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Birthday Bash on a Budget (or, The $57 Party)

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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Birthday Bash on a Budget (or, The $57 Party)

Claire turned a year old last month, and to celebrate, we had a big family birthday party.  This was great fun and we were able to celebrate another event at the same time - Claire's cousin turned three the same week!

But I wanted to throw her a little shindig at home as well...something we could invite the neighbors to (that they might actually attend - the family party was an hour away, out in the country).  At the same time, it was going to be her second party - and she wouldn't remember either one - so I wanted to keep it low-key and mostly, inexpensive.  Because while I love looking at other people's super-duper fancy first birthday parties, that just wasn't in the cards for this party-thrower.  

Claire's party cost us all of $57.  We had seven adults and eight kids (three of those were babies, though, so they didn't really add to the cost), and we fed everyone lunch and sent all the kids home with goody bags.  We had some fun activities planned and it was a smashing success.  

Keep it Small
Our party was right at lunchtime, so I knew we were going to have to feed everyone - and that food would be our biggest expense.  We kept this party small (7 adults, 5 kids, 3 babies).  This way, we could afford to feed everyone and provide the kids with a few goodies to take home.

Feed Cheap Food
Walmart (or Aldi!) are your friend when you're feeding a large crowd.  I thought of the cheapest food I could - hot dogs - and went from there.  We "splurged" on fancy hot dogs, because come on - hot dogs are kinda gross.  I wanted all-beef hot dogs (no inter-species mystery meat for me).  I bought buns on the cheap (less than $1/bag) and chose some middle of the line potato chips.  We already had the condiments.

We brewed a bunch of iced-tea for the grown-ups (we already had the tea bags), and I picked up some kid-friendly (read: blue and sugary and not something I would normally buy) drinks for $2 (for 16 drinks).  

Find Free Party Decorations (and Invitations!) Online
You know what my biggest expense was?  Invitations.  Because I bought them impulsively one day in early July as I was perusing Target.  And almost immediately regretted it when I realized I could have used *cuter* invitations that were available online - for free.  This discovery is actually what prompted the whole "budget" part of this party.  

Google "free party printables" and before you know it, you'll be up to your ears in cute invitations and party decorations.  

Be Flexible
Originally, I wanted Claire to have a popsicle-themed party (how cute, right?).  But as I started actually planning it, I stumbled across a bunch of fun summer-themed party ideas that weren't necessarily popsicle-y.  So I got a little bit flexible and expanded my "theme" to include all things cute and summery.

Use What You've Already Got
We blew up our kiddie pool and borrowed another one from the the neighbors.  We have a little play slide that we set up between the pools, and, VOILA! Water park in our back yard.  I set out a basket full of rolled-up towels next to a bowl of sunscreen bottles and another bowl of water toys - these looked cute and came in handy, too. 

Here's the breakdown of our total party spending:
Party Invitations - $10 (rip-off!)
Food - $24 (hot dogs, buns, two bags of potato chips, lemons for the tea)
Food accessories - $7 (goblets, plates, candle and napkins)
Decorations - $5 (balloons and a couple of bowls for chips - the rest of the stuff was free)
Party Favors - $11 (toys and goody boxes)
Cake - Free

I've listed some general guidelines above.  Now, here are some specific ideas for games and decorations and such!

Get the kids involved!  I let Jack paint several times during the week leading up to the party.  When the art had dried, I cut it into flags and strung them along some pink ribbon I already had.  This made the cutest banner for the front door, and Jack was excited to see his art turn into a party decoration (and, I've moved this banner to his bedroom wall, which he really thinks is cool).

I combined goody bags and thank-you notes.  A Party Etiquette foul?  Maybe.  But since we knew everyone we had invited and I am pretty sure they aren't going to mind, I was okay with this.  

I bought these cute little boxes for $.47/each at Wal-Mart.  I used a horse hole punch I had around the house to punch the holes and attached the thank-you "cards" that way.  I actually received these ridiculously cute swatch-cards from Paper Coterie* for free (to see what the inside pages looked like and to read the complete review, click here), but you could easily make something similar for free or cheap.  The inside simply said "Thank you for coming to Claire's party, we are so happy you could be here!"

