Topic Tuesday: How To Save Money When Planning a Birthday Party?!

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Woohoo! Another Topic Tuesday! Today’s topic is going to be about How to Save Money when Planning a Birthday Party!

Check out the email I received from reader Tracy:


I’m throwing my daughter a birthday party for her 6th birthday.  We have always had large family parties for her in the past, and as a result have always told her that she can have a friends party once she gets into kindergarten.. Now its time to throw her a birthday party with her classmates, and of course I envisioned this big grand party, but its coming at the worst time for us financially.  We’ve decided to do it at home and sort of have a carnival/fair type theme since we are planning on buying her a blow up waterslide for her birthday and figured we’ll set that up for her and her friends.  Do you have any ideas or tips on how I can save money and still throw her a fabulous party?


Here comes my advice….*about decorating a party*….but I can’t wait to read your advice for Tracy on how to make her big kid party fabulous!

I personally get items from the Dollar Store! I love their decorations and have been able to find some great items there.

What I like to do for my little guy is to get one of their themed parties. For example, we did a Pirate Party and everything was Pirate theme and not too expensive at $1.00 for 20 party bags or 6 party hats!

For my older boy I like to get the non-themed party items. For example, just the Happy Birthday banners that are colorful, the blue paper cups, etc. Then, I will usually splurge on a Transformers Pinata, and table sheet. This way you can still have a “theme” and not have to pay $5.00 for a package of Transformers cups! Just buy the blue cups that will easily match.

This has been my favorite way to do the kiddos birthday parties. I still make the kids goody bags filled with items from the $1 store. Either way, they kids are going to be happy at the party…..they don’t care what the theme is as long as you have a couple items from that theme and LOTS of decor (which easily happens when shopping at The Dollar Store)!

Also, save the decorations (especially the Happy Birthday Banners) from the previous years. This saves me a ton every year because every year I have more and more and can use them for my little one!

One more TIP…..STREAMERS and BALLOONS (also found at the $1 store)!!! They are great and cheap for making it look like there are a ton of decorations everywhere!

So, now it’s YOUR turn….what are your tips on making a Kindergarten Birthday Party (or any other) just awesome on a budget?!

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  1. says

    For a carnival themed party, I have no idea where I saw this originally but I saw one parent who recycled (clean) water bottles by setting out bowls of skittles that had been separated by color and letting the kids make their own take home party favor by filling the bottles with skittles. I thought it reminded me of sand art but so much better ’cause its skittles!!
    I agree with Sarah on the dollar store!

  2. Heather says

    For a carnival theme…I would do some fun carnival type games and you can even have prizes at each game and use that for the goodie they take home…Have them decorate a gift bag and they can collect their goodies as they play games…the dollar store is great for cheap party favors…I have also found some deals at Target or even… Instead of having lunch food or dinner, you can also have carnival type snacks instead…good luck!

  3. says

    We keep it really simple with ballons and streamers from the dollar store. We order pizzas and pick them up rather that having them delivered to save on delivery costs and use coupons too! I get a nice cake from sams club or kroger but decorate it myself. sometimes you can find cake toppers online or at dollar stores. Rather than having sevral activities, Try to focus on just one. Half of the time its overload for the kids to have so much going on. If its in the summer, maybe you could have a sprinkler party in the back yard. If it’s winter, consider cranking the heat and having a indoor beach party and have icecream sundaes and wear summer clothes or swim suits inside. Kids get a kick out of the small things. Keep it simple.

  4. says

    Dollar Stores also have tear apart tickets you can set up a few boths like, ballons on a board to pop, Used 2 liter bottles to throw rings , Hang a hool hoop up to throw a ball thru and other carnival midway games. Give each child the same number of tickets and have small dollor store prizes at each game and the can fill there treat bags as the play. That will provide entertainment and treat bags in one!

  5. says

    I thought of more – you could have a pinata, those arent too expensive and you can fill it with dollar store candy. And how about good ol’ pin the tail on the donkey? Water ballon fight?? The water balloons arent expensive at all? Also, sidewalk chalk for the driveway…

  6. says

    Just an ending thought. Keep in mind for a carnival theme you need adults to help the kids at each station. You may want to consider things that dont really need someone right there at that station.
    Man- you guys are making me want to throw a party!

