We all want to throw great parties for our kids, but there are limits. Cake and ice cream are musts, but for every reasonable b-day option, there are plenty of alternatives that are over-the-top expensive, dangerous or just plain unnecessary. Sure, you want your kid and all his little buddies to be entertained, but that doesn't mean you should blow his college fund on catered food or allow the kids to bounce their way to broken bones.
To help keep your party (and budget!) in check, we'll go over 10 things your kid's birthday bash can do without. We'll explain why your own backyard can be just as entertaining as any rentable location, and why blindfolds, bats and dizzy children don't mix. We'll even share a few easy ways to save cash on basic party essentials.
Children's birthday parties are fun for kids, parents and friends, but if you care about your budget, there's one person you shouldn't invite. Find out who should be excluded from all party-related business on the next page.
If you're planning on dropping half a grand or more just to have someone else plan your kid's birthday bash, then you might want to give up on that whole living on a budget thing. You could easily throw an entire party on most planners' fees, and since they're spending your money, the only kind of budget most planners stick to is none at all. Do yourself (and your wallet) a favor, and plan the event yourself.
Clowns, superheroes and mimes are overrated. There are easier and less expensive ways to entertain a group of kids. Movies, video games and puppet shows (for younger-skewing guest lists) are all easy to do on the cheap.
If your kid desperately wants to invite a costumed guest, you can always rent the outfit and have a friend dress up to save some money. Once your child is old enough, you can even ask for his input. Try explaining that Spiderman charges a handsome fee for appearances, which might mean skipping the goodie bags. He may not like having to choose, but your kid will feel empowered to help make decisions about his party.
Don't splurge on snail-mail invites -- electronic invitations will do the job just as well, and they're free!
You can easily spend a small fortune on proper invitations, but your kid and all his guests will be just as (if not more) impressed with an e-mailed notice, especially if it's animated. Also, busy parents can easily misplace your paper invite or lose it in a stack of bills on the kitchen counter, but a party notice in their inbox won't likely be overlooked.
These days, many parents are choosing to forgo traditional party-parting gifts and are paying for high-quality party favors. Personalized take-home gifts like picture frames and toys can significantly increase the cost of your child's celebration, and they're completely unnecessary. Party hats, plastic whistles and a few pieces of candy work just as well as overpriced monogrammed b-day keepsakes, and they'll be treasured by all the little attendees for just as long, which is at most a few hours. In fact, skipping party favors altogether will save you money. If kids or parents ask about parting gifts, explain that plastic bags and toys aren't eco-friendly, and your family is making a real effort to go green.
Inflatable bounce houses may be fun, but they're also pricey and require a lot of room. Plus, they're not exactly the safest children's party option. Countless kids have bounced until they've broken arms and legs or sustained other injuries. To make matters worse, many bounce house rental companies are uninsured.
Need one last reason to skip the bounce house? If it's not properly tied down -- which many often aren't -- it can topple or even blow away during large wind gusts with children still inside.
Sure, piñatas were a birthday party must-have when you were a child, but they just aren't very safe.
Think about it: Uncoordinated, blindfolded kids on a sugar high (remember, they just ate cake and have been downing soda all afternoon) spin around until they're dizzy, then wildly swing a bat at a suspended object that is closely encircled by other children. Need we say more?
If you want to go retro with the party entertainment, we suggest a nice game of Pin the Tail on the Donkey or a beanbag toss.
It's one thing to keep up with the Joneses, but paying a catering company to feed everyone at your child's birthday party is just too rich. Yeah, your neighbors might be impressed when the catering van pulls up in the driveway, but we guarantee your mini partygoers would rather have pizza or fast food.
If your kid's party is so big it simply has to be catered, you can always order numerous cheese and pepperoni pies or even hire a local fast food chain to service your event. Also, some kids will likely be weirded out by fancy foods they've never eaten before. Food that gets passed over gets wasted, so ask your child what he'd like -- chances are he'll pick chicken in nugget form over cordon bleu any day.
Why pay to rent out an expensive venue when your backyard is open, available and free?
The truth is, as long as you have a sizable enough space for kids and their parents to congregate, it's just as good a place as any to hold a b-day bash. If something gets damaged, no one's keeping your security deposit, and though you might have to tackle a juice stain or replace a vase, it'll be peanuts compared to the amount a venue might demand.
Your own property might not seem spectacular to you, but as long as you and all his little friends are there, it's the only place your child will want to be.
If you're thinking about picking up multiple crates of canned soda for your kid's birthday party, we've got three words for you: two-liter bottles.
Besides the fact that two-liters are the far cheaper (and greener) option, they're also easier to clean up. You know those little partygoers are going to litter the site with half-empty cans, which means you could be spending quite awhile draining drinks over the sink after everyone leaves. At least with cups, you can quickly dump any remaining soda and toss them in the trash.
Your child may love animals, but paying to bring beasts to your home can be a real pain in the … donkey.
Portable pony rides and petting zoos are dirty, smelly and ridiculously expensive, so unless you're throwing the biggest birthday shindig your block has ever seen, it'd be cheaper to just take all the little partygoers to the zoo.
This alternative will also save you from an extremely unpleasant after-party cleanup, which, in our opinion, is the best present you could give to yourself on your child's birthday.
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- Barrios, Arleene. "Bounce House Dangers Exposed, Companies Lack Insurance." KFOX14. March 17, 2009. (Jan. 16, 2011). http://www.kfoxtv.com/news/18951774/detail.html