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5 Tips for a Birthday Party on a Budget

Guest post by Shannon

Birthday parties are great, but throwing one these days can almost break the bank. It is possible to throw a birthday party on a budget and make it a party that your child and their friends will long remember. Here are five tips to help:

1. Make your own cake.

Buying a birthday cake from a bakery can be a costly proposition. Instead, get a couple boxes of cake mix and frosting to make your own. Even better are cupcakes. Get a fancy star tip and decorating bag to put a neat swirl on top.

2. Use solid color party-ware.

Your child’s party can still be themed with their favorite character or activity, but instead of having all matching cups, plates, napkins, and more, pick up some solid color items to match. They are less expensive and are easy to match the themed items. You will save money by just getting the themed invitations, a centerpiece, and a mylar balloon.

3. Just serve cake and ice cream.

Much of the cost for a birthday party is in the food. Invite your guests over in between lunch and dinner. That way the only items on your menu can be cake and ice cream.

4. Go back to the basics for party games.

It is easy to host some party games with items found around your home — think three-legged races which only require something to tie ankles together, a spoon and egg race, musical chairs, and freeze tag. Serve cake and ice cream before the games so that the kids can burn off all the extra energy!

5. Cut back on party favors.

It can be so tempting to go overboard on party favors to send home with your guests. Instead bake some cookies, place them in a cellophane or sandwich bag, tie with some ribbon to match your party theme and place them in a basket by the door to hand out as people are leaving. This a great activity for your child to participate in if they love to bake.

Your child can still have a great birthday party even without spending a bunch of money. Follow one or all of these tips to help celebrate their special day and stay on budget.

Shannon Weidemann is best known as the Partyelf. Check out all the great party ideas on her website to help plan your next celebration

Do you have an idea for a guest post? I am always looking for high-quality,original (i.e. not published anywhere else online) content with tips and ideas Money Saving Mom® readers can use. If you would like to submit a guest post, please follow the Guest Posting Guidelines.

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  • Gwen says:

    I consider myself a “budgeteer”, and I was glad to see that I already do most of these things. I have to admit though, as a bargain shopper, I often find plates and napkins deeply discounted after the season and buy ahead. Who can beat party plates for 25 cents a package! Even if I don’t end up using them for a party, they are fun to get out for a special lunch treat every once in a while. BUT, I love the idea of cookies as party favors. . . I can’t stand all the little trinkety stuff that you usually get, and end up stepping on all over the house within the next week.

  • Wani says:

    Great tips! I need to take your advice on favors! I have gotten in the habit of making pretty decent sized goodie bags because we do family only parties most years so I’m only doing about 4bags for my nephews. But it still adds up!

  • Adrienne says:

    This post really hits home with me. It is such our tendency as moms to compare ourselves to others and to feel like we need to do it “bigger and better.” While it is fun to do big events sometimes, I think we are setting ourselves up for exhaustion and our kids up for always feeling a need to be overly stimulated.
    Less is often more.
    I once worked for a gentleman whose wife rented a schoolbus for her son’s birthday party so that they could have a party theme of the Magic School Bus. Neato, but way overboard. For us, I have 2 boys, ages 10 and 5, and we still have never had a typical birthday party. We have chosen to keep it simple with just family, perhaps a family invited for dinner or dessert, and a present or two.
    Let’s not drive ourselves crazy trying to outdo others….or ourselves 🙂

  • I love these great, simple, common sense tips! It’s funny how we forget the common sense things. Thanks so much for sharing, now I’m not anxious thinking about planning my daughter’s next party!

  • april says:

    We’ve cut way down on the decorations and have made the cake the star of the party.(made at home of course) I usually just hang a happy birthday banner and get a few balloons(even the just turned 14 year old still loves balloons). Ive also pretty much eliminated goody bags… I just do pics with each guest and then print up double copies…the birthday kid get a set and then they can send one to their friend. At the oldest daughter’sparty this past weekend, I found a bunchof cute cupcake earrings(that cost about $2 a pair, only needed 4 pair) that she gave to her guests(all around age 14, so they loved them)

    • Sandi says:

      I just turned 29, and I still love balloons, too. 🙂

      • Andrea says:

        Me too! Might I add, if you have a Dollar Tree near you they always seem to have a huge selection of helium balloons and in my experience they last so much longer than the ones I’ve gotten at the grocery store. Not to mention they are only $1 and the exact same balloon at Kroger is upwards of $5. Great way to do balloons on a budget.

    • Janet says:

      I did a t-party for a 16 year old complete with triangle sandwiches even the boys loved it . The only favor was for the girls a single yellow rose.
      They all went swimming.

      I can’t do the cakes like you ladies but I always found something easy to put on the plain decorated cake.

      At 16 I took her leaner permit (they are plastic) placed it on the cake put happy birthday on the cake ( I even have to use letters / I kept the plastic ones from when they were small but the cake was awesome)
      I really can not do cakes I do a sheet cake and I leave it in the pan so that I do not mess it up.

      My kids laugh that I am not crafty but , they take great pride in that I am creative!

      I put out three of the three tiered china holders two with sandwiches cut in triangles top had peanut butter, middle hand cucumber the bottom was ham and cheese.

      I did one with fruit orange slices , watermelon triangles, and grapes.

      The kids had a blast so much that several of the mom’s copied the party in the next few months.

  • heather says:

    I just threw my two boys their birthday party this weekend!! My oldest turned 3 on March 1st and the little man turns 1 on March 24th.
    These are great tips!!
    I baked the cake myself and served a simple lunch (had to work the party between naps…) Of Chili and dippers plus something for the kids.
    Shannons idea of baking something as a party favor was a really good idea. We’ll have to use that next year.
    We had a mixed theme. Big brother wanted a Pirate ship cake, but I had left over Mickey Mouse things from his second birthday. So I combined the two. Connor got his cake and I bought balloons which were solid colors tying the Mickey plates in with the pirate ones(I bought 1 pack of pirate cake plates and the others a solid color)

    Already thinking about next year!!

    Thank you for sharing these tips


  • shelly says:

    The simple parties are most definitely the most enjoyable. I watch for great sales throughout the year on solid paper goods, party favors, etc. This year my daughter had a bear party. The party favors were little packages of Teddy Grahams with a little handmade tag thanking the test for coming tied on with a cute bow. One year we gave out little bottles of bubbles. For one activity I got butcher paper and covered the children’s table and let them color all over it, they loved it!

