Five Ways to Throw a Kid’s Birthday Party on a Budget

If you’re looking to throw a kid’s birthday party on a budget, we’ve come up with five things you can do to save money but still have a great time and a party your child and all his or her friends will remember.

These days, more and more parents are embracing the trend of throwing crazy, over-the-top birthday parties for their children, even those who aren’t old enough to understand the concept. For some parents, the idea of a kid’s birthday party on a budget just doesn’t register.

Some parents rent out banquet halls. Other hire actors to portray their children’s favorite TV characters and take over their local kiddie gyms for hours at a time. Those with large enough backyards have been known to rent amusement park rides, cotton candy machines, and snow cone makers to rival the carnival experience. And let’s not forget the celebratory junior spa day, where kids as young as four or five will spend hours getting pampered with age-appropriate face masks, manicures, and mud baths.

Even if you actually have the desire to throw such an elaborate bash, you may quickly run into one major problem: money. Unless your only aim is to impress the other parents, these extravagant birthday affairs are never worth their exorbitant costs. You’ll end up spending  the next 12 months paying off a credit card balance for an event that will last just a few hours. It is a little ridiculous considering that kids don’t care how much you spend; they have just as much fun and possibly much more fun with a low cost affair.

With a little creativity, you can find a cost-effective way to say “happy birthday.” Thankfully, you’ve got plenty of options for throwing an awesome kid’s birthday party on a budget.

1. Open Up Your Home

Throwing a birthday party at home means opening up your space to an influx of kids. It’ll take time to do the setup, and you’re almost guaranteed to be left with a mess. The good news? You can save several hundred dollars by not having to rent out a space.

2. Don’t Serve a Meal

Between food allergies and pickiness, feeding a room full of children is a challenging prospect to begin with. Rather than serve a meal, time your birthday party for 2:00 or 3:00 in the afternoon so that there’s no expectation of lunch or dinner. This way, all you have to do is serve up some snacks, put out some beverages, and bust out a cake. Speaking of which…

3. Make Your Own Cake

Even if you’re not a baker, you can whip up a simple, delicious cake for a fraction of the cost of a bakery cake. The secret? Cake mix. Don’t be ashamed of it. Lather it with a $3 jar of store-bought frosting, throw on some sprinkles, and you’ll be all set. It may not look as cool as the custom superhero or construction zone cake your neighbor’s son had at his party, but at 1/5 the cost, it’ll probably taste just as good.

4. Forego the Party Bags

Most parents don’t want extra candy or small, plastic toys lying around, so why spend money on stuff nobody needs? Instead, have the kids do a craft for entertainment and let them take their creations home.

5. Skip the Invitations

Every parent has email these days. Rather than print and mail out invitations, use email or free tools like evite.com to let your guests know they’re invited.

As noble as it is to want to throw your child a birthday party he or she will be raving about for weeks on end, it’s not worth busting your budget for a mere two hours of entertainment. And besides, once the party’s over, it’s all about the presents anyway.

Save Money on Groceries: Simple Ways to Slash Your Grocery Bills

It takes money to keep a family well-fed. The average American spends $150 a week on groceries, and if your diet is rich in fruits and vegetables (as it should be), you’re probably spending more. If the cost of food is wreaking havoc on your on budget, here are some ways you can save money on groceries without compromising on the quality of the meals you’re serving up:

Plan Ahead

Some people get to the store, see what’s on sale, and make purchases based on what they think they need for the week. By doing this, you’re more likely to waste both money and time. Instead, plan out your meals before shopping and make a list of the ingredients you’re missing. This will enable you to stay focused when you hit the supermarket and help you avoid having to go back later in the week.

Track Your Inventory

A lot of people waste money on groceries by buying things they don’t actually need. One way to combat this is to keep an inventory spreadsheet of the things you have in your pantry and fridge. Print out an alphabetized, easy-to-scan copy before heading to the store, or make sure it’s accessible on your mobile phone. This way, you can compare what’s on sale to the things you already have stocked and avoid spending money on unnecessary supplies.

Get a Store Card

It’s usually not a good idea to open too many credit cards at once, but store cards aren’t like that. It makes sense to get a store card for every supermarket you shop at, including the ones you visit infrequently. Often, you need a store card to take advantage of sales and promotions. Some supermarkets, for example, offer holiday bonuses, like free turkeys around Thanksgiving time, for spending a certain amount of money the month before—a perk only available to cardholders.

Check for Digital Coupons

You may be used to checking the circulars that come in the mail for weekly sales and specials, but how often do you go online to look for deals? Many supermarkets offer additional savings via digital coupons, which you can find online and load to your store card. Remember, you won’t save money on groceries with coupons if you buy stuff you wouldn’t ordinarily buy just because you have a coupon.

Buy in Bulk, But Only When it Makes Sense

Buying in bulk can save you money if you do it wisely. If there are certain staple items that you use frequently, by all means, stock up if the price is right. But if the on-sale bulk item in question is not a popular one in your household, you’re probably better off passing up the so-called deal. Remember, even canned goods and pantry staples have expiration dates, and if you wind up throwing out food, you’ll have wasted money for no good reason. If the bulk price is truly unbeatable but you’re not sure you’ll use up your purchase before it goes bad, try finding friends, family members, or neighbors who might be willing to split the goods—and the cost.

Embrace the Season

Seasonal items tend to go on sale to coincide with consumer demand. Barbecue staples and condiments, for example, are usually available at a discount before holiday weekends, and baking supplies are often reduced in the weeks leading up to the holidays. If you start running low on non-essentials, before you restock, think about whether waiting a few weeks will bring you closer to a lower price.

Never Shop Hungry

It’s a tried and true piece of advice: The hungrier you are when you hit the supermarket, the more likely you are to make impulse purchases. Do your shopping after a meal, or grab a quick, energizing snack before you go. Otherwise you could wind up buying things that are not only bad for you, but bad for your wallet.