.
  • Browse through Family Fun's site and you will find lots of fun decorating ideas.

Treat Bags

  • You can have lots of fun decorating white (or brown) paper lunch sacks to put the stuff in.
  • Popcorn balls are very yummy and inexpensive. They would be a fun addition to a treat bag. (just wrap them up in cling wrap) You can add food coloring when you are making them so that they will be extra pretty.
  • Make little boxes to use instead of bags. Fill them with candy that was bought on sale at Walgreens or CVS.
  • Homemade play dough that is put in cleaned old peanut butter jars (which you can put a pretty label on or decorate with stickers) would be another fun addition to treat bags.
  • If the kids are the type that like to do crafts you could have that be part of the party and then send whatever they made home with them instead of a treat bag.
  • Have an adult (maybe the dad ?!?) learn how to do balloon art. We found a neat book on this but there are also directions on the web and then they can both entertain the kids as well as provide something that the kids can take home. I know Wal-mart carries the long skinny balloons and a pump which are needed. This site has lots of information and video instruction for balloon artistry.


  • Have a treasure or scavenger hunt. Write up fun clues and you can keep them busy for quite a while.
  • There are lots of games to play. Here is a resource for a bunch of them!
  • Do crafts together.
  • Have a "Circus" and invite every family to bring an act or come dressed as a certain part of the circus. Or you can provide the proper stuff to dress up. Kids love playing Circus and that can keep them busy for a long time.


There are a lot of frugal gifts to be had. If you would like you can browse through the gift section on my blog.

For lots more ideas on Frugal Birthday parties you can visit here.

For lots more frugal tips visit Biblical Womanhood.

Oh... and I would love it if you would share your ideas too to benefit all of us!


Bridgett said...

Thanks for posting this Abbi. Your ideas will help me out for our next party. =) I realized how unprepared I was just a little too late. I can't believe that people actually spend $200-400 on a birthday party!

Anonymous said...

I have to say, I do spend about 150 on my kids party... although that is for TWO kids, so I only have to throw one party a year. Their is a huge pool near us that rents out for 2 hours for 150. You are not allowed to bring in chips or things like that so the place stays neat, so I usually just bake cupcakes, and some brownies and cookies for the adults. That is it as far as food. They provide lifeguards, included in the cost, so I don't have to entertain anyone. This year, I made small bags with a foam Christmas tree, a foam star, and some sequins and a piece of ribbon... so each child can make their own ornament at home. It cost next to nothing to make them, just took some time, which was fine to save a bundle of money.

Anyway, I guess that 150 might sound like a lot, but it is once a year, and it is super easy and there is very little cost other than the pool itself. And all of the kids love it because they get to swim in December. As a matter of fact, their party this year is tonight. So I better get moving...

I love all of your ideas! Jen


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