Big Birthday Parties on a Low Budget

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Regardless of whether you have one child or ten, or whether it’s their first birthday or 18th, there’s something special and important about giving your offspring a great birthday party. Unfortunately, what many of our kids would like and what we can realistically afford to give them, doesn’t always tally. So where’s the compromise that the kids don’t even realise has been made? Read on… Theme It!

What you need; coloured paper plates, napkins, tablecloth, markers

Just about every child has a favourite ‘theme’ – from Barbie to Disney Princesses, Bob the Builder to Star Wars – and those are really easy to cater to, especially with party suppliers like Party Delights where you can pick up plates, decorations and wrapping paper for all the most popular themes. However, what about when your child has a somewhat different theme in mind, like my youngest daughter who wanted a panda themed party for her fifth birthday? Believe it or not, these are also easy to achieve with a little imagination and a whole lot of cheap supplies. Just think in colours – dalmatians, pandas and zebras, for example, just need white napkins and tablecloths and a permanent marker. Space, earth, moon and stars can all be created with navy napkins and tablecloth and gold or silver markers. Even seasons can be created with relatively coloured tablecloths and paperware.

Think Small

What you need; at the most, 10 friends

Yes, believe it or not, there is no law saying you have to invite the whole class and, more importantly, there are a few good reasons to abide by this. Firstly, it’s obviously going to be a lot cheaper when it comes to food, party bags and game prizes. Secondly, while some kids might feel left out for not getting an invite, that’s just life – we’re spoiling our kids enough without misleading them into thinking they’re going to get whatever they want whenever they want. Finally (and perhaps most importantly) your child doesn’t like everyone in their class and probably doesn’t want everyone at their party. Older children especially, are going to enjoy themselves a lot more with 4 or 5 close friends rather than tens of ‘acquaintances’.

The Invitations

What you need; a computer, email addresses and (maybe) some paper

You’ve set the theme, decided who to invite, next up are the invitations. By far, the easiest and quickest way to send out invites is to use something like evite, where you can choose from a number of free designs and invite everyone through email. The beauty of this – especially with young kids – is that you know your invites are going to reach the intended child/parent instead of getting lost in a bookbag! The downside is you do need to have the child’s parent’s email address although with older kids, the chances are they’ll have their friends’ emails anyway. Alternatively, if you really can’t get hold of email addresses, then you could use the free programme in Word to make your own invitations, print them off and manually deliver to the guests.

The Food

What you need; a good idea of what the age group you’re catering to will appreciate

Most kids can be easily fed with typical party food like buns, biscuits, sweets and even traditional favourites like jelly and ice-cream. Personally, I’d recommend getting your party produce delivered to your door by Tesco, Asda, Sainsburys or Waitrose. These websites have always got deals going on with BOGOFs perfect when you’re catering to a larger than normal crowd. Also, you can get everything delivered the morning of the party when you’re going to be too busy to go out shopping yourself. However, older kids might appreciate something, well, a little more grown up. If that’s the case, then Pizza Hut offer some fantastic deals including 2 for 1 and £10 off. Throw in a few bottles of pop and some multiplayer console games and you’re laughing!

The Goody Bags

What you need; some small, coloured gift bags or paper bags from a craft store and some knick knacks.

You have so many options to save here that, rather than tell you what to include, let me give you a few suggestions instead.

  • Don’t eat the cake at the party. Traditionally, the candles are lit, the Happy Birthday is sung and then the cake is cut into slices, wrapped in a napkin and put in the goody bag. Two advantages to this – kids don’t get a sugar overload while under your roof and the goody bag is nicely filled out with something they were going to get anyway.
  • Make your own sweet packets. Following your theme colours, get some tissue paper or cellophane wrap and cut out circles about the size of a saucer. Buy a multipack of sweets and place a few in the middle of the circle. Bring up and round and tie with some string or party thread for a cute (and much cheaper) packet of sweets.
  • For younger kids add some pencils and little notepads to draw on; for older girls opt for anything pink, purple and cutesy like plastic jewellery, mini lip-blams or cuddly animal pics; older boys will love Matchbox cars, plastic puzzles and fun joke items.
  • For teens and older kids, you might find that they love the traditional party bags so much that it’s a perfect excuse for them to enjoy some childlike goodies without feeling embarrassed. Alternatively, if you’re feeling flush, a fiver’s gift token or some fashionable school supplies always go down well.

And finally, kids these days have so much that it’s almost obscene for them to get a whole load of presents on their birthday. If there’s a particularly expensive present they want (an iPod, Gameboy etc) then why not mention it on the invitation and ask for gift vouchers instead of presents? That way the guest doesn’t have to spend hours wondering what someone else’s child likes and the party girl or boy can learn the value of money and saving towards something you really want.

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