With four kids, two of whom have birthdays in the same month, a large extended family, and the desire to make each kid feel special on their birthday means that I almost always spend way more on birthday parties than I should. Over the years we have had the bare bones cake and ice cream only parties, the pool party, at least three different birthday parties at Chuck E Cheese, and plenty of over the top friends from school birthday parties. I love parties, and I love the opportunity to celebrate each kid in a special way each year. However, I have learned that there are ways to do this without having to take out a home mortgage. Here are my tips for saving money on birthday parties.
The cake is always the centerpiece at our birthday parties, and I enjoy making huge over the top birthday cakes. I will admit that I have spent $50 on a bakery birthday cake but now that just is not going to happen. I make my kid’s cakes each year for the most part now, and this can save a ton when compared to an expensive bakery cake but when you compare it to the price of a cake bought from the bakery of your local grocery store you may find that making your cake yourself may not be that much cheaper. Another way you can save on a grocery store birthday cake is by buying one that is marked down. I have seen decorated sheet cakes be marked down as low as $5 to $7, and this includes the character cakes. You can even buy the cake as much as week or two in advance because they freeze beautifully, just pop the cake in the freezer and then pull it out the day of the party.
Another way to save on the cost of the cake is to go with cupcakes instead. These are very inexpensive to make, or buy. In addition, cupcakes are easy because no cutting is required and you don’t need silverware to eat it so no additional plastic cutlery is required.
My two oldest kids have birthdays just ten calendar days apart. When they were younger and were the only two kids in the family we would have separate birthday celebrations, one at the beginning of the month, and the other two weekends later at the end of the month. As the kids got older, our family grew, and circumstances changed we started combining the two birthday parties. We have always decorated with neutral colors (as one is a girl and the other is a boy), and each child received their own cake of their choosing. Two years ago when the kids were eighteen and fourteen we chose the kids favorite sports team as the party theme and served cupcakes instead of individual cakes. We have also made sure that each kid was sung to individually and had their own opportunity to blow out candles on their individual cake.
When my son, who is now 19, turned four we had a Blue’s Clues themed party. We had a photo cutout, themed balloons, themed plates, centerpieces, we literally bought every Blue’s Clues party item that the party store sold, and spent probably over $100 on decorations alone. It was too much. We have learned to keep the decorations simple. Now we will generally let our cake be the centerpiece of our decorations, and will purchase solid colored plates, tablecloths, etc. that will coordinate with the theme or cake. I have a birthday banner that I use with every birthday, and if I do splurge on decorations I keep them in a large tote. We have reused the palm trees from my son’s jungle party for my daughter’s luau party, and have purchased a bag of white rose petals from the Dollar Tree that have been used to decorate the table on both of my daughter’s parties. I also love the helium balloon weights that the Dollar Tree sells and we use them as centerpieces. I have a total of four of these that have adorned our tables at countless parties.
Forget the Disposables
A few years ago I had one of those “AHA” moments where you realize that you are spending a fortune on disposable cutlery, plates, and cups. It took some upfront money but I invested in our “party wear”. I bought twenty solid white dinner plates, enough silverware to accommodate twenty people, and cheap clear drinking glasses to accommodate twenty people. Due to the fact that I bought inexpensive items I spent less than $50 on it all and we have been using the same stuff now for the past five years. By using the real stuff we can save as much as $10 to $20 each party by not having to buy disposables. Since everything is dishwasher safe it is just a matter of running it all through the dishwasher to clean it up.