  7. kim says

    if you are looking to save money at a party:
    1) pick a time where you are not expected to serve a meal. you can serve snacks like fruit, veggies, chips, and the party cake. most kids like to snack at parties anyways!
    2) forgo the goody bag filled with a bunch of junk. i always make a point of giving usable, or edible items as favors. for instance, you are having a water slide party so why not get each child one of those big bubble wands. they cost $1 each at places like walmart and 6 years olds generally love them! you can attach a cute note to them with ribbon to dress them up a bit.

  8. says

    My kids’ favorite birthday parties didn’t require much money OR decorations! For my daughter’s 6th, she had a Princess Barbie themed party. For decor, we just decorated the table where the cake and gifts were with a princess bedsheet as a tablecloth, some balloons and pink, purple and silver curly ribbon. The main decor was her princess castle tent (she already had the tent) that we set up for the girls in the living room, and decorated the inside like a Barbie clothing boutique! In lieu of goodie bags (which I think are way overrated, anyway) the girls got to choose “new-to-you” barbie outfits! We had told the guests on their invitation to bring their favorite Barbie, and I spent about $20 on ebay and at yard sales buying TONS of pre-owned Barbie clothes which I washed in a lingerie bag in the washer. The girls had a BLAST playing barbie dress up, and got to take 5-6 new outfits home for their Barbies. That year for my son’s 8th birthday, I set up a pup tent in the living room, and let him have a “camp-in” with a few of his buds. Ambience is key for this one, so I used a nature sounds cd & an outdoorsy room scent spray (to make it believable- and yes, the boys noticed lol). We turned off the lights & used 3 of those fake halloween fire cauldrons as the campfire, and since he doesn’t like cake, we had smores instead! We told almost-scary stories and played hot potato and other camp games around the “fire” until the boys passed out. They had a ball!

  9. tia says

    bring back old carnival games dunking for apples…great for a hot day…. throwing darts at picture…. watch out behind…. and my family personal fav which always gets laughs so have the camera ready… pin the tail on the donkey…get daddy or anyone who will come out on all fours naying like a donkey to come out… the kids will start laughing but be confused your little one will be like omg really.. then hand the little ones clothes pins with a sock or any fabric (we make each one different colors,,cause we have cheaters…lol) really and tell them to pin the donkey no blind fold just a crazy person being chased by kids…lol… my family the adults join in and it can get wild but normally we let the kids have their fun first…

  10. says

    I always forgo the goodie bags…they can get expensive.
    I have in the past replaced the $5 goodie bag with a hotwheels toy, littlest pet shop, gift certificate for the local ice cream or video store etc…Same amount of money and it makes the kids and parents happy too.
    Great ideas everyone!

  11. Claire says

    Ok, so I know some people already said this but hey, I want to contribute :) !!! Since you’re having a carnival themed party you can set up little games around the backyard (you don’t have to have a lot, little kids have a small attention span!) And you can have traditional little party games but conform them into a carnival theme. For example, the classic game of throwing the ball into the basket can be changed to carnival. Just draw a large picture of a lion on some poster board (Dollar Store). Make him look like he’s roaring and cut out the space in his mouth. Put the basket in the mouth and TA-DAH! You can tell all the kids to “tame the lion” and you can give out Dollar Store prizes that they can put in their Dollar Store decorated bags (lol!) Then they can have their goodie bags, play on the water slide, and also I love this idea that someone else said. Buy a plain birthday cake and decorate it yourself; it’s a lot cheaper! Hope this helped! Good Luck!!!

    • Raining Hot Coupons says

      I am LOVING all these FANTASTIC ideas! I will be using some of them for my boys 5th birthday coming up soon!! =) Thanks everyone for your input!

  12. ERIN says

    OK so I have a little one that is in the 1st grade.. Her’s is in the Winter =( not alot to do! so what lil girl dont like princess themed and cake and pizza! EVEN MOMMA LIKED THE IDEA! So where I began.. I got party favors (for the bags at Walmart) $1 a bag for 6 of each so I got 2 bags of rings, braclets and necklace! ($6.. 12 kids) Best part that the kids loved.. I made home made lip gloss.. (Dollar store for this) $1 container of Petroleum Jelly and 2 eye showdows ($1 it was a pack that had both color eyes shadows) purple and pink I bought small containers from Micheals and had 50% coupon for the set of containers! I think came out to like $2! plates and cups I bought from the $store as well! say $4 and my husband made home made pizza! made up all the dough from items we had already! bought chesse and sauce! let just say around $4 (no coupons) Where I splurged and it was totaly my choice cause we were moving out of state as we are Military so I wanted something special my princess could walk away with and keep forever! they Kids decorated scrapbook pages for a scrapbook and I took pic of the hole party! Paid $10 on the book! Now the BEST part.. I made a Barbie Princess cake! Bought a cheap barbie from walmart $5 and had a cake mix ($1 walmart as well) and made frosting home made (butter cream) very cheap and easy to make! THE KIDS HAD A BLAST AND talked about in class for the rest of the month, We left at the end of the month! lol and I asked ALL parents to have there lil girls dress in a princess dress of there choice and could have been just something in there closet! and we did make overs! Even used the home-made lip gloss =) Grand Total of Party: ( I added $5 more in just in case… but $40

