How to Throw the Best Kid’s Birthday Party on a Budget

I love throwing awesome, over-the-top birthday parties for my kids. Every year, I go all out. I create a beautiful cake with fondant and set up games and decorate. Maybe it’s because I didn’t have that when I was a kid.

But the problem is, parties are expensive. But not MY parties. I throw awesome parties with very low cost by using a few secret tricks that I’m going to share. The same tricks can work for any kind of party including a baby shower, bridal shower, and more.

9 Frugal Party Planning Tricks

Here is the 9 step plan to an amazing party without breaking your budget.

1. Plan

The first step for any party is the plan. I use my own party planning checklist to stay on track. I start by asking my child what theme they would like and go from there. I always have their parties at home to save money. Venues are just not worth the money.

Then I plan the decor, food, games, and activities. I set a budget and split it up into categories so I know how much I can spend on each thing. Download your free Party Planner and Budget here.

2. Theme

birthday party on a budget

Homemade Pirate Cake using free printables

Not everyone likes a theme, but my kids usually pick out a theme each year and I try to go with it. To save money, I go on Etsy and look at the designs out there for invites and party decor.  

There are also tons of free printables on Pinterest. So I usually get an idea for what I want based on the other examples out there. Then I print out free invites, cupcake toppers, signs and other items that I can find.

You don’t have to plan around a theme. If you like simplicity, there are lots of free printables online that just incorporate balloons and typical birthday images. But since I love themes so much, I have a few websites that I recommend if you are looking for free themed party printables.

3. Invites

If there aren’t any free invites available (which rarely happens), then I can either go to the dollar store or just make my own. I use a really easy website called Canva to make invites. It’s free! I LOVE FREE! It helps stretch my budget further.

Canva is so easy that it literally only takes a few minutes to create an invite. They even have samples already made and images that you can buy for just a $1 if you don’t have your own. Free images are easy to come by though, so I never buy the ones on Canva. If you need free images just go to or search online for free images.

Another great resource for creating invites or other party printables is PowerPoint. If you don’t know how to layout the invite, simply look at other examples on Etsy. I figure that if I can see the invite someone else created, then I can use it as a learning tool for design placement even if I don’t use the same graphics or colors.

4. Decor

Free Printed Decor For Baby Shower

For items that I can’t print, I always head to the Dollar Tree. When planning, I use common, solid colors for the napkins, plates, cups, etc. because I know that the dollar store will have them. I usually end up spending less than $10 on everything I need for decor including balloons.

5. Cake

The most expensive part of the party is usually the cake, but only because I use fondant on my cakes. You don’t have to use fondant. It’s a little tricky anyway.

The best way to figure out the cake is to look at other examples on Pinterest. Once you find a cake example that you love and think you can recreate, then you just buy the cake mix, frosting, and few decorating items. The cost should be under $10. Some grocery stores offer beautiful cakes for around $18 if you don’t have the time to make the cake.

birthday party on a budget

Homemade Butterfly Cake

For a cake topper, just borrow a small toy from your child that goes with the theme. If that’s not an option, there are usually some cheap options at the grocery store for topping the cake.

6. Food

Now the best strategy for keeping food cost down is to avoid having the party overlap a meal time. If you don’t have to serve lunch or dinner, then you can cut back your costs a lot. Some people opt for a pot-luck style food set up. This works for well for family parties and adult parties. But for the kids, just squeeze the party in between lunch and dinner and leave the meal out. It’s cheap to buy a few snacks to set out rather than a whole meal.

7. Games and Activities

Parties with little kids require lots of activities to keep everyone entertained. But there’s no need to rent a bouncy house or pay for a magician. Kids are happy with the simplest activities.

Pin the tail on the donkey style games are always fun, but I usually throw in a few games of skill like throwing bean bags, ring toss, etc. I use whatever I have available in the house to accomplish this. For example, I have used Easter baskets or Halloween buckets as the item to toss the bean bag in. If you check Pinterest for party games, a whole list of ideas will come up that only use household items or are very cheap to set up.

Be sure to set out your snacks during the game time in case anyone ends up being thirsty or hungry. And, keep some nice music playing the energize everyone.

Make photo time a fun activity by creating a photo booth (fun for kids and adults!). You can get out some dress up supplies borrowed from your kids: feather boa, funky jewelry, fun hats, etc. You can also buy a few items from the dollar store (fake mustaches, silly accessories, etc.) or print items for free and tape them to a shishkabob skewer.

A Polaroid camera can be fun too because you can instantly print and give the photos as souvenirs!

8. Pinata

birthday party on a budget

Homemade Pinata for “Purse” Theme

Not everyone does the pinata thing, but my kids love it. So depending on what is left in the budget, I will sometimes buy a pinata and candy to fill it with. I try to get the filler at the Dollar store if possible.

If there isn’t much left in the budget then I make my own pinata. To make a pinata, you just take a box from Amazon and cut pieces in the proper shape and tape them together with packing tape. Then you cover the whole thing in tissue paper. Lastly, you decorate with streamer material, stickers, printouts, or whatever you have. They often turn out better than the real ones. Plus, you can make them as strong as you want by adding layers of cardboard and packing tape. This makes the game last longer.

9. Party Favors

It’s nice to give the guests a little gift when they leave to thank them for attending. This can get pricey though, so if I have a pinata, I usually just have the children collect the candy from the pinata and that is their party favor. If there isn’t a pinata, then I just go to the dollar store and pick out a few fun items to put in a party bag. This keeps the cost down.

Throw the Party!

Once everything is ready, I check my budget to see how I did. It usually works out better than I had hoped. I get tons of ideas online ahead of time to help me think creatively and keep the cost down. Throwing the party is a whole other challenge. Hopefully, you don’t mind a bunch of high energy children running around your house. I love it!

My kids know that since I throw such fun birthday parties that I don’t plan on spending much on their presents. But that is OK because their friends usually give them everything they want. Plus, they have such a blast with their friends that it makes a fun memory they will treasure.      

Don’t forget your FREE Party Planner and Budget!


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