As adults, many of us have given up the idea of an extravagant celebration to commemorate a passing year. We’re usually happy with a glass of champagne and some sushi with a few of our closest friends. Not so our kids. Every year kids’ birthday parties seem to get more and more extravagant.

To be fair, it’s not really the kids, is it? Your child’s first birthday is more for the parents than the child, and for the next few years the parents are just trying to make sure their kids are entertained for a few hours and happy – and if that means a jumping castle or a petting zoo, then so be it.

The problem comes in when these parties start becoming expensive.

Especially these days, not all of us have spare cash lying around that we can spend on face painters or magicians. And it gets even worse the more kids you have! While we obviously want their birthday parties to be everything they want (and more), it’s important that we don’t blow their education fund on their birthdays.

After Jeremy’s first birthday I realised we needed to come up with a plan so as not to fall into the trap of money-guzzling parties. So here are a few budget ideas to have the best party for your kid without remortgaging your house.

Budget venue

Do it at home.

Until your kids are old enough to suggest the local adventure park or the cinema for a party, there’s no need to spend money on a venue. Your house is perfectly fine.

These early parties are really glorified playdates, so if your house is good enough for a playdate, it’s good enough for a party.

If you feel your house is not big enough or you don’t have a garden, ask a friend or family member if you can borrow their house for a few hours. If all else fails, have a picnic at the local park or sports field.


Budget-friendly decor

Decor is super important, but you really don’t need to go overboard. Kids’ parties are usually only a couple of hours long and really, the only people noticing the decor are the other parents. Choose a few items you want and try to use what you have or make them re-usable.

As for the theme of the party, chances are you have everything you need for decorations already at home. Kids and/or parents choose themes based on what the kids are interested in at the time – Paw Patrol, Peppa Pig, unicorns etc. If your kid is obsessed with the theme then you should have some soft toys, posters, stickers or figurines in the playroom you can utilise to decorate your space.

Balloons are always a good idea. If you buy your balloons from the supermarket and take them to the party shop to fill with helium, it’s often cheaper than ordering them especially from the party shop. And instead of a million different balloons, opt for one bunch of balloons or even just one character balloon depending on the theme of the party.

A budget cake

It’s tempting to spend hours sweating in the kitchen to make the perfect cake, and then freaking out when it’s not 100% perfect. Or ordering a cake from a baker and then hoping like hell it turns out like you want it to. The cake is important, because you want it to look amazing, but you want it to taste good too.

To make it make sense, the simpler the better. If you have mad skills as a baker and cake decorator and have the time and energy to DIY it, then by all means go ahead. But if you’d rather someone else do it, either go simple or outsource.

Every year, for every birthday, my mom makes the most incredible chocolate cake. That’s it, just a plain, simple chocolate cake. That’s her present to the boys, which means she doesn’t have to spend more money on presents and I don’t have to spend money on a cake. It’s quick and simple and looks gorgeous.

All I have to do is decorate it.

For the decorations, I do the same thing every year.

Whatever the theme is, I find small figurines related to it and arrange them on the top of the cake. I try not to buy these, because often the kids will already have them in their playroom. Or if I do buy them, they double up as toys after the party.

Budget gifts

Let’s not be coy about gifts.

If you are invited to a party, you generally take a gift. So you can expect gifts from your guests. This is an amazing moneysaver, considering how expensive toys, clothes and stationery are these days.

It can save us all a lot of money if we are given gifts our kids actually need, so why don’t we tell our guests what our kids would appreciate. A simple note on the invitation is enough – for example, Paw Patrol, colouring in books and bedtime stories all welcome. This works well for the gift-givers too because it’s often a crisis trying to decide what present to gift a birthday boy or girl. This way we can save our friends’ time, give our kids a gift they really want, and save ourselves a few cents.

When it comes to gifts, it’s also a good idea to make it known that second-hand items are welcome.

Budget -friendly kids' party ideas

Budget party pack ideas

Okay, first of all, party packs don’t have to be a thing.

If it’s your child’s first birthday especially, there is no need for a party pack – unless you really want to give one. For older kids’ parties, sure, but again, there’s no need to go all out.

The latest trend around Cape Town (which I think is great) is to put the party snacks in the party packs. The kids get their party packs at the  beginning of the party and those are the treats they’re allowed. 

Remember that party packs don’t need to be edible. 

Kids are just as happy with a toy car or a colouring book or some stickers. Plus the parents will be happier too.

A nice party pack idea we had last year for Jeremy’s birthday was a lucky packet party pack. I bought a range of small toys and books and stickers and wrapped them individually. At the end of the party each child chose their own party gift.

So yes, birthdays are special. But that doesn’t mean you need to spend your entire month’s salary to cover the costs of a party.

At the end of the day, all that matters is that the birthday boy/girl is made to feel special and that all their special friends and family are there to celebrate with them.