My son turned one on the 26th and we threw him a big-ol-bash on the 29th. When I say big, I mean big…like 44 people & kids, big. It was a ton of fun!
Excuse me for one moment while I get on my soap box for a minute…
Ok, now that I'm off my soap box, here are a few fun/cheap/free ideas for throwing a party, using my son's birthday as an example:
- Pick a theme. I love themed parties. I think it makes it easier to decorate, makes for fun conversation, and is many times more memorable. Anyone who knows me knows I LOVE OPRAH. I finally fulfilled my dream and made it to her show in October and again in November. My theme for this party was: Hutch's Favorite Things (Hutch is my son's nickname).
- Make a logo. I am not very crafty, I am not very creative, and I am not very savvy with graphic design. However, I made my own “party logo” rather than buying one off of Etsy.com which saved a lot! I mimicked Oprah's Favorite Things logo and simply created my own using Gimp, the free version of Photo Shop. (See HERE) I used this “logo” for cupcake toppers, the invitations, etc.
- Make your own invitations. There is one exception to this: if you have a great deal on FREE prints or invitations from a site, certainly take advantage. Otherwise, print them yourself. Here's what I mean by this:
- There are many sites like tinyprints.com or even Costco, Snapfish, and Shutterfly where you can design and print cute invitations. Costco, for example, charges $14.99 for 50 6×7.5″ greeting cards. That's about $0.30 ea. Snapfish charges $.29 or more + shipping. If you design your own invitation using Gimp or Photoshop, you can print it out just like a photo print for a fraction of the cost! At Costco 4×6 prints are only $0.13 each, and only $0.9 at Snapfish! 5×7 are more, but you can often find coupons or deals. ***At Costco you get 50 free prints when you buy any of their pictureframes. (The coupon can be seen from the frame window typically.)
I designed this invitation using Gimp, and printed it at Costco:
- Take advantage of the internet! I Googled “free digital scrapbooking paper” and downloaded a bunch of cute paper and embellishments for free for my invitations. I saved them to my external hardrive so it wouldn't take up all my computer memory. I used Youtube to learn how to use Gimp, I Googled “how to make cupcake toppers” and “how to make tissue paper pompoms” to learn how to do those things. All free, all easy!
- Print things yourself. You can order cupcake toppers, banners, signs, etc. from sites like etsy.com but they cost much more than if you were to print them yourself. Yes, ink is expensive. But remember, you can refill ink at Costco for $7-$8 for an entire cartridge! It will last you far beyond your party decorations, saving you tons. ***This month Costco has a $2 off ink refill coupon in their coupon book. If you didn't get one in the mail, simply ask the membership desk for one!
- Get crafty and make things yourself. This one was hard for me, because (once again), I'm not crafty nor creative. So if I can do it, you can do it! After Googling how to do things, I got to work. Start as many projects as far in advance as possible. Trust me. Here are a few things I made myself:
- Use what you have around the house. I had a ton of DumDum suckers leftover from Halloween. I thought about throwing them out, but decided to make a sucker centerpiece instead! I bought a foam square from the Dollar Store, covered it in tissue I already had, and stuck DumDums in. Guess what? I have no more DumDums left. Ta-da!
- Make your own food, and keep it cheap. People like food, regardless of what it is. You want to know a secret? No one will remember the food you serve at a party, trust me. Keep it good, but no need to go crazy and expensive! Here's what we did:
- As with food, it's the same with parting gifts: keep them cute and cheap. I made a big batch of my MIL's famous caramel popcorn, put them in cute cellophane bags, and left them in cute bowls on a table by the front door for everyone to take one when they go (didn't take a pic! Boo).
- Return things. I always kept receipts for things and returned little things here and there: I found goodie bags and plates cheaper so I returned the ones I bought originally. I bought too many packages of cupcake wrapper things, so I returned some. As you are out running other errands simply return things! The few dollars here and there really ad up.
- Make a budget and stick with it! I decided to pull my budget out in cash. That way I could literally see how much I had left. If I got low, I simply returned a few things and got more cash. STICK with your budget, it's far too easy to go over!
- Stay organized and ask for RSVP's. It is not cheesy or rude to follow up with people for RSVP's. It's important to know how much food to budget for! I put a deadline on my invite. A few days after the deadline I emailed the remaining people to ask if they could come. All in all, I had only a few people who never RSVP'd and it gave me a much better idea of the amount of food I needed to have. Stay organized!!! Keep a notebook or folder with you at all times. Hold on to all receipts, lists, ads, coupons, and make multiple to-do lists: 1 week prior to the party, the day before, the day of, and after the party. Keep detailed lists of the gifts people give you so you can write good, meaningful thank you notes for gifts and for help with the party.
- Accept help and ask for help. My good friend asked if I needed help making Hutch's little cake, and I said yes. She offered to do it for me, and look at how adorable it turned out!!! It was the highlight of the party. And guess what? I didn't have to worry about making it myself!
- Borrow things.I borrowed this awesome water jug from our friends so I didn't have to go buy one. How cool is this, by the way?? I love it. Eventually I may need to get this. I'll ask for it for Christmas or something 🙂
- Buy inexpensive gifts. Our gift to Hutch was a HUGE haul from the D.I (a local thrift store). Remember THIS post? and THIS one? I'm a big fan. It was amazing, I got two HUGE boxes of stuff for around $20! It was way more than he could ever need so we're keeping 1/2 of it boxed in the garage for his next birthday or Christmas. He'll never know the difference, right??
*some of the items shown were gifts from other people, NOT from D.I….but most of them were the gifts I got him from D.I. Pretty cool, eh?
- Be slow to throw things out.Did you know you can save and reuse pompoms? I didn't know that until this party. I thought to myself, “these are sure cute, too bad I have to throw them out…” NOT! Just flatten them out, store in a sturdy shopping or gift bag, and save them for the next party. Easy enough, and saves you money in the long run!
- Same with food. We have tons of Marinara sauce leftover. Rather than throwing it out freeze it! If you have leftover food and you're sick of eating the same thing, get creative and use it in different recipes. We had tons of cupcakes leftover so we gave them to friends and to the kids we teach in Sunday School. The gumballs we had at the party were leftover from a baby shower I helped throw months before. They are still good and I didn't want to just throw them out. Reuse, reuse, reuse!
- Same with decorations. I took all the signs I printed and put them in my “scrap paper” file for Hutch to draw on, for me to scribble notes on, use as a table protector when painting, etc. Reuse, reuse, reuse! We saved all the tissue paper and gift bags from his gifts and will re-gift them. If they aren't in the best of shape I use them for delivering food to people or just as a little shopping bag to carry with me in the car when running errands. We even saved the clip weights that came with the balloons I bought and now use them as chip bag clips! There are millions of uses for things, just get creative!