Birthday piggy bank

It’s June, which is getting close to “birthday season” at our house. Our birthdays cluster around the second half of the year, right along with all the typical fall celebrations…and Christmas, of course. All that celebrating could potentially leave a dent in our bank account (and sometimes did). That was before we learned how to throw a birthday bash without blowing the budget.

Birthdays have always been a big deal at our house. Take the first birthday party I ever threw. My first child was turning two, and I planned a farm-themed celebration, complete with games, cupcakes, a puppet show, and prizes…not to mention the homemade barn invitations with little opening doors announcing the big event. The birthday party was a huge success, except for the fact that I was still recovering from the recent birth of baby number two. After a full day of entertaining family and toddlers, I spent the evening curled up in pain on my bed!

Too many toys

Before we knew it, our toy shelves and closets were overrun with birthday gifts!

Babies number two and three brought more parties and more presents. Before we knew it, we were overrun with birthday celebrations and all they entail. That’s when we employed these five budget-friendly birthday tips, enabling us to celebrate the birthday child without breaking the piggy bank.

Birthday budget tip #1: Stagger the parties.

Although I would love to host a big bash for each child every year, I simply don’t have the time, energy, or resources to pull it off. Instead, my kids know that every three years, they’ll get “the works,” which is really just a modest-sized crowd at the venue of their choosing. Ceramic parties, pumpkin farm days, pool parties, and horseback riding have all made the list. My kids enjoy time with friends, and I relish not cleaning the house before and after the event. Bonus: We’ve set up the parties to correspond with “milestone” birthdays (10, 13, 16, etc.).

Birthday letters

Your kids don’t have to unwrap a toy to receive a meaningful gift…or have fun discovering their present. Think beyond the day to the experiences that can follow throughout the year!

Birthday budget tip #2: Give experiences, not toys.

One year, we reached the breaking point with all the “stuff” overflowing from our children’s closets and playroom shelves. So we laid down the law: nothing new comes into the house, period. While I loved the opportunity to simplify our lives, I wondered what we would give the kids on their birthdays.

The answer was simple. They had all been begging to take dance lessons, so that was their present—a half hour dance class once a week throughout the school year. Nothing to unwrap? No problem. I just printed words describing the gift, cut the printout into puzzle pieces, and hid the pieces in plastic Easter eggs throughout the house. The hunt was half the fun!

DIY birthday cake

We made this birthday castle one year, roughly modeled after a cake I saw in Family Fun.

Birthday budget tip #3: Make your own.

Whenever possible, make it a DIY event. Party invitations, favors, and cakes are typically cheaper if you make them yourself. Letting the birthday kid help bake and decorate can become part of the tradition. My friend Sarah makes her own ice cream cakes and lets the kids decorate them however they choose. (We just celebrated a birthday at her house, and I couldn’t tell the difference between the store-bought variety and her homemade ice cream cake, but I’m sure she could…to the tune of 75% less!)

Birthday budget tip #4: Limit the guest list.

You don’t have to invite 20 people to have a good time. In fact, the more kids you invite, the more likely you’ll encounter stress and problems, which no one will enjoy! A good rule of thumb is this: invite the number of children that corresponds with the birthday child’s age. Turning two? Invite two. Ten? Ten. In fact, that’s where I set the limit. 10 kids, tops. It keeps down the cost of the venue, limits the number of party favors, and keeps chaos to a minimum! 🙂

Birthday stars

You don’t have to spend money to remind your child that he or she will always be your “star!”

Birthday budget tip #5: Keep it fun.

Just because you’re celebrating on a budget doesn’t mean you can’t make the birthday kid feel special. One of my favorite birthday traditions costs me nothing. It all started when I asked one of the kids what she was going to do on her birthday the next day. She promptly responded that she was going to wake up to balloons and streamers all over her room! (Glad I asked!) After she went to sleep, I dashed to the dollar store down the road for the necessary supplies to make her wish come true.

Now that we live in the country, making those kinds of trips just isn’t practical. So I came up with these foil-covered stars instead. I hang these stars with fishing line in their doorway, one star for every year they’ve lived.

Before the days of budget-friendly birthdays, I stressed about gifts, crafts, cleaning, games, prizes and goodie bags three times a year. Now, I can relax and actually enjoy the reason for the hoopla—celebrating the day our children joined our family.

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