Throwing A Birthday Party On A Dime

Just because you're on a budget doesn’t mean you can’t throw an amazing birthday party

When I was a child, most of the birthday parties I went to were at my friends’ houses. Back then there were few venues that offered birthday party options. Now, it seems like there are a million play places and art studios and dance schools and dojos, and everything in between, that all offer birthday party packages. There is a huge benefit to taking advantage of these packages—someone else entertains the pack of children and someone else sets up and cleans up after them.

Birthday parties were a big deal in my house growing up and as long as my children have had friends of their own, they have been allowed to have birthday parties with those friends. Up until I found myself without a job when my daughter’s 5th birthday rolled around, I was happy to host parties at outside venues—the first one at an indoor playground, the second at a grocery store cooking studio. But when money was tight and throwing such a party was out of the question, I had to make the call—do I cancel the party this year or do I find a way to throw one on a dime?

It was her first year of school and she really wanted a party. So I gave myself a $100 budget and committed to finding a way to prove to myself, and my wallet, that you don’t have to spend $300 to celebrate your child’s birthday with her friends.

How did I do it?


We threw the party in our basement. Our unfinished, bulk carpeted basement. It was more than presentable and safe and reminded me of every picture I have of my childhood birthday parties. Throwing the party in the basement gave us a big open space to entertain 15 antsy four- and five-year-olds and, best of all, it was free! We decorated it with a few festive balloons and got birthday crowns for all of the kids. They loved them!


Pretty much every single birthday you go to these days serves pizza and there is nothing wrong with that. Who doesn’t love pizza? But you know what’s cheaper than pizza? Hot dogs! I picked up a few packages of hot dogs and buns on sale, grabbed a couple of bags of potato chips and a package of apple juice boxes and boom, lunch! Super cost effective and a huge hit among the kids.

Instead of spending $30+ on a store bought cake, I challenged myself to use my one Wilton cake class skills and make the cake! I bought all of the ingredients and made the cake from scratch. All in, I spent about $15 making the cake and my daughter was blown away but how I was able to give her the Minnie Mouse cake she asked for. I’m still proud at how well it turned out!


Old school party games were a mainstay when we were kids for a reason. Kids love them! We played pin the tail on the donkey and pass the parcel and had modest but fun prizes for the kids to win. Though my two-year-old son didn’t get why he had to keep giving away the parcel in his hand, the kindergartners loved watching each other tear off a layer of wrapping to see if the holder of the parcel was the lucky winner. And every time the tail ended up on the donkey’s head everyone got a good laugh.

Loot bags

If you ask what people spend on average for a loot bag, most will say $5.00-$7.00 per child, which, times 10-15 kids, seriously adds up! But no one wants to fill a bag with worthless junk that will get thrown out either. I wanted to find a way to give fun loot bags without spending my entire budget. So I hit up the dollar store, bought multi-packs of little canvases, paint brushes and potted paints, bought a bag of candy necklaces and another one of mini chocolates. In all, the loot bags probably averaged out to about $2.00 per child and the kids loved them.

The final tally

I managed to throw a birthday party for 15 kids for $102.57.

I have nothing against birthday parties at outdoor venues. In fact I love them! But it is entirely possible to set a strict budget, stick to it and still throw a birthday party your kid will remember forever. 

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