I promised you weeks ago in my mega entertaining post that I would post about Hutch's 4th bday party. Sorry I made you wait so long but trust me, it will be worth! Why? Let me count the ways…
This party was the mecca of all kids parties. It was cheap, it was easy, it was fun, there was virtually no prep or clean-up, and we were able to invite as many kids as we wanted (no hurt feelings or extra cost! woo hoo!), and lots of parents were able to come and hang out too, which made for a fun adult party at the same time! Oh, and I had to plan it start to finish in 6 days because his birthday was the week after Frugality Boot Camp and I couldn't spare one brain cell thinking about it until FBC was over. #MomBrain. Here's how we pulled it off…
In my opinion $100 is MORE than enough for a birthday, for pretty much any age. That budget can be hard if you are paying for a venue, party details, and gifts. So the system we use is that the kids choose: choose a party, or choose a gift.
If they choose party, the money goes toward the party – paid-for location, lots of friends, take-home gifts, decorations, amazing cake, etc. The local aquarium is $150 just to host a party there, so I know it can get expensive. Use $100 as a guide and try your hardest to stick within that!
If they choose a gift, the money goes toward their one gift of choice, and we do a small family party at home with a homemade dinner of their choice, home-made cake, a pack of balloons we blow up by mouth, maybe a few small friends over.
My kids are too young to really care or choose so I choose for them, and we trade off – big party one year, small party the next. This is a good system to help you balance out that budget – maybe you need more than $100 for a cool location, so the next year try to keep it under $50 to balance it out.
Whatever you choose to spend, it comes from your regular weekly budget. If you need $100 for the party, you better plan your grocery shopping ahead a week because it looks like your grocery budget will need to go toward party stuff! If you plan your meals for 2 weeks then 1 shopping trip should be more than plenty to tide you over, so you can use the next week's grocery budget for party stuff. Read all about that HERE.
I don't buy my kids birthday gifts because their grandparents and friends do, and my kids don't need 1,000 toys on their birthday (or any day, for that matter). Plus, they are young (my oldest is 4) so I can totally get away with it for now…so I'm going to enjoy it!
If I do give them gifts, it's usually something I found throughout the year on clearance that I bought with my “other” budget and stored in my gift closet (yes I have a gift closet) for such an occasion.
We didn't do any take-home gifts. I put the money into the location and food instead. Honestly, the kids never really care about take-home gifts anyway! I think it's us parents trying to impress other parents. While there is nothing wrong with that, you'll see me take the easy road on this one!
Last year was an inexpensive party at home with a few friends. I spent like, $15 total. It took a little more planning and labor because I did everything myself.
This year I chose to pay more and enjoy conveniences, because time wouldn't allow me to throw off anything extravagant (I had only 5 days at this point to pull it all off!). I tried to think of a location that was indoor (it's freezing in Utah), that would allow for tons of kids (I didn't want the headache of thinking strategically through the guest list, feelings always seem to get hurt!), that Hutch would adore. I remembered the UPA Cheerleading gym where Hutch took gymnastics last year, called and asked if we could rent it out for a birthday party, and BAM! AMAZING birthday location!
She said for $100 I could have it for 2 hours, could bring my own food, and could invite as many friends as I wanted. SOLD.
Again, last year I took several hours making and hand-sending adorable invitations. This year I sent out a text invitation out…and it was great! It read:Hutch is turning 4! Join us for a (last minute, sorry) bday party for him this Saturday (the 25th) from 10-12 at the UPA Cheerleading gym (gave address). Have your kids wear comfy clothes because they have free reign of the gym! Feel free to drop them off or stay and hang with the moms. Siblings are welcome. Please RSVP so we can plan on food. See you there!
I've decided I totally prefer text invites! Call me crazy, but I got immediate RSVP's and it was really easy to communicate with the group. Oh yeah, and it was free. It was awesome.
