Friday, October 10, 2008

Have Parties at Home

#11 Saving Money Tip - Have Parties at Home. It is so tempting to hold a party at a restaurant, community center, or other outdoor venue. You pay the nice man his money and he runs the party for you - either providing food, entertainment, or both. They do the cleanup, too. It's great. It is, however, expensive. If you have tons of extra money lying around and it's a once in a lifetime event, holding a party outside of your house is a great idea. But, if you are holding a 6th birthday party for your daughter with her 8 friends, you will save much more money doing it at home. And it can be just as fun as one held outside the home. Birthdays come around once a year and if you have more than one child, you will be holding a lot of birthday parties in their young lifetimes.

Let's compare the costs. There are several gym chains that hold birthday parties for children. A price of their party for 15 kids starts at about $225. It includes a person to run the gym part of the party, the invitations, paper goods and maybe the drinks and goody bags. It does not include the birthday cake and any other food you may want to serve. Assuming you only serve cake at the party, it will add an extra $15 to the cost if you buy a cake from Costco. So now the cost of the party is $240 for 15 children. That is $16 per person. Other gym places cost more. Another popular place to do kids birthday parties is at a craft store or build a stuffed animal store. Your starting out with cost of about $10 per kid and that only includes the activity, not the food you will be serving. There is no end to what you can do to entertain your children's friends - bowling parties, swim parties, miniature golf parties, beauty salon parties, etc. But for a group of at least 10 children, you will not get away for cheaper than about $200. If you have two children, that means you are spending $400 or more per year on birthday parties. Personally, I would rather spend less money having the party at home and put the savings in my children's college account.

I could go on and on with examples of parties we have done at home. I am not the most creative or artistic person but a little creativity goes a long way with children. Some general party ideas: for most parties, a game or two, a craft, and cake or pizza and cake are plenty. Have some backup ideas in case the party isn't over. A story is a great way to end a party. Keep everything with the theme. To save money you don't have to buy everything in the theme. Buy the main item in the theme and have coordinating colors for the napkins, cups, and forks.

Lastly, another positive (not financial) about having parties at home is that you can cancel if someone gets sick. We've had to cancel 2 or 3 parties over the years. If you have booked a place, you may not get your money back. For our home party, we were able to freeze the cake and do it the following week. No big deal.

In Real Life (IRL) - I have 3 children. I have held 10 birthday parties for them over the years. Two have been outside the home, one of which was the biggest failure to date (more on that later). My oldest daughter has a lot of school friends and doesn't want to leave anyone out for her birthday party. While she gets invited to many parties at outside venues, Bear, I usually keep her parties at home. I ask her what theme she wants to do and we plan activities around that theme. The best place I have found to look online for ideas for birthday parties at home is You can look up virtually any theme and find parties done in that theme by dozens of other people. Last year my older daughter wanted a Strawberry Shortcake theme. We bought Strawberry Shortcake invitations, made a pink cake, did a "Pin the Strawberry on Strawberry Shortcake's Hat" game, made a bead craft, made all-you-can-eat sundaes, and read a Strawberry Shortcake book to finish off the party. It was a lot of fun. We had 12 girls and spent right at $100. That included everything - cake, snacks for kids (and parents who stayed), the craft, the sundae fixings, the game, goody bags, and paper goods and invitations. My daughter's friend told her mom after the party that she wants a party at home next year.

For my younger daughter we did a Dora-themed party. We had pizza, did a Dora craft and a game that was just like the game Dora does on her show. We tried to get to the pinata but on the way we had to go through the jungle (some trees in our backyard) and become animals (with animal masks). Then they had to pull bananas off the tree (fake bananas hung on the tree by string) to get to the pinata. They all had their own maps that looked just like Dora's map on tv. They were homemade out of paper and very cute. After the pinata, they had cake. It was the perfect 3-year old's party and it cost under $100 for parents and adults (including lunch).

My last example is a carnival that we held. We made cardboard signs for each station. We bought a ring-toss game at the dollar store, used a plastic pool for a fishing pond, did tattoos, face painting, and made a bean-bag toss game. We had Cracker Jack and store bought cotton candy and bought cheap toys for the prizes. It was such a hit that we've saved everything to do it again for someone else's birthday party.

I could go on and on with examples of parties we have done at home. I truly am not the most creative or artistic person but a little creativity goes a long way with children. For Strawberry Shortcake, we bought Strawberry Shortcake plates and everything else was pink and red. We found Strawberry Shortcake Poster at the dollar store and cut out strawberries from red construction paper for the game. My husband was the magician for one of our birthday parties. It took him a few days to learn some magic tricks and kids (and even some of the adults) loved it! Make your own sundaes, decorate your own cupcakes, and make your own pizzas are great fun at parties. It takes care of an activity and some food.

Now for my outside birthday party flop. We did a swim party at a local indoor swim park for my daughter's birthday. It was about $100 to use their facility - a room and then the swimming for up to 12 children. We bought the food and a craft to do beforehand. So it was a little more than my usual limit for birthday parties. While we were in the room doing the craft, someone threw up in the pool and they closed it for 2 hours. No swimming for anyone. We did get everyone a ticket to go back another day. But still, what a waste!

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