Child Birthday Parties-am I Missing Something?

Updated on August 26, 2012
S.B. asks from Keller, TX
29 answers

Usually we have at home parties. I think we have great parties. We go all out, but I try to be smart and frugal about things. I plan plenty to do, shop smart and try to think outside the box a bit. I am also not afraid to beg and borrow from people. :) I'd say even our largest parties have cost us $100 or less.

But this year, my son has asked that we "go somewhere" for his birthday party. I am not totally against this, there are definitely aspects that would be easier on me. His birthday is in November when our Texas weather is unpredictable, so we have to keep that in mind. Outdoor stuff gets rained out.

I expected it to run in the neighborhood of $200 for a "somewhere party". And I am finding out that most places it costs about $250. Which hurts my frugal side, but it's doable. Then I realize that's for just 10 kids! Most of our parties easily have 25 kids with the relatives and siblings we invite. I am not against paring down the invite list. Last year we had a small sleepover party. But we have been to TONS of parties with WAY more than 10 kids. Am I missing something? How are people doing this? Is there some secret they aren't sharing or do people really spend over $400 for many of these parties??

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So What Happened?

We try hard to teach our kids the value of money. We talked about the pros and cons with my son. My kiddo has decided he'd rather be able to invite all his friends than pick and choose. My son is already back on board with a home party and we are excitedly planning! (hubby and I are thinking about renting a bounce house if the weather cooperates as a party surprise). I was just curious more than anything.

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answers from Wausau on

When we have an at-home party, we invite 12-16 kids. When we have a go-somewhere party, we invite just 2-4 kids. The birthday child has to choose what is important to them.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

People are bonkers! LOL

Give him the choice: somewhere "out" with 9 chosen friends, or at home, with anyone he wants.....

We've had large and small parties.

I think once they hit double digits, the parties either pare WAY down (couple, buds, movie, sleepover) or WAY up!

But when you really look at it--NO child needs 25 birthday presents, right?

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Canton on

I have thought about this as well. My daughter's birthday is this weekend and she wanted to have it at a bounce house place. The cheapest (no food, drinks, cake, goodie bags, etc) party package they have is $199 and that would have to be a party on a school night. Their weekend parties are at a minimum of $250. We have been to several parties there where the parents went all out and got the food, drinks, cake, ice cream and goodie bags which by looking at the price list would have cost them in the neighborhood of $450!!
There's is no way I would ever pay that much for a party (even if I could afford it).
Good luck with the party planning!

3 moms found this helpful

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answers from Boston on

You're not missing anything. The parties are WAY out of control and people are going broke trying to either out-do the last party (or make it "special" for their child), or they're being influenced by the hype from these party venues.

Personally, I didn't want my child to have 25 friends (I know if you have 25 people, it's including families) - I didn't want him to get 25 gifts, I didn't want to spend the next year going to 25 parties and buying gifts for 25 kids we didn't really know, I didn't want to supervise the writing of 25 thank you notes. And 25 kids don't want to sit there while my child opens 25 gifts, but they also don't want to drop a gift and then play and then leave with no idea whether my kid liked what they brought. It just turns it into a gift fest, for which the parent has to "pay" by providing enough expensive entertainment.

It's dumb. We always had at-home parties like you - cheap cheap with lots of games and fun. We used the "1 per year" rule - when he was 5, he had 5 kids. When he was 6, he could invite 6. When he was about 9 or 10, he wanted to go out, like to the movies - so we took as many kids as we could fit in the car, which was 4. One year we went to a little candlepin bowling place that had a free party room. It was across the street from a pizza place which made it convenient but we could bring our own food. So the kids bowled a couple of games with the small manageable bowling balls, we had pizza and cake, and our son opened 4 or 5 gifts. Everyone had a ball and it was done.

