A lot of people don’t think that you can stick to a tight budget when you have kids.
I mean, kids are supposed to add a lot of stress, stuff, and… well… expenses to your life! And even if you were able to get onto a strict budget when you have kids, what are you supposed to do about birthdays??
Birthday Parties these days almost seem to be a competition of who can throw the most elaborate party for their kids. It can seem like you have no choice but to put it on the credit card so your kid isn’t the weird one without a bounce house at their birthday.
So how could you navigate birthday parties as a family on a budget?
The answer is to go simple.
Having a Minimalist Birthday Party will make it much easier to stick with your budget, and it will reduce the amount of stress and stuff in your life as well!
So I’m going to show you how you can still have awesome birthdays and stick to your budget as well.
And if you prefer to watch instead of read, check out this video:
1. Skip The Decorations
Let’s face it, the decorations can be expensive, they take a lot of time to set up, the kids usually don’t care about them, and they are just going to end up in the garbage at the end of the night!
If you are on a tight budget, cutting out the decorations will save you money and time before and after the party!
2. Forget the Party Favors
Kids don’t need a reward for going to a friend’s birthday party. Playing with their friends and eating yummy food should be all the reward they need!
Party favors can also be surprisingly expensive, especially when they are usually very cheap trinkets that will be played with a couple times before they end up cluttering up your friends’ houses.
Trust me, the kids won’t miss them and the parents will probably thank you if you skip the party favors!
3. Go Potluck Style for Food
Some people may find this tacky, but we have never had a party for either of our girls where we provided all of the food for everyone.
We have done everything from grilling at our house and asking everyone to bring what they want to grill plus a side dish for everyone to share, to having a picnic at a park and asking everyone to bring their own picnic lunch, to having a take-out party and telling everyone to bring their favorite take out.
The take-out party kind of happened by accident, but it was a huge hit!
I wasn’t planning on having a party for my oldest daughter’s second birthday, but a bunch of our family on both sides ended up being in town on the day that we were going to celebrate. Since I was planning on getting take-out Thai Food (her favorite) for our family anyway, I just told anyone who wanted to join to bring their favorite take out.
My aunt loved it because she isn’t a big Thai food fan, and she wanted the Spaghetti Factory instead. Everyone got to enjoy their favorite takeout while spending time together and celebrating.
4. Make the Cake Instead of Buying It
I know it’s fun to purchase a custom cake for children’s birthday parties… but you can save so much money if you make it yourself!
Or if you aren’t much of a baker (like yours truly) ask a relative or a friend!
My mom is the resident baker in our family. She makes amazing-tasting, gorgeous-looking, gluten-free, refined sugar-free cakes and pies for every birthday party.
People who like to bake will take it as a compliment if you ask them to make a cake for your party.
And even if you purchase all the ingredients for them in advance, you will still be saving money compared to if you order a custom cake.
And if you don’t have any relatives who like to bake, grab a box cake at Walmart! My grandma made those for every birthday growing up since they were the cheapest option, and you know what, they were delicious!
5. Have the Party Somewhere Free, Like at Home or a Park
I know it’s super cool to rent out a bowling alley, or museum, or trampoline park, but it’s also super expensive!!
A great way to save yourself some mullah is to host the party at home.
We have had parties at the park, at a splash pad, at our house, or at a relative’s house (which was super fun because they had a pool!).
One of my daughters’ little friends just had an at-home High Tea Party complete with crafts and the adults serving the tea for them. The girls had a blast!
You can be really creative and have a special party without all of the extra bills.
The kids usually have the most fun when the party is the most simple.
6. Limit the Guest List
A great way to cut the bill down for the birthday party is to keep the party small.
If your child is an extrovert like my oldest is, give them a limit of how many people can come, or do a party where everyone contributes to the food as I mentioned above.
Or you can offer them more time (like a full day or weekend) with one really special friend.
7. Ask for No Gifts
Why would you want to have a no-gift party when you are trying to save money? Wouldn’t it make sense to have other people give your children gifts so that you don’t have to buy so many?
Because when other people give your child gifts for their birthday, you can feel socially obligated to give all of their children birthday presents on their birthdays.
Since we do No Gift parties, I don’t feel like I need to bring gifts to any of the other kid’s birthday parties that we go to, and it saves me money all through the year.
Sometimes, if I know the party will be small for one of their friends I will bring a gift, but often the children receive so many new things that they don’t even get to open them all at the party.
I know it may seem a little awkward to ask for no gifts, but it isn’t hard at all once you get the hang of it!
In my experience, most parents are relieved to know exactly what is expected as far as gifts go and are happy when they don’t have to run to the store and spend money before the party.
We have asked for No-Gift Parties in 3 different ways:
- We spelled it out! Don’t be afraid to ask. We created a Facebook invitation for my oldest daughter’s 3rd birthday and I simply wrote on the invite, “No gifts, please 🙂 She just wants to spend the day at the splash pad with her favorite people!” This is the best approach if your group of friends is used to doing a lot of gifts for parties because no one will be confused as to what is expected.
