We’ve totally done the rented-venue birthday party, but learned that you don’t need to spend a lot of money to give your child a special memory to mark his or her new age. Even a real party with activities, favors, and treats can be achieved for a low price. Our best efforts to save money on a third birthday party taught us even more. We had a great plan — some of it was even well-executed — and we still spent more than $150. Ouch!
I think with hindsight, I could cut that to $55ish.
So, learn from my successes and my mistakes and throw a super-cheap birthday party for your three-year old!
How to throw a cheap birthday party for a 3-year old
Limit the guest list.
It cannot be overstated that the easiest way to cut costs is to cut guests. Holden wanted a “big party” so we started off with an evite of all his friends (who come with parents at this age), our whole family (most of whom live out of state and wouldn’t come), my coworkers, and all our friends with kids (who, of course, come with kids).The evite was up to 37 adults before I asked WTF: Is Holden’s idea of a BIG PARTY even this big? On the brink of sending the message; we decided, no, and chose a few kids who were his close friends (the ones he would choose) and their folks. Ahhh, better.
Choose a free place!
We’ve been to some super fun third birthday parties this year: an all bouncy house party, a play space rental party, a pirate themed party (also with bouncy houses), a kickas$ backyard festival, and had our own fantasies of petting zoos and king cobras. Luckily, we asked the kid where he wanted to celebrate and he chose the local (and free!) playground with picnic tables. Yeehaw.We had a biking theme and brought Holden’s trike and “wobbly bike” for others to try out and encouraged his guests to do the same. It was terrific. Between the kids, we had a scooter and another tricycle to add to the mix. Kids were great about sharing and trying out the different sets of wheels.
Let the kid choose the menu (within reason)
After all, kid food is cheap food. I offered some choices I could live with: sandwiches, pizza, or Mexican and Holden chose (emphatically) sandwiches. When pressed for specifics, he wanted PBJ. Hecka cheap. He also asked for dry cereal, but I decided that was too weird.The morning of, we cut about 5 sandwiches into quarters and then panicked about what the adults would eat. I went to the grocery store for a last minute run on beverages (water bottles, juice boxes, milk boxes), berries, water melon, green salad to the tune of $83. I think a little pre-planning might have helped. You don’t need to cater the party to the taste of the adults. Worst case, they leave a little hungry and don’t think that three-year olds eat very well. So what. Maybe they’ll snack before coming next year. Best case, they appreciate your simplicity and think that the kid planned a menu of his favorites (in this case it was true!).
Limit the decorations.
Again, this is a place where you can go unnecessarily overboard, especially if you have been browsing Pinterest for inspiration. For about $30 at the party supply outlet, I got 3 helium balloons (best investment!), blue plates, blue cups, blue napkins, plastic cutlery, a teensy number 3 candle, and a white table covering. The solid blue stuff was good because it can all be reused (Hanukkah!!) but we really only used the plates. All the food was finger food (only one mom touched our green salad with a plastic fork, the rest was undisturbed) and drink boxes. I could have probably gotten away with spending $5 on just the balloons, plates, candle, and table coverings.
Bake your own mini cupcakes.
For $5 rather than the $42 I spent on fancy bakery cupcakes, you can bake some tasty mini cupcakes if time permits. I went to one of my favorite bakeries and custom ordered (the minimum) 24 cupcakes, like a sucker. Learn from my mistakes. We also baked cookies (because he very specifically asked for cake and cookies, but the kids didn’t go for them, so they were tragically wasted.
My grand total was $257ish = $83 (food) + $30 (decorations + $42 (cupcakes) + $0 (location) + $7 (favors of sand toys to use today and take away) virtual $100 (invitations)
My revised grand total $55ish = $45 (less food) + $5 (less decorations) + $5 (cheaper cupcakes or $12 for a dozen brownie bites) + $7 (reusable favors) $0 (for location and invitations)