DIY Crafts and Activities, Money Matters

Planning an Affordable Birthday Party

Six children sitting at a picnic table with brighly coloured birthday hats and blowing whistles.

While birthday parties can be a fun way to celebrate with your child and their friends or family, they have become increasingly more expensive over time. Depending on your party, costs could include cake, activities, food, entertainment and party favours. Birthday parties can sometimes seem out of reach, especially for those who can’t host it at their home and instead have to rent a venue. That is why we have compiled some tips to follow for throwing a fun-filled birthday party without breaking the bank. Because everyone is different, these are merely suggestions so you can incorporate the tips that work for you, and leave out whichever ones don’t.


Tip 1: Consider Low-Cost Venues

Even though many birthday party venues cost upwards of $400, hosting a birthday party outside of your home doesn’t have to cost a fortune. If you are looking for things in the $100-$200 range, the Help! We’ve Got Kids blog lists plenty of options that are organized based on location. Limiting the number of children at the party can also help cut down the costs of the venue. For an even more cost-effective party, you can try widening your search to include everyday kids’ activities, as opposed to just the ones that are labelled “birthday party.” These are great for small intimate birthday parties where you invite your child’s closest friends. Some ideas for this include mini putt and the Cineplex’s $2.99 Family Favourites showings. If your child’s birthday falls during a time with nice weather, Toronto Parks are also a great option –  just be sure to double check their rules and regulations. If your child has their birthday in the winter, there are still plenty of ideas and activities that you can do. You can also check out local GroupOn offers to see if you can find any discounts for activities.


Tip 2: Choose Your Time Strategically

One birthday party expense that can sneak up on you is the cost of food.  To help keep this cost to a minimum, many parents recommend strategically planning your event so it does not include lunch or dinner, such as from 2pm-5pm. If you do choose to have your party fall during a mealtime, consider making your event a potluck or picnic. For snacks, consider shopping at your local bulk food store to avoid packaging costs. You can even bring your own containers to help out the environment!


Chocolate cupcakes with brighly coloured icing.

Tip 3: Look into Party Favour Alternatives

Although it feels great for kids to come away from a birthday party with a small favour, the cost of these little trinkets adds up and they usually end up sitting in a drawer never to be seen again. As a child, one of my favourite favours I received was a cookie that we decorated during the party. Edible favours, such as cookies or cupcakes, are greatly appreciated by little ones since they provide a sweet treat and can be more cost effective. Additionally, you can make an activity out of decorating them, which will help to eat up some of the party time if you are running out of ideas. If you choose to go with cupcakes, these can also serve as the birthday cake, which helps to eliminate a further expense. Having a simple craft with supplies you already have at home is another great keepsake that kids can bring home with them.


Tip 4: Simplify Your Decorations

My number one tip for saving money on birthday decorations is to avoid “themed” merchandise, since you are not only paying for the object you are buying but also the trademarked characters that they feature. Going generic also opens up a wide range of decorating possibilities that you may not have thought of. For example, theming your party around the season of your child’s birthday allows you to use natural ambience and gives you a larger variety of decoration options. Dollar stores usually have large sections that are devoted to seasonal décor, and they tend to be more durable over time than crepe paper “birthday” decorations. You can also choose to go the DIY route for birthday decorations. It is amazing how many uses there are for a simple paper chain and all that you really need is some paper and tape/glue. If you feel like spicing things up, you can add in some glitter or change up the shapes of your links. Here is a great list of 25 DIY birthday party theme ideas and decoration ideas.


A blue birthday gift wrapepd with a green ribbon.


Tip 5: Simplify Gifts

Whether you are hosting a birthday party or attending one, the issue of what attendees should get the birthday child as a gift is something that many parents struggle with. It can be unclear what kind of gift is appropriate, especially since different families have different resources available. Sometimes, families request that attendees don’t bring gifts but this can cause confusion and discomfort, especially if someone disregards the request. Fortunately, there are creative ways to simplify this process for everyone. As someone organizing a party, you can request that gifts be thrifted or regifted. Another idea is to ask that people bring a small part of a larger gift. For example, each person could bring a track piece for a toy train set or markers/paper/pencils to make an art set. Also remember that dollar stores aren’t what they used to be, and now sell inexpensive and fairly good quality art supplies, children’s books and even some toys. Personally, I have a colouring book from the dollar store and it is my absolute favourite!


I hope these tips help you to plan a birthday party that is fun for your little one, while not costing a fortune. Whether you have $5 or $50, you can mix and match these tips so they work best for your life. There are also two blog posts on the Spruce that provide additional budget birthday ideas: here and here. If you are looking for further birthday inspiration, be sure to check out our Ultimate Birthday Guide blog, where we list ideas and venues that vary in budget.

Emily Pritchard

Emily is currently completing her undergraduate degree with a specialist in Criminology and a minor in Sociology. She plans to pursue a career in social work, with a focus on working with children and youth. When not studying or working at the Family Care Office, she spends her time reading the latest books and trying out new recipes. So, that’s Emily in a nutshell, reading, writing and cooking. Quite the picture, I’m sure!

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