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How to Budget Birthday Parties

I’m sure you have heard of them or might have even attended one… the over the top, exorbitantly priced, child’s birthday party.  When did planning a kid’s birthday party start with the question “should we get a second mortgage or just cash in our IRAs?”  How is it that a birthday party turned into a major financial event?  It seems that nowadays a kid’s birthday party requires a team of planners and financial advisers… If your net worth is higher than most countries GDP, then stop reading, hire Barnum and Bailey and have a great time.  If however, you are like me, and most everyone else, stop worrying about one-upping the Jones’ and get back to what a birthday party is supposed to be… a celebration, not a competition with the neighbors or a one day theme park.

“…the last thing you need is to throw a few grand at an outrageous birthday event for junior.”

If you are just getting by with your bills and the everyday cost of living, the last thing you need is to throw a few grand at an outrageous birthday event for junior.  Here are a few ways that you can have a great party for your kid’s birthday without putting you in the poor house or maxing out your credit cards.

A budget-friendly birthday party

Ask the Birthday Boy — Ask little Johnny what kind of birthday party he would like to have.  This doesn’t mean that he gets what he wants.  You might think that you have to compete with Billy Bob Moneybags party from last week, the one with the pony rides, P.F. Chang catering and a performance by MC Stupid Rap… but that might not be what your little prince wants.  He just might want what most kids do, to open presents, eat cake and ice-cream and play with his friends.

Put a Cap on the Presents — Let everyone that is invited that you don’t want them to spend more than 20 bucks (or whatever you decide) on a gift.  Keeping the price down will make your guests more comfortable when it comes to choosing a gift, not to mention easier on the wallet.

R.S.V.P. Me! — When you have your list of the kids the birthday-boy wants to invite, send out invitations and require a R.S.V.P.  Knowing how many guests you will have will make it easier to plan on how much food, drink and whatever else you choose.

Gift Bags? — So when did this tradition start?  When my kids returned from attending their friend’s birthday party, they were excited to receive their “gift” bags…Who came up with this idea?  When I was a kid, you had a birthday party and you got the gifts, not everyone who attended.  I don’t get it.  Call me cheap, or old fashioned or just a jerk, but I refuse to give out gifts to kids to show up at my kid’s birthday party.  I say no to the gift bags, if you are set on giving a “participation gift” to every snot-nosed kid that shows up, you’re on your own.

The Cake — Here’s a good, easy way to cut the birthday party costs… make the cake yourself.  I guarantee, your kids (or the kids attending the party) don’t care what the birthday cake looks like.  All they want is to eat cake!  You can save a ton of money by avoiding the pre-made birthday cakes and make a cake yourself.  You could even get the guest of honor to help you decorate the cake.

The Venue — When I was a kid, the best birthday party I remember was when my old man to me and a handful of my friends to the “Super Slide” The Super Slide was a big 30 foot metal slide that you rode an old worn out piece of carpet down… it was awesome!    Between the liability insurance and the fact that it doesn’t require batteries or the internet to work, I imagine nothing like that would make it these days.  Forget about “Charles E. Cheese” or a theme park, unless you want to drop a big chunk of change, instead consider having the party a local park or beach.  Of course an outside party depends on the time of year and where you live, but something simple and free, is a sure way to stay within your party budget.

Hats, Balloons and Stuff — This kind of stuff needs to be bought on the cheap.  Don’t go to Wally World or any other “regular” retail store, hit the dollar store.  The dollar stores all carry party stuff like streamers, balloons and other party related junk… and it’s cheap.  Don’t spend a fortune on stuff that you are going to just throw away!

Whatever or however you decide to have your kid’s birthday party, remember that you don’t have to spend a fortune.  Make a budget, stick to it and keep focus on the real reason for a birthday party… to celebrate another year with the wonderful child you were blessed to have.

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