This is a guest post from Jackie Small of My Little Bookcase.
As a stay-at-home mum I have to watch my wallet very closely but that doesn’t mean sacrificing beautiful birthday parties for my children. I’m not alone either; whatever your financial situation, many families are feeling the pinch at the moment. There are however six golden guidelines I follow to help me keep our birthday party spending to a minimum.
1. Plan early
Who doesn’t trawl Pinterest for party ideas these days? It’s full of wonderful, inspiring ideas, but the downfall is that it can really contribute to a budget blow-out. Planning the party early has two main benefits.
Firstly, it gives you time to browse Pinterest properly. Instead of settling for the pins that top your search you have the time to delve deeper into boards to find clever and frugal party ideas. Secondly, planning early also means you can keep your eyes peeled for specials every time you hit the shops. Rather than spending the big bucks on items you’ve spotted on Pinterest, you’ll have time to find affordable alternatives and make bargains work for you. I set the table for my daughter’s Snow White Party for $20 by sourcing the party goods from various stores over a few months.
Try to stick to your plans too. Childhood 101 has a wonderful downloadable Party Planning Template to help you do just that.
2. Choose a clever theme
It may sound cliché that a children’s book blogger uses books to theme her children’s parties but I highly recommend using books as party themes. They can help define a party as the stories and illustrations offer so many wonderful ideas – which means you can stay away from Pinterest altogether!
Venue hire can often be the biggest expense of all, so choosing a theme that allows you to host a party at home or at a local park can save you hundreds of dollars. I suggest first looking at the features you can utilise in your home, for example, a beautiful cottage garden lends itself beautifully to an enchanted fairy party. We recently hosted a Possum Magic party for our son’s first birthday, where a local park was more than suitable for the setting.
3. Keep the party small
There are occasions, like first birthday parties, when keeping numbers to a minimum is difficult. However, you really can save on catering and party favour costs by inviting a small number of your child’s friends. We invited just seven girls, mostly from my daughter’s kindergarten group, to her Snow White party. It was intimate, but the girls had a wonderful time because they knew each other well.
4. Cater and decorate yourself
Catering can be another blow-out expense. Your early planning can help you out here. If you’ve searched online for ideas you will most likely find lots of ideas that include home baking short-cuts. I also suggest keeping the party food simple. My experience tells me that kids are easily pleased with simple food (see tip #5 if you don’t feel confident catering the party yourself).
Clever presentation can make simple food look amazing. Cookie cutters are my best friend, which I use to theme sandwiches. The sandwiches for our Snow White party were forest creatures.
I presented both popcorn and a simple Forest Berry Salad in cheap cupcake cases purchased at a variety store.
One stand-out food item is usually enough to make the food table look outstanding. For this party, it was the Toffee Apples.
Look out for specials when buying decorations or trawl local op shops for items to use as decorations. Or save by hand making simple decorations.
I print at home and hand-cut invitations too, saving on coloured printing costs.
5. Ask family and friends for help
If you don’t trust your own ability to decorate and cater yourself, don’t be afraid to call on the skills and talents of loved ones. Ask for help with anything from baking and decorating to cleaning the house and shopping.
My family really helped me out with this party. My dad prepared some dwarfs for the backyard; my husband created some rustic, woodland stools, using firewood from his grandparent’s farm, and my sister made stool cushions from apple-print fabric I had recently purchased for library bags.
6. Recycled and re-purpose
Rather than purchasing brand new items just for the party, try to find ways to recycle or re-purpose items you already have around the home, for example, washed jars and cans can make wonderful vases.
Research local businesses that sell off-cuts and seconds to educators and the general public that they have reclaimed from big businesses (Resource Rescue-Melbourne, Reverse Art Truck-Melbourne, Reverse Garbage -Sydney and Brisbane). You can find some amazing items at very affordable prices.
Apart from using most of our own furniture and household items, the majority of purchased items for our Snow White party were sourced from Resource Rescue. I was able to fill a garbage bag with items for $20, which included fake turf, stickers, silver cardboard and mat board for the Magic Mirror Craft Station, and empty bottles for the Queen’s Potion’s Table.
Be sure to download a copy of our Birthday Party Budget & Planner to keep your party planning on track.
Jackie Small is an experienced classroom teacher. Currently on family leave, she spends each day in the company of her two enthusiastic children.
Jackie manages My Little Bookcase, an online resource that aims to provide parents and educators with fun, positive ways to engage their children in literacy-building activities. She is also an educational consultant for Story Box Library, an online reading room showcasing Australian literature. Visit My Little Bookcase to see more details of Jackie’s Snow White party, including food, decorations and party games.