It’s easy to overthink throwing a kid's birthday party. What if this is the moment that locks in their popularity with their friends for the rest of their school years!? Is the only way to be safe to throw the most lavish party in history?
Of course not! You can throw a fantastic (but still affordable) party that your child and all of their friends will enjoy. We spoke to the experts to get you the tips you need to throw a cheap party that won’t feel cheap. So dust off your mantle, because you’re about to get a “Best Parent Ever” award!
Pick a theme and stick to it.
A cheap but matching outfit is always going to look better than the most expensive clothes thrown together all willy-nilly. The same principle applies to parties. A cheaper party with a strong, committed theme is going to be better than dancing horses weaving in between robot butlers. As interesting as that may sound, it’s going to lead to a lot of frightened horses and broken butlers. Instead, choose a theme to build the party around, like Dr. Amy Cooper Hakim did. Here’s what the founder of the Cooper Strategic Group told us:
“It’s easy to make a nice party without breaking the bank. It’s all about balance. Simply focus on an inexpensive (yet really fun!) hobby as the theme. When my daughter, Adina, turned 10 she wanted to have a ‘girlie’ science party. We had the party at home, and she helped to plan it. She chose three science experiments that she found online. We printed out the directions and ordered enough supplies. Then, we picked up hot pink mixing bowls and glittery confetti for the tables.
“On the big day, Adina was the star. She led the girls in each experiment. With a little help from some grownups on hand, we moved the party along and helped children who needed extra assistance with their experiments. We ended the party with a piñata filled with yummy candy! The girls took home their completed science experiments, as well. It was a home run! And, some of Adina’s friends even grew inspired to do their own science experiments as a result of the party.”
Hanging with friends can make some of the best parties.
When you think of your favorite parties you’ve gone to as an adult, how many were out at a big fancy event? Maybe you’re a social butterfly, but some of the best nights can happen just hanging with a few close friends, and the same can be true for kids. That’s what Jennifer Bright Reich, publisher of the Mommy MD Guides, told us: “I’m a single mom of 11- and 10-year-old sons. We’ve been to plenty of pricey parties at party places, such as trampoline parks. My boys prefer to have simple playdates and sleepovers with close school friends instead.”
“The cost is low—not much more than a regular sleepover,” Reich told us, before getting to the menu. “I usually buy pizza and some snacks and a cake. The next morning, we often all walk to Dunkin Donuts down the block and I treat the kids to donuts.”
And Reich doesn’t let the kids leave empty-handed: “We put together generous, but low cost, party favor bags, containing maybe a Pokemon card pack, small bouncy ball, and another small treat. I probably spend less than $100!”
Leah Klein, of the Leah’s Life blog, shared her experience creating fun parties at home:
“We are all about saving on birthday parties. There are a few ways to do so that make the party better too. One is to keep the numbers down. Sometimes a party with a few good friends is a lot more fun than one with the entire neighborhood. When we do have a large party. We have it outside and get a bouncy castle to put in the driveway. If you can pick up and drop off the bouncy castle yourself that will save on delivery fees. Set up some art supplies at a little table and a rug with some toys and it’s a party. Often parents go crazy for things that are just showy. The kids just want to play and have fun.
“For older children, we get creative. My daughter has had a chef come and cook with her friends. A sleepover with some good food and a movie is all the older kids really need. Instead of catering a party or renting a party room, taking the kids to a diner or inexpensive restaurant can be just as fun especially if they have their own table to sit at and the chaperoning parents sit separately.”
Klein wrote about one sleepover scavenger hunt party she threw here.
Shop smarter, not… harder.
Like with so much else in life, an affordable party comes down to your shopping abilities. Spend your money in the right places and you won’t have to spend as much of it.
Randy Fuhrman, who has decades of experience putting together parties through Randy Fuhrman Events, gave us his tips for party shopping smart:
“Being a great shopper is the way to get your money to stretch and not look shabby. I have been using the 99 Cent Only Store, The Dollar King, and The Dollar Store for years. You have to really go up and down the aisle as there are treasures to find in every aisle – you just have to keep your eyes OPEN.
“I have found The Dollar King Store seems to be the best as they have everything in color order and have an amazing holiday section where you can find incredible things. They also have a BIG birthday section with balloons and favors for the kids.
“It is about being creative and thinking outside the box. Using Ralph’s Bakery or your local store’s bakery rather than going to a regular bakery will save you money. The grocery bakery departments now do specialty cakes for half the price of getting it done at a regular bakery.
“Being organized saves time and money so have a list of what you are looking for with the design and decor and what your menu will be. Let your fingers do the walking before you do the driving to make sure where you are going to buy what you need has what you want.
“If you are doing all the food yourself, a fun thing to do that does not cost a fortune is call your local bakery and see if they will do colored or swirl breads for you if you are making sandwiches which is a great way to pull your color and make a wow factor without spending a lot. The kids love this (I find that Jewish bakeries are normally the ones I can find to do this).
“Online you can find incredible things that are being discounted and great deals without having to even leave your home. Just type in what you are looking for and see the treasures that will show up.”
Follow these tips and you’ll throw your kids a truly epic a birthday party for the ages without an epic price tag to match!
Randy Fuhrman (@RandyFurhman) threw his first party for 500 guests at the age of 17. A few months, later he landed his first BIG event and first corporate client, A&M Records. Forty-five years later, a true entrepreneur, Randy Fuhrman has produced everything from an intimate dinner for two to events for thousands for some of the biggest names in Hollywood.
Amy Cooper Hakim, Ph.D. (@AmyCooperHakim) is an industrial-organizational psychology practitioner and workplace expert. She is a speaker, author, and the executive consultant and founder of The Cooper Strategic Group. Her book, Working with Difficult People, provides clear strategies to effectively handle the ten types of difficult bosses, colleagues, and subordinates. The book recently hit #1 in sales at Amazon for Business Etiquette books and was highlighted in Parade Magazine. Dr. Hakim has been featured in numerous publications and has also been a guest on the KRTH Morning Show, Think KERA Radio, the WBEZ Morning Shift, the Boca Voice, and Business Radio on Sirius XM.
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