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You'll need a location, food, and entertainment. Use these tips to get creative throwing your kid's next party.

4 minute read

It is summer, and what comes to mind during summer? Why, kids birthday parties of course. For some reason, it seems there is an influx of birthday parties between May and August, and YOUR kid is invited to every one of them. (Well maybe not every one of them, because when they aren’t invited that’s a whole other can of worms to deal with.)

And not only that, it is likely you will be one of the people hosting a birthday party for your child either this summer, or sometime this year. Birthday parties are no longer just a single icy cooler of sugary juice boxes and beers and some homemade cupcakes. It’s bounce houses, face painters, expensive multi-tiered fondant covered cakes and balloon arches. It’s renting out entire play spaces with all of those things to make sure every kid is occupied at all times. These things don’t come cheap, by the way. Having a child’s birthday party can easily run you $500 on the cheap end and thousands on the pricey end if you decide to give your little prince or princess the royal treatment. But is it really necessary?

Below I’ll go through some of the major cost factors in throwing a child’s birthday party, and some tips how to save in each area if you want to have some money left over to send your kids to college someday.


Unfortunately for winter babies in the North, having an indoor party is a necessity when there is 12 inches of snow on the ground. Those in the suburbs can often have parties at their homes which saves on location, but adds to clean up on the back end. It depends on how much you are willing to spend to avoid that clean up to whether a party at another location is worth it.

For summer babies, and basically kids born in every other season where it doesn’t reach 32 degrees, you can opt to have a party outdoors and save some cash. A backyard, whether yours or someone else’s, can be a great option, and there’s always nearby parks and playgrounds.

If you have to do it at a play space, limit the amount of children you are inviting or better yet, try combining your child’s birthday party with a friend. Creating a double birthday lessens the cost for the parents of both children.

We did this with our son for his third birthday and the cost went from $700 on our own, not including food and drinks, to around $375 including all the goodie bags. Of course this still wasn’t cheap, but it was significantly less than what it could have been. (To put it out there, I also had considered just using an empty apartment in our building and hiring a local kids musician as entertainment. That idea was nixed when they started renovating, but I was open to the option just to save!)


Think about the kind of party you want to have. Do you just want light snacks or will there be a meal? For most children’s parties, lunch is included, but it can get pricey when you are feeding parents and siblings. It’s best to be cost-effective here.

Stop by Costco or even Walmart for the BIG bags of chips and snack foods. Get large quantities of juice boxes, water, and beverages for the adults. These can always be saved if you don’t use it all in one go.

Then think about the main meal. I’ve seen people rent food trucks and such at parties, which can get to be costly. But most cost-conscious parents go with pizza and salad. A slice or two for the kids and a slice and some salad for parents. Just make sure to do your pizza math before ordering because you do not want to end up short. Subs and deli sandwiches are also an option, but don’t last as long when not refrigerated.

The Extras

You have a venue and the food, but now what? How do you entertain a large group of kids for 2 hours? Thankfully there are plenty of options.

First, if you are at a play space, be OK with the idea that it is enough. You’ve spent the money to be there, take a breath and let the space work its magic. You don’t need clowns or magicians or characters creating more stuff to do, a play space offers enough fun and excitement for the kids to interact with each other and do what they are supposed to do there: play. With breaks for food and cake, the two hours will pass by quickly.

If you are outdoors, you still don’t have to get too fancy. Kids appreciate decorations, but they won’t be disappointed if you just stock up on stuff from the Dollar Store either. For these kinds of parties, you can look into a bounce house if you have the room (make sure to also have permits if necessary if you are going to be at a park). Depending on where you live, a bounce house can be pretty cost effective and fun for children of all ages. Prices started at $75 for the afternoon. When we had a bounce house, even adults took turns jumping because they couldn’t resist.

But you don’t need a bounce house if you have the time and want to get creative. You could create art projects, cupcake decorating stations, scavenger hunts, water balloon tosses and more with an outdoor party. Pinterest is ripe with ideas, as is a generic internet search for kids summer party ideas.

The one other thing to think about is what your child wants at the party. Do they want a face painter, or Elsa from “Frozen?” If they do, take the time to price it out and again, don’t feel the need to go overboard. Get the face painter if you want to, but you don’t need 10 vendors to make a kids party fun. Kids can find their own entertainment, just provide some fun toys and a little guidance.

A party should be fun, it shouldn’t cause stress and aggravation. Keep that in mind when planning your next get together, whether it’s just for the kids or for big kids as well.

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About the Author

Jessica Patel

Jessica Patel

Jessica Patel is an award-winning editor and writer living in Los Angeles. She previously served as deputy editorial director of T Brand Studio at The New York Times and as Senior Editor and Analyst of

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