- We didn’t specify that it was a birthday party. One year, we just sent out a text to our friends saying that we wanted to go to the park and spend the day and anyone who wanted to join could us. People obviously found out that it was her birthday when they got there, but we had so much fun just hanging out and not worrying about it being a party. To this day my oldest still talks about it being one of her favorite birthdays.
- We didn’t give a lot of notice. One year we didn’t plan to have a party at all and had thought we would just spend the day doing special things with our family. But when we asked our oldest the day before her birthday what she wanted to do, she said she wanted to eat in the backyard with all of her friends. So I shot a quick text to all the parents and asked if anyone was free to come over the next day. Amazingly everyone was! I didn’t specify “no gifts” since it was such short notice and I figured most people wouldn’t have time to get anything anyway. Only one friend brought a gift and everyone else just brought homemade cards (which she loved!).
8. Go Simple With The Gifts
I know that we all want to give our kids the most amazing birthday ever, but when you are on a tight budget, you need to go simple.
Simple gifts are often cheaper, they encourage imagination, and they tend to get played with longer than more flashy and expensive toys.
Simple toys will generally get a more subdued initial reaction from the child, but they get so much more enjoyment from them down the road.
This year for my oldest’s birthday we built on something that is already a passion of hers like I talk about in This Post, riding her bike!
We got her a water bottle holder, a basket, and her grandparents got her a bell. She was thrilled with the additions to her bike and will get a lot of use out of these simple gifts in the coming months (or years!).
If you want some ideas for how to give simple gifts to your children and see even more minimalist gift ideas for your kids, check out The Best Intentional Gift Ideas for Children.
9. Get Relatives to Collaborate on Gifts
If you want to get your child a larger gift, but your budget doesn’t allow for it, see if you can get your family members that would normally buy your child a gift to go in with you on the one item.
We have done this several times with our family when we wanted to buy our children larger gifts like a Strider Bike or a Museum Membership. (Remember to check Craigslist for large items like bikes too! We found a Strider Bike on Craigslist still in the box for half price!)
Even if each set of grandparents and/or aunts and uncles only contributed $10-$20, it still makes the larger present much more feasible for you to be able to pay the difference.
10. Have An Amazon Wish List For Each Child
If you don’t have a large budget and there are many things that your child would like, start an Amazon Wish List for them.
You can let any grandparents and aunts and uncles who want to give the child a gift know that they have a wishlist and give them a link directly to the list.
Even though we want to be able to get our children everything they want, they are not going to care if you, or grandma, or auntie happens to be the one to purchase the item.
11. Have a Fiver Party
If you have a group of friends that are used to giving gifts, throw a Fiver Party as a less expensive option for you and your guests, and a way to get a more intentional gift for your child.
When you throw a Fiver party, you ask your guests to bring a $5 bill instead of bringing a present.
Be sure to let your guests know what the bigger gift will be!
If you want to throw this type of party, simply put on the invitation “No gifts please, (insert child’s name) just wants to spend special time with friends. If you want to get them something, please bring $5 instead… (insert child’s name) is saving for a (insert the desired item)!
I recommend using Facebook or texts to invite people instead of spending money on paper invitations. Then you can save money and the environment at the same time!
12. Have a Special Birthday Week Instead of Focusing on One Party
We started this little tradition when the Covid-19 Pandemic hit right before my younger daughter’s 2nd birthday. Since she is my introverted child, she didn’t necessarily mind not being able to get together with friends, but we still wanted to make her birthday special.
So I got the idea to ask her what she wanted to eat for the next week. She listed off all of her favorite meals (including K-Loaf twice!) and we had a week full of special meals and desserts… and lots of K-Loaf!
It made it feel like we were celebrating all week long instead of just one day. This became an instant tradition! The girls have so much fun choosing their meals and they start thinking about the meals that they will request months in advance now.
Plus it is a lot cheaper to just make special meals instead of having a big party, and it will take care of your meal planning for the week!
13. Let Them Be King or Queen for the Day
If you are on a really tight budget but want to make your child’s birthday special, let them be King or Queen for the day.
Let them choose what they want to eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And let them pick the special activities for the day (if they have expensive taste, give them a list of approved activities!).
If your child is someone who needs time to think things through, give them the options in advance so that they can think it over.
Fun ideas you could include would be going to the park, going on a family bike ride, hanging out in a hammock and reading together, painting nails together, going to the library, making a fort in the living room, baking a cake together, doing crafts, the sky’s the limit!
14. Set Realistic Expectations
If your child is used to having lavish birthday parties with tons of presents, sit down with them before the budget-friendly birthday.
Let them know that this year will be a little different.
Depending on their age, and your comfort discussing your family finances with your children, explain to them why you are cutting back on birthday parties for now.
Let them know that you are working toward paying off your debt, sticking with your budget, or if you need to save your money so that you can go on a fun family vacation together!
Children are usually much more understanding than we give them credit for.
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