  • Corrine says:

    We did a “minute to win it” theme party last year for my 9 year old. We had the stuff at home and put together many different games to play outside. The kids had so much fun!

    • Shari says:

      I just did Minute to Win It games too for my 10 year old! The boys had sooo much fun and it was so inexpensive! I just watch year round for party favors to be on clearance real cheap but I like the baked cookies idea!

  • Becky says:

    My daughters birthday is in January, and i have a small house, so the thought of a big b-day party causes great anxiety. I think I would need a shoe horn to squeeze in our family and friends.
    For her first birthday I rented a room at a bowling alley, but this year I decided to keep it simple.
    I invited all our “peeps” over, but did it open house. I started at 1pm, so it was after lunch and I didn’t have to serve food.
    Instead of invitations, I sent out a cute email, and told everyone to come over for coffee and cupcakes whenever they wanted.
    It was very relaxing. People trickled in and out all day. I got to visit with everyone and my daughter was never overwhelmed by the sheer number of people.
    All in all, I spent about $30, and it was the best way to handle her 2nd birthday.
    I’m sure as she gets older, I won’t get away with such a simple day, but for now, this works for us.

  • Christy says:

    Last fall I threw my 4 year old daughter an Arts and Crafts birthday party…it was a huge hit and I did it on a budget! The kids painted pictures (with paint that I already had) then I framed them with a fun foam frame that I cut out (the foam was cheap at Hobby Lobby). They decorated cupcakes with bright sprinkles and some whipped cream. I lined my kitchen table with parchment paper and wrote the kids names on their place setting, then they could color on it with crayons that they made by melting old crayons that I had. Then as a party favor everyone got to take home a set of watercolor paints that I got at Target for 1.00. The kids had a BLAST and I saved a ton of money!

  • Chris J. says:

    As a mother of 3 grown stepkids and 2 boys of my own who are now 16 and 13, I can tell you from experience you don’t have to be very talented at cake decorating to create something your child will love. Over the years I have done both store bought and homemade birthday cakes. Without fail, my kids have always enjoyed the homemade “attempts” more. I think they recognize from a very young age the effort that is put into the homemade cake. Also, sometimes the decorations on the cake can serve double duty as the party favor. When my son was into Pokemon, we found figurines to have a “Pokemon Battle” on top of the cake. After they ate the cake, each boy got to choose a figurine to take home. I also buy enough balloons for decoration that each child can take one home. (Less clean up for me!)

    • kjs says:

      I was going to say the same thing. I can’t come up with the ideas on my own, but after a web search, I see the cake we want and make it. I can copy! 🙂 My children get so excited over the homemade cakes. I have made cakes such as: candy land, chutes and ladders, castle, solar system, strawberry shortcake, little people/farm. My oldest wants a volcano this year…that should be interesting!

  • Heather says:

    Please, no more goody bags! I’d rather my kids didn’t eat more junk food after just eating junk at the party, and the trinkets break and clutter.

    I’ve done a play-doh party twice now for 3 year olds. Easy and cheap. Just buy some 4 packs and turn them loose.

    • Ashli says:

      We just had a birthday party for my son and handed out a coloring book ($1 each at Target) and a small pack of crayons ($.72 each) for each kiddo as a favor. Worked out great and it was something they could actually use!

    • Elizabeth says:

      This is the first year I’ve ever seen these ‘goodie bags’ in my life and needless to say I’ve never done it. I’m with you for what I’ve seen though. It’s all junk or candy that gets dragged home. My thought process on it though is that it’s not the other kids’ party. That’s like giving gifts to younger sibblings… eventually these kids are going to have to learn life isn’t constantly fair with instant gratification.

      • Shari says:

        I agree that you need to teach life isn’t fair but my idea of a simple goody bag is “thank you and I loved you attending my party.”

      • Vanessa says:

        I grew up in a family where my grandparents gave the siblings presents on all the kids birthdays. Not only did this add up to us kids always expecting something, it never really taught us to just enjoy someones special day for who they are and their enjoyment. When I had kids of my own I decided that I would absolutely put my foot down and we would not allow that so that our kids learn that it isn’t always about them. Those same grandparents (now great) still bring presents and we swipe them at the door and put them up for a different day reminding them that it is about which ever child was born that day, that we are celebrating their life. This has made such a difference to me, and my kids know not to expect something on someone else birthday.
        Additionally, I have previously made banana bread for everyone to take home from our parties (which are usually just family) and everyone loves this.

  • Jennifer says:

    My husband and I were just discussing this over the weekend. It seems like the huge birthday parties are more for the adults than the kids. Kids usually have fun just playing together, whether it is in the yard or a “bounce house”. I love home birthday parties!

  • Amy says:

    I recently purchased bday invitations from my local thrift/second hand store for .10/package! I purchased 10 packages, so they will last several years!

  • Bernie says:

    With three kids, each party is getting simpler and simpler. We had my son’s 5th party at McDonald’s. For $130 we had 8 adults and 15 kids, each got a meal, desert, kids got favors, and a cake was included. It was the cheapest party I had thrown at that time and I didn’t have to clean up before or after. It was great!

    • Rose says:

      You paid about 4 bucks a kid and 8.75 an adult,

    • Babs says:

      For my sons 3rd birthday at McDonalds. huge hit! I paid $32 for ice cream sundaes for 18 kids. McD’s did their own special sundaes with all kinds of topings. I timed it after lunch, after nap but ending just before dinner. some parents chose to just go home to dinner, some thought it was great, they picked up McD’s on the way out. the kids had a blast, plenty of room for all the adults.

  • Peggy Ann says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post. I thought I was the only one who thought these “event” birthday parties for children and the money spent on them were a bit ridiculous. My daughter’s birthday is five days before Christmas so the timing for a party is poor and right now we do not have the budget for an “event” party even if we wanted one. This past birthday I threw her a home party during the winter break. We had a snowman theme. I made marshmallow snowmen cupcakes and used partyware found on clearance at Target months earlier. We did a snowman craft and played pin the carrot on the snowman. The goody bags were “snowman soup” (hot cocoa packet, mini marshmallows and a few kisses in a baggie) and a package of microwave popcorn. The most expensive thing about the party was the $35 I spent on pizza for lunch, of which half was not even eaten. The kids had fun, the moms thought I was so “Martha” and best of all I had one very happy birthday girl!!!

