A lot of parents go for invitations that look more formal than most wedding invites, but the truth is that you really don’t need to go that far for your child’s birthday. Consider the sort of information you would require on an invitation – make sure you include plenty of details so the adult knows exactly how to get to the venue and what time the party starts and is expected to end (you don’t have to throw a party that lasts forever! Two hours are perfectly sufficient, and will stop the kids from getting over tired and having meltdowns). Include parking arrangements, and whether or not the parents are welcome to stay for the duration of the party. Make sure that the theme of the party is clear, and if it’s a party where you want the kids to wear a fancy dress then make sure you make that obvious, and that you send out the invitations well in advance so the parents have time to prepare. Print invitations off from free websites, or send emails instead – this will be a lot more cost effective than buying expensive ones.
The issue of which guests to invite to your child’s birthday party is always a tricky one. You’re always stuck between the idea of inviting their whole class or just their closest friends. The elementary school hierarchy is a difficult one – if you don’t invite certain kids to your child’s party then your child might not get invites in return later in the year. For you, it’s a toss-up between saving some money (or splashing out on a bigger activity!) with fewer kids and possible social problems in the future, or inviting everyone, including fellow students that your child might not be especially close to. A lot of parents go for the second option if it’s financially feasible for them, but remember that the more people you invite, the more you’ll have to cut back in other ways.
You should also bear in mind that depending on how old your child is, their parents might stay at the party, so if you invite a lot of kids then you’ll have to have some space and refreshments for the adults too. Make sure that you provide ample seating – beg, borrow or steal chairs from your friends if you have to! You don’t need to provide full meals for the adults, even if that’s what you’re doing for the kids. Bowls full of small snacks like potato chips, carrot sticks, and dip will suffice, along with coffee, tea, and water. Use it as an opportunity to get to know your kid’s friends’ parents – this might result in more playdates in the future.
There are plenty of different venue choices, often with different good and bad points. If you have a reasonable amount of space at home, then you could always throw the party there. This is especially effective if it’s the summer so you can have part of it outside! Obviously, this is significantly cheaper than renting out any other venue – but at the same time, you’ll be throwing the party all by yourself, so there’s a chance it could get a little stressful in terms of organization and worrying about keeping control of the kids when they’re at your house.
If you hire a hall, it could be more expensive – but there’ll also be more space and you won’t have to worry about any of your possessions getting broken by rambunctious kids. Finally, you could go to an activity like laser tag or a soft play center. Although this is probably the most expensive option, you might think the extra cost is worth it because you won’t have to worry about providing activities or entertainment – and a lot of venues also provide food.
If you’re decorating the venue yourself, there’s no need to go too crazy. That’s definitely not what your kids will remember from their party experience! All you need is a few brightly colored balloons and a Happy Birthday banner for your child to be perfectly happy. If you want to do something special, then why not display a photograph from every birthday party that your child has had so the guests can see how they’ve grown up?
Depending on your choice of venue, you might not have to worry about the food at all. But if it’s your responsibility to provide it, remember to keep it simple. Go to a store like Costco to buy in bulk, or check out a gift card deal like Cards2Cash deals online that will help you save some money on your grocery store purchases. Ask the parents beforehand for any dietary requirements that any kids might have, and try to accommodate requests as much as you can. Kids will enjoy simple food like burgers, hot dogs, and pizza, all of which you can make yourself for relatively low costs. Provide sauces like mustard and ketchup that the kids can squirt on their food themselves. If you don’t want to provide a meal, throw the party between 2 and 5 pm – the kids will already have eaten lunch and the parents won’t expect dinner. That means you can just provide snacks.
In terms of drinks, don’t buy a load of soda – it’ll send the kids crazy and hyperactive! Instead, go for water that you’ve flavoured with fruit or homemade lemonade, and buy colorful cups and straws to encourage the kids to drink it. If it’s winter, you could go for a hot chocolate bar so that the kids can add marshmallows and whipped cream to their drinks. If you want to make food into an activity, then you could buy or bake cheap sugar cookies or small cakes and provide toppings like frosting and sprinkles for the kids to decorate them with. Make sure you provide aprons – this could get messy!
The cake doesn’t have to be huge and fancy from an expensive bakery. Your child will be more than happy with a sheet cake from your local grocery store. You might also think that it’ll be cheaper in the long run, to bake the cake yourself – but this might not be a good idea unless you’re a veteran baker and incredibly confident in your skills.
Keep it simple! Think back to your birthday parties when you were a kid and to what you remember most clearly. Chances are, what sticks out most to you isn’t any sort of incredible activity – it’s spending time with your friends and playing silly games with them. If you have a little spare cash and you’d rather not try to control thirty-five-year-olds yourself, you could hire a party entertainer – bear in mind they can be expensive, but they can really help to bring a party together. A magician or a Disney character impersonator are always popular with kids. If you want to entertain the kids yourself, look up popular party games online like pass the parcel, musical chairs, and musical statues – you can play them in the comfort of your living room. If the weather is good, you can unleash the kids on your back yard – just make sure that you’ve put away all your garden tools beforehand! If you really want a fun-packed time, you could set up a mini-Olympics in your backyard with egg and spoon and sack races – just make sure there are enough medals for every child to get one.
If your party is themed, why not bring together a fancy dress and an activity? Arts and crafts are popular with pretty much every kid, particularly when they’re younger and more uninhibited. If your party is cowboy themed, then buy cheap plastic cowboy hats for the kids to decorate – likewise if your daughter’s having a fairy or butterfly party, they can color in paper wings.
Luckily, you won’t have to splash out and spend vast amounts on your child’s birthday presents before they reach a certain age, at which point they’ll probably start requesting extortionately priced games consoles that will keep them locked in their bedrooms for entire weekends. Make sure that you save some money through the year to pay for your children’s birthday gifts so you aren’t left with a credit card bill that might ruin the fun of the whole day for you. If there are certain things that you know your child will still like a few months later, you could even start buying the gifts early! But bear in mind that children’s tastes change and even if she’s obsessed with Elsa and Anna from Frozen right now, she might have moved onto Moana in a couple of months.
Be generous to your fellow parents in terms of gifts – you don’t know what their financial situations are. A lot of our kids are spoiled and indulged a lot on their birthdays without thirty gifts from everyone in their class, so if you don’t want this to happen, put a small note on the invitation saying that gifts aren’t necessary. Parents will definitely appreciate it.