Having just thrown a kid's birthday party, I know what the final cost can look like and it can be scary! From decorations to the entertainment, things can get a little out of hand if you're not careful.
In order to save you some headaches and some money, learn from my costly mistakes. Here are five tips that will guarantee savings at your next birthday party:
Budget: Who likes working with a budget? Maybe no one, but in the real world, we have real jobs, real expenses and real responsibilities. If you were to save $30 every month for a year, you would have a $360 budget to work with. If you saved $40 a month, you would have $480. For many working families, forking out $360 to $480 for a party at the last minute is way too much. By saving ahead, you can have a real budget to work with. Plus, you don't have to spend all of it.
Decorations: By making your own DIY party decorations that can be found on Pinterest and blogs, you can save over 50 percent on party decorations alone. You can get the children involved and add another personalized touch to it.
Entertainment: When I was young, the best part of a party was the cake itself, but these days, the cake won't cut it. If you decide to have a party at home, rather than a venue, you may think about hiring a magician, Disney characters, balloon artist, petting zoo and what other services the party world has to offer. Stop right there! This alone can range in the neighborhood of $200 and up. Unless you have a budget that allows for it, you should think of alternatives that kids will like equally and for a lot less.
Here are some ideas for you to consider: You can throw an in-home cooking party where the kids personalize their own pizza and even decorate their own cupcake in lieu of an actual cake. Older children love scavenger hunts. Whether it's in your yard or at the local mall, you can make it very fun. Girls love tie-dying parties. You can tell your guests to bring a plain white T-shirt if it's not in your budget or you can provide them with one. Jewelry-making is another popular option. You can go to Michaels and buy beads and the necessary items so that the girls can make their own bracelets or necklaces. Young kids love LEGO-themed parties, too.
Food: Your cheapest option is always pizza. I have tried all different kinds of options and even when I've hosted bigger parties, I've never spent over $100 for pizza. If you decide to be a little fancier and have room in your budget, other local restaurants might offer affordable catering options, too. As for cake, go to Costco (COST). If you don't have a membership, find someone who does and ask them to order it for you. For less than $18, you can get a sheet of cake that feeds 48 people. This alone will save you 50 percent in cake costs.
Favors: Kids love favors even if they are comprised of what we adults call "junk." Every kid looks forward to the end of the party because they get a goody bag. Keep it simple. If you put in one cool but cheap toy, some sort of candy and a bubble thing, they will be on cloud nine, and it costs less than $2 per child. If you buy stuff from the dollar store or bulk online, it should be relatively cheap.
Susan Yoo-Lee is the editor of Savings.com personal finance blog and founder of Mommas in the House blog.