    • Sue says:

      I am like you Peggy Ann, I have a Christmas baby too.. We don’t do parties for the kids anymore.. We do simple at home parties with family.. ON THE DAY OF THE BIRTHDAY ! Kid gets to pick the dinner .. whatever kind of a cake they want.. and presents.. If you do not live with in a five mile radius of our house you are not invited.. LOL. I wonder alot if these big parties people around me have are really for the kids, or to say look what we have? or what we are doing for our kids?

      Sue in NJ

  • Dan says:

    Hi there, I am looking to see if someone has any extra amazon diaper codes. I could really use the help and would be very grateful. Thank you for taking the time to read this.

  • Jessica says:

    Good ideas – my mom always did inexpensive parties, following most of these tips, and my friends still talk about the “homemade birthdays” she did – 15-20 years ago!

    We just did a cardboard box maze for our sons 4th birthday – cost us some rolls of tape and food for 40 people. I made super hero capes and felt swords for all the kids with fabric I had on hand. Thanks to major deals at the store and making everything from scratch it cost about $50 for the entire party which, again, was for 40 people!

    Crystal – in regards to your end of the week round up of deals and posts here, I LOVE that! Good idea and I vote for continuing it! 🙂

  • courtney says:

    We just celebrated our son’s 1st b-day a few days ago. In order to save money, I too made the cake, used a bright tablecloth I had here at home, and used the matching/reusable plates and glassware we owned.

  • amanda says:

    With my husband being deployed or underway for most of the last few years birthdays, we have changed the way we do things. With our four girls we have now we just do something special with them as a family. Last year my 7 year old wanted to go to the opera so I took her on a special mommy/daughter date to the opera for her bday. My 5 year old wanted to go camping so we did that as a family. We might take them out to eat, we might not but we always make a cake for their actual birthday and enjoy it at home. They seem to be fine with this and it has saved us tons of money and headaches.

  • Jiya says:

    I usually buy party favors for my kid’s parties at yard sales or thrift shops — more bang for the buck. The biggest hit, though, was for my son’s Star Wars party a couple of years ago. I cut foam pool noodles in half (on sale for 75 cents each at the end of summer), and then used a couple of strips of duct tape to make a handle. For about 50 cents each, the kids each got their own foam “light saber”. It’s been 2 1/2 years and my kids still play with theirs every week.

  • Heather says:

    I have done parties all ways but the parties the children had the MOST FUN at (and the ones my boys remember) were the simple at home – low cost ones.

    You can be sooo creative.

    For example, I did a “Rainbow Fish” theme party for my youngest when he was in kindergarten. I made a rainbow fish cake myself (cut a round cake to look like a fish with mouth and tail – used Neco wafer candies for scales and so forth. I also had out bowls of gold fish crackers (keeping with the theme) I read the story “The Rainbow Fish” – after the story we made a Rainbow Fish craft (paper plates – cut out the mouth and use that for the tail – kids decorated with markers, crayons, and sequins for scales) We went outside and blew “bubbles” and pretended we were under the ocean. We played “Rainbow Fish Says” (Simon says) and many other games that we renamed and made up with the fish them. The goody bags had 1 package of fish shaped fruit snacks, a small pack of Goldfish crackers, some inexpensive fish stickers, and a cookie that I had cut out and decorated.

    I have also done Thomas the Tank themed train parties where we had “Pin the Nose” on James the Train……… We “decorated” a HUGE box (that we got for free from a local appliance store) that became a train for the kids to decorate and play in (that was a HUGE hit – they loved that big box!) We went on a Thomas the Magic Railroad Treasure Hunt around the yard………..

    And we had a Lego party – Lego cakes are very easy to make!!! Plus Lego challenge cames (teams seeing who could build the tallest tower out of Lego Bricks) Pictionary but with Lego bricks (trying to guess what the team was building with Lego pieces) We had a “Guess How Many Lego Toys in the Jar” contest – I found small Lego sets on super clearance and we gave them out as party favors along with a small bag of Lego building candy.

    • Jennifer says:

      Oh Wow! Thanks for the Lego idea. My son will be 9 next month. He has only had one “real” party. An outside party where we did water balloons and some other games. He asked if he could have a party this year. He loves legos and we have a ton. Great idea!

    • Dee says:

      I did a Lego-theme party for my son (who is now 24) when he was 9. It was one of his favorite parties. The Lego cake was easy and I found Lego pieces for really cheap. The most expensive thing I gave each kid was a 9″x9″ Lego base to build on. The store where my son bought most of his Legos gave them to me for a discount.

  • Heather says:

    Oh my – please forgive my typos in the above post

    I just remembered that I cut out sandwiches with a train shaped cookie cutter for the Thomas party – they were just the right size of the kids and they turned out really cute. We used some Thomas trains to decorate the cake and made tracks and things on top of 9 X 13 flat cake.

  • Emily says:

    These are great ideas that we already use. This year we are having a slumber party for our daughter; she is turning 5, so we can get away with just 2 or 3 of her closest friends. Their families are our closest friends, so they are invited for supper and cake, but I am making calzones from scratch – quick, easy, cheap and satisfying. We don’t need games because they will entertain themselves, and for favors we bought a pack of fabric markers and are going to let the girls personalize inexpensive pillowcases and decorate inexpensive oversized tees for nightgowns.

    • Megan says:

      What a cute idea!

    • Kelly says:

      We did the pillow cases for a sleep over for my 7 y.o.’s birthday last summer. Definitely stick with the markers and don’t use fabric paint! Before the party, I used iron-on letters to personalize each pillowcase as well. They were a big hit – the girls & the moms all loved them.

      • Emily says:

        We did the markers so I could prep the pillowcases before and just heat set them before the girls go to bed. Thanks for the great idea to personalize them! Since the girls are 4 and 5, I had not yet figured out how I would do that – I can use stencils, since they would probably pick the iron-ons off.

  • Megan says:

    I am DONE with birthday parties! For the last 4 years, I’ve thrown them for my daughter and no more than 5 people will ever show up. I am not even kidding! They are such a waste of time and effort and I always end up in tears because we have so many people promising to be there that never show up!

    • Same here. The past three years for my daughter’s birthday, I made enough food for everyone who said they’d come and then had tons, tons, tons leftover because fewer than half actually showed up. Then my little girl (age 4) cried about certain people who never showed up, wanting to know why so and so wasn’t there. So even though I do it all myself and frugally, the wasted time is so very frustrating.