We didn't go to the big crazy parties and my son learned to make choices about who his really good friends were that year. If he had a good friend who had a large party, occasionally he would go. But he didn't really enjoy the free-for-all and it got real old real fast. So we never regretted our decision and neither did he.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Charleston on

Yes, people really do this just like they "pay" for everything else to paint that "I have and can do everything" picture. They do it with credit cards and are thousands in debt. I have two friends who do this with just about everything (parties, furniture, clothes, cars...), and they both owe over $50,000 in credit card debt apiece. Then they stress out all the time wondering how they're ever going to pay it off. I get so tired of hearing it, and have even said, stop spending what you don't have! Their answer? "But we have to have it." (shakes head and boggles mind)

So, don't feel like your parties aren't fun just because you don't pay over $250 for some overpriced facility party. Yours are just as fun, and you're not going into debt to have them. Good for you!

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Milwaukee on

Our cheaper places are gymnastic places that offer parties. They are closer to 130.00.

This year DS wants to do laser tag and I know those are pretty pricey.

ETA - if I had a larger house I would definitely do home parties.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Springfield on

Even for home parties I've never invited more than 10 kids and have kept the cost below $150.
We let our kids have a party at one of those big places for a special birthday, like turning 10. Then we've kept it to the minimum kids (10) including the 2 siblings. Don't do the gift bags from them. It's cheap junk. Make your own to hand out. When my son had his skating party he wanted to give out whoopy cushions and gnome hats as the goodies. The kids all wore the hats while skating. It was hilarious and we could tell all our kids from the rest.
My oldest wanted to have a paint ball party this year but it would have cost us well over $400 for 10 kids. We said, sorry, but no.
Example of one of our parties:
Fo my daughter's party this year she had a horse themed sleepover. We had a BBQ and played a few horse related games. I bought horse print fleece fabric and sewed up rectangles for the 6 girls to stuff as pillows for their take home goodie and they got to use them that night. The "big" event was the next day. We took the girls for a trail ride at a local horse farm. It was $18 per girl for a half hour ride. So for under $200 we had a fun unique party for her and her closest friends.

So it's possible to do something fun and different that doesn't cost and arm and a leg if you get creative.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

I think that most people don't have 25 kids at a party. We often had parties "out" when the kids were younger, but that was 8-12 guests. We didn't have kid relatives, we didn't invite adult relatives, siblings were not invited. That's pretty much how venue parties are done, it's just your kid's close friends, not the entire class. My daughter had 5 or 6 girls at build a bear one year, my son had 4 kids at the water park, I liked when parties were small outings.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Most of my kids parties can run me between $300 and $400. It's a LOT of money, but they LOVE it. We skipped parties this year because we didn't have time. We are probably going to only do the big parties for them from now 10, 13, 16, 18. We'll see though. I have also thought about renting our local pool and doing the party there...the guests can be up to 75 and it's $200. Then if we order pizza for everyone, it's more, but even 20 pizzas would cost me $ that's only $320.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

no, it's expensive and dumb. our kids liked the party places too. nice from the cleanup aspect, but that's about it. bad food, crappy entertainment, and way too much money, but boy howdy, happy kids!
but you have to limit the guests for sure. make sure your son is on board with that.
your at home parties sound awesome. i hope your son comes back on board with them next year!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

You never mention how old your child will be. We had my daughter's birthday at the Ark in Coppell. They allow you as many kids as you like and you provide the food and decorations. It's $150.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I never really thought too much about how much folks spend on the birthday parties. But I'm with you - I do home parties. Last year we gave GD the same choice - big blow-out party and smaller gifts or larger (more expensive) gift and smaller party. She chose the smaller party. We had five girls and they had a blast!

I don't think there is any need to break the bank for a birthday party and have, in fact told GD no more parties. From now on, she gets to choose somewhere for us to go for the day. I'd rather do that than throw another party! With eight grandchildren, I've thrown my fair share and I'm pretty much done!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Columbus on

ETA: (in your area -- 20 kids for $175) (12 kids for $145)
(just to name two...)

Is there a way to give him a smaller party out with his best friends (around 10 is what most places allow for around here - charging anywhere from $100-300) and then invite cousins for cake and ice cream and some party games? I could never do a party for that many, either at home or out.

