9 Cheap Birthday Party Ideas

By LeeMarie Kennedy · June 01, 2023 · 6 minute read

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9 Cheap Birthday Party Ideas

From hiring a video arcade on wheels to treating 10 little princesses to a spa day, today’s birthday parties have gone next level. You could easily drop $500-plus on your kid’s next shindig.

Fortunately, you don’t have to. It’s possible to host a fun and memorable birthday celebration for friends and family without breaking the bank.

Here are some inexpensive party ideas to consider when planning your next birthday bash.

1. Being Selective with the Guest List

As tempting as it might be to invite everyone in your child’s class or the whole soccer team, limiting the guest count is a simple way to save money on a birthday party.

Less people means less food, less party supplies, and fewer favors — but not necessarily less fun. It’s possible to have a close knit vibe at a birthday party that gets people talking to each other and enjoying themselves even more than they would have at a big event.

If your child is willing to invite only one or two friends, you might consider skipping a party altogether and opting for an experience. Going bowling or spending a couple of hours at a play space, zoo, or museum can suddenly become an affordable option.

2. Sharing the Party with a Friend

If your child’s birthday falls around the same time as one of their close friends, you might want to consider teaming up and having a dual birthday party.

This enables you to share the costs and responsibilities with another family and, if the kids have a similar friend group, it would not necessarily have to be a much larger party. It can be a good idea, however, to make sure each child gets their own cake and presents.

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3. Choosing a Cheap (or Free) Venue

While hosting a party at a local climbing gym or other entertainment venue can be appealing, you can end up dropping as much as $350 just for the space.

One way to throw a birthday party on a tight budget is to have the party at home. That said, the wear and tear on your floors and furnishings might not be worth the savings. In good weather, however, a backyard party can be a great, low-cost option. Or, you might consider having the party in a local park or garden.

If your child’s birthday lands in a cold weather season, you can save money on a venue by limiting the guest list and going with the most basic package (such as just food and drinks for each child), and providing your own cake and goody bags. You can also check deal websites for discounts and promotions or ask the venue about a discount for having the party at an off-peak time or day.

Recommended: 10 Tips for Spending Your Money Wisely

4. Sending Digital Invites

Skipping the paper and going with digital invitations can be kinder to the environment and also cut down on birthday party costs, since you won’t have to buy premade invites or stamps.

You can design your own digital invitation and send them via email or text, or you may want to take advantage of one of the many online (and free) e-invitation sites.

Recommended: 15 Creative Ways to Save Money

💡 Quick Tip: Tired of paying pointless bank fees? When you open a bank account online you often avoid excess charges.

5. Getting Creative With Decorations

One of the best things about the internet is that somebody’s probably already created precisely what you need. Rather than drop a chunk of money at the party store on themed decor, you may want to check out Pinterest for free printables.

You can also find ideas for DIY decorations on Pinterest (along with many other sites) using low cost supplies, possibly even things you already have on hand. Dollar stores can also be great places to shop for decorations and supplies.

If you do hit the party store, you may want to consider going with just one or two premium themed items and keeping the rest of the decor colorful and fun.

Recommended: How to Have a Baby Shower on a Budget

6. Making a Semi-Homemade Birthday Cake

A custom bakery cake that serves just 15 to 25 people can run over $50, while a cake large enough for over 35 guests can easily run more than $70.

A cheaper option is to buy a cake mix, then make it look and taste homemade with a few simple baking hacks, such as swapping butter for oil and milk for water, adding an extra egg, and making your own buttercream frosting.

To make cupcakes that look like they came from a bakery, you can pipe icing on top using a ziplock bag with a tiny hole snipped in the corner.

7. Timing the Party Right

If the party takes place during lunch or dinner time, there’s a good chance people will expect to be fed a meal.

Choosing an off-time to celebrate — such as 10:30am or 2:30pm — means you can steer the party away from heartier, and costly, fare (like freshly delivered pizzas or a sandwich platter) and stick to serving finger foods and snacks instead.

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8. Buying in Bulk for Gift Bags

If you’ll be giving each guest a swag bag, consider buying toys and trinkets in bulk sets and then dividing them up. This can be a real cost-saver when compared to purchasing items individually (even at the dollar store).

Fun items like paper airplanes, wooden yoyos, squishy toys, stampers, fidget spinners and Slinkys can often be purchased in packs at stores as well as online.

💡 Quick Tip: When you feel the urge to buy something that isn’t in your budget, try the 30-day rule. Make a note of the item in your calendar for 30 days into the future. When the date rolls around, there’s a good chance the “gotta have it” feeling will have subsided.

9. Playing Some Free Games

You don’t necessarily have to rent a bouncy house or hire live entertainment to keep a birthday party lively and fun. There are a number of inexpensive ways to make sure there is plenty of action, activity, and laughter. Here are a few fun, free games you might consider:

•   Duck Duck Goose

•   Charades

•   Musical Chairs

•   Red Rover

•   Rock Paper Scissor Tournaments

•   Three Legged Races

•   Marco Polo (you can even play on land)

•   Hot Potato

•   Simon Says

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The Takeaway

It can be tempting — and easy — to spend a lot creating a memorable birthday party. But with just a few cost-cutting strategies, such as trimming your guestlist, shifting the time of the party, choosing an inexpensive venue, and organizing some free games, you can throw a festive birthday bash without breaking the bank.

You can also make birthday celebrations more affordable by setting a budget and saving up in advance.

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