How to Throw an Epic Birthday Party for Less Than $50

Does anyone else look forward to planning their kids’ birthday party every year?

I often joke that I want to be a party planner in my next life, but it’s true: I really, really love throwing parties and tapping into a creative part of my brain that normally doesn’t get used.

For my oldest’s 1st birthday, we did a small Winter One-derland party at home, and then for his 2nd we just went through our local rec center for a gymnastics party, so by the time he turned 3 (and we had bought a bigger house), I was ready to have people over to celebrate our Jackson!

How did we do this? We decided to throw an inexpensive yet super fun movie theater birthday party! Since this theme was such a hit with the kids and adults alike, I even recycled it last year for my 2-year-old’s birthday party.

To give you a better look at the theme, check out these pictures from my 2-year-old’s party last year:

To create our concession stand, I simply wrapped up the china cabinet in our dining room with a Dollar Tree tablecloth, printed out a cute sign, and stocked the shelves with all kinds of theater snacks from Dollar Tree!

To create our concession stand, I simply wrapped up the china cabinet in our dining room with a Dollar Tree tablecloth, printed out a cute sign, and stocked the shelves with all kinds of theater snacks from Dollar Tree!

Target drinks with Dollar Tree straws taped to them.

Target drinks with Dollar Tree straws taped to them.

Since my two-year-old is obsessed with trains, we called it a “Chugga Chugga Two Two” party and gave each guest a Dollar Tree craft and then screened a Thomas the Train movie downstairs.

Since my two-year-old is obsessed with trains, we called it a “Chugga Chugga Two Two” party and gave each guest a Dollar Tree craft and then screened a Thomas the Train movie downstairs.

Instead of getting an expensive cake, we always opt for doughnuts, which are way cheaper and give your guests some choices.

Instead of getting an expensive cake, we always opt for doughnuts, which are way cheaper and give your guests some choices.

Everyone enjoyed the party and all we did was utilize the things we already had!

Everyone enjoyed the party and all we did was utilize the things we already had!

By the time everything was said and done, we spent maybe $50 on the party, but it looked as though we spent more. If you have to rack your brain for cute and affordable party ideas, here are a few of my favorite tips:

Opt for FREE invites

While I love snail mail and enjoy receiving paper invitations in the mail, it is completely unnecessary for a child’s birthday party (as — let’s face it — the invite will maybe hang on the refrigerator for a week or two before being tossed), which is why I use Evite. If you aren’t familiar with Evite, it is super easy to navigate, easy to customize, and FREE to use, which are all wins in my book!

Use what you have

Yes, bounce houses and balloon-animal-making clowns can be fun, but they can also be extremely costly and — quite frankly — unnecessary (since most kids are happy with just playing with their friends and eating snacks). If you are on a budget, work with what you have! Do you own a TV? Take my advice and host a movie theater party! Do you live by a park? Let the younger kids run and play on the playground or plan a fun scavenger hunt for the older kids (which my dad did for my 9th birthday and was enjoyed by all!). Summer baby? Water balloons and sprinklers in the backyard! Do you see where I’m going with this?

Remember: you don’t have to serve an entire meal

An easy way to keep party costs low is by planning around meal times. Remember: you do NOT have to serve your guests an entire meal (which I can almost guarantee the kid’s parents are not expecting); cake and ice cream is perfectly acceptable!

Don’t get sucked in by expensive party store decor

While colorful decor can be fun and can add value to a theme party, it is not necessary… However, if you do decide to add a little more pizzazz to your party with streamers, pastel-colored plates and cups, or balloons, do NOT buy them from a flashy and over-priced party store. Instead, I recommend checking out Oriental Trading (for cute bulk items), Dollar Tree, or even a big box store (a la Target or Walmart) for any decor or party ware.

Favors are OPTIONAL

Okay, so I will admit that I did small favors for Jackson’s party (which consisted of Finding Dory gummies and graham crackers, plus a bag of microwave popcorn), but they honestly wouldn’t have been missed had we not given them out. That being said, don’t think that you need to spend extra money on parting gifts for the kids — their memories will last WAY longer than any candy bar or small bottle of bubbles ever will.

Do you have any tips for throwing an inexpensive, albeit epic birthday bash? Please share them in the comments! 

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