By Jo & Carl Violeta
The options for birthday parties nowadays are enormous but, unfortunately, so are the price tags. When you’re conscious of family spending or saving up for a new home or holiday, throwing a fabulous birthday party can feel like a real strain on the budget.
With our eldest child turning 18 and our youngest being 4, we’ve had our fair share of experience in throwing parties. We’ve hosted both extravagant events and more frugal affairs and what we’ve learned is that with some creativity and know-how you can enjoy an awesome celebration without digging into your savings or maxing out your credit card. It’s possible to throw a fun-filled birthday party that your kids and their friends will love whilst on a budget; just take note of our top 5 tips for budget party planning.
1. Borrow, hire & re-use what you can
I don’t know about you but themed birthday parties seemed to be on high rotation for at least the first few years of our children’s lives. Mermaids and pirates, then dinosaurs and fairies then disco and wizards. This is great news for the budget conscious parent as chances are you can reuse decorations and games from a friend or family member. Better still, repeat the same party for your eldest and youngest-with a few years in between they may not even realise it’s a revamp!
Be sure to check out your local toy library. As well as toys, many toy libraries hire out larger equipment for parties such as jumping castles, which often end up being much cheaper than a commercial hire company.
Good quality decorations are often worth the investment if you have many more parties to enjoy in the coming years. For example, fabric bunting looks festive and can be re-used, especially if it’s in a neutral colour. Cloth napkins, good quality cake tins and washable table clothes will all come in handy for years to come.
2. Embrace DIY
For the catering, decorations and even entertainment, look at what you can DIY (if you have the time and inclination).
- Simple homemade snacks such as fruit on a stick, fairy bread, vegemite sandwiches and popcorn are always a winner. We bulk cook biscuits and muffins at the start of every month and have been known to pull these out of the freezer for birthday parties in the past.
- A couple of big jugs of water and diluted fruit juice with ice blocks in them is far cheaper than buying individual drinks and has the added bonus of being kinder to the environment too.
- Homemade invitations are a wonderful way to involve your child in their party preparations. A hand written thank-you note from your little one is always appreciated too.
- Create your own entertainment. ‘Messy parties’ are always popular. Try filling a shell pool with slime or mud and trucks. Or, how about a messy cupcake decorating station? Be sure to indicate on the invitation that things are going to get messy so the children don’t arrive in their best party clothes.
3. Get outdoors
Some of the most favourite kid’s birthday parties we’ve attended have been held at the local park. Super simple and fun with a sausage sizzle and traditional games like musical statues and pass the parcel. There are some great adventure playgrounds around these days and most kids don’t need much more amusement than what is already on offer.
Obviously, outdoor parties are weather dependent, so living in Melbourne can make it tricky if you have autumn or winter babies. But you can always give it a go and have a Plan B if the weather turns!
4. Plan ahead
A mum in our circle of friends is renowned for the fabulous parties she throws every year for her daughter. She is super proud (and deservedly so!) that she manages to do it all on a tight budget. Her secret? Planning ahead. She chooses a theme for the party well in advance and then keeps an eye out for appropriate bargains.
If you’re super organised, planning ahead can save you heaps on birthday parties. Keep an eye out online and in-store for bargains and buy a bit at a time. This also means you aren’t hit with all the expenses in one month. Just be mindful that you don’t overspend because you’ve forgotten what you’ve already bought!
5. Timing is everything
Depending on the family, if your kids’ birthdays are close together, they may be amenable to a joint party which can literally cut the costs in half.
The time of day you throw the party can make a big difference to costs as well. Timing the party around morning or afternoon tea will save you having to cater for lunch or dinner. Alternatively, a sleep over with just a few friends is often a more affordable option compared to hosting the whole class!
Our final tip is to consider throwing a party every second year and perhaps buying a present that is a little bit more special on the alternate years as a substitute.
We love celebrations; they are an important part of family life. But birthday parties shouldn’t put you under financial stress or delay you from reaching your savings goals. By making a few smart adjustments, you can still have your cake and eat it too, so to speak.
Jo and Carl Violeta are self-confessed numbers nerds, parents of an energetic toddler and a super switched-on teenager, and co-founders of the award-winning business, Violeta Finance. They are a husband and wife team who are passionate about empowering their community with financial education, love the odd glass of wine, and get a kick out of helping families achieve their homeownership and financial dreams.