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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Frugal Friday: Birthdays on a Budget

Emma will be turning 5 in a couple of weeks, and we'll be having our family over for a party to celebrate. She's chosen a Candy Land theme for her party, and my goal is to make it fun, memorable, and affordable. I plan to share the details of my savings as plans progress, but I wanted to share some of my thoughts on ways to make things fun and frugal. Here's what we try to do.

Limit what we spend on throw-away-ables.
While there are some fun things that we could use to decorate and add to the festive environment, many of these items are only good for one-time use. Then they're thrown away. That screams of waste to me. We're going to be trying to decorate with things that can serve more than one purpose. For example, some of our decorations will be edible. A Candy Land theme just lends itself to that. A small bucket or other container with different candies sticking up from it should make a cute centerpiece. Smaller versions of this can be placed on other tables in the house too. These can be eaten during the party or given away to some lucky guest.

Keep the food simple.
We always have family coming from several hours away. That means that we need to feed them something that's somewhat substantial. I don't want them having to drive through on the way home because we did a cake and chips party. If everyone is local, that's one thing. But our dedicated families travel quite a distance to celebrate with our little lady!

Food-wise, my goal is to make a filling yet frugal meal. For Emma's first birthday, I served two different kinds of soup, breads, crackers, cheese, and some other finger foods. I did shredded BBQ pork sandwiches last year. The years between are kind of a blur now... I can't remember what we had! I'm considering going with the soup theme again this year. That went over well, and I have a new recipe for Crock Pot Black Bean Soup that is really yummy!

Make the cake... sort of.
I'm not the ultimate cake decorator, but I have fun with Emma's cakes. I've done all of them except the one for her 1st birthday. I have a killer chocolate cake recipe that I use, and I buy icing from a local grocery store's bakery. (I stink at making icing.) I've made a Sesame Street cake using plastic characters (new) that Emma played with afterwards, a Backyardigans cake using coated cardboard finger puppets and an icing image (both eBay purchases), and a cake that looked like a pair of blue jeans (similar to the one HERE). Making a Candy Land cake should be fun this year!

Buy themed paper goods from Amazon.
If you're a Swagbucks fan like I am, then check Amazon for your paper goods. Sure, Chinet I scored for $.50 is good, but character plates are really fun! I've saved up my Swagbucks for some Candy Land plates, cups, napkins, and - of course! - party hats. It's a fun way to splurge without spending a dime!

Know when to splurge.
While I try to do food, cake, decorations, and paper goods on the cheap, I do know when to splurge. For example, last year we just knew that Emma would be ga-ga over the giant Pablo (Backyardigans) balloon we found at a local store. Since we had used rewards points from our debit card to pay for just about every part of her party and her gifts, we decided that we'd splurge a little for the giant balloon. And we were GLAD we did! It was a hit! I try not to be so frugal that I don't allow myself to buy some truly fun things for birthdays.

Do you have any other advice for me? I've got a few weeks to plan a party and not go over budget!

For more great frugal ideas, stop by Frugal Friday hosted by Life As Mom.


Laurie Anne said...

Great ideas. I'm also a big believer in keeping things simple. It also allows the simple splurges to really shine :0)

The Prudent Homemaker said...

Too bad you didn't know you could have cut out these Backyardigans puppets at home for the cost of ink and cardstock:

My son is turning 5 in a couple of weeks as well!

For birthdays at our house, we have a family party: invited are both sets of grandparents and one great-grandmother who lives in town.

We eat on real plates with cloth napkins (just like any other meal) although both grandmothers always ask why we couldn't use paper plates/ don't we have any paper plates?

On a blog the other day I read a great Candy Land idea. They made a Candy Cand game for the house with colored construction paper pieces on the floor. They used the candy land cards to take turns playing the game as the game pieces! It sounded like lots of fun!

Jen said...

Awesome advice - my daughter's first bday is coming up quickly (she's only 7 months but time flies)! I can imagine we'll want to go over board, but after a year's maternity leave... not likely!

Dropped over from MBC's Jennifer's Group...

Jen :)

Jennifer said...

Laurie Anne - I think you summed up my thought on the splurges! I don't do many, and paying nothing or next-to-nothing for everything else makes the splurges more fun and quite budget-friendly.

Brandy - The finger puppets are very similar to what I ordered, but the ones I got were coated. I was a little hesitant to make my own, as they were stuck down into the cake icing. I didn't know if the printer ink would leech into the icing or not. Have you tried anything like that? I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the Candy Land human game idea! :)

Jen - It's nice to have another Blogging Jennifer visit! I had to smile when I saw that MBC group. I've noticed that there are a LOT of us out here! Thanks for stopping by.

As for the first birthday, I was SO tempted to go overboard! Then I realized that she would never remember it. That helped me remember that everything we were doing party-wise was for us and our guests. Now that she's older, she's so easy to please. That makes it easy for us to have fun on a budget.

Greg and Donna said...

My daughter had a Candy party when she turned 6 or 7 and we had a blast. I made cupcakes and let everyone decorate their own...icing, sprinkles, etc. Even the adults loved this. Also, we did a giant Candy Land board that twisted through the living room, sun room, hall, etc. (I used colored construction paper cut in half). The kids were the "candy land" pawns and moved around the the end everyone got a little bag of candy. Craft idea...take a small plastic ice cream cup and glue a styrofoam ball in the top (top of ball should mound up over the top of the cup) next use straight pins and pin wrapped candy all over--they sell these in florists and cost tons. We bought candy & gum at the $1 store and the kids loved it. You can fill in holes with the curly ribbon. If the only child guest is your child...then thats a perfect opportunity for grandmas and grandpas to play the Candy Land board Game. Have fun! This is a fun party theme!

debra said...

My daughter's birthday is this weekend so I am into birthday mode right now. Thanks for the ideas. One thing I do, if you can't get your paper goods for free is to buy one set of plates and one set of napkins in the 'theme' (this year it's Barbie) and the rest in a solid, coordinating color (Walmart is great for the solids). It's still $$ spent but much less.

I also serve koolaid I make instead of juice boxes or sodas. Kids will have a sip and then 'lose' their drink and then open another box and it drives me crazy!!

Thanks again for the tips!