As your child’s birthday looms, anticipation and excitement fills the air. In my experience, children start planning their parties about five months in advance! By the time the big day (complete with expectations) approaches you may feel more party-pooper than party-planner. There’s no doubt about it, a kid’s birthday party can take it out of you … emotionally, physically and financially!
If you’re a single mother, party time can be especially tough. Planning a party alone is twice the work. And to make it even more challenging, you probably only have half the time.
So how do you ensure your child’s birthday bash goes off with a bang and is remembered for all the right reasons?
Follow these simple planning steps for a spectacular shindig that is enjoyed by everyone, including you.
How to plan a fun but cheap kid’s birthday party
NO PRESSURE, NO EXPECTATIONS
First things first: Get in the right headspace. And try to get your kids in it too. Remind yourself that this is a party. It should be fun. It is not a competition for ‘Best Party of the Year’. Find out what’s important to your child and work with that. If you promise your child the world, not only will you put too much pressure on yourself, but if you don’t deliver, the end result will be disappointment. Make sure you and your child have clear, realistic expectations that can be reached without a mummy meltdown.
PARTY PLANNING IS A MUST
I sound like a broken record when it comes to planning. I mention it in most my blogs. But I can’t stress enough the importance of it. And do it early. Last minute planning is like sweeping up leaves on a windy day. Pointless. Use a party planner template to make sure you have all elements covered leading up to the big event. Being organised will save you time and money. And will make for structured, stress-free, yet super-fun festivities.
THE BIRTHDAY BASH BUDGET
It may be a once a year event, but the cost doesn’t have to be a financial shock. Budget in advance to alleviate money worries overshadowing the celebrations. Be as organised as setting up a bank account with automatic payments each week. As little $10 is enough. Or simply add extra party bits to your weekly shops leading up the big day so you have a head start when the time comes. Your secret soiree stash will make party time a lot less painful on your bank account.
For more about budgeting in general see this podcast with MoneySmart: Single mum budgeting: Why, how and the tools to use.
Don’t waste your money on shop-bought invites. There is a never-ending selection of free invite templates on the Internet. Head over to Greetings Island for invites for every occasion. Remember our kids are so adept on computers now, so they might like to create their own invitations. PowerPoint is second-nature to most kids. Introduce them to the wonders of Smilebox.com where they can create personalised invites in minutes.
MANY HANDS MAKE LIGHT WORK
When it comes to party planning, delegation is key. Even just having one friend or family member to help with the load can be a big help. Once you’ve planned what has to be done, assign some tasks to your handy helper/s. Make it clear what you need them to do and when. This only works if you choose people you can rely on, otherwise it could be more of a hindrance than a help.
SHARE THE DAY (AND THE COST)
If your child has a friend with a similar birthday, consider doing a shared kid’s birthday party. There are heaps of advantages. Half the cost, half the work. Need I say more. Make sure you share with parents you get along with. And have a clear plan of action so everyone knows where they stand. For example, will there be one cake or two (one with both names is best) and does the theme work for both children? It’s a good idea to mark your child’s birthday separately too. Just a small special dinner at home which is all about them.
Get inspiration for party themes here: 10 Fab party themes your 10 year old will love.
How to plan a fun but cheap kid’s birthday party (cont.)
When it comes to theme choice
If you’re getting ready to host a party for a kid, give them the chance to choose their own theme and let them be involved in the preparations. Having the child express their likes and tastes will help craft an environment that reflects their preferences and interests. Plus, allowing them to decide the theme of their celebration helps build confidence and independence and makes it more likely that they’ll have a great time.
KEEP IT SMALL AND SIMPLE … BUT VERY SPECIAL
Please don’t feel pressured to invite your child’s entire class to their party. Yes, other people may do it. Perhaps they have the space and money. Good for them. Work out how many children will comfortably fit into your home (without trashing it) and let your child work with that number. The smaller the party, the simpler it will be. This will allow you to fine-tune the festivities for a better outcome. Explain to your child that quality time with good friends is better than chaos with the complete class.
DIY DECORATIONS FOR KID’S BIRTHDAY PARTIES
No party is complete without a few decs. But there’s no need to get carried away. Dollar shop decorations are super-cheap. Or why not make your own? Now stay with me here. I can hear your laugh of mirth. Why on earth would you do that?! Well, if you take a quick peak at Martha Stewart there’s a great selection of really easy and effective ideas that will impress your guests. You can get your kids involved too. Giving them constructive, fun tasks on the lead-up to the party is a good way to channel over-excitement.
PORTION UP THE PARTY FOOD
Kid’s birthday party food is totally under appreciated. However much love and care taken in preparation, it will be surveyed for a split second before being devoured. Kids will take a bite of this, a lick of that. Table manners? What are they? This is a party. Save time, money and heaps of mess but using cardboard food boxes. Pop a drink, a sandwich and lots of treats in each. You’ll find you won’t overdo the amount of food and the kids will love it. Boxes can be purchased from dollars stores in lots of child-loving themes.
HAVE YOUR CAKE AND EAT IT (EVEN IF IT’S SHOP BOUGHT)
What’s a kid’s birthday party without a cake? The singing, the candles, the ‘make a wish’ moment. Yet these stars of the show get very little airtime. It will be briefly admired and immediately devoured. Don’t feel guilty for … dare I say it … getting a shop-bought one. Bakery’s will make a personalised cake at a reasonable price. If you decide to don the apron and make it yourself, keep it simple. Try these oh-so-easy birthday cakes that are bound to impress. And remember to put a slice in the party bags to bulk them out.
A PARTY BAG OF CHEAP AND CHEERFUL TRICKS
Depending on the age of your child, party bags may be an essential. Just remember the bags and content will barely last the journey home, so don’t waste time or money on them. Just use brown paper bags (which your child can decorate), pop in a slice of cake and some cheap, multipack items. Choose bulky items, like small packs of Tiny Teddy biscuits. Oh and stick in any prizes they win at the party.
So there you have it, 10 tips for a fun but cheap kid’s birthday party.
To sum it up: Plan it, scale it, and simplify it. The more you stick to these simple guides the easier the process will be.
Remember it’s your day for a celebration too. You are marking another year of having your beautiful child in your world. We spend our lives letting our little ones know we love them, so don’t put too much pressure on this one single day.
My advice: When the guests are gone, grab yourself a (big) slice of cake and give yourself pat on the back. Trust me, you will truly deserve it.
Oh, and if you’re feeling brave and thinking of a sleepover party, there are plenty of tips available here: How to survive a sleepover party.