Birthday Celebration on a Budget

June 20, 2007
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Last weekend we threw an at-home birthday party for Annie, who turns 10 in a few days. For many years running, we would outsource the her and her sister’s birthday parties. Sure, these were expensive endeavors but it made our busy lives easier. One year Annie had her party at The Little Gym. Another we went to a local health club. The past two years we visited The Brunswick Zone, an awesome bowling alley that offers glow-in-the-dark bowling plus laser tag.

At all of these events, all we had to do was show up, and bring a cake and our checkbook. The rest of the time we could bowl or play laser tag or just hang out with the other parents at the party. A staffer served food, placed the candles on the cake, served it and cleaned up afterwards. For this we would pay a couple hundred dollars, and everyone would go home happy.

In our Suddenly Frugal lifestyle, this kind of birthday party expenditure just won’t fly. This year, we needed do a simple, homemade celebration that hopefully wouldn’t cost too much. And I think we succeeded on all fronts–from budget to everyone going home happy.

One way we kept our birthday party costs down was by using things we already owned. For example, when Annie was turning 4, we had a luau-themed party. (This is when the movie “Lilo and Stitch” was all the rage.) As was common in my pre-budget days, I over-ordered luau supplies from Oriental Trading Company, which meant we had plenty of left overs for Annie’s party 6 years later. We had leis, decorations and paper goods. The only splurge we allowed was on favors–grass beach mats from Five Below, which cost $1 each–and a $10 fish pinata from Party City.

Another cost-savings was baking our own cake–I spent $9 total on cake and frosting supplies, and was able to make two double-decker cakes, with two boxes of batter leftover for future cake-baking. “The Early Show’s” Hannah Storm recently blogged on the beauty of a homemade cake for a birthday, and I agree with her on how simple is often better when it comes to birthday cakes.

We did end up spending a bit more than expected on other food–$50 on pizza (but leftovers provided two nights’ worth of dinners for the four of us) and $30 on two gallons of Rita’s Water Ice (that’s the Philly version of Italian ice, FYI). But our total birthday bill never came close to any of the outsourced parties we’d done in the past. Better yet, I know the at-home party was a huge success, because Annie is already asking to do it again next year, and big-sister Jane wants to do something similar for her 12th birthday in July. That’s fine with me and my budget!

One Response to Birthday Celebration on a Budget

  1. Lynnae on November 4, 2007 at 3:46 am

    Great ideas! And I agree that homemade cake is the best!

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