How to throw a great kids party on a budget
Surfing “1000+ images about kid’s party ideas on Pinterest”, I came across some wonderful photos of cupcakes with tiny pink bows and beautiful pastel coloured balloon arches. They can’t be that hard to copy, surely?
…Lesson number one of Pinterest; the Pinterest fail. As amazing as these party ideas look, they take a huge amount of time and effort to achieve – and in between getting the kids ready for school getting them to do their homework in the evening, most parents don’t tend to have hours and hours spare to craft 30 tiny pink bows for cupcakes.
‘OK’, you think, ‘I’ll save time and buy it all instead. Wait…£40 for rainbow patterned cupcakes? Maybe not. I’ll bulk buy some value brand fairy cakes instead.’ Then in your head you hear the parents’ voices in the playground the next day – “I can’t believe they fobbed us off with those cheap fairy cakes.” And reluctantly, you resign yourself to spending £40 on the fancy cupcakes.
Between cake and catering, decorations, entertainment and a venue, costs add up very quickly. The pressure to throw a kid’s party to rival the rest of the class leads to parents spending, on average, £320 (1) on a party which lasts just a few hours. And that’s per child too – if you have more than one, it can really start to mount up.
We have good news though. You don’t need to break the bank or suffer the stress of planning the ‘perfect’ party. Believe it or not, children will enjoy a simple, inexpensive party and your son or daughter will appreciate having a calmer parent too. So if you’re one of the 71 per cent (1) of parents planning to cut back on costs this year, take a look at our tips below:
To give you an idea of prices we have given average costs, but these can vary so please consider them as a guide.
Shop-bought invitations aren’t too pricey but for just the cost of printing, you can easily make your own at home. Get designing or use one of the many free templates available online. You could also go environmentally-friendly and email them out.
To save money on booking a local hall, you could have the party at home – although many parents don’t like the idea of having so many children running around their house.
If the weather is likely to be nice you could have a picnic in the park. Alternatively you could speak to a child-friendly café or restaurant about hosting the party there, for the price of a meal for each attendee.
Feeding and watering the children is the second most expensive part of a party, after hiring entertainment. Although sandwiches and a few cocktail sausages seem like a cheap option, if you’re catering for a large number of children it can become costly.
Unless you’re using a café or restaurant as your venue, you might want to consider having the party outside of mealtimes. Have a few nibbles and juice and make parents aware that they will need a meal when they get home.
You could also make the food into a party activity by having the children make their own pizzas, using a few french stick slices and toppings, for a budget meal that doubles as entertainment.
It’s the pièce de résistance of any birthday children’s party. In the weeks leading up to the big day your child might have their eye on a certain cake, but the biggest and fanciest cakes can be expensive, especially if you need enough to share between a lot of children.
You might want to get a main cake for ‘display’ which is shared between family, with fairy cakes for the party goers, so that your son or daughter still gets the special cake they wanted. Alternatively, tray-bakes are good value and will go far. You could also make a cake from scratch (or from a packet) – get your child to help make and decorate it too.
The full works can be expensive, particularly when it comes to themed tableware, which will cost around £40 on its own. Plain tableware (if you are catering) is much better value, or you can also get block colour plates, cups and napkins if you prefer.
For things like streamers and banners, take a look online to see if anyone is selling their leftover decorations – they’ll look just as good at a fraction of the price. This is another opportunity to get your child involved too – set them up with some strips of coloured paper and a stapler and get them making their own paper chain streamers!
There are lots of options for professional entertainment – from face painters and magicians to a real-life Elsa or Spider-Man. Children do love them and they take some of the pressure off of you to keep the kids busy, but can be very costly.
Instead, try planning some classic party games (you can find lots of ideas online). The cost can range from free to a few pounds – the most popular game at our office Christmas party last year involved playing blow football using a few straws and a Malteaser. Pass the parcel, musical statues, sleeping lions are all good in a big group.
If you have a gaming console and are throwing a party for older children or a smaller group, you could get them taking turns to sing or dance, or maybe set up a football league game. Or pop on a DVD and set up a home cinema. Crafts are also a good activity and give children something to take home in place of a party bag.
Just like catering, providing party bags for a lot of children soon adds up. The little plastic toys for party bags often aren’t good quality and won’t be played with for long, but more interesting toys cost more. Children don’t really need anything fancy in their bags – a balloon and a lolly, plus a slice of birthday cake should be plenty. You could include a crayon and an activity sheet each too (which can be printed from a free template online).
Sandwich bags with a colourful ribbon tied around the top are also cheaper than buying themed bags.
By going with the cheaper options we’ve suggested, you could save over £300 on your child’s birthday party.
If you’re happy to spend a little more on the party, prioritise the things that are more important to you while sticking with the budget option for the less important stuff. For example, you might decide to go for the full decorations, but skip the professional entertainment.
More quick tips to save money
- Avoid party stores and shop around online for the best deal.
- Start planning and shopping early, so you don’t have a last minute panic and grab everything you think might come in useful.
- Join up with your child’s friend and split the cost, but agree a budget beforehand. Let older children decide whether they’d like more spent on their birthday present, or on their party – make it clear that they can only have one or the other.
- Consider having a small party with a few closer friends – this also makes it more manageable to have the party at home.
However you decide to celebrate their special day, forget about the pressure of perfection and enjoy yourself!
(1) Parents admit they spend an average of £320 on their child’s birthday party – and that’s before the £175 splashed on a gift (January 2016)
Photo Credits:birthday, kids, party, presents
This post was written by Anna Taylor