Frugal Party Planning


IMG_E0434Social Media killed.. no, slaughtered.. the days of simple birthday parties with cake, ice cream, and pin the tail on the donkey. Now there are intricate themes that require hours of DIY crafting in order to achieve a Pinterest worthy display for your guests. An event’s expenses can easily add up when you figure in decor, food, entertainment.. and that doesn’t even include a gift for your child! Fear not parents, it is possible to put together an inexpensive party that your guests will leave in awe of and your child will remember for years.

Lay it Out

     Whether you’re holding your party in your home, at a park, or renting a venue, it is important to consider the space you are working with. Obviously smaller rooms require less decorating, but don’t be overwhelmed by a large area that can be easily filled with tables and chairs. Start off by drawing a layout of your space, this will help you prioritize which areas to decorate, fill, or set up food.


My daughter’s hotel sleep over. Green dots indicate supplies on hand, yellow dots were items I planned to buy at discount stores, and highlighted were must haves.

Once you have your blueprint, you can breakdown each area that needs to be decorated, and this is where the savings comes in.

  • Supplies on Hand: Table cloths, coordinating dishes, leftover decor from your last party, massive amounts of snack foods? Take inventory throughout your house of things that can be utilized.
  • Discount Items: You’d be surprised the party supplies that are carried at Dollar Tree, 99 Cent Only, and Target’s BullsEye’s Playground (formerly The Dollar Spot). Table cloths, utensils, balloons, favor bags.. they have it all and the savings add up.
  • Must Haves: Ask your child to list a few things that they would like to see splurged on at their party. For some it may be a jump house, a special dish, or a gift. Having this conversation includes your child in the planning process, lets you know what they feel is important, and is an opportunity for you to clear up any unrealistic expectations they may have. My girls usually request birthday macarons from a local baker and rather than it just be another menu item, I create a display so that the macarons are a focal point on the dessert table.

Simplify Your Theme

     At one point in your child’s life, they will request a party theme of a cartoon character that is not carried in anywhere, cannot be found online, and no one has set the precedent for it on Pinterest. Oh joy right? My solution for any far fetched party theme is to rely on a solid color palette; black or white, silver or gold, and your main color.. this trio never fails. Apply these three colors to your table items, backdrops, and centerpieces and your party space will flow together nicely. Using a color palette can also save you from overspending on store bought decorations. Instead of buying EVERY Superman or Spiderman decoration, consider just getting a few items then filling your space with red and blue pieces from the discount store.


I threw a small baby shower lunch for my sister in law. My nephews name includes the word Grey, which was easy to work into my color scheme.


Dual Decor

Toys: Gifting your child a toy that goes with their party theme? Work it into your decor! Toys personalize and add dimension to a table, and you can always add it last minute to maintain the element of surprise for the birthday kid. If your child already has a toy that goes with the theme.. even better!


For my son’s Peanut themed party, I displayed his toys, printed comics
and created popcorn funnels, and did a play on words with the food items

Food: There are so many ways to use food to match your party theme; coloring in shades of your palette, molding food into figures, and even what you use to contain snacks. My favorite way to get dual use out of food is to use it as the party favors as well. Pick a snack, put it in a container in your color palette, and add a personalized ‘Thank You’ tag.


At my daughter’s birthday luau, guests were given candy leis as party favors

Creative Savings

  • Games – opt out of the expensive jump houses and think of games that your guests can play using pen and paper, ribbon/rope for a three legged race, or board games you already own.
  • Photo booth – a black back drop, some dress up props or printables found on Pinterest, and everyone’s cell phones do the trick.. and a creative event hashtag for everyone to share their photos on social media is always a nice touch.
  • Table Cloth – Keep the kids entertained by using butcher paper as your table cloth. Leave a bunch of crayons scattered around and let them get creative or ask them to write a birthday message to your child.
  • Timing – Scheduling your party between lunch and dinner (2-4pm) can cut down on food costs if you don’t plan on serving a meal. Simply state on the invitation that “cake, snacks, and refreshments will be offered.”


Two of my kids’ birthday breakfasts where donuts, pancakes, and other morning items were served instead of a large meal.

Putting together a memorable party for your child does not have to require a withdrawal from their college fund. Being mindful of items you have on hand and knowing where you can buy discounted supplies are a few ways you can keep costs down. Plan out your space beforehand to keep you on task, but let the creativity flow because personalized touches are what makes your event special. Happy planning!