6 Tips for a Throwing a Fun, Frugal, Stress-Free Birthday Party for Your Child

Guys, I’m just going to come out and say it.  I think you spend way too much money, way too much energy and way too much stress on your kids’ birthday parties.
And I know why you do it.  Let’s be honest, here.  I also know that you will disagree and say one of a few key phrases –

“I’ll spend my money how I please on my kids.”

“I have good kids.  They deserve it.”

“They’re only little once.  Let their birthdays be special.”

– and I couldn’t agree more.  But, let’s be real.

You want your kid’s party to be as good as or better than their friend’s Pinterest-worthy party.  You cannot wait to upload pictures of the cake, the DIY decorations and the presents to Facebook to mark your place in the parenting arms-race of social media.

I get it!  Trust me.  We rented a large bounce house each year for our daughter’s birthday parties until we saw her and all the other kids crammed into the toddler trampoline she had at the time, while the $250-for-one-weekend-bounce-house towered over our yard completely empty, powered by the extension cord trailing from our house.

Kids don’t desire expensive parties and presents – unless they’ve been taught through experience to expect expensive parties and presents.
My daughter just turned six.  Her party was held at our house surrounded by family, friends and $5 Hot and Ready pizzas.  Guests brought their own chairs, and my Granny brought her own sweet tea.

We used our “Gift” sinking fund that we have contributed to each month since Christmas, and this covered the pizzas/drinks/baking supplies, as well as her single gift of a big-girl trampoline.

My cousin and I made the cake and cupcakes to match Matti’s chosen theme of Powerpuff Girls, and per her request, we all turned our backs and faced the walls of my kitchen as we sang happy birthday.


We sent 20 invitations to her classroom that I designed using an image I found on Google.  I used Paint on my work computer to add details of the party, printed them and had Matti cut in fourths.

We had a great time watching her open a modest amount of presents (mostly clothes, shoes and coloring books) while wearing her balloon-print party dress that my Granny bought her last year.  Afterwards, she chose a “Bubbles” cupcake and complimented my cousin and me.


We didn’t step foot in a party store.  There was no hired entertainment, no fondant-covered-cartoon cake, no goody bags, no face paint or balloon animal stations, no rented venue and no stress.

And most importantly, my kid felt special.

So, do you want to throw a stress-free birthday party for your child and save some money while you’re at it?  In honor of Matti turning six, here are six tips that I used:

  1. Make the cake and/or cupcakes.

Seriously.  Who are you trying to impress with the cake, your friends and social media or the kid who just wants to eat it and go play?  No one likes fondant, and the prices for these flashy cakes are ridiculous.  You don’t have to make a homemade cake; just grab a few boxes of cake mix and bake the cake and cupcakes the night before.   Whip up some icing and use food coloring that matches your child’s chosen theme.

  1. Let the kids be their own entertainment.

Clowns, smiling princesses, superheroes – none of this is necessary.  Your kid will be too busy playing with other kids to think you love them any less for not hiring role-players, and you’ll thank yourself for not wasting the money.

  1. A venue is not necessary.

These places are so overwhelming, anyway.  Host the party in your backyard.  If you prefer to not have a lot of people come to your house, check with your local park, but be sure to do this in advance to make sure you can snag a date in the range you desire.

  1. Keep the decorations to a minimum.

Unless you are crafty and have a lot of time on your hands, don’t worry about DIYing any decorations.  I promise that decorations are the last thing on your child’s mind.

  1. Stay off Pinterest and out of party stores.

Okay, I know it’s asking a lot to stay off Pinterest, but doing so will keep you from feeling pressure to perfect every aspect of the party.  And for forks/knives/napkins/etc., just go to your local dollar store.  Party stores will tempt you to spend every penny you have on things that will be thrown away as soon as the party is over.

  1. Keep your big picture financial goals in mind.

Getting out of debt, completing your emergency fund or working toward other financial goals is much more beneficial for your entire family.

Have any tips for throwing a low-cost party for young kids?  Let me know!


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  1. Merilee Easy Budget says:

    Gonna have to agree 100% on this. I have to be super aware of what I do just to compete with others or because it’s a new societal expectation. It’s not worth it for me! So we do simple parties. The kids don’t care and the adults are more at ease.

    1. Exactly! It’s so much easier on everyone to just keep it simple. Thanks for your comment!

  2. Love this. I’ve never thrown a birthday party for a child, though I do think a lot of people go overboard. I think the hardest part is when the child asks, “Is that it?” It’s so important to manage expectations from an early age. Great post!

    1. Yes, exactly! You hit the nail on the head – managing expectations from an early age. Thanks so much for commenting!

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  4. Kari H. says:

    Just found your website…thank you for the all the inspiration!! Love this article, thank you for stating the truth! We have 3 children (ages 7, 4, and 1) and aside from throwing a “normal” party 1 time for each of the older kids we are a no-birthday-party family 🙂 My husband and I have decided the kids get enough love, attention, gifts, and special-ness from immediate and extended family.

    Our tradition is to decorate the dining room before the birthday kid awakes and allow them to choose (in advance) any box of cereal they desire for a special breakfast. They love waking up to see decorations and gifts (from immediate family) on the table; we open presents right away and have a special breakfast. In the evening we have dinner (and more gifts!) with grandparents and other family that may be in town.

    On a side note, I truly dislike taking my kids to birthday parties as there is always an expectation to bring a gift and the birthday kiddo always has a pile of new toys to open…contributing to that pile out of our tight budget is frustrating. Also, my children do not eat gluten, dairy, or refined sugar so I make and bring them a special treat which is more $ and time on my part.

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  7. Alana Jade says:

    That Powerpuff girls cake is fantastic! Such good tips Ellie, I think we all need to stay off Pintrest for EVERYTHING when it comes to keeping our wallets happy!

  8. You mentioned that “a venue is not necessary” when hosting your kid’s birthday party. One option is to set your child’s party in your garden or patio. All you need is to do some cleaning and lawn mowing. If the space isn’t too big enough, you may want to set it at the village park. This would surely be more practical and it shouldn’t be too hard on the budget. If I were to host my child’s birthday, I would certainly take this into account. Thanks.

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