Children's parties can get expensive and blow a budget quickly. Here are some frugal ideas to keep within your budget and still have an impressive party that your kids will love. Make sure you give yourself time to gather things and plan, because last minute usually means extra money spent.
The first thing I would do is talk to your child about a theme. What kind of party they want to have, so you know what direction to go in. You won't be buying or making stuff that has nothing to do with what the child wants. This also helps to involve the child in the planning.
.Invitations can set the tone for the party. You could send e-invites or make your own. I love this idea for making invitations. Let's say your little one wants to do a tea party theme. Dress her up in the hat and gloves and have her hold the sign saying "Come to my birthday tea party". Have copies made and tape or glue stick them to a piece of card stock that you can print the place and time on. If you son still has his super hero's costume from Halloween - that would be cute too. Or you can just make your own invitations with constructions paper or computer printer.
Store bought cakes can cost a mint, so make your own. What? You aren't a cake decorator? It's okay, just make a sheet cake and put plastic figures on top. You can get them at the dollar store. I love to do cupcakes. Perfect size portions for children. The kids can help decorate them too. You could also make a giant chocolate chip cookie (like those expensive places in the mall) and write on it in icing. One year we baked the cake batter in ice cream cones and then served an ice cream cake and had all the kids dressed backwards and had a "backwards party". It was a blast!!
When it comes to decorating for a childs party, keep it super simple. They really don't care about all that. I would keep it to decorating the table and maybe over the table, but the whole house is a little over the top. A few accents that have to do with the theme are fun and frugal. It is more fun to make the kids part of the decorations themselves. Example: If it's a tea party, have the little ones dress in their Mom's dress and heels and have hats and gloves. A little boys pirate party, they can all dress like pirates and wear eye patches. Summer parties are fun too, because you can have them outside....no decorating - nature does it for you!
Favors are a little thank you for coming gift. I love doing these even though you don't have too. They don't have to cost much, it is really the thought that counts. It could be as easy as giving candy or cookies. I like to use the cups that you are supposed to serve the drinks in - you know the kind that match the plates. Fill them with little toys and candies from the dollar store (they don't have to match the theme of the party but it's fun if it does). Wrap the cup in syran wrap and put a bow on it. I have also used the empty crystal light containers for favors.
The party paper goods. You can get so much more if you stick to plain paper plates, or even the sturdy plastic ones that come in pretty colors. Food is going to be on the plates so they aren't going to see the princesses or the dinosaurs. If you want to spring for theme type things, do the cups and or napkins. The tablecloth makes a bigger statement. You can usually get twice as many plates and cups in solid colors than you can in a pack that has the pictures on them. Just coordinate the colors of the theme....such as red and blue for Spiderman, or purple and pink for a princess!
When it comes to decorations take your biggest inspiration right from the kids themselves. Use their toys and posters that they already have. Such as transformer toys as centerpieces for a Transformers party. Princess jewelry and tiaras as table decorations. A big poster of their favorite super hero or Thomas the Tank Engine hung up on the wall over the party table. Use what you already have! Balloons are cheap decor. It is also very easy to make your own signs and banners - you don't have to pay big $$ to say "Happy Birthday Johnny" and Johnny is to little to even read. Remember, the party is for the child, not to impress your adult friends.
Instead of games where you give prizes, just do some fun activity such as dancing or watch a kids movie that was just released. Maybe a movie that has to do with the theme of the party. Water balloon fights for a summer party and slip and slide. I know my kids like to play that Rock Star video game and one of the kids actually put on the Michael Jackson Dance video for everyone to get up and try. It was cool watching all the kids do the Thriller dance. Save the money of giving prizes and just give all the kids a small favor when they leave.
When the kids are a little older you may consider an over-night or slumber party (as we called them). You don't have to do decorating, but remember there is a lot of snacks and drinks. You will also be providing breakfast in the morning. Pizza bought on sale is a great dinner item for so many kids. Popcorn is a cheap snack.
The rule of thumb is no more than 1 guest per year your child is in age. So if your child is turning 8, then only 8 guests or less. Also, be prepared to be awake most of the night.
Hope these tips help you create a memorable party that doesn't break the bank.