    ** But here is the ADVICE shop around take maybe 2 hrs out and look at stores that are around and shop where u can get it cheaper! be creative and NO MATTER WHAT YOUR CHILD WILL LOVE IT NO MATTER! WHATS IMPORTANT TO THEM IS THAT THERE FRINEDS ARE THERE, GIFTS AND THEY HAVE FUN =) GOOD LUCK~

  13. Sherri says

    One game everyone has forgotten and would be so easy to do is “duck pond”. How easy to get some of the $1 store little ducks and put a number on the bottom then put them in a pan of water. Give away a different $1 store prize with each number.

  14. Mary says

    My daughter is 10 so Birthday parties are getting simpler for us. We like to do a simple craft projects (I buy on sale @ Michaels/Ben Franklin etc..) We love to make friendship bracelets/necklaces and then the kids get to take them home. My daughters birthday is in Mid.Oct. so this past year I also bought cheap mini pumpkins and the kids ,decorate these with markers etc.. they also get to take these home. My favourite thing to do is instead of making/buying a cake, I make individual cupcakes. I set frosting/mini.candies/sprinkles and the kids decorate their own. Each kid makes 2..they eat 1 and take 1 home with them. I also use gender neutral decorations that I use from year to year.

  15. Melissa says

    Im throwing my 2 year old a party in a few weeks. I used a coupon from party city (I googled party city coupon and found it) and bought stuff there plus the dollar store but also for prizes for who wins the games I used the 35 cents off Crunch bars coupons and got lots of those for free (my store double the coupon and they were on sale) and so those are the prizes for free yay.

  16. ERIN says

    oK i didnt give any advice of your party theme! so here are some to add to things!!!

    ~You could get a pillow case (one you have thats old) “Potato sack race” or thicker string and tie it on there legs works the same!
    ~Fishing- Get sticks tie string on it and add a magnet to the end and go fishing! ( print sea animals out and have them laminated (would be cheap b/c it would only be like 1-2 pges) and add magnets on back of them!
    ~Crab leg craw
    ~ get a box fill with socks ( and socks are so they cant fell everything) and add items in to pull out
    If I think of more then I will come add more to the list! and I would make my own cake! or even cupcakes!
    Here is a Cute cheap ice cream cake!
    Take 8*10 pan and fill bottom up with Ice cream sandwiches add a layer of Chocolate on the top of that and add another layer of ice cream sandwiches and yet another layer of Chocolate and then add your fav. cookie or you can use whip cream to ( and can make it any color with food coloring) add that on top of that ( one I did oreos and the other I did blue cool whip) and then added gummy worms on the oreo one and the blue cool whip I used Gummy dolphins! FREEZE when done untill ready to use! YUMMY and kids love it too
    Even if you dont like ice cream sandwiches this is soooo good!

      • Dawn says

        my friend makes those cakes & they are FABULOUS! She uses jars of hot fudge & caramel between the layers & she crushes candy bars real fine as well & puts that on top of the hot fudge/caramel. She tops it with whipped cream, so good!

  17. Christina says

    @ Mary, I SO LOVE YOUR IDEAS!!! Especially the friendship bracelets / necklaces.

    @ Sarah, I always look forward to Topic Tuesdays – love it!! Also, I started using the ‘new binder method’ about a month ago and I ABSOLUTELY LOVE IT! It is so much more simpler and not as time consuming as the other way (cutting out all of the coupons and filing into baseball card holders).

  18. Karen says

    Oriental Trading also has lots of carnival favors/games. Even if you didn’t want to buy from there, you could see what it is and then just copy it. Also, there is a website called, and they list all of their themes. They have kid/teen/adult themed parties. People just write in about what they did for their party. I love this site because I always go through everyone’s ideas to pick out what I like best. Then I incorporate it into what I already know I want to do.

