need to party on a budget?
I am with you. Some of you don’t have to worry about budget. Others put on blinders and don’t think about their party budget. But most of us try to keep our birthday party spending under a certain limit. No matter where we start, the trick often seems to be: how can I keep my party budget from spiraling out of control?
I really want to encourage you to make a party budget. Having a budget will immediately solve the question of, “How much should I spend on my child’s birthday party?” Knowing that upper limit will make every party purchasing decision easier. Plus, you’ll know when to stop shopping. (Sometimes, I don’t know when to stop. It’s just so fun!!)
Have you signed up for my Party Planning Cheat Sheets? There’s a budget worksheet in there to help you out.
my top budget birthday party ideas
I have some examples of no- to low-dollar dessert tables on my blog, but when you factor in a full party, I think you’d be hard pressed to pull it off for less than $350. Food, drinks, decorations, activities, party favors … it adds up, even if you are watching your budget like a hawk.
There are no wrong answers when it comes to deciding what you “must have” for your party. Only you can make that choice. (Read “When Is It Worth It to Spend Money on Your Party?” for 8 questions to ask yourself when you’re trying to make that call.)
If you have big dreams on a little budget, be prepared to compromise. Decide what your priority is and spend your money there. Look to the rest of your to-do list for the compromise areas.
If your dreams are getting a little out of control, remember that most of us grew up with parties that consisted of cake, ice cream, balloons, and homemade party hats. That’s it. And we loved them.
Shop at home first. You’ll be amazed what you can re-purpose for your party. Have a candle stand? Turn it into a cake stand. Have a white bed sheet? Turn it into a tablecloth.
Shop friends and family next. You can borrow almost anything with the promise of a big slab of birthday cake.
Shop Goodwill. You never know when you’ll get lucky. Hit your find with a little spray paint, and you’ll have something fabulous.
Seek out free party printables. (And be sure to start with my freebies pages.)
Think substitution: printable cupcake toppers are more affordable than fondant toppers, but just as cute.
Did you wait too long to plan your party? Be prepared to pay rush fees. Your delay is not someone else’s problem.
When to Spend
If you are working with a party planner, share your budget upfront. She will know how to stretch your dollars in a way that makes the most sense.
When you do spend those party dollars, invest in things that last: white fabric tablecloths, white serving pieces, fabric rather than paper … these are all things you can use over and over.
This is not the time to ask your bakery for a three-layer fondant cake. Expect to pay $200 or way, way more for an elaborate cake. Opt for a white, buttercream frosted cake from the grocery store and top it with a free printable.
Is Doing It Yourself Cheaper?
DIY, baby: if you can’t have a table runner made, buy a few yards of fabric, fold it to shape, and iron in creases.
But DIY beware: sometimes, it costs more to buy the supplies for a DIY project than it does to pay an Etsy vendor to make it for you. Investigate before you spend.
And other times, you’ll think: “I could have made this myself for less.” Well, maybe. But when someone else bakes your cookies or crafts your banners, expect to pay for their materials + time + profit. That’s only fair.
Finally, the cardinal rules of saving money on your party: (1) have your party at home, (2) keep the guest list small, (3) put your child first.