      • Laura says:

        I just do not understand how people can do this except in an extreme emergency. I have always taught my daughters to imagine how they would feel in other people’s shoes and always be considerate and thoughtful, to imagine how they would feel if they were left out, etc…I feel that parents who do this (and it all comes down to them) are really teaching their children to be thoughtless and selfish. What does it teach them about making a commitment or giving their word if they don’t keep it? It makes me so sad to think of disappointed children on the day of their birthday parties.

        • lisa stevens says:

          We have struggled with this too— sad kiddos and frustrated mama at all the broken rsvp’s.

          I SO agree: “I feel that parents who do this (and it all comes down to them) are really teaching their children to be thoughtless and selfish.”

  • Elizabeth says:

    The one thing that suprised me in this list is the ‘goodie bag’ I’ve seen this twice this past year and it’s completely suprised me as a kid growing up I never saw this practice nor do I do this practice. It’s like the idea of giving younger siblings presents so they don’t feel left out again not something I practice nor did I see practiced when growing up. It was one of those things of ‘get over it and wait for your birthday’. You can save money and teach kids the reality of the world real quick without these new ‘everyone gets something’ concepts that have been going around in recent years.

    • Hattie says:

      I think that it comes down to the motive behind the goodie bag or what-have-you. For the host, they may be trying to train their birthday kiddo or children to esteem others as better than themselves, so they look for a way to show appreciation to the guests for helping to celebrate with them. And the goodie bag just seems like a fun way to do that. If you are the guest parent, you can have a conversation with your kiddo before the shindig about also esteeming others as better than yourself, with the goal of attending the party being to show love to the birthday kiddo. Then if your kiddo doesn’t receive a goodie bag, they know to be happy with that because that wasn’t the point of the party. If they do get a goodie bag, it’s a pleasant surprise (at least for them–I know that I am not crazy about trinkets and clutter myself, but why fuss over it?:)). I’m not saying that there has never been a parent to throw a huge party with goodie bags for the wrong reason, but…it’s all about people being more important than things. Maybe, sometimes, that means we attend parties with no expectations for favors–and maybe, sometimes, that means we splurge a little of our hard-earned cash to hand out well-intentioned goodie bags. ‘Cause we just want our kiddos to see what “people are more important than things” looks like lived out.

  • Kelly says:

    I’m glad to see that I pretty much already do these things, with the exception of the food. I have found that for toddlers with nap times, it’s not practical to plan a party that is NOT over a meal time.

    I want to mention that having an ‘event’ party doesn’t necessarily have to be more expensive. Be creative and look for specials and good deals. For instance, a local gymnastics studio offers a special 1 Day out of the year and any parties booked on that day are 1/2 price. I recently hosted my 5 y.o.’s party there for 10 kids including gym time, decorated party room, pizza, drinks, paper goods & goody bags (which included a free class pass for each guest) for $75. Since it was the week before Christmas, I was THRILLED not to have to clean my house before and after a party and I don’t think I could have planned something that entertaining in the middle of winter for less money. So, definitely watch for specials, weeknight parties, etc. Also, for ‘on location’ parties, consider sharing the party with another family to cut costs. We’ve done that before as well and it was great.

  • Freebies says:

    Yup- I love these tips- they are exactly what I would do!! I love being the queen of the $20 party- lol.

  • Emily says:

    I did a train themed birthday party for my son’s third birthday. We bought cheap wooden train ornaments at hobby lobby and had the kids paint them, and then decorated train cookies, played a version of musical chairs using boxes decorated like trains, and played go/stop out in the yard. It was really fun. I made the cake and we got an edible image of Thomas for the top. For the favor I decorated some cheap pencil boxes with the kids’ names using foam stickers and put little things inside.

  • Sonia says:

    For my sons first birthday we did a “western” ” cowboy” themed party. I found a free make your own wanted poster online and used these as the theme and decoration for the party! I printed smaller 4×6 prints of the poaster on my printer and then glued them to poster board (i put an image on each side) and then hole punched the top and ran some twine through them to make a home made garland. I also bought a bunch of cheap bandanas (to wear and decorations) and straw cowboy hats, and badges for the kids. I then found some cheap cowboy start themed picks that I decorated the cupcakes with! I found many of the items super cheap on Ebay and Oriental Trading. All in all I was able to do the entire party for around $50 and we had about 20 people! That even included the food which we grilled hotdogs and all the chuck wagon fixins! Of course I bought what was on sale and what I had coupons for!

  • Natalie says:

    To save time and money on parties, we do a “friends” party every other year, and a family-only party on alternate years (since we don’t have close family nearby, it’s just our family of 6). The kids don’t mind at all – as long as they have a cake and a few presents from us!

  • Liz M says:

    Ok, so am I the only one who thinks that goodie bags for the guests is an unnecessary idea? Why do we *have* to send the kids home with tons of candy and cheap-o toys just to give them something? When I had just my oldest daughter, I did goodie bags from the dollar store. Even then, I was dropping a good chunk of change for all of her cousins and friends who came to the parties. When we had other kids I finally decided this was a cost that we could do without. I decided that a birthday is about making my children feel extra special and loved on their special day. So instead of using money to buy trinkets and candy (because I know where most of those little toys end up at my house… the trash!) I do a little extra to help the party be a memorable experience. I’ve never had a guest (or his mom!) complain that they didn’t go home loaded with candy and plastic do-dad’s.

    • Angie says:

      I’m so glad I’m not the only one who feels goodie bags are unnecessary. However, I have given them out at my kids’ parties out of obligation. Yet secretly, while I appreciate the thought behind the goodie bags, I could do without all them. Since I am especially against all the candy (we feed the kids cake and ice cream at the party, why send them home with more sugar?), I try to avoid putting more than one or two pieces of candy in my goodie bags, which can add to the costs since I have found even the cheap toys more expensive than candy.

      Now that I have two kids and kid number 2 just turned 1 today (yay!), I am only going to give my kids friend parties every other year or maybe even every couple of years. I never got a birthday party every year, and didn’t think anything of it. Now I’m so surprised that kids get parties every year.

      Another tip that was excluded was keeping the guest list short. The more guests, the more cake and favors to buy. This may be difficult if your kid gets lots of party invitations and you feel compelled to reciprocate.

      This is so timely for me because birthday parties could become stressful if I let them. My kids’ birthdays are 6 weeks apart, which I consider not close enough combine into one party (my friend with kids born 2 weeks apart does this) but just close enough that I could end up planning one party after another with little break in between. That’s why I decided no parties for both kids every year.

