Birthday Party on a Budget

Planning a successful birthday party can be overwhelming, especially if you’re not in the market for a keeping-up- with-the- Jones type, over-the- top party. Here’s my advice for a quick and easy birthday party that doesn’t break the bank: Go to Target. That’s it. (Just kidding.)

Successful kids birthday parties plan for two audiences – parents and kids. Keep this in mind as you start putting it all together.

Invitations: You can spend a lot of time and energy making beautifully designed invitations on websites like Shutterfly or you can buy a pack of eight and fill in the blanks while you’re watching television. It’s up to you. Some parents choose use online invites but getting an envelope in the mail is really fun for kids and also helps to build anticipation.

snacksSnacks: Get more snacks than you need. They don’t have to be pinterest inspired fruit sculptures; they just have to be plentiful. No one wants a pack of hungry kids running around. Get easy snacks like pretzels, grapes, baby carrots, cheese sticks, juice boxes – please don’t forget the juice boxes, or tiny water bottles – chicken fingers, goldfish… And also get just a couple things that the adults want. We usually have wine and cheese at our parties, but if you’re opposed to boozing at your kid’s party, get coffee.

Entertainment: Kids don’t need a lot of entertainment. You don’t have to hire a magician or a singing Elsa, but have a few things for the kids to do. If you forget this step, they’re guaranteed to run in circles screaming. No one wants that. Paper and crayons are easy. Stickers are fun. Kids love bubbles, noise makers, balls… Again –bring more than you think you need. Someone’s going to break their noisemaker and steal someone else’s…Screaming will ensue… Save yourself the headache and get extra. (Skip the birthday hats. I’ve never seen a kid excited about the hat.)

Music: Don’t underestimate the power of a great playlist. It doesn’t have to be full of wheels on the bus and the ABCs. The kids are going to be occupied. Play something the adults enjoy.

Cake: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been to parties where the cake has been untouched because the parents forgot the knife. Don’t forget the knife. Also – it’s nice to have a fancy cake – everyone loves a beautiful cake – but it truly doesn’t matter. You can get one at the supermarket and be really happy with it. And if you plan even one day in advance, the supermarket can usually make you a fancy one for a quarter of the price.

bebeDecorations: Get decorations that double as either toys or dishes. Balloons are good for this; they don’t have to be helium balloons. It’s hard to play with helium balloons anyway. Or get the colorful “Happy Birthday!“ plates and napkins to place strategically around the room near the aforementioned snacks.

Treat bags: Temporary tattoos, books, more stickers…Have one for everyone. Bring a couple extra for unexpected stray siblings who might tag along. No reason to put candy in these bags. They just had cake. Give the moms a break.