Birthday Party Ideas on a TIGHT Budget.

Updated on February 05, 2013
D.D. asks from Goodyear, AZ
21 answers

My little girl is turning 5 next week. She has been waiting for a birthday party. We want to do a birthday party for her to invite her friends. WIth just family I will have at least 10-12 kids. If I invite them I hate for them not to show up. My husband wants to take her bowling. It is $25 for6 people per lane, so we would need 2 lanes. NO food or cake is included. We can do lanes and room for $10 per person, so about 120 dollars give or take. Includes lanes, food, plates and decorations.

I think I could do pizza, drinks, cake at home for much less and spend more money on a bike (she needs outgrown other one) or clothes (again she has out grown).

Any you moms have any great ideas??

BTW: We have not done guest birthday partys since she was 1. They have been brother sister and gma/gpa dinner and presents. SO party is kind of have to?1?


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answers from Los Angeles on

Why not a local park? We have several that don't charge to use the picnic tables and we did that for my oldest son's 5th birthday. Pinata's are usually cheap and fun and then you don't need goody bags. It may be too cold where you are, so at home with pizza and a pinata would be pretty cheap and easy and then it doesn't matter who shows and up who doesn't, because you won't have to worry about it.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

Is the party going to then be, next week?
That is not much lead time, for sending out invitations and getting back the RSVP's etc.
And you'd need the head count/RSVP's results, before you know what or how many invitees, to get things for and for party supplies etc.

2 moms found this helpful

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answers from Washington DC on

check with the bowling alley to see if they allow outside food in first. Most usually allow cakes, but not food such as pizzas, etc.

What would **I** do on a tight budget?

I would go to the store and buy 3 or 4 packages of large english muffins, spaghetti sauce, mozzarella cheese, drinks and a cake and have her friends over and let them make their own mini pizzas.

No decorations.
Minimal goody bags - pencils, erasers, little note pads, etc.


4 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Many a birthday party was held on cheap budgets in my growing up years and after I had children. Cheap hotdogs, sloppy joes, tacos and played pin the tale on the donkey and duck duck goose made everyone happy. What is there to follow up with after all the years if you are in debt and just bought the dream party for a thousand plus dollars (or at least some big bucks) and you can't afford anything else? Five year olds love people and fun and food and games. If they are thinking they need to have a theme party they are being taught that by someone else. If you want to go easy on your budget then do what you can and the heck with everyone else. You can have a huge party when she is older somewhere and lose all your money that day. Enjoy her being a little girl.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Abilene on

One of my son's favorite parties was a chef party where we made mini pizzas, fruit kbobs, and they iced their own cup cakes and decorated them. I bought aprons on sale and they decorated those before the cooking started with stamps and ink. The goodie take home was their apron, cake and a spatula (dollar store stuff).

Another idea for girls would be to do face painting or finger nail painting. Cheap eats like hot dogs really stretch your $ and I would get juice boxes or do a pitcher of lemonade.

Kids love to just play. Give yourself a 2-3 hour time slot (or less) and it will fly by. For the first 30 mins or so have a banner up (plain butcher paper) and have the kids write or color a birthday message to your daughter.

Blessings and have fun!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Grand Forks on

Our YMCA charges $80 for a birthday party. For $80 you get use of a party room (for 2 hours), and you can choose to use the play structure, the gym, the bouncer, the rock climbing wall or the pool. If you have the party mid-afternoon (after lunch) then you don't need to provide a meal. Some snacks like chips, cheese and crackers or veggies and dip will do. Make your own cupcakes (so you won't need plates and forks). I don't do decorations. I don't give loot bags, I just give each guest a candy bar to take home. I did a party in the back yard once with a $30 rental package from my city parks and rec department which included some carnival games (bean bag toss, ring toss, soccer kick), a parachute and a tug of war rope. I made hotdogs and cupcakes.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Las Vegas on

At that age, they don't need much... I hosted an ice cream social/bingo night at my son's last school and do you know what the kids that age played with the most... no, no interest in bingo.. they liked the ice cream ... but the BIGGEST hit.... I had blown up a bunch of balloons, like say a 100 or so .. put them in these big green plastic bags.. once all kids were inside, I dumped all the balloons out in the children's play area and the kids went WILD.. they LOVED it.......... they made up all kinds of games.. running around chasing others, throwing them up in the air...

so......... at your house, do you have a spot where kids could play , even the garage.. you could fill it up with balloons.. I am not talking about expensive balloons either. I bought those packages of them that are pretty inexpensive..

