Don’t let your kid’s birthday break the bank

Kids’ birthdays are notoriously expensive. But they don’t have to be. Here’s how control the costs while maxing out on the fun.

Establish expectations
Before you spend a cent, sit down with your child and ask them what they would like to do for their birthday party. Listen to what they want and why, and then explain that some things are more expensive than others, and ask them to help you choose. You may be pleasantly surprised to discover they don’t actually want the expensive things that you’ve been dreading paying for.

Get the number of guests right
There’s no rule that says how big or small a party needs to be. However, the size of the party will dictate what you can afford to do. For instance, you can take five kids to see an age-appropriate movie, but you’d be a little crazy to try to take 30 (and not just for budgetary reasons).

Simply put: limit your budget. If you invite more kids, plan cheaper activities.

Make your own cake
Presenting the best birthday cake has become a competitive sport. Parents fork out to have professional cakes made at the same cost as a wedding cake, at times only for kids to lick off the icing. Rather stick with tradition and make something at home.

Look online for ideas for “simple” or “easy” birthday cakes – but don’t be fooled; if it looks tricky, it probably is. One tip is to make a cupcake cake – with the main body of the cake (for instance, a sausage dog’s body, or an octopus’s legs) made up of a series of iced cupcakes. That way you only need to do decorative icing on the small ‘head’ cake. Home-made ice-cream cakes with plastic or icing figurines on top are another affordable way to achieve an effective result.

Plan cost-free, age-appropriate entertainment at home or at free venues

Think about the things your child really loves to do that cost nothing at home or at venues with free entry, and plan a party around those. Have a pool party, a bikes-in-the-park party or a picnic. All activities that are sure to delight, but cost very little.

A top tip in the entertainment category is to only have one type of entertainment. You don’t need a jumping castle AND a magician AND a face painter AND a piñata. Pick one, and do the rest of the activities cheaply, yourself. Treasure hunts, musical statues and pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey all come cheap at the cost of a prize.

Don’t over-cater

It can be very easy to try to cater a full adult’s party and a full kid’s party. Don’t. Set the party time for mid-morning or mid-afternoon, so that everyone comes already fed. Then put out small amounts of affordable snacks for the adults, like chips or veggies and dips, and a selection of biscuits or a cake.

For the kids, don’t go overboard either. Put out some sweets and chips, but don’t try to create a bottomless pit of sugar and salt. Jelly is a great affordable treat that kids love and that goes a long way. Popcorn is another affordable, fun snack.

Accept help

If your friends and family offer to help, let them. Children are raised by a village – allow the other people in your children’s lives to help out with baking, preparing or even with the costs!

Nix the party packs

Party packs have got out of hand. Kids are now getting packets of toys and sweets that rival the pile of birthday presents.

If you feel that it would be embarrassing not to provide one for each guest, think of a way to make them fun and affordable. Let each child take home a plant they have potted at the party, a picture frame they have decorated or a cupcake they have iced. Or you can simply give each child a paper cup and encourage them to raid the sweetie table before they go.

You can do it!

When planning your kid’s party, be guided by the desire to give them a fantastic birthday at an affordable price. Don’t let guilt or status be motivating factors, and remember that if it’s done with love, that’s all your children really need for their birthdays. That and sweets and presents…

Contributed by the 1Life Blog.