Bargain Birthday Bash
● By Rick McGarry
By Andrea Woroch
Kids' birthday parties have gotten out of hand. Celebrities began the trend with birthday bashes that outsized Hollywood movie openings. Thanks to the trickle-down theory, private parties for the little people must now have everything from a guest performer to a theme with lots of bells and whistles. Before you rent that bouncy princess castle or buy all-thematic accessories, consider the following bargain-basic tips.
Plan AheadWait until the last minute and you'll likely spend more on unanticipated extras. Decide what you want to accomplish, set a budget and slowly chip away at all you need to accomplish. You might also enlist the help of family and friends to keep your stress level down.
Limit the Guest ListDoes the entire class really need to attend? Invite only your child's closest friends, but be tactful. Mail or email invites, rather than have your child distribute them in school where everyone can see.
DIY InvitesPersonalized invites are as close as your computer. Use a special photo or download free birthday clip art to make your own creation or, if you want to go electronic, check out websites like AmericanGreetings.com or the very popular evite.com.
Use Discount Gift CardsBuy discount gift cards from sites like GiftCardGranny.com to pay for all the party supplies. You can use them to buy everything from cake mix to gas for running around town.
Dollar Store DecorParty stores have unholy markups on the simplest supplies. Shop a dollar store for all your basics and save up to 70 percent on everything from balloons to party favors. You'll also find a decent selection of wrapping paper and reusable gifts, as well as plates and cutlery for the birthday treats.
Take Back the CakeKids look forward to the birthday cake, but not because of any icing artistry; they're just interested in the sugar. Make your own cake or cupcakes, toss on a few sprinkles and add the candles. That should satisfy all but the pickiest child while saving you over 80-percent at the bakery for a custom order. For an added touch of excitement, let the kids play pastry chef with a cupcake decorating activity.
Simplify the FoodKids don't care about fancy appetizers. They'll be equally happy with potato nuggets and other finger food. Buy generic. They'll never know. Use coupons to save a few extra dollars.
A Party for Two or ThreeIf your son or daughter shares the same birthday (give or take a few days) with a school friend, neighbor or relative who is close in age, consider hosting a joint birthday celebration and share the costs with the other child's parents. Make sure everyone is on the same page though as far as the budget, guest list and other party expectations to avoid any uncomfortable situations which may arise from a lack of communication.
What's one painless way you've discovered to save money on birthday parties?