Also, BUBBLES... cheap and lots of fun...

let the kids decorate their own cupcakes...

pin the tail on the donkey..

jewelry ... buy a bunch of beads (they have big packages for cheap) and put the bead into different bowls at a table...

bean bag toss (use a beanie baby or some other heavier toss item) toss the things into containers.. could be big bowls...

make a big batch of pasta, french bread.. drinks..

if you give the kids bubbles and let them do a beaded bracelet or necklace.. then no goodie bags needed..

keep it simple.. it can still be fun

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

I loved having at home parties. Children love play and creative fun. Have children songs playing when they come in. Perhaps have a simple craft (princess crowns of construction paper, stamp pads and paper to create pictures, etc.) or cover the table and let them invent anything with playdoh. Have them make their own snacks (frosting cupcakes or frosting and decorating large sugar cookies). Dance to kids music with strands of crepe paper. March and play musical instrumets (dollar store kazoos, have them wrap copy paper around a new comb to make their own kazoos, or make shakers of beans and taped together dixie cups). Do everyone a favor and forget the goodie bags. Send the children home with their crafts or playdoh and "musical instruments". It's not just that this will be the most fun "evah", but you will avoid all the hassle of worrying about how many will show up! Have a wonderful day.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

We recently had one at home and let the kids do crafts using materials we already had on hand. The bracelets, drawings and things they made were what they took home instead of goody bags. We had pizza and our local pizza place put it in a Happy Birthday box which all the kids thought was really cool (?).
I always make my own sugar free pie or cake (party pooper-I know, but the kids never complain, lol).
All of the games and such the other respondents suggested are hits. Mine still love musical chairs.
I've considered the bowling alley route, but the kids always want to play the video games and such-so it would end up costing more.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

The way we do stuff like that is this: have an event that is just y'all...or maybe her very best friend if she has one yet, where you can go bowling. You should be able to find coupons or a time of day that is cheaper than other times (go to the bowling place's website).
Then have the party at your house or the park, something like that. You could buy a cake from Walmart, but I've even made my own cakes and it's much cheaper than getting one at a bakery. She's 5, it's cake, it doesn't need to be haute cuisine. Just letting the kids run around and have fun, play some games, sing happy birthday with the lights dimmed and the candles lit, serve the cake and maybe icecream, and that's a happy time for a kid! Gifts are a bonus, whatever they are. Joe's 4th birthday, he didn't have a lot of gifts, but they counted: the helmet, kneepads, and a little bike. He was thrilled! He asked for a party and I said "Um, what is a party to you?" and he said "Cake, balloons, friends". We blew up a bag of balloons and played balloon "tennis", hot potato, other games that were a lot of laughs. Probably spent $10 on ingredients for the cake, $5 for icecream, $4 for a bag of balloons, and we grilled hotdogs (maybe another $7-10).
It may sound too easy and like we were cheating but if kids like each other, just playing is fun enough! My happiest memories of my childhood were being at grandma's with my cousins, running around in the backyard playing kickball, cupball, hide and seek, chinese freeze tag, boys against girls ANYTHING, storytelling games, charades, and having some good food when we took breaks.
Goodie bags are NOT necessary.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Salinas on

Some of our best kids parties have been the most simple and cheap. We've had some spendy ones too but honestly the simple ones were the most fun and the ones the kids talked about for years.

We threw a old time B-day party for my youngest (I think she was 8). We played all those party games, musical chairs, pin the tail (on something;), bobbing for apples and then a scavenger hunt at the end. Prizes were candy or little stuff and we did not do goody bags. One of the highlights was when the kids arrived everyone picked out something silly to wear from our Halloween box. The kids loved it. We also did a haunted house one year for my oldest who was 9 at the time. Another huge hit and fun for everyone.

I think the key is to be creative,use what you already have and get involved. Kids love it when the adults participate. Bowling is fun but how much are a bunch of five years going to enjoy it? I would go cheap at home and put that extra money towards the bike, that is something just for her she'll enjoy for years.

Other ideas...

1. Camping theme, pitch a tent, BBQ, roast marshmallows and tell ghost stories.
2. Dress up theme, ask kids to wear a funny hat or simple costume
3. Make your, cupcake, cookie or sundae
4. Simple crafts, beading, decorate a little pot and plant a seed, make a funny hat to wear etc. Google a simple kids craft.
5. Princess theme, make your own magic wand
6. Dance party or fashion show theme

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

do it at home. do the do it yourself pizzas kids love them (I buy the french bread and do french bread pizzas kids can put what they like on them themselves and its fun. bake a cake or get on at the local grocery store.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Do cake (or cupcakes), pizza, Capri Suns at home. Is there a dollar store of some sort accessible to you? (We have Dollar Tree here in SoCal.) Never underestimate what you can find there! I go there first for plastic tablecloths, plates, cutlery, decorations, gift bags, etc. Allow her to invite 2 or 3 special friends, since it's not the entire class you may have to do it in person with a parent, but you should then know immediately if they plan to come. You and your family can go bowling on your own for less at some point. Cake, balloons and some streamers make a party to a 5 year old, and one you can afford :)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Boise on

