Budget-Friendly Birthday Party Tips

Birthdays with children are magical. Kids get so excited looking forward to their special day and often spend months thinking about their birthday theme or what they’d like to do on that day. It can be overwhelming trying to put together a birthday party, especially if you’re on a budget. Here are some ideas I’ve picked up from planning parties for my three kids that will help keep the costs down while still being an amazing time.

Budget-Friendly Birthday Party Tips paw patrol party
Use what you have: Old Halloween costumes and toys we already own can make the theme extra fun without extra cost!

Free & Easy Kids’ Birthday Party Invitations

Do your invitations online for free through a site like Evite or something similar. Or you can create a simple graphic on Canva by using one of their templates and either email it to your friends or print it out on your own paper.

Free Locations for Kids’ Birthday Parties

One of the easiest ways to cut costs is to choose a free or cheap location. Usually, for us, that’s our home. But you can also find a local park, pool, rec center, neighborhood clubhouse, or other location that’s open to the public for free or for a small fee.

Check out our post on outdoor birthday party venues in Collin County, which details how to book pavilions at Collin County parks near you. Note that there might be permit requirements for bounce houses and things like that. Each city has slightly different park rules, so read the fine print.

Easy Decorations for Kids’ Birthday Parties

You can find a plethora of decorations for many different party themes at stores like Party City or Walmart. I like to go look around at what they have to get ideas. If I find something I like, I then determine whether the decorations are something I can make myself at home. If not, I choose one or two things I like the most to be the primary decoration and make other supplemental decorations at home.

Budget-Friendly Birthday Party Tips for table decorations
Amazon has a lot of great decor options, which is where I got all our flag decor. But you can also buy plain solid color options at nearly any store, and you can usually get larger quantities for cheaper that way.

Using streamers, balloons, plates, cups, tablecloths, banners, and hanging decorations in solid colors rather than with specific character prints can give you larger quantities at a better price and still be “on-theme.” You can save any extras for future parties, too!

Budget-Friendly Birthday Party Tips for decorations
It may not seem like it, but the popcorn box was pretty cheap to make: butcher paper, duct tape, balloons, and a balloon decorating strip. All of which I have leftovers to use again one day.

As for other decorations, Pinterest has a wealth of information. You can find almost anything you can think of! There are a lot of decor ideas that use items from around the house, which keeps costs down. You can also find tons of free birthday party printables! Utilize your printer for DIY decor, especially if you are subscribed to HP Instant Ink. This program lets you use as much ink as you need and automatically ships more to your home when you need it at a fraction of the cost. One year we had a movie theater-themed birthday party and I used printables for the invitations, tickets, labels, and more!

{More Birthday Party Decor Ideas}


Balloons get their own category. Do not underestimate the power of balloons! Kids think they’re magical, especially at younger ages. You can get quite a few latex balloons for only a few bucks, and you don’t even need to do anything special with them. Kids can be occupied for hours just chasing balloons!

Budget-Friendly Birthday Party Tips for decor and balloons
Do not underestimate the power of balloons. Yes, just plain balloons!

The best deal on balloons is usually at Dollar Tree. You can get mylar balloons for only $1.25 each when at other stores they may be $2–$6 each! Simply walk over to their balloon center, choose your balloons, and they’ll inflate them for you right there! Then fill out your balloon bouquet with latex balloons to get more volume at a cheaper price.

{More Dollar Tree Finds}

Kids’ Birthday Cake Ideas

Making your own cake can be a fraction of the cost of buying one and doesn’t have to take a lot of effort. Keep in mind that kids don’t care that much about having a fancy cake, and they think almost anything with sugar tastes good. You can purchase cake mix at your local store for $1–$2 and frosting for $1–$2. You can also make a cake from scratch pretty easily if you wish. You can find my favorite recipe for a 2-layer chocolate cake here or you can use the smaller 9×13 cake recipe or the cupcake recipe.

The cake doesn’t have to be elaborate. Some years we leave the cake plain and other years I go all out decorating it. It just depends on the time and energy I have. Making the cake yourself gives you flexibility, and the sky’s the limit on what you can make! You can find cake tutorials for uniquely-shaped cakes everywhere.

Budget-Friendly Birthday Party Tips for cakes
Sometimes I go simple on the cake. Sometimes I go big. Either way, the kids are happy. SUGAR!

Kids’ Birthday Party Games & Entertainment

A popular game that you can use for almost any young child’s party is some version of “Pin the Tail on the Donkey” using just a poster board, paper, tape, and a blindfold. We’ve done “Pin the Nose on Mickey” along with a million other variations over the years. It’s always a crowd pleaser!

Budget-Friendly Birthday Party Tips for games
Pin-the-thing-on-the-whatever is a classic game no one ever seems to get tired of. The photo on the right is my children trying to pin flags on a world map.

You can also make up your own games to go along with your theme, or simply just let the kids run wild in the backyard and play with toys. They don’t necessarily need a lot of activities to have fun!

Budget-Friendly Birthday Party Tips for activities
This was the focal point of that year’s party because it was a unique theme (Splatoon video game). There weren’t many decorations or, really, anything I could incorporate, so I went big on the activity.

Kids’ Birthday Party Favors

You don’t really need them, and I don’t think anyone cares about them. If you’re set on sending home party favors, you can decorate some brown paper bags for kids to bring home a few goodies in. These were a big hit when we threw a Harry Potter-themed birthday party for my son.

Budget-Friendly Birthday Party Tips for party favors
Party favors aren’t necessary but can be fun. Candy and stickers/tattoos are usually pretty cheap things to include.

Planning a birthday party on a budget can be a lot of work, but there are a few takeaways that I hope can make it easier.

  • Use what you already have at home. Save and reuse decorations and craft supplies from previous years to cut down on what you’ll need to buy in the following years.
  • Pick one thing to be the focal point and go simpler on the rest. You can’t do it all, so think about what is most important to your child. Is it the cake? The activity? The decorations? Focus on making that one thing really awesome and keep the rest simple.
  • Stay flexible. Something will probably go wrong. It’s okay. Everyone is still going to have fun!
Budget-Friendly Birthday Party Tips DIY pokemon cake
We’ve done a Pokémon theme several times. I’m glad I saved those decorations!

Most likely, your child will be thrilled by whatever you do. A lot of times we are much harder on ourselves than our children are. When they look back on this special day, what they will remember is how loved they felt and seeing your face during the happiest moments. And that’s what matters most.

{Read More: Our Ultimate Birthday Party Guide}

Kristen Gardiner
Kristen Gardiner moved to the Dallas area (Allen) in 2018 with her husband and three boys (born in 2010, 2012, and 2015). She has a marketing degree from Texas A&M (class of '06) and an M.B.A. from Texas A&M --Corpus Christi. Kristen met her husband while working at Whataburger in College Station, and they have been inseparable ever since. She has spent the past few years as a freelance writer and marketing consultant. Kristen is passionate about storytelling and sharing about struggles with mental health in motherhood on her blog Driving Mom Crazy.