How Much to Spend on a Birthday – Tips to Stay Within Your Budget

Budgeting, Party

Don't blow out your budget along with those candles! Birthdays are one of the easiest areas to overspend, so celebrate knowing you planned a birthday on a budget using these handy tips to save you money! Grab your party hat and let's go!

Birthday cake and balloons for a birthday on a budget, from Fun Cheap or Free

Have you ever watched episodes of shows like My Super Sweet 16 or Keeping Up with the Kardashians? Ever notice those LAVISH themed birthday party with luxurious gifts for someone? They are fascinating to watch, but they're pretty unrealistic (and possibly damaging) to our sense of what’s really necessary.

In many homes, there are WAY too many kids and WAY too many financial goals to blow the budget every time a birthday rolls around. That's why we've pooled together this ultimate party planning guide! Just imagine never again wondering if you need to reuse the candles to save some money.

*Note: When you click the links in this post, we may receive a commission at no extra cost to you.

So, prepare to plan birthdays like a BOSS—without eating your budget (like we want to eat that ice cream cake)!


Closeup of birthday party decorations, snacks, and party hats - from Fun Cheap or Free

Read that header again. The most important word in that phrase is the first – PLANNING. The real key to staying on budget with birthday spending? Create a plan in advance… and then stick to it! Read how to do this as part of your annual “Plan Out The Year in Advance” date night each January. 

You can do this, too! Just sit on down to plan out the year ahead. And as part of that, make note of all of the EXPECTED birthdays that you have coming up. Then, write them down in a list by month in a notebook or on a printed gift tracker by month. This allows you to be realistic about who you have to spend on in the upcoming year. Of course, you can’t plan for EVERY party your kids are invited to… but you'll get a good sense of the majority of your expenses.


This one's a doozy! It’s nearly impossible to know what works for every family and budget without asking yourself some follow up questions: 

  • What’s your current financial situation? – Do you have debt to pay off, job loss or instability, or other pressing financial concerns? If so, it's best to plan for a smaller birthday budget this year and let your family know in advance. 
  • What are your financial goals for the year? – If your goal is to take a fun family vacation this year, let your kids know that birthday and holiday budgets will be adjusted for that super fun trip to Disney or a cruise.  
  • What do my family members really need? – Let’s be real here. We really just don’t need as much as we think we do. So, throw out those feelings of guilt and entitlement that suggest what you “should” do to make birthdays feel special. 

Once you’ve had this internal dialogue, you'll be better prepared for birthdays knowing that they'll fit into your yearly goals. So, with that in mind…


Here’s an easy way to estimate your ANNUAL budget for birthday spending:

  1. Find the total amount that you spent on birthdays last year, including gifts and party costs. This should be pretty simple when you keep a monthly budget by category. 
  2. Honestly ask yourself whether that amount felt appropriate AND if you were able to reach your financial goals for the year. Also, look at your financial goals for the coming year.
  3. Based on your answers, set your annual birthday budget by adjusting down, staying the same, or adjusting up if necessary. 
  4. Group the people on your expected birthday tracker by category (spouse, kids, adult immediate family, kid family, friends, etc.).
  5. Split your annual budget into a total budget for each of those categories based on your own personal priorities and values. 
  6. Divide the category budget by the number of people you are planning to spend on in that group, and voila! That’s the target amount you have to spend on each person. For example, if you have $250 to spend on your adult immediate family this year and there are 12 people in that group, then $250/12 = $20. If you have $500 to spend on your kids this year and you have 5 kids, then $500/5 = $100.

Pro Tip: Skip the invitations and invite guests via text message! Just set the date and time, attach a cute image or gif, and hit send.


Kids blowing birthday party blowers into the camera, from Fun Cheap or Free

One tip to start using for holidays at your house? Focus on the same number of gifts for each child – regardless of budget. At Christmas, your kids get one gift from you and one gift from Santa. You can do this for birthdays, too! Encourage your kids to give you a wish list. Then make it clear that they will get X number of gifts total from you. This sets a solid boundary and helps you focus on giving the best gift within your target dollar range.

Here’s a simple age hack to set a budget for your children based on age. In general, $10 per year of age is a good rule of thumb! 

  • 0-4 years old- $50 or less
  • 5-10 years old – $50 – $100
  • 11-15 years old – $100 – $150
  • 16 – 18+ years old – $150 – $250

Once you have a guideline for how much you have to spend on each person that fits within your annual budget goal, write those amounts down on your gift tracker. Now you have a monthly amount planned to set aside for birthday expenses! Pretty great, hey?

