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10 Ways to Cut Costs on a Kids Birthday Party

Posted on 1/27/2012 11:45 EST

If you've ever seen the MTV show My Super Sweet 16, then you know about the parents who spare no expense to indulge their child's every desire for one birthday party extravaganza. And judging from our research, this kind of out-of-control spending doesn't break out just for the Sweet 16, but for every birthday party leading up to it. Yep, we read about a themed birthday party for a child turning five that included pony rides, a rented merry-go-round, giant inflatables, hired magicians, and, well, more, for a total cost that reached upwards of $6,000. Umm, as frugal consumers, we'll pass.

Photo by InspireKelly
If you're one of those parents who aren't interested in keeping up with the Joneses, spoiling your children, or frittering away a good portion of your life savings, here are some ways to reign in the cost of a kids birthday party.

1. Set a budget and stick to it.

It's always a good idea to set a budget for any event, but a kids birthday party can easily spiral to new heights. Knowing the size of the kitty goes a long way toward helping you stand your ground as you peruse the party store with all the tempting knick-knacks on display.

2. Make the invitations yourself.

An easy and cheap birthday party invitation idea is this: Choose the cutest picture of your child, get it developed in a 4x6 size, and request as many copies as the number of invitations to be sent. Print the birthday party details on 4x6 paper (or lay out the information four times on a desktop document, print on a regular sheet of paper, and cut apart), stick the info on the back of the photos using double-sided tape, and you're done: Cheap kids birthday party invitations for half the cost of having them made by the local copy shop.

3. Host the party at your house.

According to The Digerita Life, hosting a kids birthday party at a venue can cost hundreds of dollars, an unnecessary expense when you can organize a party at home for free.

4. Limit the guest list.

If want to save money by hosting a cheap kids birthday party at your place but you're really concerned about space, limit the guest list to the number of people (kids and adults) who will comfortably fit. The birthday party is for your child, after all, so think about who has an impact on his or her life. Include their closest friends and your immediate family, but when it comes to acquaintances and assorted relatives, think real hard whether you really need to invite them.

5. Don't serve a meal.

The best time to host a cheap kids birthday party is during the afternoon -- after lunch and before dinner. This way the youngsters aren't too tired or cranky and you don't have to serve a full meal. You can get away with putting out a few snacks for guests to nibble on.

6. Cook/bake yourself.

When it comes to food, don't have it catered -- make it yourself, and that includes the birthday cake. There are plenty of online tutorials that show you how to create a cake that will wow the children. An example is Disney Family Fun, which stores hundreds of birthday cake recipes and DIY tutorials on decorating an animal, princess, sports, and other themed birthday cakes.

7. Find cheap supplies and decorations.

Costco, Sam's Club, BJ's, and other warehouse stores are excellent sources for plates, plastic ware, table cloths, and snacks. Outlet party stores have more birthday-party themed gear, and superstores like Walmart also stock cheap kids birthday party supplies. Don't forget to check out the local dollar store where you may be able to load up on birthday party balloons.

Photo by Will Clayton

8. Decorate with what you have.

Get creative with the resources already on hand. If you're throwing a 1st birthday party for your child, try this: Pick out a favorite onesie from each month of their first year. Use a clothesline and clothespins to string them in size order. Clip a picture of your baby wearing each one next to the onesie. Guests will love seeing how your child has grown over the past year, and it makes a much more memorable decoration than balloons and streamers.

9. Don't hire entertainment.

We really like MSN Money Central's idea of an arts and crafts station instead of hiring birthday party entertainment. Have little guests paint or create something on their own, which will keep them entertained for a bit and give them a sense of accomplishment.

10. Make table decor double as favors.

What kid doesn't love candy? Stock a glass jar with candy and let each child take some home as a birthday party favor. If you have baby food jars lying around, all the better -- fill them with jellybeans and suckers for pretty pops of color and let guests take a jar home as a cheap and useful birthday party favor.

Have you planned a cheap kids birthday party before? What are your suggestions?

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