However you do the invitations, my best two tips are: 1) require an RSVP (text rsvp's are the most successful in my opinion) so you can plan accordingly, and 2) send out a reminder email/call/text the day before reminding people about the party.
Aaaah…food. This can really make or break your party budget in my opinion! Read this “feeding a crowd on the cheap” post to help you figure out what time of day is best for your budget. If you have a party that covers 12:00 in any way, you better feed people lunch. If it's at 3 in the afternoon, you can get away with just cake. Decide what you're willing to spend your money on and go from there.
We did it from 10-12 and could have gotten away with light snacks, but again, convenience won this year. I decided that I only wanted to serve 2 foods, and have leftovers to feed us for the rest of the weekend so I didn't have to cook. Enter my best discovery ever…
Walmart 6-foot sandwiches!
Did you know these babies even existed? THEY DO. And they are amazing. In fact, the secret is out, these are the sandwiches I serve at Frugality Boot Camp! They are THAT good.
You can get 6 feet (which is TWO of these trays), feeds 30 people, for only $32! That's crazy-good for store-bought, no-prep-needed food. You can also get 4 feet for $26, but for an extra $4 more you might as well get another TWO FEET of sandwich in my book. You can do any combination of roast beef, turkey, ham or salami. I chose to do the entire sandwich with beef/turkey/ham. Hey, the more meat the merrier in my book! We paid $2 extra to get upgraded, nice cheese on the whole thing, rather than those craft singles crappers. (pardon my french, I'm working on it…)
We had them give the cheese, condiments, and veggies on the side so people could build their own sandwiches (highly recommended).
The sandwiches were mostly for the adults (my kids don't like sandwiches) so we did hotdogs for the little tykes.
I price-matched them (see how HERE) that week for just $0.50 a pack, so I bought probably 10-15 packs, threw half in my freezer for the next party, and boiled half for a few minutes to warm them through then tossed them in a warm crockpot 30 seconds before walking out the door to the party.
I got the buns from Costco because they are cheap and awesome there (see what else you should buy from Costco HERE). We had ketchup as the hot dog topping.
I had tons of chips stored in my basement pantry from price-matching great deals a few shopping trips ago, so I busted out some of those babies.
My greatest party discovery of all time are these food trays from Costco. It's $5 for 250 of them and they are PERFECT for parties! Way cheaper than paper plates, and they hold the food in better! I have anxiety that they are going to stop selling them so I buy a pack every other time I go so I have an apocalyptic-frenzied-hoarder supply in my basement if anyone needs some.
No matter the size of party, if you are going to do a store-bought cake, Costco is hands-down cheaper than anywhere else (and tastes way better). At $17 for a cake that feeds 40 people, you can't go wrong. And it tastes SO GOOD! Even if you had party with 5 or 10 people, it will still probably be cheaper to buy the Costco cake and just give it away to neighbors. Cakes are expensive!
We chose a skateboard cake because Hutch is turning into the next Tony Hawk.
That's all I planned to do for the food! But in looking at my pantry I saw the world's largest bag of pretzels that we bought for FBC and forgot to open. It was only $3 or $4, but still – can't waste! We put some out…and I think the kids ate like, two. Better than none!
For drinks I bought a case of mini water bottles from Costco for $3.12. I left them in my garage so they were cold, no need for ice (kids don't care).
Um…none! Ok that's not true, I did buy one $0.98 pack of balloons and blow up a handful of them for the kids to play with.
…and they all popped so it was a waste of $0.98.
I used the table cloths from Hutch's 1st birthday. The hottie behind the table came with the kid.
Bouncing! Jumping! Running! Playing! It was the easiest party ever because I didn't have to DO anything! The kids just ran their hearts out for two hours and loved every second of it.
It really was a fun party. It was easy to do, fun to enjoy, and worth every penny for convenience this year (though you won't hear me say that very often!). I definitely recommend UPA Cheer as a birthday spot, by the way!
Even Hutch gave it the stamp of approval.
Happy Birthday, big boy!