Cheap Birthday Parties: Planning a Kids Birthday Party on a Small Budget

Astoria Park Birthday Party

This being New York City, I have seen everything from an over the top birthday party complete with huge guest list and custom made cake, and rental halls filled with relatives and table loads of food, to small gatherings with the most sparse of decorations. So when planning my daughter’s birthday party I was absolutely giddy.  I knew what I liked and didn’t like, and I spent countless hours researching themes, cakes and decorations.  When I began to add up just how much everything would cost, I decided to give myself a challenge:  create a beautiful birthday party for my then one year old that would be creative, colorful, and inexpensive. Here are some tips I learned along the way in planning a cheap celebration for kids of any age:

Where to Host a Cheap Birthday in Queens

For those looking for a frugal way to have a party in a large outdoor space, there is always the local park.  New York City’s Parks and Recreation allows people to have events in parks; however, if your party will have more than twenty people, or if you want a specific area reserved, you need to apply for a permit.

The Queens Zoo offers three different age appropriate birthday parties for kids ages 3-12 that allow the kids to interact with the animals.  The zoo offers two price packages, one for members for $340 and one for non-members for $375.

An active indoor party can be very affordable, venues like Astoria Sports Complex, MY Gym, and Long Island City Kids all offer packages for under kids of all ages that range from $300-$500.

Above all, try to create a party that is colorful and fun for the birthday boy or girl.  It does not have to be perfect, but it should be a nice event for your child.

Cheap Invitations

For about $4.99, you can buy a pack of 50 cards and envelopes from the craft store.  These cards can serve as invitations for two years if you have small parties.  Mine have served as both invitations and thank you cards.  Look through the paper sales at craft stores, you may be able to find beautiful invitation paper on the cheap.

Cheap Food

Try to schedule your party at a time if day that is between meals so that people don’t come expecting their daily meal to be served.  If you don’t have a membership to a wholesale club(and don’t want to spend to buy one), find a friend that does.  Head to Costco or BJs and stock up on appetizers, and drinks.  You can even have them customize a cake that feeds about 25 people and costs about $20.  For kids, buy foods like nuggets, mozzarella sticks, and chips, and juice pouches.  For adults, buy a mixed variety appetizer tray, and sodas.

Cheap Decorating

Understandably, there will be a few things you will have to buy (especially) if your party is a theme party, but that doesn’t mean that you need to buy everything from a party supply store. If you have lots of parties, invest in a small helium tank. They cost less than $50 and can save you on the cost of having someone else blow your balloons. Buy balloons and other supplies from discount stores.  Even if you have a theme, let’s say Toy Story, instead of investing in the entire line of cups, plates and other decorations,  go to the Internet and print out images. Use those images to decorate the tables, the balloons and your banners.  Also, try making your own happy Birthday sign. You can make beautiful signs by going on the Internet and searching for letters. Print out ones that you like, paste them on colored construction or scrapbooking paper, cut the construction paper into a shape and hang it up using a ribbon or string. You can even paste letters to balloons to create your unique sign.   If your party is at a location, you may be limited as to how your can decorate.  Most often, venues do the decorating for you.

Cheap Keep Games/Activities Low Cost

Provide your kid’s guests with lots to do without breaking the bank. Play games that do not require a lot of pieces.  If your party is indoors, you can have kids create things according to your theme.  For example, you can have your guests use Play Doh to create characters such as Dora, or whatever fits your theme.  For older kids at an indoor party, there are lots of printable games on-line.  For the outdoor parties, buy inexpensive supplies like bowling or golf toys and create games using the toys.  If you are having your party at a venue, the games will most likely be planned as part of your event, so that is one less thing you have to worry about.

Cheap Goody Bags

Once again, I cannot extol the virtues of a good discount store.  Stores like Amazing Savings have a beautiful selection of just about everything from bags to boxes.  Create custom packets of candy, bottles of bubbles, crayons and notepads.  My daughter’s was born on the first day of spring, so an ideal goody bag gift was flower pots (painted) with packets of seeds so that kids could pot their own little plant.

Cheap Thank You Cards

Even if your child cannot write, it’s polite to send thank you cards to those who came to celebrate your child’s special day.  You can create homemade thank you cards using stickers or other supplies that your child may have.  If you don’t feel like going the creative route, you can always head to a discount store or a local craft store to find beautiful and inexpensive thank you cards.  To make life simple, you can even attach tags to your goody bags with a thank you note.  This will save you the trouble of doing it later.

By Simone Gobin