Some ideas -- if you were around here -- we have several community rec centers that provide parties or pool or playground space rather inexpensively, lego centers, movie theaters (some of the big ones have party rooms), bounce house centers, museums. Good luck.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Try a indoor pool party. Have the cake at your house (then you don't have to pay for the party room). Recruit some drivers to bring kids to the pool, then just pay their admission.

We did my dd's party this way and only spent about $50 for a ton of kids

2 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Yes, I know for a fact that a lot of people spend this kind of big money on venue/entertainment parties. My BFF is one of them!
Like you, I mostly do home parties, and the few on location parties we've done (laser tag, Build a Bear) have been smaller, usually the cheapest possible one (like 10 or 12 kids, max.)
I think it's a matter of personalities and priorities. Some people hate having kids at their house and are more than willing to spend their money that way. I LIKE having people over (even kids!) and I'm pretty tightfisted when it comes to spending money, so you would never catch me hosting 25 kids at Pump It Up!!!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from San Antonio on

You can do a whole party at home for 25 kids plus adults for under $100???? I bow down at your super savvy shopping ability. When I price out parties...don't forget to include, invitations, all the paper goods, food, drinks (kids and adults) favors,etc etc etc...I have found out having it at home or on location is about the same.

I usually spend about $250 for about 10 to 12 kids and the accompanying parents. I spend it gladly not to have to have it at home.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Huntington on

Maybe if you find out more about what he wants, you can tailor something to your budget. It sounds like, from your post, he just wants to get out of the house, but doesn't have a particular idea in mind.

If you attend church or have access to one with a fellowship hall, you may be able to achieve "somewhere" on the cheap. Two ideas: A church friend rented (well, used for free) our church for a Nurf party. They encouraged kids to bring their own nurf guns and dress in black. The party favor was a bandana - either orange or black. Once there, they broke into teams and had a paintball-style nurf gun fight. The team that collected the most bandanas one. The kids especially loved the 'dads vs kids' round, but they had a blast and the cost was minimal. Another friend has a Lego Ninjago party at our church. I am sure you could look it up on the intranet, but solid T-shirts worn around the head look exactly like the Ninjago head-wear! The played games, etc and had a blast. The T-shirt was the favor.

Good luck!!!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

We do the venue parties either for smaller numbers or for big birthdays (10, 13, 16, etc.) I've also been trying to get the parties down from everybody we know with kids to DD's real friends. If your son wants a go somewhere party, then he has to narrow the guest list. I'm glad that you considered it, but also glad he's back on board with a home party. I limited DD's party this year to 12 kids because everything came in dozens.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

If you rent a bounce house, keep in mind they are at least $100 - $150. That will add to your budget. The "somewhere" parties I've seen have been $200 for up to 20 kids at a gymnastics place. I know it gets higher depending on where you go. But, we've had bounce house parties at home and after you add in food, it gets to about $200. It would be almost the same as a gymnastics party where it's cake only. The home party we had a brunch buffet.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

Nope that is pretty much what everyone else spends. There are usually discounts if you book and pay in advance but other than that it is pricey. Most of my friends and I find out what the child wants in advance so we can budget.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

If he really wants to go somewhere for his party I think you need to discuss the money aspect of it with him. Show him the cost of each place and how much you usually spend on him party wise.

My granddaughter wanted to go to Chuck E. Cheese and I sat down with her and showed her a budget for it.

The travel to OKC, it's on a long weekend so staying in a hotel would be fun, indoor pool, game room, etc...then the cost of the actual going to the pizza place. That alone is about $50 for just family. Then if we invite any other friends and family in the area, it's really where we're all from, we just live a few miles on the other side of a suburb now.

She started seeing that having it at a place like this is expensive. I didn't want her to feel guilty but I did want her to understand what she was asking. We did go the last 2 years and had a blast. I only bought pizza for the kids and we brought a Walmart cake in. We did not reserve the table and have an "official" birthday party with the ticket tube and all that. We bought pizza, drinks, and tokens. It was around $75 this last time. The kids are getting bigger and eat twice as much now.