  • peever says:

    Speaking of cheap birthday parties, Birthday Express is doing an additional 50% off their clearance prices so there’s really cheap party supplies and favors! I’m getting my daughter’s plates, napkins, and cups for a party of 25 people for about $4!

  • jessica says:

    I can’t really claim frugality on my own kids parties cause I’ve been lazy lately, but I had a birthday party when I was 8 or 9 that I will remember forever!

    I had about 8 girls over, and my mom pulled out ALL of her old dresses, shoes, and makeup, and we played dress up and took pictures for hours! It still remember having soooooooooooo much fun. And that didn’t cost anything!

  • Gayatri says:

    All ideas are good. But think about your guests also. Do you want them to get gifts? If you are not spending on the party favors and you take from them Big? It looks CHEAP. If you are doing a frugal/fun party, ask your guests not to bring any gifts. Because the parents of kids who are coiming to the party are also feeling the PINCH.

    • Shari says:

      It is time for you to stand up and teach your child/children what a “Guest” is. It doesn’t sound like they will be learning by a good example. Sometimes we all need to be reminded of manners. Sorry!

      • Gayatri says:

        A guest is a person coming to your home and you treat them good, and well fed. They are coming for a party to your house. You just fed them with a cake and ice cream both don’t have any nutritional value. They bought a good gift to your child and in return do you want to send the guests empty handed or with some thing in hand???

        In our culture we never send back any guest empty handed especially kids.

        • Shari says:

          I’m sorry I should have said to teach your child/children to ACT like guests.
          Thank you for the culture comment. That is the problem that we put culture before morals and manners.
          If you are wondering I usually do party bags but my children and I NEVER expect anything from a party, the fun of going is more than enough and if my child ever did expect something, well that would be corrected immediately.
          This sort of attitude of entitlement is the problem with so many today.

    • Lori F. says:

      I don’t expect ANY favor when my children attend birthday parties. The true lesson here is sharing with the birthday person, not what the children attending should expect in return. Everthing doesn’t have a payoff.

      We are feeling the pinch and have determined that our children will only attend the parties of their closest friends. We don’t use a criteria of where we expect the best “treat bags” to come from.

      • Shari says:

        I have always planned ahead and bought toys after Christmas at 75% off, that I think my kids will like and most likely their friends will like it too. That is how we can accept invatations to parties. If the people are like me they just want the kids to come over and have fun. It’s not all about the gift. I hope this sounds encouraging, not rude.

    • Angie says:

      Asking kids not to bring any gifts can backfire. I got an invitation like that once, and I knew there would be people attending who would still feel compelled to bring a gift either way. This put me in a quandry: Do I get a gift anyway? If I do, then I make the parents who followed the rules look cheap. Do I follow the rules and not bring a gift? If I do that, then parents who break the rules and bring gifts anyway make me feel cheap, and I feel cheap regardless. I would have racked my brain for a “no-gift gift” but in the end we couldn’t go because we planned a vacation that week.

      People on a budget can always look for inexpensive gifts that fit their budget.

      • Heather says:

        I say follow the rules and walk in with your head held high!

      • Gayatri says:

        My DD got an invitation from a class mate. The invitation says want gift ideas??? Target gift cards are appreciated. So How much do you put on a gift card for 10 year old? I want my daughter to attend the party.

      • Karen S. says:

        We ask that friends not give gifts to our kids, but instead bring a food pantry donation. The reason we do this is not to make it easy on our guests’ budgets (although it does that, too!). It is that, #1, we have plenty of toys… and our families will get our kids presents regardless of our wishes 🙂 And #2, so many need so much more.

        Our kids get fun parties with a cake I make — always WAY too ambitious! 😀 Their friends come and play and sing Happy Birthday and we have fun games. The presence of their friends is present enough!

        • Gayatri says:

          This is what I like. I invite close families, I cook for 5 families. Fun games, and I handover party favors from Micheals.

        • Stephanie says:

          We did the food pantry idea for our boys only birthday parties and I was overwhelmed with the amount of food! Our kids have way too many toys so they asked for items for the food pantry. We only had 4 families over but we had 8 bags of food to deliver to the pantry! My kids weren’t disappointed without gifts and they had fun giving to those in need. We’ll be doing this again!

    • Sara says:

      It can really depend on the culture. We typically do favors and a meal for our guests…we want them to feel welcomed into our home. We may cut back for things for ourselves, but don’t skimp out when it comes to other people. However, that’s how we were raised, and how people do things where I live. It can be so different in other places, and that’s okay too.

  • This year, we’re doing a Curious George theme for my daughter’s 2nd birthday. Some balloons, paper circle garlands, and homemade Curious George invitations (printed coloring page resized on red and yellow cardstock). I found some red floral vinyl tablecloths on clearance at Target a few months ago. I’m making banana cupcakes, and I already got stuff for goody bags on clearance for Valentine’s Day (not much– little bracelets and Play-doh). I got her a stuffed Curious George that we’ll use for a centerpiece but it will also be her gift. We’re using some red and yellow dishes that we already have, and I found a banner and some Happy Birthday balloons on clearance at Target last week.

    It doesn’t take a lot for a successful birthday party. Just time (her party isn’t until summer and I’m basically finished buying things for it) and creativity.

  • Betsy Durand says:

    Thanks for the tips– I already do most, but it was good to be inspired again! Another great website to go to for party planning on a budget is They have awesome ideas for games/decorations broken down by theme (Thomas the train, princess, Star Wars, etc.). I’ve saved sooooo much money by using their ideas as well as incorporating the tips you’ve shared here!

  • Pam says:

    I already do a lot of the tips in the post and have a few more to add..

    The dollar store has many items a lot cheaper than the party store. The solid plates, table covers, napkins, plastic silverware and more is a fraction of the cost.

    We always play homemade games. We always make a verision of play the tail on the donkey game based on theme out of poster board. We have had pin the tail on Pikachu, pin the cherry on the sundae, pin the tail on the cat, etc.. We also like to make a themed obstacle course using items we already have like pool noodles.

    Pinatas are easy to make at home instead of paying $10+ for one at the store. You are going to break it anyway, so it doesn’t have to be fancy. There are easy to follow directions on

    I usually give the kids small goodie bags but also something from the theme of the party. At our last party Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, I gave each child a foam visor to decorate. I bought the visors on sale for only 60 cents each and the used markers and paper to decorare with food items. The girls had a great time being creative and it was something they could use again if they wanted to.

