Young children having party sitting at table with food smiling

How to Throw a Kids’ Birthday Party on a Budget

Special occasions have evolved, becoming grander, increasingly pricey and elaborate. Gone are days of birthday parties held in unfinished basements, complete with paper party hats and boxed supermarket cake. Today, it seems kids’ birthday parties aren’t only held at venues outside of mom and dad’s basement, they’re extravagant, complete with zoo animals, bouncy castles and multi-tiered custom cakes. Whatever happened to old fashioned, modest parties? We know kids don’t care if they’re seated on a plastic chair or one that’s wrapped in an elegant chair cover. They don’t mind if they eat a homemade cupcake instead of one layered in fondant. And they’ll enjoy playing hot potato as much as watching an expensive clown make balloon animals. Here are some ways to throw a successful birthday bash without breaking the bank.

Party at home

Open your front door to guests but take note, little ones tend to leave sticky fingerprints and more behind, so in an effort to avoid spending hours cleaning up post-party, try and confine the kids to one room in your home if possible. Renting space at indoor play centres can run upwards of a few hundred dollars, but using your home as a party headquarters can drastically cut costs.

BYOF: bring your own food

Search for event spaces that will allow you to bring your own party food, instead of paying an expensive tab for the same type of food you can buy on your own. Many places offer up the use of a fridge or microwave, but you’ll have to make sure you stay away from uncooked dishes and other foods that might need reheating. My go-to menu for parties is pizza (which can be delivered when you’re ready to serve the food), salad, fruit and veggie platters, and a few simple appetizers. Ordering a birthday cake doesn’t have to be expensive either. While boutique bakeries tend to be pricier ($50 and up for a small cake), ordering a slab cake from a grocery store will feed more mouths and save you from going into overdraft or heading to the bank of mom and dad!

Ask the right questions

When searching venue options, choose ones that don’t charge per child. Some places will offer you a fixed price with a maximum capacity. After much searching, I came across a martial arts space rental, complete with two instructors for $200 and a maximum of 20 guests. It’s important to ask how much each additional guest might cost once you’ve exceeded the ‘fixed price limit.’

Get crafty

Party stores seem to have an endless supply of décor, but you can seriously save yourself some money if you think creatively. Instead of ordering gift bags that match your party theme, check out photos on Pinterest or other idea-inspiring websites to get the same custom look for less. Tip: Mod Podge®, sold at craft stores is kid-friendly glue that dries clear. It’s a go-to tool for my DIY projects.

Go small or go home

If you read up on birthday party etiquette, some ‘experts’ will suggest inviting your child’s entire class until about grade 1, which can be upwards of 30 little ones. It’s not unusual for kindergarten parents to stick around at parties–that could mean another 30 mouths to feed! If BIG simply isn’t in your budget, why not opt for a smaller, more intimate gathering with close family and friends. There’s no hard and fast rule when it comes to your guest list. Some ideas include having a sleepover party with a few friends (for older children), bringing the girls to a kid’s spa, or gathering the boys for an afternoon movie.

No matter what your party style may be, your child and their guests won’t’ be underwhelmed. As long as there’s a space for them to play and enough food to keep kids active, they’re generally easy to impress–and seeing their smiling faces is priceless.