23 budget-friendly kids’ birthday party ideas

It’s almost time for your child’s birthday party, and you want to make sure it’s a celebration they’ll always remember. But where do you start? And how can you plan an affordable and fun party? 

Keep reading to see some ideas for kids’ birthday parties that can help you stay within your budget.

Key takeaways

  • It’s possible to plan a memorable birthday party for your child within your budget.
  • You can pick a theme and birthday party activities for kids that have to do with something your child loves—and includes items you already have.
  • Consider hosting the party at your house, an outdoor spot nearby, or a local church or community center to save money.
  • When it comes to the invitations, food, drinks and decorations, you can make items for the party, purchase discounted or secondhand supplies, look for free options and beyond. 

Creative kids’ birthday party themes and activities

Five kids are dressed up as superheroes at a party outside.

Before you start party planning, it might be helpful to pick a theme—and then choose the fun activities from there. Think about what your child is interested in. Do they have a favorite movie or TV show? Or is there a toy, hobby or color they love? Picking a theme that’s familiar can help save costs because you may already have plenty of items in your house to decorate with or use for activities. 

1. Dress-up theme

Whether it’s superheroes or magical characters from a movie or TV show, dressing up can make for a budget-friendly themed birthday party. You could use supplies you already own, buy secondhand items or ask the party goers to come dressed as their favorite character.

2. Camping theme

If you’re looking for outdoor kid birthday party ideas, a camping theme could be a way to have even s’more fun. You can set up a tent you own, serve hot dogs, roast s’mores and play games like charades—or flashlight tag if your party is at night.

3. Slumber party

A birthday celebration doesn’t have to mean a huge bash. For older kids, a sleepover party with a few friends might be perfect. Pizzas, plenty of snacks, a cake and some movies are all you may need. And you could find movies on any streaming channels you already have or look for options at your local library.

4. Scavenger hunt

If you’re looking for kids’ birthday activities, a scavenger hunt can be a fun and budget-friendly option to keep your kid and their friends entertained for a while. And you can tailor it to your party’s theme. For a zoo-themed party, hide pictures of different animals around the party space for the kids to find.

5. Free or low-cost games and activities

Kids’ birthday entertainment doesn’t have to cost a lot—or anything. Guests can still have fun with free birthday party games like musical chairs and charades, or low-cost activities like a tea party or an obstacle course. 

Cost-effective venue ideas

A table and streamers are set up for a backyard birthday party.

One of the first steps to planning your child’s special day is to decide where to have it. And while the costs for some venues can add up with rental fees, food and drinks, there are some options to stay within your budget.

6. Backyard birthday party

You don’t have to worry about any venue rental fees if you have a party at your own home—or at the home of a family member or friend if that’s an option. You may also avoid having to order food and drinks from a venue since some places require that. And you won’t have to transport any party supplies to and from your home. You can turn the backyard into a fun zone with games like mini golf or ring toss.

7. Park or beach jamboree

If you live near a fun outdoor spot, like a park or beach, you could save money by choosing one of these options as a venue. Parks or beaches often have an area for gathering that you can reserve, and it’s typically free or at a cost-effective price to rent. As a bonus, the park or beach provides entertainment for kids of all ages. And if you’re worried about bad weather, consider coming up with a backup plan.

8. Church or community center celebration

If you’re looking for winter birthday party ideas for kids, you might consider a local church or community center to stay indoors. These venues are typically free or ask for a donation, refundable deposit or nominal fee to rent the space. And many have tables, chairs and a kitchen to prepare food for the party.

9. Restaurant gathering

Your kid’s favorite restaurant may have a party room that could be the perfect place to ring in their birthday. You can make the meal the main event and keep it within your budget by ordering some pizzas or appetizers for everyone to share, for example. Restaurants often have a minimum food cost or rental fee, so keep that in mind.

Inexpensive invitation ideas

A parent and child create DIY invitations for a birthday party.

Once you’ve decided on your venue and a possible theme, it’s time to spread the word about your celebration. Depending on how you choose to do that, the cost of invitations might be included in your expenses.

10. DIY invitations

One of the most personable—and budget-friendly—options is do-it-yourself (DIY) invitations. Look for materials you may have around the house or buy inexpensive ones at the store. And your kiddo may love helping to design and make them.

11. Digital invitations

Whether they’re sent by email, text or social media, digital invitations are typically a free option to invite guests to your child’s birthday party. Digital invitations can range from a casual message with all the party details to creating your own invitations on the computer. There are plenty of ideas to browse online.

