The Story of Two “At Home” Birthday Parties on a Budget

Does anyone know what happens to the sanity of a parent when two of their three children were born 1 year and 2 days apart, in the month of November, whose birthdays are during the week of Thanksgiving (or sometimes fall right on Thanksgiving), whose birthdays are just 5 short weeks away from Christmas??? The budget screams, the calendar fusses, and anxiety takes over….

We decided to attempt budget friendly birthdays this year, which meant having the parties at home. Most places that you reserve for a birthday party can get quite expensive for one child let alone two. In the past, we’ve combined the kids’ parties and invited a combined list of mutual family and friends to a party location, which worked out well because everything remained relatively small. With Christian in Kindergarten this year, he had a definitive list of his own friends that he wanted to invite to his party, and Alex already has her own friend base too, soooooo, what to do, what to do?

What kind of party could we have at home? What do kids like and what will keep them busy? What is weather appropriate? I was considering having someone come to the house and perform for the kids (magic tricks, balloon lady, clowns) – they are still kinda $$$. Thought about a bouncy house but am never sure about the wishy washy November weather, plus – $$. Then, an epiphany – CRAFTS!!!!! If you order from Oriental Trading Co. – $ (great for the budget)!

Next, have the kids pick a theme. Alex chose pumpkins and Christian chose lions! This was the first year that they didn’t choose a commercialized character birthday, which not only surprised me, but also made my budget happier! General themes are typically less expensive than the licensed characters because you aren’t paying for a name/image.

We realized that the guest list would have to be short, sweet, and to the point, which may end up offending certain people if they expected to be invited but weren’t….. but I’m guessing that most friends will realize that now’s the time to pinch pennies and that all parents are trying to do the best they can with the resources they have. I printed up my own invitations on the computer with colorful copy paper ($4.00 at Target). I didn’t calculate the cost of ink because I wasn’t sure how to do that? But it shouldn’t really add too much to the cost of the invites.


Alex’s Pumpkin Party Invites


Christian’s Lion Party Invites

After searching through Oriental Trading Co.’s online store, I selected three crafts for each birthday party (based on theme) and asked the kids if the crafts looked like fun. Once they were kid approved, I placed the order – wanted to make sure they arrived in plenty of time so that samples could be tested in case other supplies were needed.


FYI – in most cases, extra supplies ARE needed! This was not a surprise in the least. The ceramic zoo animals and pumpkins would require acrylic paint, paintbrushes, cups of water, the fuzzy posters needed markers, and the foam photo frames needed glue. A lot of times, these supplies can be scrounged up around the house, but if not, add those to the budget!


Fortunately, I lucked out with the decorations too! Both Alex and Christian’s birthday party themes could utilize the same color scheme! I bought 1 package each of yellow, green, and orange balloons at Wal-Mart ($1.00 per 12 balloons in a package) along with 1 roll each of yellow, green, and orange crepe paper ($1.25 each). Then took the balloons to Party City to have them filled with helium. They provided the helium, strings for balloons, and plastic clips to keep the balloons from getting completely wayward. The only thing they charged extra for was the x-large plastic bags that help to further tame the balloons. Added a banner for Christian and a different banner for Alex. Throw a couple of colorful ($1.50) tablecloths on the tables and you’re good to go!


You’ll notice that I swapped out the tablecloths! This is a good idea after you’ve had a dozen 5-year olds crafting and eating cake at the first party. Swapped out the banners as well – couldn’t find a pumpkin banner, so used a store bought “Happy Birthday” and then used stencils and pumpkin cut outs to make “Alexandria”!


I made the kids wear “paint shirts” which were old t-shirts that we gathered up from around the house. This will ensure that children don’t get permanent acrylics on their own clothes!!! After the ceramics were painted and dried, my husband sprayed them all with a clear coat of acrylic to protect the paint.


Alex’s ceramic pumpkin


Scratch ornaments were easy and didn’t require any other supplies – the kits came with the wooden pencils. Plus, each child got to scratch on two ornaments!


Scratchy Lion


Alex’s Scratchy Pumpkin


These fuzzy photo frames were perfect for the Kindergarteners, and they came with self-stick magnets to put on the backs!


In lieu of fuzzy posters, we went with a little bit more difficult “follow the steps” craft project for the first graders – scarecrow photo frames. We built ours on card stock paper because otherwise, they were very flimsy….. The wonderful thing about a craft party is that the kids can take the crafts home as party favors! We only purchased a few other small items (themed lollipops, stickers, and tattoos) to put in the treat bags along with the crafts.


Where did I splurge??? On the cakes!!! I attempted some homemade lion and pumpkin cupcakes that were cute, though not professionally so….. and they were a lot of work. After trying out a few, in advance, I decided that a good portion of my budget was going to towards the cakes!


Did you know that it’s extremely difficult to find a pumpkin themed cake? It is…. Found one though!


I felt as though the parties were a HUGE success!!!! I want to send out a warm, fuzzy THANK YOU to my family and friends that helped on the day of the parties: Mom, Sara, and Brandi – love you ladies!!!!! Couldn’t have done it without you!!! Which leads me to the photo credits, I missed being behind the camera on Saturday, but was happy that Sara Good took all of these fun photos for our family!


And, this was The Story of Two “At Home” Birthday Parties on a budget! After all was said and done, after the budget was tallied, 2 parties planned for a total of 24 guests, which included a total of 6 crafts (plus one extra craft for the girls who slept over for Alex’s party), treat bags, utilizing minimal but effective decorations, and splurging on 2 professionally decorated cakes(with plenty of cake for the adults and plenty of cake left over), cost us just under $200.00.
Now, let’s see what we can do with Christmas this year…..


About cjbolinger

I am a stay-at-home mother of three children (Ben, Alex, and Christian), a wife who is head-over-heels in love with her husband of 13 years (Gregg), a hobbyist photographer, and a lover of everything crafty! Follow my attempts at domesticity as I cook, clean, and craft for my family...
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