A Handmade Birthday Party (Frugal Ways to Decorate)

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This wonderful post was submitted by a “Raining Hot Writer” (read more about how you can write a frugal and helpful article and get paid for it here). Thanks to Ellie Bluebell’s House for these ideas and so many more….What creative ides these are! My favorite is the paper chains – definitely using that one!


A child’s first birthday is sweet, momentous, and exciting… and also noteworthy because it’s the last birthday party you will have full creative control over.  After the first birthday, you’ll be filling requests for SpongeBob SquarePants themes, skating parties, and the ultra dreaded eight eight-year-olds sleepover.  So have your druthers with number one!

I was very excited about making decorations for Natalie’s first birthday, and I proceeded to Martha Stewart out, big time.  I love those penant-flag banners you’ve seen popping up at cute places, like the Paper Source, and decided I could make one myself, much longer than the kit would allow, and for less than they were charging.  My craft closet was already full of the supplies, after all.

I also thought of making paper chains, like we used to do as kids to count down for Christmas.  Those things give you a lot of bang for your buck, time and materials-wise!  I got five designs of scrapbooking paper (two double sided and one single sided) and started cutting them into 2″ x 6″ strips with my awesome paper cutter, the Handy Guillotine (that is it’s actual product name.  I would have bought it anyway but I delight in calling it the Handy Guillotine every time I use it.  Best $19 I have ever spent). Then all you need is a stapler, and you’re in paper-chain-making business.

Total cost of 16′ of paper chains, $4 (for scrapbooking paper).

 Now onto the festive penant-flag banners…
I will admit I totally eyeballed cutting these, as I tend to do. With paper birthday decorations, eyeball it. I used an Exacto knife, a metal straight edge, and a cutting mat.  I borrowed the shape/design from Paper Source’s kit, with a foldover tab on the top of the flag to wrap around the banner string.
Then I folded each flag’s tab over my natural colored yarn and secured it with craft glue.
Total cost for 24′ of penant flag banner, $2.50 for the yarn (since I had everything else already).  Definitely a savings over the Paper Souce kit, of which I’d have needed two.
I think the thing most people get excited about for first birthdays is the baby’s first cake experience.  The guests, anyway.  They want to see smashing, grabbing, throwing, and sugar rushes.  As a mom, I was thinking, once she tastes frosting, my homemade sweet potatoes are history!  She’s gonna get frosting in her hair/on the walls/in her ears/on the dog/inside the heat registers!
But what are you going to do – deny your child cake for 18 years?  It’s one of those “feel the fear and do it anyway” things.
It’s yellow cake, from a mix, with white frosting, from a tub.  That’s the actual name of the flavor: White.  A drop of red food coloring, and some sparkly pink sprinkles brought it up to Very First Birthday Cake status.

So for the rest of the guests… cuppycakes!
Coconut and Birthday Cake flavors. I used a semi-homemade approach to these, and doctored up a white cake mix (again, how is “White” a flavor?) with coconut milk and some other things as recommended by this recipe on Allrecipes.com.
Total cost of  cake and 36 cupcakes, $16 (including fancy $4 sprinkles and $2 candle from Mrs Cook’s).
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  1. Lauren says

    This ouldnt have come at a better time! Thank you! I am planning my daughters first birthday in a few weeks.

  2. Rachel says

    Love your decoration ideas! If you have older kids they can help out making them too! I remember when I was little wanting to make paper chains out of colored constuction paper! My grandmother would let me decorate her house w/them!

  3. Meg says

    Paper chains are the best! Every year we do them for the Christmas tree – a nice tradion that pulls the whole family together, even the 21 yr. old! I also use them as a reward system when I’m trying to get my 2 & 4 yr. olds to do something (ie. sleep in their own bed all night). I tack one to the ceiling and add one each time the task is done. When the chain reaches the floor, they have earned their reward!

  4. Kiel landers says

    The pennant flags can also be made using paint sample cards available at most hardware stores and walmarts….for free!

    A cute keepsake idea for the pennant flags would be to take baby’s “first year” blankets, burp cloths and so on. Cut them into the triangles..you can sew up the sides to finish or let them fray after a wash. Both styles look super look super precious and then attach to your cording. This will allow you to be nostalgic and most likely will fit the color scheme of baby’s party! I know a lot of people hang onesies up at showers..in between the flags it might be cute to hang a pair of his or her socks, mittens…to show how much they’ve grown!

    Also, the paper chain can be made with any recycled thick papers you might have. You will be surprised how a colorful cereal box label will just look like a pretty pattern one you start slicing them up.

    Just a couple frugal suggestions for those who dont want to dish out money for paper products and want to go a little green or re-purpose what you have on hand…

    Happy decorating!

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