12. Printable invitations

Another option is to find a digital style you like and print it out to mail or hand-deliver to invitees. You can either design it yourself or find a downloadable template that can be personalized. Templates may be free or at an affordable cost. Then just print away and share the party details.

Budget-friendly food and drink options

Party food and decorations are displayed on a table.

You’ve decided whom to invite and where and when the party will take place. Now it’s time to think about what you’ll be serving your guests. Party food and drinks can add up, but there are some cost-cutting measures you can take to stay within your budget.

13. Buy in bulk

If you buy food, drinks and related supplies needed for the party in bulk, you could end up saving in the long run. Consider purchasing items at membership warehouse clubs or looking for things you have coupons for or items that have a buy one, get one free deal. And if you get things you regularly purchase for your family, you can keep anything that’s not consumed or taken.

14. Make and prepare the food and drinks

You can usually save money by preparing and making the food and drinks yourself. If you want to involve the whole household, you could try family-friendly recipes. If you’ll be making the birthday cake, consider an anything-but-average cake. And if you’re looking for unique dessert ideas, there are some indulgent ones or twists on ice cream that can impress your guests.

15. Limit the options

It might be tempting to want to do it all or try to accommodate everyone at your child’s party, but that’s not always cost effective. Consider limiting your food and drink options to just a few choices. For example, don’t buy individual juices or sodas. Instead, you could have a couple of drink dispensers or large containers with water and lemonade. 

16. Don’t serve a meal

Similar to limiting the options, not serving a meal can help save money on food and drinks. To help with this, have the party at a time when no one will expect a meal, like 2 p.m. And you may want to include a message in your invitation saying something like “Join us for cake and punch” to set expectations.

Lower-priced decorations and party favor ideas

A family makes paper rings and confetti for a birthday party.

You’ve planned the main details. Now it’s time to consider party decorations and party favors. How big you want to go with these party supplies can affect your budget. 

17. Make your own confetti

Whether you want to toss it in the air, fill up a piñata or add some color to your table, confetti can be a fun addition to your party decorations. And you can use items around your house—like tissue paper, greeting cards, wrapping paper or ribbon—to make it. Then you could cut the items into strips, shred them or punch holes in them.  

18. Purchase solid-color items

When you’re purchasing decorations or favors, it can be cheaper to seek out solid-color items instead of a particular design or theme—like cups with your child’s favorite TV show characters on them. You could choose just one or two things with those characters, like a banner or a tablecloth, and then look for items with solid colors that complement it. 

19. Create a photo booth

For an easy favor—and fun activity—you can feature a photo booth at the party. Start by creating or purchasing a backdrop. Then make, buy or use items from your house for the props. You could decorate fun signs and have a basket of cool sunglasses, silly hats, feather boas and more. 

20. Feature make-and-take favors

If you don’t want to have the traditional goodie bags, you could have guests make a budget-friendly craft and have that be their favor. They could put together frames, decorate cupcakes or color a tote bag. And you might even be able to find a craft that goes with your party’s theme.

Other ways to save on a kids’ birthday party

Looking for even more ideas to have a budget-friendly birthday party? Here are others to consider:

21. Keep the party guest list to a minimum

Costs can add up in every area of your budget when you start pricing them out by person, so consider limiting the number of party guests. You might base the number of guests on your child’s age—like four guests for your 4-year-old—or keep it under 10 guests. 

22. Ask for and accept help

If you have friends and family who are willing to make the cake or bring an appetizer, consider taking them up on their offer. It can mean one less thing you have to purchase. You could also ask people you know for help. For example, if you’re having a firefighter-themed birthday party and know a local firefighter, consider asking them to stop by with their fire truck.  

23. Consider another way to celebrate

If you decide the party planning is too much, you might want to think about celebrating your child’s birthday in another special way, especially if they’re too young to remember it. You could go to a local museum or a nearby zoo or take a budget-friendly vacation—and have your kiddo invite a friend or two.

Kids’ birthday party ideas in a nutshell

Planning your child’s birthday party doesn’t have to break the bank. There are plenty of ways you can stay within your budget when it comes to the party’s theme, activities, venue, invitations, food, drinks, decorations, favors and more. 

As you’re buying the party supplies, you could also consider using a rewards card like the Capital One SavorOne Rewards card to earn rewards with eligible purchases. And you may want to learn about other financial planning tips for parents, even after the party.

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