Kids’ birthday parties can be a massive cost when you least need it. Plus they’re a huge stress! Here are some tips to help you choose what to have where, without losing the will to live…
The average cost of a child's birthday party has shot up to £300 - but you don't need to spend anywhere near that much
The average cost of a child's birthday party has rocketed to £300, according to research from Mums Show Live - while some parents admitted to spending as much as £800!
While the cost of birthdays can easily mount up (food, drink, venue hire, entertainers, birthday cake, party bags, cake, etc. etc.) we at MyFamilyClub think you can organise brilliant birthday parties without spending anywhere near £300, as long as you're a bit savvy.
Below we show you how you can cut the costs right down.
Choosing the venue
If you’re booking entertainment, there are several options to go for, depending on how brave you are and your budget:
To save the pennies, home’s the cheapest option… unless you have pale carpets! (If you are worried about carpets, cover the floor with picnic blankets (you can have an indoor picnic!) Kids love that type of thing and it'll save your pale carpets from coke stains and ice cream smudges.
If the weather’s rubbish and everyone’s indoors, remove anything that could be damaged or might harm excited children. If it’s dry and warm you’re laughing. It doesn’t matter how small the garden is, provided there’s easy kitchen and toilet access it’s the best place for manic children!
This option is dependent on the sun shining, but parks can be a great venue to hold a party (and they're free, too!). There's plenty of space for party games, football, tag, rounders - and you can bring along a picnic as the birthday party meal.
Whether it’s your village hall, church facilities or a Guide hut, you’ll have a couple of options wherever you live. The key is to book well in advance and check for size, facilities and parking. The good ones get booked up fast by the mums of your child’s peers – though it’s worth getting recommendations. Find a community hall near you.
Venue with an entertainer
Some venues offer the whole experience, and it definitely makes organising simpler as it kills two birds with one phone call. You may not get the best price here, but the stress saved might be worth it.
Soft play area
Your local soft play area is often a popular choice with parents for young one's parties. They usually do packages at a set price and are easy entertainment for little ones. There's a useful directory of soft play areas across the UK here.
Arranging the entertainment
Have a look at our party ideas for kids and our party ideas for tweens and teenagers.
Also check out these fun things to do with kids on a budget - it contains everything from arts and crafts to rainy day activity suggestions.
If you've got kids who are into making things, it's well worth having a look at these 21 toys you can make for under £1. Not only will the toys themselves keep the kids entertained - they'll have fun making them, too!
This is down to personal choice, but there’s a huge discrepancy in prices if you're looking to hire a professional entertainer. Shop around before you commit, and ask other parents for recommendations.
A big plus of hiring entertainment is that they can engage the children while you sort the party food.
But don't forget that as long as you have another adult to help you out, they can be the 'entertainment'. They don't have to be a clown, a magician or adept at making balloon-animals - you just need someone to keep the kids occupied with party games or sports while you have your hands full in the kitchen.
If you want to splash out, there’s a range of inflatables available depending on available space, child numbers and your budget. You’ll be more hands-on if you go this route though, to check no-one gets hurt or plays too rough.
Anything from craft activities and teddy bear making to children’s farms and miniature railways will usually offer a party option. The thing with these parties is that you usually pay per child, but that keeps the cost within your control. Soft play places will do party bags and food too – you’ll just need to be on hand for toilet trips and nursing bruises! Find out what’s in your area.
Sorting the invites
Keep the numbers down
Don't feel pressured to invite the whole school... keep the numbers small and it will keep the cost (and your stress levels!) down to a reasonable level. When it comes to deciding how many guests to invite, a good rule of thumb is to invite your child's age plus one.
Or you can give your child the choice: they can have a more expensive party with fewer guests, or a cheaper party with more guests.
If you're worried about kids getting upset that they're not on the invite list, you can give the invites to your child's teacher - who can then discreetly place them in the children's bags or school trays. Or you could mail or email the invites out instead.
Get the invites out early
It's good to get the invites out early - especially if your child’s birthday is near a school holiday. Keep a list of who you send them to so you know who to chase and tick off. State a deadline for responses too, as some parents give infuriatingly short notice!
No need to spend a fortune on fancy invites
Many venues issue their own invites, which they’ll post or you can print from their website. Make sure they send the right amount and that the information is correct.
If you have people’s mobile numbers or email addresses, you can just let people know this way. It’s ideal for pre-school or family parties, where you know everyone already.
You can always print off your own invites on a PC - or better still, get the kids to design their own invitation, and then photocopy their design.
Or just buy a supermarket bulk pack can work out cheaper than designing and printing your own on the computer – and loads less hassle for us time-strapped mums!
Putting together a party bag
There's no need to put together a party bag if you don't want to - it's not essential to the day in the way a birthday cake is.
Keep an eye on your local Poundshop in the run-up to the party - they often have cheap toys and little knick-nacks that kids love. Or just put some sweets in a little cellophane bag, and tie each one with a fancy ribbon - sorted!
Another cost-effective alternative to party bags is to have a Lucky Dip box. Pick up some cheap toys and treats (again, Poundshop is your friend!) wrap them up, and put them in a box mixed in with old torn up newspapers or sawdust.
Alternatively, Party Pieces (which currently has a big sale on) and Hawkin's Bazaar sell both party bag fillers and pre-made party bags. You can get party bag fillers from 20p, and whole party bags for a few quid.
Or you could always get the kids to make something as a party activity, that they then get to take home. (Try these ideas for homemade toys if you need some inspiration).
Getting the cake
You can always buy a cake of course, but it's far cheaper to make your own. (Though you don't even have to make a cake - one of our readers told us how she baked a giant cookie one year, which went down a treat!).
If you want some birthday cake ideas and recipes, have a look at our kids' party food article.
Save on food
There's nothing wrong with holding your party in between lunch and dinner - or even after dinner. That way you won't need to provide food for a horde of hungry kids.
You can make it clear on the invites what food - if any - you'll be providing. Just providing some snacks will be fine. (Younger kids tend to be more interested in party games than food, anyway).
Putting up the decorations
There's no need to go overboard with decorations (kids tend to hardly notice them anyway!). Some balloons and a few streamers are all you need to give a bit of birthday glitz to your home or the hall you've hired.
Choosing the date
Of course you can try and hold the party on the birthday itself, but most people tend to opt for the nearest weekend to the actual date.
However, if your child has a friend with a birthday in the same month, why not hold a joint party? That way, you can split the costs with the other family - and you'll have at least one extra pair of hands to help organise it and clean up afterwards!
Make the most of unwanted gifts
If your child receives gifts that they'll never use (or already have), you can often sell them online for a bit of quick cash. From books to CDs to clothes, our article on things you can recycle for cash has plenty of good sites where you can sell all manner of things and earn a bit on the side.
Have you got any tips on how to organise a memorable birthday party on a budget? If so let us know in the comments below!