    Even crafts can frugal. Instead of buying beads to make jewelry, we bought ring cereal the dollar store and pipe cleaners. The girls had just as much fun using the cereal to make their bracelets and necklaces. Total craft cost for 10 girls was only $2.

    Being creative with your child is a sure way to have a party they will always remember.

  • Diana says:

    When I was a girl, my birthday parties were great. My mom would make me a cake with the design of my choice. She wasn’t a professional, but we were always thrilled with the latest Barbie cake or whatever design we chose (one of my favorites was the “carrot tangerine” cake from a Wuzzles book that my mother re-created for me). The festivities generally included me and five or so friends running like maniacs through the sprinkles in my yard. Simple and basically free and I never felt deprived.

    I’ve never understood why parents who aren’t millionaires (and even those who are) feel the need to have some extravagant, expensive party. So expensive, in fact, that many of their kids only get parties every few years. I’d rather observe it every year and keep it simple. Most kids just want to play and have fun and don’t care about things being expensive. My son’s 2-year party was just a day at the park with friends and he was thrilled.

  • Diana says:

    sprinklers, not sprinkles

  • Lori F. says:

    For older children it is fun to have a small sleepover party, which cuts down on the necessity for purchasing a lot of paper plates, cups, etc. Last year my son decided for his 10th birthday he wanted a sleepover with his cousin, his best friend and his brother. We provided pizza for the evening, a rented movie, birthday cupcakes, some snacks (purchased with coupons) and glow sticks. The boys provided the fun. Since there were only 4 of them, we did get some nice party favors. But, in all this party probably cost less than $25-$30 and everyone was very happy.

  • Lanie says:

    When my son turned 5 last year we had our first birthday party at our house. I couldn’t stomach the thought of an expensive cake and I personally don’t have time or patience to try to make a fun cake at home. So, instead I made plain white cupcakes from scratch and bought some icings, sprinkles and other decorations. I let the kids go wild decorating their cupcakes and they loved it! Plus it doubled as an activity for them as it took up time for them each to decorate their cupcakes. I also had some of those freeze pops that the kids love (that I think are gross) handy and it was great.

    • Ann says:

      We did something similar for my daughter’s party one year – we had big cookies for the girls to decorate. As you said, it works as an activity and then I sent the cookies home with the girls as their party favor. Although, I must confess … that year I was literally due any day with baby #2 so I bought the cookies….

  • Meredith says:

    Instead of paying $300 to have my son’s 5th birthday party at a play gym, we took 4 of his friends to open gym time. They still had a great time and it only cost $5/child. Then we came back to our house and had chicken nuggets, macaroni-and-cheese, apples, and cupcakes! He had a ball and it was nice to have a smaller party.

  • Andrea says:

    I just had my daughter’s 2nd Birthday party at our house. I have a large family and a small house so it was a tight but fun. I made my first homemade birthday cake. I found a really cute pattern on Betty Crocker and made a dinosaur cake, my daughter loved it! I also made homemade party favors. I made rice crispie treats on a stick and then dipped them in white chocolate. The kids and adults loved them. Also, to save some money my family all brought over side dishes and I provided the meat, plates, and so forth. My family loved the idea of just spending time together and I did not mind not having to make a bunch of food.

  • Sachin says:

    my daughter’s birthday is just weeks away….and these tips are very handy and helpful…

  • L says:

    My kids are getting a little older and they have not had a birthday party every year. We had extended family birthday parties until my kids turned school age. Then they either had friends over (and parents were specifically told NO GIFTS PLEASE) or it was considered a “birthday party”. That way their friends or their parents have not felt that they were constantly buying a gift. My kids probably have had 3 friend “birthday parties” each. They were not themed parties or anything, just for fun. The food was also kept as easy as possible for me, yet enjoyable for their friends. NO STRESS! KEEP IT SIMPLE!

  • Mary says:

    We don’t do favor bags. I make sure to have a craft that the kids can take home to remember the party.

    Family Fun magazine (and website) has great ideas for cakes and party games. I make sure to plan one or two extra games, in case a game goes too fast.

    I swear by Aldi cake mix and frosting. The cake mix is tasty and the frosting is perfect for decorating. Name brand frostings are too soft to frost a cake well!

  • lalalalala says:

    When I was a kid, my parents always let me have a bunch of friends over to spend the night, eat cake and pizza, and play hide and seek after dark in my yard (we lived in the country). My mom would just get pizza, cake, and pop at the store and probably wouldn’t cost her more than $30 for the whole gang of us. We had so much more fun than we would have at some big shindig, and since we did live in a very rural area there wasn’t much else to do in the way of an “event” party.

    Though, when I was very young, I always made “goodie bags” for the guests. My grandma, mom, and I liked to do various crafts so usually it was just a homemade necklace with cheap beads from the dollar store or Wal-Mart. Us girls would always get a kick of wearing the same necklaces to school the next week and I loved making my friends things. Goodie bags aren’t necessary, but they don’t have to be a bad thing either.

  • Christy McCullough says:

    I have a child with a december 19th birthday, so we do a half birthday right after school gets out, working around dance recital weekend. We do it at 10 am, and it is a water themed party. Each kid gets a long squirt gun from dollar tree when they get there, and then we do a simple craft whenever they want to during the morning. I put out a big cooler of ice water, lots of fresh fruit and have a popsicle break. (the tube ones that cost almost nothing). We have painted t-shirts, water bottles and flower pots, all $1 or less.

    I set up various pools and slip and slides, and basically turn them loose. Last year I set up a fishing area over the pasture fence where they “fished” for half price easter candy. They had more fun putting the “fish” on than fishing. I say the party is from 10-12, but no one ever leaves on time, sometimes not until after 1.

    We always make the cake, and she loves to come up with the idea, and is so happy with whatever it comes up with. There are great books out there showing you how to turn ordinary cakes and candy into great things, browse at the bookstore to get ideas, then check them out from the library. Also, go to for frosting recipes. I would have spent a fortune for icing for our princess castle if I had to buy individual tubs of frosting. We save the pretty plates just for cake so there aren’t that many to buy.

    So far, even though we regularly go to the big expensive parties, she says the way we do it is the very best!

  • Christy Day says:

    I took my money saving even further. In the summertime I bought the reusable plastic picnic type plates and silverware. Walmart usually has a whole aisle just for that during the summer months. You can usually get a set of four plates for around $1. I purchased eight sets in assorted colors and spent around $16. I have been using them for about 4 years now and they are still holding up. I definately have got my money’s worth out of them and it is so nice not having to run back to the store last minute because I forgot paper plates, cups, and spoons.

