Bored of Budget Birthday Party Bloopers? Make It Better (But Still Cheap)
When we have kids, we’ll push the boat out to make them happy. We’ll pay what we have to and even go into debt to give them what they want. When it comes to planning a party, you’ll walk right up to the venue manager and say “I’ll pay what it takes. Nothing’s too good for my princess/little soldier!”
Then they tell you how much, and you mentally check your bank account and say: “What if we held it on a different day?”.
Planning a kids’ birthday party is a perfect example of the unstoppable force meeting the immovable object. The force is your love for your baby. The object is the cost of organizing a party with a guest list that keeps growing. So you have to look for ways of making it cheaper. Which is a minefield, because when you pay less money, you need to take some chances on quality.
So when making your way through that minefield, how do you avoid stepping on a mine?
Where You Can Save: The Venue
A lot of birthday parties take place in bowling alleys or amusement arcades these days. It means the entertainment is laid on and you don’t have to clean up afterward. The attraction for a parent is obvious. The problem is how much it costs.
If your kid is insistent, then you may need to make some sacrifices in your home budget to make it happen. Or you can hold it at home, where lots of birthday parties still take place. You’ll need to spend time decorating, and hire some entertainment yourself – but it will work out cheaper.
Where You Can’t Save: The Guest List
When you ask your child who they want to invite to the party, they will present you with a list of friends. Some of these you may never have heard of, but you have to go with it. Not only is it their special day, but even at that age there is a social imperative.
If you tell your kid to uninvite someone from their birthday party, you will see to it that they are marked for retaliation. They’ll be shunned themselves at a later date, or immediately at school. However long the guest list, grin and bear it. This is important to them.
Where You Can Save: The Food
A birthday cake, cupcakes, cookies and savory snacks – it may sound like a huge menu with a bumper price tag attached. But remember that at another venue, you’d be paying for all of this at their rates. Thus it is actually an opportunity to save on several fronts. Baking the cookies yourself saves some money. Instead of going to a local bakery, Costco cakes or similar are high quality and allow you to save.
Bear in mind that being able to save money on food doesn’t mean going to extremes and buying the cheapest. It just means that you can pay less and still get quality. Too much of a focus on the dollars and you’ll end up with bad food and a worse atmosphere.
Where You Can’t Save: Presents
There are people – with kids and without – who will advise that for any birthday boy or girl, the party can be their present. The older your child gets the more this can be the case, but for a pre-teen child it’s a bad idea. With an older child you can ask them straight if they would like a big party with all the stops pulled out, or a quiet one and more presents.
A younger child is less likely to see a party as an alternative to “real” presents. After all, all the other kids get to enjoy the party, but it’s only a special day for one of them. Don’t bust your budget to get them something you can’t afford. Do factor the presents into your overall budget. If you have to cancel a clown or a magician to pay for better presents, do so.
It is a fact that the older your son or daughter gets, the more you can consult with them in planning a party. The older they get, the more they will understand money doesn’t grow on trees. That’s not to say they’ll always be reasonable – we were all young once, so let’s not be harsh – but they’ll understand what’s possible.
It is true that nothing’s too good for your little ones. It’s also true that they can’t have everything. By making the right choices, you can make sure they have what they really want.