    For a carnival theme, you could totally serve hot dogs. Use popcorn as a take home party favor. It’s super cheap. And Target always has those plastic popcorn containers or Sam’s has popcorn bags. You could bag it up with a note that says “Glad you could pop on over for ______’s birthday party!” Oh, and Family Fun had an idea to put mini ice cream sandwiches on popsicle sticks & roll the sides of the sandwich in sprinkles. They are super cute, and if you are outside, it wouldn’t be as messy.

  19. says

    My daughter had a carnival theme for her party last year…here are some of the things we did:

    -Instead of goody bags, I bought plastic popcorn containers at the Dollar Tree. I popped popcorn ahead of time and put it in clear treat bags tied with a ribbon. I got a big bag of peanuts in the shell and put some in the bottom of the container, then put the bag of popcorn in the container, and then a small bag of cotton candy in there too (also got that at the Dollar Tree).

    We did face painting – like full face painting, and the girls LOVED IT! It was their fave part. You can buy face paint really cheap and it goes a long way.

    Bean Bag Toss – we used our corn hole game, and covered it with a clown picture, but you could make your own with a cardboard box.

    Trampoline – we had them take turns on the trampoline, just like at a bounce house.

    Ring Toss – we bought a ring toss set at the dollar store.

    Food: Hot Dogs, chips, and cupcakes. That’s it!

    Hope you have fun!

  20. Jenni says

    I’m LOVING reading everyone’s comments! My daughter is only 19 months, but I can’t wait til she’s old enough to really enjoy these awesome (and CHEAP!) party ideas!! :D But anyway, one idea I had for an activity would be for everyone to decorate their own cupcakes…using homemade frosting/frosting bought with coupons and a bunch of the freebie candy we coupon ladies always seem to have tons of, I think this would be an inexpensive activity the kids would enjoy…not to mention it could take up a bit of time if you are short on other activities. If you have a cupcake stand, use it to display the kids’ creations, or even just put them on a plate until it’s time to eat them. Mmmm….now I want cupcakes!! :D Good luck with the party!!!

    P.S. I just remembered that in the Target Dollar Zone they often have seasonal sprinkles and things like that, so keep your eyes peeled for those too! I’ve used them before, I think they’re usually $1.00 per good-sized container, and they taste just the same as any other sprinkles I’ve ever eaten…just a thought!

  21. laurra says

    Pinata the goodies are in the pinata and it is half of the parties time! entertains both adults and children we were use to having the reg. birthday cake, presents, and goodie bag party with fam. but when we seen how much fun our neighbors were having when they had their granddaughters parties we decided that the pinata was the way to go the kids fill like they accomplished something while picking up goodies and they have lots to talk about while your getting the cake and presents ready! and you can purchase fillers from the dollar store and bulk bins at grocery stores. We like “Winco” for this! for added fun we tell the kids there is great big jawbreakers in the pinata and that hypes them up but only 3! after the pinata is broke open whoever didn’t get one gets one later before they leave so they dont feel left out! and bbq with fam. most people are willing to bring items to help so dont be afraid to ask for someones favorite dish to be at your party, it makes them feel special because you love their dish!

  22. sonia says

    omg now this is a topic that I loveeeeeeeeee. I love throwing /decorating parties and planning events and I have to say that there is really a HUGE misconception when people think that you have to spend a lot of money to decorate. The dollar store can be a gold mine if you have a plan. We have many dollar stores in my city.. Danbury, CT but there is only one that I go to when planning a party, HAPPY DOLLAR! When I throw a party I am very big on balloons, I usually end up with about 200 balloons lol.
    my niece is a little diva.. this yr. we did a fashion show. All the girls that were invited to her party were given a handbag styled invite ( handmade with cardstock paper and strung beads for the handle) inside the invite was a VIP pass that the “models” would have to bring to the “main event” lol as many of the girls had brothers and my nephew would also be at the party he and the boys were made security guards and papparazzi.
    The theme colors for her party were magenta pink, black, and silver ( many balloons) we decorated the walls with stars using magenta pink and black paper and amongst the 100+ stars were larger stars that featured each models name. We separted the living room(catwalk) from the kitchen/dining area(backstage) with a handmade curtain made from ribbon<-sooo cheap. In the backstage area we had a "hair/makeup" area and a "woredrobe" area ie boas, scarves,jewelry the girls all made a necklace and a bracelet… I happen to make jewelry so i ran that area. The girls had sooooo much fun and for the last 2 yrs my nieces birthday parties are the talk of the school… I could not believe it when parents were litteraly telling us that their kids wait all yr to be invited to her parties omg!