Pro Tip: Remember that, oftentimes, gifts from you are not the ONLY ones others will likely receive. So, don’t feel guilty thinking that they need more.


We love to shop for a great deal, so this is the fun part! Now that you know how much to spend, make it your mission to find the most awesome. gift. ever within that range. Here are some ways to git'r'done: 

  • Buy in bulk – One idea that's been a hit is a pad of good drawing or art paper and some high-quality colored pencils. Build up a stash of both when school supplies are on sale. You can easily do this for under $10 per kid. 
  • Buy based on value instead of price – You'll find some great toys and gifts by shopping at the Target clearance section (and even the dollar store). There are often toys with a retail value of $20-30 that were on clearance for less than $10. These are great additions to your gift closet!
  • Give experiences instead of things – Give the gift of time and memories instead of more stuff. Look for great deals on Groupon for fun activities like pedicures, recreational activities, and restaurants.
  • DIY it – Homemade gifts are totally cool if you have the skills and you feel it will be appreciated. In fact, these are often the most treasured gifts. A word to the wise though: Don’t make a handmade quilt if you don’t already know how to sew. You WILL stress yourself out unnecessarily if you try to learn the skill while you are making the gift. 
  • Save on the extras – Don’t overspend on things like wrapping paper, cards, boxes, and gift bags! These are things that will probably be thrown out once the gift is opened. Instead, have your kids draw or print a card on plain paper and save and reuse boxes. Use gift bags that are in good condition. To wrap presents for any occasion, buy a huge roll of brown Kraft paper. Then the kids can draw pictures and write a handwritten note to the giftee on the outside. It's so special and fun!

Okay, so you have the extras nailed down. And as you see, they're really easy ways to save a little money, which is amazing. Because you still need to plan the party itself.


Girls with inflatables in a shallow pool, from Fun Cheap or Free birthday on a budget

If you’ve followed this site for ANY amount of time, then you know we're all about a great party. Still, when it comes to planning birthday parties for a spouse or for kids, it's best to keep things simple. Here are some guidelines to stay within your budget: 

  • Ask them what’s important to them!  – To keep everybody on the same page, go ahead and ask your kids (who are old enough) what's most important to them. Would they prefer their birthday budget to be spent on gifts or on having a bigger party with friends? Then spend your budget based on what they really want. 
  • Save friend parties for milestone birthdays – Throwing a friend party EVERY year for EVERY kid can be overkill. Instead, focus on milestone birthdays like 1, 5, 8, 12, and 16 for friend parties. You can decide for your own family which ages are milestones.
  • Throw a party on the cheap – Kids don’t need much. You can throw a great party with water balloons and a slip-n-slide, a stuffed animal tea party, or a party at the park with a pick-up game of baseball and some hot dogs. Keep it simple! 

Pro Tip: Keep a playlist of all KidBopz songs on shuffle on your phone and pair it with a wireless bluetooth speaker. They're modern songs by modern artists, but they're edited to be age-appropriate.


Think through crafts and activities for party guests. Pinterest has the cutest idea for homemade party activities for kids to take home. Gather supplies and prepare the party activity before the guests arrive. Some fun activities we've planned:

Lip Gloss Recipe – Amazon sells adorable little lip balm containers, and little condiment cups are so useful for mixing these small batches (look for them from the paper aisle at stores). Pre-measure and prepare all of the ingredients before the guests arrive. Give everyone a miniature whisk, plus different flavors of Kool-aid, and some coconut oil, and you're making lipgloss!

Cupcake Decorating – Another activity that's really easy and fun is cupcake decorating. It's like a dessert and activity all in one! Make an inexpensive store brand Funfetti mix in pretty wrappers. Then add a huge tray of sprinkles, fudge frosting, vanilla frosting, pre-filled icing tubes, and interchangeable icing tips. For less than $5 in supplies, you get the cake and a really fun activity out of it.

Pro Tip: Use wet erase marker to label the flavors on dishes (plastic, ceramic, or glass), and it comes right off in the dishwasher with water.

Staying on top of your family budget is all about intentionally choosing your priorities and then spending accordingly. If birthdays are a top priority at your house, that’s fine! Just make sure the amount you spend aligns with your values and goals and let that drive your decision making.

Cake and balloons with words "How to Plan a Birthday on a Budget" from Fun Cheap or Free

Need some more great gift ideas and special occasion spending?

Party on!


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