Money & Career

Kids’ birthday parties for under $50 (buh-bye to bouncy castles)

Today people seem to spend hundreds of dollars to fete their offspring with bouncy castles, elaborate themed cakes and live entertainment. There are cheaper alternatives and you can hold a traditional kids’ birthday party for under $50 with a little planning and know-how.

birthday girl, girl lying on picnic blanket, wearing party hat, smiling at camera

Masterfile

How much does the average kids’ birthday party cost these days? A lot more than it did when I was a kid. Back in my day, a fun birthday party involved a game of pin the tail on the donkey, a cake and a loot bag filled with plastic toys and candy.

Today people seem to spend hundreds of dollars to fete their offspring with bouncy castles, elaborate themed cakes and live entertainment. Take my son’s fourth birthday party a few weeks ago—we ended up holding it at a local play centre and ordering a custom cake. Sure it was great not to have to clean up after, but it cost way more they I have ever spent on my own birthday parties.

Yes it was fun, but there are cheaper alternatives (in fact, my daughter’s cheap and cheerful second birthday cost very little).

It is possible to hold a traditional kids’ birthday party for under $50 with a little planning and know-how. Here’s what you need to do:

Break it down

To throw a kids party all you need are a few simple things: invitations, a cake, snacks, decorations, party favours and a venue (ideally one that’s free). Once you know what you need to get, it’s easy to put cheap and cheerful elements together to make a fun party.

Pick a theme

Throwing your kid a theme party is a cheap way to make it extra special. Whether it’s a circus or a fairy party, invite everyone to dress in costume and create loot bags, snacks and decorations to turn your house into a pirate ship, big top tent or whatever your child loves best.

Make your own fun

Who needs a bouncy castle or a magician when you can play pin the tail on the donkey and musical chairs? Organize a treasure hunt or lead a sing-a-long. And if your child loves face painting, buy your own kit and paint away. Traditional activities are fun and don’t cost much.   

Make your own cake

A themed birthday cake costs a fortune. Make your cake (or beg someone you know who bakes to do it for you) and you can save a ton. Need ideas and instructions? Simply Google “kids birthday cake” and you’ll find hundreds of ideas (I found a bunch by Betty Crocker including a super-cute dinosaur cake).  

Cheap eats

It’s relatively easy to keep your food costs low, especially when it comes to little kids like my son who love hot dogs and pizza. Both are cheap and cheerful lunch options. Or, skip lunch and hold your kid’s birthday party at tea time—offer cheap and tasty snacks like fresh popped popcorn, cut-up fruit and homemade cookies.

Loot bags

Make your own bags using small, clear plastic bags tied with ribbon. Fill them with items from the dollar store and treats bought in bulk and evenly distributed between the bags.

Go online

Ditch paper invites for an Evite. People can RSVP with a mouse click, making it easier for you to track who’s coming. The Web is also great for getting party planning supplies on the cheap. From decorations, games, hats, and noisemakers; you name it and you’ll find it online.

Go to the park

If the weather’s warm, hold your kid’s party at the park. It’s close to free entertainment (a wading pool, swings, a nice space to play sports!) and best of all it’s free!