    • Joy says:

      Love this idea! Also, CVS will put that type of stuff on clearance at the end of the summer. I got some neat ice cream sundae dishes for around 20 cents each and we have used them for several parties.

  • Heather says:

    For my daughter’s party one year, we did a cake and instead of gift bags /pinata I offered to my daughter to do a ice cream sundae party. We got big tub of ice cream and some toppings (when on sale) and the girls LOVED it! For my son’s birthday he wanted a police theme party, so I made the cake myself and just used wax paper and placed the police cars he had around the house on it and since daddy is a police officer we used his badge and handcuffs…all the parents’ loved the idea and the biggest hit was the police car pinata I made my self out of cereal boxes and crepe paper…my son still talks about it to this day!

  • Great ideas. When I was growing up we only had cake. I always wonder how that idea slipped away. Glad you brought it back. Party favors do get pricey. I buy pencils, eraser and sometimes just give a bakes item.

  • Oops-meant erasers and baked item-bad keyboard.;0)

  • Meghan says:

    We just had my daughter’s party this weekend. We bought party favors at the dollar tree- she picked out 2 bags of candy and a set of stencils to give out. We made homemade play dough and used that as an activity and then sent the play dough home as part of the favors. It was super easy and my daughter had a great time helping me make it!

    • Amber says:

      My DS turns 3 next month and I have been thinking about making homemade play doh for the kid as an activity and favor. What did you use to send it home in? Please and thank you!

      • Meghan says:

        My daughter just turned three also! We wrapped them in plastic wrap and then just stuck them in ziplock bags. We wrote each chid’s name on it. They weren’t fancy looking, but they are 3 year olds and LOVED them! We had some left overs. We made it on Friday and they are still soft!

  • Chanda says:

    I’m loving all of the birthday party ideas here! Does anyone have suggestions for baby showers on a budget? I’d love to hear them!

    • Deb says:

      For my baby shower, my Aunt made “clotheslines” of baby clothes by clothes-pinning doll clothing on rope and hanging them around the party room. Very cute! There are lots of printable baby shower games online.

  • thuy says:

    Instead of a birthday party for my children (now 7 & 9), I would bring in pizza, drinks, and cupcakes, plates and napkins to their classrooms when they were in preschool. Now that they are older I just bring in cupcakes and drinks during their snack times at school. It too much hassle to have a party. I made cupcakes following the designs from “Hello Cupcake” book. The kids always ooh and aah with those cupcakes.

  • Karen S. says:

    I have been to some CRAZY parties. Extremely lavish parties aren’t done for the 4 year old, know what I mean???

    I tend to do small parties with a cake I make (folks say I’m creative but really it’s all you wonderful bloggers who give me ideas!!!), simple games (pin the X on the Y… depends what the theme is!; put lots of prizes in balloons, which the kids stomp to pop to get their prize — fun!), one themed paper product, one or two snack items or a light lunch (for very small kids who still nap — it can be HARD to do a cake and ice cream party at 2-4pm and sometimes only an 11-1pm party will work, but you can make a light lunch very economically!).

    My older 2 have birthdays within 9 days of each other. Now that their circle of friends is expanding, and the actual KIDS are getting bigger, to have a joint party in our small home is getting difficult. For their 4th and 6th birthdays we had a small joint party, and my 6 year old daughter had a cupcake decorating party for a few friends one night while my husband took my 4 year old son out for a special father-son outing. Worked well! This year I may look into a bounce house — for 2 kids, the price might work out OK. Tough call!

  • Joy says:

    Loved all the suggestions. I am doing most of those myself already. One thing to add for the party favors is simply doing a pinata and letting the candy inside be the favors. The Dollar Tree has pinatas for $1 and I will buy candy on clearance after holidays and save it for the parties.

    Another suggestion about the cake is to make it the day ahead! I have often stressed myself out by not following this simple step. If you make the cake or cupcakes and then stick it/them in the freezer, the frosting will go on easier the day of.

  • Sara says:

    Three things to add, that relate to the already given advice!

    1. My sister always makes my kids cakes. She’s very creative and loves doing it for them. She’s also a college student and low on funds, so the cake doubles as her gift to them. It’s a win-win for us all. I don’t have to buy or make a cake. She spends maybe 5 bucks to make a cake, and doesn’t have to buy a gift. And I don’t have extra toys cluttering the house!

    2. Every time I host something at my house, I buy the same color paper products…red. It goes for everything, Christmas, birthdays, informal get-togethers etc. That way I can use the leftover paper products for the next event. Less waste, less money spent! The article is correct in saying that a balloon and centerpiece and themed cake are enough.

    3. Make your invitations! Print the info on cardstock (one piece of cardstock for 2-4 invites). Glue the white cardstock with info onto a colored piece of cardstock. Buy stickers that match the theme and let your kid decorate each invite. Use the backside of the invite as a postcard. Postcard postage is about half the price.

  • Sara says:

    Okay, one more thing I just thought to add!

    I buy each kid (that expected to come) one item from the Dollar Tree. One year it was water guns (not the tiny ones, big ones!). Another it was coloring books that went with the theme. I skip the bags and just pass out the favor as the kids leave. One inexpensive item that the kids will use is so much better than a bag full of plastic trinkets and candy. Plus, who needs more candy after a birthday party? I usually end up eating the candy we receive from parties…lol.

  • Camille says:

    Ever since we started having kid parties, my policy has been to buy 1 package of plates and 1 of napkins in the “theme”. Then I buy a matching solid color (or usually I have a color I bought on clearance from a season — green from St. Pat’s Day; Pink, white, red from V-day, etc). My daughter is now 4 and instead of a theme, she picks a color for her parties now! LOL And she’ll ask anyone else what “color” their birthday is going to be.

  • sophie says:

    This is what we do also, only instead of cookies i recycle crayons, heat them up and let them cool in cute molds! put a few in a bag with matching ribbon and you are all set and the kids LOVE the swirls of colors 😀

  • Deb says:

    Another easy, inexpensive favor is to let the kids do crafts (we did foam “alien masks” once for an outer-space party; the kids’ treehouse was decorated with cardboard as a rocket ship) and foam super hero masks (we found templates online). has lots of craft ideas. We’ve also given out favors that kids play with during the party and then take home, such as dollar-store plastic golf sets. We made a big course in the back yard.