You could invite everyone to your home for a simple birthday party and have a really great time! I have done many parties for my kids and the most fun were not always the most expensive. You can buy party supplies cheap at a dollar store or a party store’s discount bin. Pick a theme based on what you can find for a good price, and have some games! There are millions of ideas online! I have made up games based on the theme or adapted games to fit a theme. And don't waste money on a bakery cake, make your own! There are really easy and impressive ways of decorating a birthday cake. Or make cupcakes and let the kids decorate them themselves with plenty of frosting, sprinkles, and candies. The nice part about that is it is a fun activity as well as yummy! In my family, if my kids want to have a birthday outing to the zoo, museum, bowling, mini-golf, etc. that is a FAMILY ONLY outing, or they can bring one friend. I cannot afford the party packages for $100 or more! I have 3 kids so that would mean at least $300 a year JUST for the parties! I would much rather spend about $25-$45 for the party and be able to afford some gifts for them!

And one more thing, PLEASE do NOT have your guests pay for their own expenses if you end up going bowling or swimming or what have you, it is SUPER TACKY! If you cannot afford to pay for your guest's yourself, don't have that expensive party.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

I would just do the one at home. It's going to be more personal and all those parents who do not RSVP won't bother you too much. Because most of them won't get the invitation or respond even if they do.

SO buy a cake and some pizza. Do that, just plan for everyone coming and if they don't you get to have pizza planned overs. Or you can send some home with the other kids who do come.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I would do it at home and do traditional party games like dropping a clothes pin in a bottle or relay races or a craft. You can get inexpensive crafts at Oriental Trading or Michael's and kids generally like them. For home parties, I usually get 12-24 balloons (if you find some on sale, you can price per balloon inflating fees if you want helium), fun plates, solid colored napkins. It may be harder if you can't toss them out of doors but still very do-able at home. What I like to do is make the game or craft their goodie to take home. Price what you need and see if it's any benefit to doing it at home. If you do use a venue, make it really clear that anybody else needs to pay for their lane/shoes/etc. $120 is really reasonable, as far as venue parties go.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Tampa on

Haven't read the replies....what we did one year for my eldest was a "pretend sleepover" - at 5 even the boys could come over.
We had everyone come in PJ's with pillow and blanket at 5pm

~We did "biscuit pizza" (check out Pillsbury for the recipe) *this was so much cheaper and FUN for the kids*
~Had Popcorn ~ Pretzels ~ M&Ms ~ etc.
~Plus Capri Suns/Water bottles (which we bought them from the Dollar Store and wrote the kids names on them with Sharpies - we did this instead of a goodybag)
~Played a fun disney type movie (we actually watched Flubber)
~I made "ice cream cone" cupcakes (baked inside the cones) and had Blue ~ Pink ~ Purple & White Icing (White Icing plus food coloring) plus sprinkles/M&Ms/etc...(these we also used for the kids movie munchies and it was even cheaper) for the kids to do themselves

Yes it is at night doing this but the kids had so much fun & parents got a Date Night - It was so popular of an idea we did it again for my 16yo's Bday this year (but the boys all went home at Midnight and the girls stayed over)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Unless you do no decor and just do easy cheap food like make pizza or tacos, I've learned $120 is dirt cheap for a party. No party favors either, they add up.

You think you are buying the cheapest things but for the entertainment you get and no clean up after party, anything at around $150 is as cheap as it gets. If I do it at home, I may spend slightly less but will suffer the aftermath. Cleanup. Plus, going to the bowling lane I would forgo the goodie bags too.

*I* would just do the $120.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Houston on

I only once did a away form home party--it was at a roller rink. Otherwise they were always at home and I disagree it is not more expensive to have it at home.



answers from Washington DC on

I don't know, doing it at home adds up. Really price out doing it yourself. You could save some money, but it maybe worth doing it somewhere else to avoid the clean up and everything else. Also, you talk about how she needs a new bike and needs new clothes, but she wants a party. Personally, I'd give her what she wants, and save money on what she needs.



answers from Minneapolis on

Have it at home, or if you end up with too many kids for the size of your home check with local parks or YMCA/YWCA to see if they rent a room for cheap. Have simple games, you've gotten some good ideas here. Simple cheap food. The kids will love it. Five year-olds don't need an organized activity.

I've usually followed the "one kid per year of age" rule, so 5 kids for a 5th Birthday party.

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