Kid birthday parties. They used to be so much fun – back when we were kids and all we had to do was show up, eat pizza, eat cake, pin the tail on the donkey or beat a piñata until it exploded. And then, Pinterest happened and no parent was safe. Now we must have elaborate cakes with gross fondant frosting (seriously, can this trend die please? It makes even a great cake taste like plastic.). Not to mention that we must have a theme and cutesy little games, and goody bags, and serve gourmet appetizers.
Don’t get me wrong.
I LOVE going to those cute little, perfectly-themed, Pinterest parties, but I HATE hosting them. They’re not my thing. I tried with my oldest’s first birthday party and that was it.
I was so stressed and miserable that I was anything and everything but hospitable. I was a shame to my Southern roots. Not to mention that I went way over budget chasing down all the perfect decorations that just ended up in the trash.
I can’t even imagine going through that every year and three times a year no less (in case you’re new here, we have three kids)! So here’s how we handle our kids birthday parties, which makes them easier, less stressful, and makes them on budget.
Don’t throw a party every year.
It was a tradition in my family growing up that my brother and I did not get a “real” birthday party every year. Meaning, that every two years we could have a birthday party with all of our friends over. The years in between those “real” birthday parties, it was just grandparents, parents, and sometimes an Aunt or Uncle (and maybe a cousin or two if we were really lucky).
It was just a simple dinner or lunch, homemade cake, sometimes ice cream and that was it.
We’ve continued this tradition with our kids. For their first birthdays, they get a party with all our extended family, we order pizza, I make a cake, and that’s it (see picture below for what happens to said cake… 🙂 ). No decorations, no themes, nothing fancy. In fact, Conner’s birthday this year was our first one where we invited his friends – he turned 5.
Lose the stress.
My husband and I both are clean freaks. It really stresses us out having a lot of folks over. We do it out of love, but it can really stress us out. Not to mention that we have a crazy dog that is still a puppy and will not only bay at every dang thing under the sun, but will jump on visitors – even little kids.
So we decided that having a birthday party with a dozen little kids in our house wasn’t the best idea for us. Since we’ve been working hard on defeating the debt monster, we have more room in our budget that we didn’t have when Conner was a baby. So we decided since his birthday is in January and it is usually cold, that we needed an indoor fun place to host his party.
We chose Monkey Joe’s. Was it expensive? Yep, you bet it was. But we were prepared. We had saved up the money and maximized what we really wanted. And truth be told, I spent more money on his first birthday with all the decorations, fancy food, and goody bags than we did on his party at Monkey Joe’s.
Decide what’s important to you.
For us, we are big on there being enough food for everyone – not just kids. Maybe its our Southern roots, but we don’t want folks to go hungry on our watch. So we knew that we were going to pay extra for extra pizzas, which was a blessing because literally every piece of pizza was eaten.
I made the cake to save us from having to purchase one (recipe below). We opted out of goody bags (they’re just full of junk that parents hate having to deal with anyway), opted out of balloons and ice cream, but we opted for the higher package that allowed more kids to play because we wanted to bless parents who had no other choice but to bring a sibling or two with them to the party.
These were things that were important to us – they may not be things that are important to you, which is totally fine. You have to determine for yourself what is most important when throwing a party – no matter the size or location of the party. By knowing what is important to you, it makes saying “no” to the things that aren’t important easier.
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup of cocoa
- 2 teaspoons of baking soda
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 2/3 cup of vegetable oil
- 2 teaspoons of vinegar
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla
- 2 cups of cold water
- 1 tub of Cool Whip (or off-brand version - that's what I use 🙂 ) for frosting
- Small bag of Rock Candy (found in the baking aisle - my kids love this instead of sprinkles)
- Food coloring if you'd like the frosting a different color than white.
- Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease 2 round pans, 9x1 1/2 inches; dust with flour.
- Mix flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl.
- Mix oil, vinegar and vanilla. Stir oil mixture and water into flour mixture real hard until well blended, about 1 minute. Immediately pour batter into pans, dividing evenly.
- Bake until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, about 35 minutes; let cool 10 minutes.
- Remove from pans; let cake cool completely. Fill and frost cake with Cool Whip. Sprinkle Rock Candy on top and voila! Done. 🙂
Have fun with it.
Even though having a party at a place like Monkey Joe’s was fun and it was fun getting to see all of Conner’s friend’s having fun together, it is even more fun when we get to have a small birthday party with just family. In fact, I truly believe that our children value those big “real” birthday parties more when they don’t have them every year.
I know that my brother and I certainly did growing up. We knew that by not getting a big party every year that we should be grateful for the years when we did get one. And the birthday parties where it is just family over can be just as much fun if not more fun than a big party with all your friends.
And starting your own traditions can be a fun and easy way to make throwing a birthday party on a budget easier. Every year on my kids’ actual birthdays, I serve them a “donut cake” for breakfast. Complete with candles and the Happy Birthday song. It’s simple and special and doesn’t cost much.
What is your best tip for saving money on kids’ birthday parties?
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