  23. sonia says

    Boys party theme: surviver theme
    for my nephew we did the surviver themed b-day party , his b-day is in early sept. so we had most of the party outside decor included a surviver logo handmade sign with my nephew’s name and torches… we had the kids divided into two teams and the first activity included them having to come up with their team name and create their team flag. Then they got use washable paint and paint themselves with designs that represented their team and or made them look tough lol. The teams then had games that they played to acquire points and based on their points they would be able to get a prize from our mystery prize box. ( of course we let/had all the kids get prizes no matter what ;) )
    inside the house i used blue and green for my theme colors and had many balloons. I used green streamers which I used as ivy.

  24. Melinda says

    What I do for parties is look on line under that theme on Google images. For example for your party I would put “Carnival Party for kids” or ” carnival party”. I look at all the fantastic (and expensive) party pictures and get all of my ideas. I cut and paste pictures that I like onto a word document so I always have the pictures with me when shopping. You can get tons of stuff at the Dollar Tree and even the scrapbook store. you can do so many DIY projects for super cheap!! I also watch YouTube videos if I need to learn to do something. Making tissue paper pom poms and haning then over the cake or gift table make a nice touch, really cheap and easy to make!! I can go on forever…We have thrown some VERY nice parties that look identical to the fancy parties I see on line for a fraction of the cost!!

  25. Melinda says

    Also when looking on line for pictures I try to zone in on specific areas. Like i find cake tabels that I want to recreate and gift tabels, and candy bars, cake/cupcakes, favors etc.

  26. says

    Her carnival theme is perfectly suited to doing things on the cheap! Hot dogs and lemonade, anyone? When my daughter requested those foods for her birthday part, I got red/white paper hot dog trays at the cheapo restaurant supply place by our house… $4 for 100, and they are great for kids crafts like painting too. I wrote a whole blog post about cheap/free decorations… see the link below with my name!

  27. Debi says

    When I think carnival,I think the dart and balloon popping game! Plywood painted with a fun design, a staple gun, some colored balloons and different level prizes corresponding with each color of the balloons and voila! I love those games at fairs and carnivals! :0)

  28. Pat says

    I don’t know if this was mentioned or not, sorry if it was. Rather than spending money on a bought cake/cupcakes… make your own, using flat bottom ice cream cones instead of papers. you can google ‘ice cream cone cupcakes’ to find pictures recipes. [wasn’t sure if i was allowed to post a link in here]. This became a tradition for my daughter, her classmates ALWAYS ask if we were going to make them for the next birthday. They were always a hit

  29. Sara Munoz says

    I don’t always do filled goodie bags, but we always have a pinata. IME, if you buy the cheap candy, you end up with a lot of it left behind. So get the good stuff. :)
    In the past, we have had tables set up with plain paper bags, markers and stickers, so that kids can decorate their own bags.
    I always hit the after holiday sales, a lot of times the stuff can be used year round, it is only the packaging that is holiday. Like mini Play-doh cans.

  30. Terra says

    Something fun for kids to do involving the party and decorations have them make them, take construction paper cut them into strips, make them form a circle glue/staple the ends together then take another loop in through, and tada you have home made decorations, also to stay on the home made thing buy the dollar store plain goodie bag and have the kids decorate them the way they like, then have stations set up around your house/back yard for them the fill their bags up…

  31. Laura says

    I had a Surf/Luau theme for my son’s 8th birthday this summer. I went to and learned how to make cool paper lanterns for the pool house. I actually salvaged a real surfboard and we used that for surf competitions in our pool. I bought tons of dollar store luau themed blow ups and scattered them i the pool. I ordered cheap starfish charms and put them on hemp cord and gave them in the kids goodie bags. Then since it was outside I bought a pack of gum and 2 cans of whipped cream. Each kid got a plat with a piece of gum on it. Then we topped the gum with whipped cream and they had to eat their way down to the gum. Whoever blew the bubble first one. Well….. there is something about whipped cream and gum that makes it almost impossible to blow a bubble. It was a riot and cheap.

  32. says

    You don’t need to have to starve your self, but you do need to have to eat slightly much less than your body can burn off each and every day. Obtaining time to get a complete exercise in your day can be difficult if you are busy working 40 hour perform weeks and raising a household. Even so, the 30 to 90 minute program can be hard to handle with a busy schedule, not to mention that it can also be far more physically taxing. These added workouts are efficient in delivering final results even on the very first week of activity. I’ve heard from my buddies, colleges, and household about the P90X system so I did some

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