Friday, November 16, 2012

How to throw an inexpensive party

Birthday parties can get expensive. Every year I've tried to come up with something that makes it less expensive. Here is what I've got:

**Stick to a budget!!!** I know that sounds like a no brainer- but seriously it's amazing how fast things will add up. Or is you're my sister its: I spent $350 and I'm still not done!  If you have to write it down on a piece of paper and put it on the fridge or in your wallet (or for the people who really love to spend) wrap it around your credit card.  
Don't go over!! try to buy generic things to put in the goody bags. I've thrown over 12 parties and I can tell you every time you buy character 2 things happen: 1) They are more expensive and 2) It's typically junk that breaks. Think about the party theme (if there is one) and buy around that.

My budget: $125 which includes food. I typically end up under budget.

To make it easier for yourself. Make a list of things you've like to serve and have on hand at the party. Then break it down to what you need for each item listed. (i.e. Pasta salad: Pasta....Italian dressing). Then keep an eye out for that stuff for when it goes on sale up to 3 weeks before as long as it isn't a perishable item. Or if you shop several places make a note of how much it costs at each store and pick up the cheapest.

When it comes to buying goody bags and decorations and plates. Why not wait until you have all your RSVP's in before you buy. This way you have an exact number that you need buy for.

For us this year it's a Scooby Doo! theme We found :

3 pack of small bags we're using as goody bags  (I needed 9) $4.
Bought some pencils, (12 pack) $1.10
magnifying glasses (12 pack) $2
Coloring books (9) $10

Total: $17.10 for 9 goody bags
Then my friend Avery gave us more stuff to put in the goody bags. Thanks Avery!


Once you take it somewhere and rent out a place you've already gone over my budget... All the places where I live start around $120.. and most don't include food or cake, etc...

Summer or Spring Birthday: Outside at a park.
Summer should be in the morning more (before it gets hot-unless you're having a water party) and Spring should be at the peak of warm weather. We bought those pop up tents when they were on sale in May (check sports stores) and just held onto it. Our friend rented  one for the same price we bought ours for. We did not count it toward our budget all at once. We considered it an investment and every time it's been used (7 times in 3 years) we just think of how much we've saved just by storing ours. That and camping chairs.

 Fall or Winter Birthday: In our 930 square feet apartment.

Sounds crazy, right? But I've done it at least 3 times now. The trick is it can't be a big party. Which means that it is a drop off party and the adults don't stay (less money on food and less crowded) It must be a small group of close friends each time. She was allowed to choose 9 kids- amazingly enough being the weekend before Thanksgiving break they have all RSVP'd yes. It makes 11 kids and 2 adults in my house at the time of the party.

Before a party at my house I move all of our extra stuff into our room so that there is more space in the living room. Then I close our door and pretend that mess doesn't exist until after the party.
We also bought a long table and a card table and chairs when they were on sale before Thanksgiving- We've used those for over 8 parties now.

If you have a smaller place you may either want to get the kids outside for some point of the party to do some running around or exercise. If not they will get rowdy in a small area ;)

If you're buying on line check out: for promo codes. They sometimes have printable coupons as well. Also just try googling the store you're going to shop at plus the word coupon.
Happy savings!

For plates, napkins and utensils: 
We buy generic colors or just paper plates- there are more and we can use them for both parties for the year. Spending not more than $7 total or $3.50 each party. Another great way to save is if you have enough regular plates and cups and forks, etc.. for the whole party.
Since my parties are typically small we have enough to go around. This year we also let her get plates because it is extremely rare that she ever gets the character plates with the exact person she is looking for : $8

Center pieces:
I don't always buy them but because that's typically the only character decoration I buy, I let it slide. Wal*Mart was the only place with Scooby-Doo stuff and it was cheaper by $2 than anywhere online.

Table cloths are the only thing I'll buy in color. I try to only buy them at the dollar store or at Wal*Mart where they are only $1. Depending how many tables you need to cover will tell you your price. This year Grandma was nice and bought her two Scooby table cloths $6

Decorations: One year I bought generic birthday decorations (Happy birthday sign, and dangling signs) I've kept them safe in a box for the parties that don't exactly have a theme or if you can't buy "Lemon Meringue"only decorations from Strawberry Shortcake. We found a Scooby one for $3.50 at Wal*Mart.

No matter: what if you think your child will have a Princess or Batman or SAME character party the following year. Try to save off the decorations that you bought the first time. I Can't tell you how many princess parties we've have between the two girls. Each time I've saved the Happy Birthday Banner and center pieces for the party. That saves at least $8 each time.

Helium tank: I always buy mine. At Michael's it's $18 and some change with a 40% off coupon. Target is: $19 plus tax and Wal*Mart is the worst at $21 plus tax (this obviously didn't include main stream stores like Party City. This year Micahels was out and we bought it at Target because we were running out of time. $20 and an extra pack of Balloons from $1 store that was bought for the Summer party: that puts us at $21.20

For supplies and decorations $41.20

Amount used so far:


You need the food to be appealing and filling.

I always buy the box mixes when they are on sale and stock up. $1
Frosting: I try  to get this on sale but typically spend $1.50
This year we've got Fondant that I'm making with marshmallows (sale 99 cents a pack-used 2- $2) and powder sugar 1 bag : $2. Basically you melt the marshmallows with some vanilla extract or water and add in enough powdered sugar to make it stiff.

for directions on the cake, visit my other blog here

Cakes at the grocery stores cost about $35. $15 more than when I worked there six years ago!! That's a lot for a cake- now I'm not denying their deliciousness...but still even if you just buy toy figures to put on top of the cake.. (ours were $10 at ToysRus...$16 amazon. they were her bday present) plus cake decorating isn't that hard, not with Wilton's sugar pieces (just don't forget your coupons!)

Papa Murphy take and bake pizza ( I only do this when our parties are at our house) I find a coupon and purchase the pizza the night before the party. Then I pre-heat the oven before I think the kids will get hungry and bake the pizza's. It's time consuming and you have to be "on the ball" but the price it right for my budget.
$30 I had a coupon and actually spent $15!

For our outdoor parties we typically do a BBQ. Although our Ariel themed party we had Dominos delivered. We found coupons.

Chips: 2 for $4 plus tax

Kool-aid: 5 pack for $1.25 (plus sugar at maybe ten cents for all 5 because I buy in bulk) $1.40


$103.40 from budget and still money left over.


Two days before: get everything ready in bins (f you're going to the park)
at home: Super clean up house, getting all details done.
(Order cake if needed)

The day before the party: 
Bake and decorate cakes
Put together goody bags put in bins
Double check bins to make sure you have everything.
Set up decorations (if you're at home)
Make some food (i.e. a pasta salad can easily be made the day before, so can rice krispies)

Day of:
Morning of party if you have fruits you should cut them up at least 2 hours before.
move bins into cars
or put finishing touches on party set up at house
wipe down bathrooms once more time

 my numbers are approximate. Sometimes I shoot high, others right on the money.. either way I still was under budget for the party.

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