OK, confession time.  I didn't pay for our cupcakes.  My mom made them.  If I had made them, I would have...wait, hahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!  I couldn't have made them.  OK, so my mom made super cute ice cream cone cupcakes with butterflies on top.  She wanted to use sprinkles and gummy worms to make eyes and antennaes but rant out of time.  But they were cute, and delicious, and the only thing she bought (that we didn't already have in the house) was cake mix, ice cream comes, sprinkles, pretzels and some frosting (which she made from whatever you make frosting with).

We already had this giant drink thing (pitcher? I don't know what it's called) that I bought at Costco for a whopping $17 several months ago.  The "PARTY" banner was from a free printable (Paper Coterie).  We filled this with iced tea and lemon slices.

I rolled up some towels and stuck them in this cute green bin (which is normally a clothes basket) and rounded up all the sunscreen in the house and put it in a plastic bowl.  The other plastic bowl is full of tools/water toys (more on that later).

Party "goblets" - $1.47/4 at Wal-Mart, and great fun to decorate and use as adult cups.  The napkins and plates were also Wal-Mart specials, and cost $3 (combined).  The napkins did smell a little funny, but beggars can't be choosers.  The kid drinks were just $1/8 and were a hit - who doesn't love a little blue juice, right?

See that giant purple thing that the kids are beating into submission with toy tools?  It's my Shining Moment of Party Throwing Genius.  I wish I could take full credit for it, but I saw it on Pinterest.  It's a giant block of ice, with several different-colored layers, filled with toys.  In the excitement that ensued after these giant blocks of ice were unveiled, I forgot to take pictures of them!  I made two (if you do this, start, a week takes a long time for the layers to freeze properly!) over the course of the week leading up to the party.  Jack *loved* this - I let him throw in a few toys and mix the food coloring into the water as we added each new layer.  The plan was to have the kids work on these for awhile, throwing all of the toys (as they were retrieved from the ice) into a large bucket that I would later dry and sort into goody bags to be sent home with the kids (thus avoiding any fights over who got the blue snake or the purple bracelet).  The reality was that they were completely melted in about five minutes (if that, even) and the toys were strewn all over the backyard...but the kids LOVED this! 

 The pools turned out to be great fun for everyone (especially the Birthday Girl!).  We had a small pool for the babies (that was overtaken by the big kids), a larger pool for the big kids, and a plastic slide.  

After all that partying, Claire was ready for her cupcake.  This was technically her third go at a birthday cake, so she was pretty much an expert by now and didn't waste any time.

What I Learned
As soon as I started getting things together, I realized that I could easily throw a more extravagant party for less money.  And $57 isn't very much money for a birthday party these days!  All it takes is a little planning and foresight.  Jack's birthday will be here before I know it, and he tells me that he wants a Transformers party when he turns four - I've got some ideas in the back of my head and I'm keeping my feelers out for any Transformer-related anything I come across for free or super cheap that I might be able to use.  

Oh!  And one more thing.  This wasn't part of the budget, but next time I might include it.  It's that important.  


So tell me...are your kids' parties "Go Big or Go Home?" or low-key?

And if you want to read all about the disaster that was Jack's third birthday party (or just look at a picture of the giant, creepy Chuck E. Cheese balloon we brought home), you can find it here.  

* I'm a Paper Coterie affiliate!    

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At August 19, 2012 at 12:22 PM , Blogger Jamie said...

I love seeing ideas for inexpensive parties!! You did a great job! I'm starting to plan my little guy's bday party that will be in October. We have a newborn do it will have to be low-key. :)

At August 19, 2012 at 9:24 PM , Blogger Carrie said...

Thank you! Yeah. my daughter was barely five months old when my son turned three - we had the party at Chuck E. Cheese, having it here was too much work to even think about wrapping my head around at that time.

At January 10, 2013 at 1:27 PM , Blogger lina chapman said...

Oh, I wish I could have only 7 adults, 5 kids, and 3 babies at our parties. I'm working on my daughter's 5th right now, hunting for ideas, and I'm up to 19 adults and 17 children. We're having hot dogs, I'm making an ice cream cake to save cash, and we're trying to make a goody bag for $3/kid. Kinda tough! BTW I found you on Pinterest!

At January 11, 2013 at 12:51 PM , Blogger Carrie said...

Yeahhhh....I was lucky in that respect. I know it's not always easy to limit the guests. And those goody bags can get expensive.

Thank you for stopping by! :)


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