There is no way I would even spend that much money on a class birthday party. I would rather spend money on groceries than blow it on kids I don't even know.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Cincinnati on

A lot of times if you book the party on a Sunday there are discounts.
We did my sons party at a Chucky Cheese this year and got a great deal for doing it on a sunday because they are mychless crowded.
Just an idea!
Do you have groupon there? They also help w/ finding deals!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Have you thought about having the party at a splash park. Not sure where you live, but McKinney has several and most are near an elementary school. That is where we are having my daughters next party!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Jacksonville on

We kind of do both for our kids (granted, they're really little right now so it might change). My husband and I both never got to do "location" parties, and it's something we want to provide for our kids if they want it. But we're pretty much always under 10 kids (at least, right now) for the total count.

Our house is way to small to host parties, so we do "family" stuff (mostly just dinner with a cake for the kiddo) at my parents' place and a location party for her "friends." Plus, it's nice to have a set "time" for the party for school friends (at least in the under 5 crowd). Parents can plan around naps and such.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Check out Nickelrama - they have a decent package and parents can customize. It's in Garland (they may have other locations). I don't think I could do it for so much money.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I think it depends where you go. I'm having my daughter's party at ASI Gymnastics, and it's $225 for up to 25 kids. The first year I did a party (when she turned 3), we had it at our neighborhood clubhouse and had about 16 kids. I hired a face painter/balloon artist, served cake and light lunch food. By the time I paid the clubhouse rental, face painte, bought food and decorations, I was easily at the $400 mark AND totally exhausted. Then and there, I decided NEVER AGAIN! I'm a single mom and work full time; it's worth the expense to make it easier on myself while still fun for the kids (and parents). Some options are more pricey than others; I've found a huge range in prices at different venues. Anything where there's pizza and video games seems to be on the upper end of pricing. I think going bowling, ice skating or to a matinee movie are a bit less pricey.

My daughter's daycares have strongly encouraged inviting all children in the class to birthday parties. If invites are passed out at school, they require all kids in the class to be invited. Thus, we invite her classmates plus her three best friends, who are not in her school class. Our house is not nearly large enough to have that many kids inside, and our yard is way too small for them to play outside.



answers from Dallas on

We love hosting parties at Meadowmere Park on Lake Grapevine - archery, a scavenger hunt, an obstacle course, outdoor games...the families live it because it is different. We do charge $225 for 2 hours, up to 12 kids...the just $5 extra per child after that. You can bring in food, order pizza, or just do cake and juice/water....just another idea - - we do not charge for the adults...some have made it a family/friends gathering....while we entertain the kiddos for 2 hours....bring out burgers and dogs for grilling and make a day of it :-)



answers from Miami on

I was JUST talking about this with a friend the other day. We generally have home parties also because I think it is completely outrageous to charge (or pay) $400 for a birthday party. It's not that we can't afford to do it, I just have an issue with it on principle. I think birthday parties, in general, have become outrageous and I just refuse to buy into all of it. We once went to a "home" birthday party where they had a bounce house (not unusual) AND horse drawn carriage rides. The birthday girl was too scared to even ride on it! This was in addition to a nail salon and a "clown" making balloon animals. It was over the top.

One of my daughter's favorite parties was a tour of the local fire station. We got the tour, then went back to the house for pizza and cake and the fire station part was totally FREE! Just something to think about. Good luck. It's a world gone mad! ;-)



answers from Dallas on

Just to add my 2 cents...I tell my kids they either get a party at home and can invite friends, or they can go somewhere with just family. For example, my son just turned 7 last week, and decided to forgo the friends at home party, and we are going to Medieval Times for dinner tonight instead. Last year (to my surprise), he decided to have a family "party" at Chuck E. Cheese instead of having friends over. I leave it up to them, but they know if we go somewhere, there are no friends invited because it just gets too expensive! Besides, he gets invited to a lot of parties during the school year and they do all kinds of fun and expensive things, so he's not really missing out, right? ;)

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