Six Tips for a Simple and Frugal Birthday Party {Eat Well, Spend Less}

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I don’t know about you, but I’ve never really spent a ton of money on my girls’ birthdays. Usually, we have family over and roast hot dogs and eat cake. Every other year, they get to have a friend party at a local park, where they can invite a few friends (plus family) to play and have cupcakes.

Six Tips for a Simple and Frugal Birthday Party

This year, Reese had a blast playing at the playground and eating store-bought cupcakes. Even though I didn’t go the homemade route this year, I still didn’t spend much; less than $50 for cupcakes and paper goods.

However, I realize that many people can spend hundreds of dollars on one child’s birthday party. To each his own, but this just isn’t how we roll. Having four children means having four birthday parties, and I would rather spend my money on something tangible, rather than a party everyone wants to pin on Pinterest. I’m not very pinterest-y anyway, have you noticed?!


So here are six tips to help you eat well at your children’s birthday parties and still spend less.

Use a theme with toys you already have.

One year, we had a Dora-themed birthday for Abby Grace. We bought the Dora plates and cups, but all of the decorations were the Dora figurines we already had. Shane set up the Dora castle and figurines as the table centerpiece and Abby Grace loved it. When we had a Barbie-themed party, we bought the Barbie and some accessories as her gift and used those as part of the decor. Two birds with one stone, baby!

Fire up the grill…

… or have a hot dog roast. We enjoy roasting wieners in our fire pit, and it’s always a hit when we use it for a party. Snack on s’mores instead of cake and you have a campfire birthday to remember. Try purchasing hot dogs when they are on sale (mainly the months of May, June, and July) and then freezing them if your kiddo doesn’t have a birthday during the summer. Don’t forget to take your coupons!

Have one big party.

In the past, we have combined Abby Grace’s and Reese’s birthday parties; Reese was born in March and Abby Grace was born in May, so we have one big party in April. Since we are inviting pretty much the same people for both, this works really well. We save time and money and everyone still has a lot of fun.

I have made a huge pot of beans, homemade cornbread, and of course, cake and the party was a huge hit with the guests. I love this guide on how much to serve at a party. It will definitely help you plan and hopefully keep you from having too much (or not enough!) food.

We still make sure their special days are special by celebrating with just our family and each girl always gets a special lunch date with Daddy.

Eat cake…

… without serving a meal first. Have the party in the afternoon, between 2 and 4 and just serve cake (maybe some ice cream!) and punch. This option is definitely cheaper and there is a lot less work and clean-up. ‘Nuf said.

Take the easy way out.

No, I don’t mean go to Chuck E. Cheese. If you have to have food with your cake, but don’t want to cook a meal, go the easy route: mini sandwiches, fruit, veggies, and dip. Easy-peasy, satisfying, and you can keep costs down by buying the fruit and veggies in bulk, rather than pre-cut. You can also make your own dip or pair chips with salsa.

Opt for homemade.

You really can’t beat a homemade birthday cake (with an awesome homemade birthday banner to boot). Homemade can easily be the least-expensive, yet tastiest option for birthdays. It’s the way we usually do it, and while it can be more work, you can make it fun by including your kiddos in the planning, making, and creating.

Here are a few of my favorite homemade recipes:

What are your tips for having a frugal birthday party?

And don’t forget to visit the other ladies to see how they are eating well and spending less on summer parties!


  1. Melinda J. says

    I love having themes for my kids’ birthdays. But, I only buy one package of their new party theme and then use up all the previous years’ plates and napkins. They kids don’t really care that much what is on their napkin. I have also found it easier to buy juice boxes instead of having to pour out drinks. We definitely have the parties in the afternoon so we avoid a meal, and even my almost 11 year old recognizes this. And instead of invitations, he called his friends this year. Also, to keep your sanity, we’ve just held our parties in the backyard and let the kids play. We don’t usually do any party games. But we do have a pool and lots of toys. I love birthday parties!

  2. says

    Great tips! A taco or burrito bar is a cheap but pleasing option for feeding a group: Just make a pot of chili and set out toppings in smallish amounts, with extra in the fridge ready to refill the serving bowls, to reduce waste from food sitting out too long or being handled too much. For some of my childhood parties, we did homemade pizza, which is a little more complicated but has the same advantage of giving everyone a customized meal. My mom “let” the party guests shred cheese, slice olives, etc. to reduce the work she had to do in advance!

    These easy party games are fun for younger kids, can be played indoors or out, and require very little equipment other than stuff you probably have around the house.

    My son handed out this unusual, repurposed party favor last year instead of goodie bags, and he’s looking forward to doing it again!
    Becca @ The Earthlings Handbook´s last blog post ..Freezing Cheese

    • says

      Hi Becca! Thanks for sharing! I’ll be sure to look at those games and party favors :) I LOVE the idea of a taco bar!

      – Amy

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