    My son’s birthday is usually right after Easter, so we buy discounted candy after the holiday and do a “candy hunt” instead of a pinata. Have the kids stay inside as some adults (or older siblings) toss candy around the yard, some spots harder to find than others. We usually hide one large candy bar in a particularly tricky spot (e.g. up in a tree) as the big treasure to find. Some years we do a scavenger hunt with clues that leads to a treasure chest full of the party favors, which might be candy, or a dollar store item that goes with the theme.

  • MamaKiert says:

    I love all these frugal ideas!

    For decorations we make use of our home printer. (We have a very economical printer to use as we researched the cost of replacement cartridges before we bought the printer. It costs us about $.02 per page to print.)

    1) We find clip art or images online and print them out to put up around the party area. For a Baby Einstein party we made a page with the colored words logo and another page with the Baby Einstein head logo, printed them out, glued them to different colors of construction paper and taped them up in an alternating pattern all around our porch rail. For a Pixar Cars party we printed out pictures of all the characters and hung them around the living room.

    2) We make theme-related banners. For a Mary Poppins party we printed out each of the letters spelling “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” hung them on a string and hung the banner across one wall in the kitchen. Other times we have simply spelled out “Happy Birthday” or the child’s name.

    3) We have sometimes printed out coloring pages relating to the theme (1/2 page per picture, landscape and fold it into a book) for party favors.

    4) To dress up those plain paper goods we have printed out address label-type stickers for the cups. For a VeggieTales party I found a clip art of Bob & Larry, designed a label with the image and “Happy 3rd Birthday, Benjamin,” and put them on green cups.

    Also, I wanted to share my recipe for cake icing. Sometimes creative cakes can require a lot of icing! I make this cheap (and yummy!) icing to keep the cost of the cake down:

    1/2 c. shortening
    16 oz. powdered sugar (I stock up when it’s on a good sale)
    2 tsp vanilla
    pinch of salt
    1/2 c water
    Beat 3-5 minutes

    (If you are making anything beyond a typical double-layer cake you may want to double the recipe.)

  • Kelly says:

    I was glad to see I do most of these things already. I agree simple is better. Last year my son had a Sesame Street theme. I bought an Elmo cake mold at Micheals with a 40% off coupon and plan to use it for one of our other kids. Games were trying to throw “trash” (recycling I saved) in Oscar’s can and decorating Sesame Street (we drew a a picture of a street on poster board and gave the kids stickers). Favors were a small box of crayons and coloring books from Target I found for a dollar.

    The year before we had a frog/beach theme with a frog shaped caked (we used a bear mold) favors were sandpailsand beach balls I bought at Michaels for a dollar a piece

  • Samantha says:

    My daughters birthday is December 10 so for her first birthday I just made a giant cupcake birthday cake and home made frosting. Two friends with kids came over and the rest was a few family members. No goodie bags, no food, just all about Kenna and I think I spent about $4 on the cake stuff & cream cheese for the frosting =] I just don’t see a point in HUGE parties. We never had big ones, why do these kids need to?

  • Heather says:

    My sister-in-law did a Cars themed party for her two boys last year and it was so fun and cheap. They made the cars out of boxes that the kids tied on their shoulders (like suspenders) and they had a pit stop race and some other fun activites. I am totally stealing her idea for my boys this year. She even made a Lighting McQueen cake. That girl has talent.

  • Crystal says:

    I did for my now 6 yr old’s 5th birthday party……Napkins, silverware, and plates are from the dollartree, not all dollar trees have balloons or at least around here they don’t………I did buy the cupcakes from Sam’s for $13…….I did do goody bags but I put school supplies in them…..pencils, erasers, crayons, and a pirate patch (because my kids’ school mascot is the pirates)……..Then because it was June and hot, I bought a package of 100 water balloons for $2 at the dollar general and then turned the kids loose……..:D I spent probably about $30 and the kids are still talking about it……

  • MarySunshine says:

    Thanks for all of the great ideas. We just celebrated our twin boys’ third birthday last week, and we did a Thomas themed party at our church (for free) because our house is too small to fit family and friends.

    It was on a Saturday morning, so we served fruit, veggies, and cake, plus coffee, water, and juice boxes (bought at the store with a gift card). For entertainment, we had face-painting (done for free by friends), a coloring corner, Pin-the-1-on-Thomas game (given to us), a slide/fort play set (brought by a friend), and a pinata (which was our biggest expense).

    It’s reassuring to know that I’m not the only one who hates party favor bags. It bothers me when my kids go to a party and come home with huge bags of loot–and I know that mom spent more money on our goodies than we spent on her kid’s nice-but-inexpensive gift. For the Thomas party, our guests received toy train whistles from Oriental Trading Company ($9.99 for a dozen).

  • Dawn says:

    We end the party with a treasure hunt. We have them go upstairs and downstairs several times so the get some energy out. The treasure is a snack size ziploc bag with some candy in it. I buy larger bags of candy after a holiday when they are marked down to use for these. My kids love it!

  • Estelle says:

    This year, I am too lazy to throw a party, so we will take my daughter to the zoo => no cleanup after it’s over 😀

  • Mae says:

    I have 3 kids, only 19 months apart, and the 2 youngest are twins! We’ve always had AWESOME huge parties, on a VERY stingy budget. I work here and there all year long preparing things for their parties. Everything is home made, or bought at the dollar stores. The cakes are home made, as are the party favors. We serve hot dogs and other simple home made foods, and have fun party themed games with stuff around the house. I love parties, and growing up my mother always made sure I had awesome parties (also on a budget), so I do the same for my kids. Love the money saving ideas on here!

  • Anji says:

    My son just had a Scooby Doo party. We had the kids make their own pizza with homemade dough then go on mystery hunt to find the missing presents. I made paw prints with the clues for each activity written in invisible ink (lemon juice). Activities through the hunt include making homemade slime (glue from school supple sales and fabric starch), writing and reading secret messages (lemon juice), and pin the tail on scooby (homemade). Goody bags were homemade clue gathering notebooks, Scooby pencils found on clearance, Scooby fruit snacks, and magnifying glasses I found on Oriental Trading for 12 for $3 (we had 10 kids). We had the homemade pizza, homemade cupcakes, and juice colored green with a bit of dry ice in the serving container to make it smoke. We also checked out a Scooby Doo movie from the library to watch at the end until parents came. Kids LOVED the party and it was under $20.

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