Friday, March 30, 2012

5 Ways To Save On Your Child's Second Birthday Party

We recently celebrated my daughter's second birthday, and my wife did a great job planning the party to be both fun and cost effective.  I wanted to share some of her secrets here so that you too can plan a toddler's birthday party on the cheap.  This plan works perfectly for a second birthday, and you will quickly see why as we go over the various ways to save.

We all know that the first birthday is a big deal.  That's the one where all of your relatives breath a big sigh of relief and say to themselves, "Okay, kid, you survived the first year with these crazy parents, you're probably going to make it."  It's also the one where your child becomes addicted to cake.  The tradition is, you give the child their own mini-cake to go crazy on while everyone else eats the good stuff.  This first taste of cake is so perfect, so gloriously delicious, that the child will chase that cake-high for the rest of his life.

The third birthday is usually the one where the child has enough friends to justify a "bigger" party, you know with a bouncy castle or pony rides or whatever your family does.  But it's that second birthday that can be tricky.  Here are some easy ways to have a great party, but still keep it cost effective.

1. Immediate Family Only

This is the first, and most important, ground rule when trying to have a function on a budget.  Why? Because it immediately limits the number of people that you have to purchase for while still making sure the most important people are present for the function.  We're talking cheap, people.  In relation to the child whose birthday it is, here is a list of who should probably be present:

Parents (that's you)
Grandparents (both sides)
Great Grandparents should be there too because for Pete's sake, they've earned it just for being alive for so long.
Aunts & Uncles (blood/marriage related only)
First cousins

That's pretty much it.  Nobody wants to feed that crazy fifth step-cousin that always brings her five rambunctious boys.  There's no need to invite the whole neighborhood.  Your kid won't even know that they're missing out.  There is also no need to invite every "uncle" or "aunt" that you have designated with that title because, in college, they helped you win the "Mr./Miss Keg Stand" contest by holding your legs up.

I realize that some people may be hurt by this policy.  That's okay, tell them you're keeping it to immediate family only.  Tell them it's because of the economy.  Tell them you'll have a big party next year when your kid is "old enough to remember" or something like that.  Be quick about it, like taking off a band-aid.

I also realize that families are often more complicated than this rule allows for.  Use your best judgement in those cases, but always err on the side of having a smaller party.  If you have relatives that always fight, or if certain people can't be in the same room, because of a restraining order or otherwise, invite both parties.  It's on them if they can't behave for two hours.

2. You Don't Run a Five Star Restaurant

Keep the food simple.  Hot dogs, hamburgers, pizza, BBQ, and, in some cases, grilled chicken (dark meat people, we're trying to stay cheap!) are acceptable options.  Your family does not care what food they are going to eat.  They are here to see the kid smile when they open up their presents.  Whatever you decide to cook, cook it well and serve it with a smile.  Let those who offer to bring something do so, as long as you like what they make.  Grandma makes a bangin' potato salad?  Go for it, Granny!  There is no shame in accepting help from those you love.

When it comes to drinks, buy store brand sodas or mix up large batches of tea or lemonade.  There's no need to spend tons of money on beer.  If Aunt Matilda can't be without her moonshine for a few minutes, let her bring her own flask.  Your wallet is not responsible for other peoples' bad habits.

3. Do It Yourself!

We had a "Go, Dogs, Go!" themed party for my daughter.  For our invitations, we used a picture from the Random House "Go, Dogs, Go!" party kit, and I created an email invitation.  We only had to snail mail one invitation, so we only spent fourty-four cents to get everyone invited.

For decorations, we were able to find an extra copy of the book at Goodwill, and mommy used some decorative scissors to cut out fancy shapes.  We punched holes and hung them from the chandelier in the kitchen, taped them on some planters and the napkin holder, and even put the "Go, Dogs, Go!" title on the bathroom door for some adult humor.  Our entire kitchen was decorated for less than five bucks.  

Finally, my wife wanted to make a decoration that she saw on Pinterest. It was a tissue paper pom pom.  Here's a how-to video if you're interested.  This was made using tissue paper saved from past gifts, so it cost us nothing.

4. Choose the Cheaper Option

When it comes to cake, it's difficult to find a good deal.  It is very tempting to get a custom decorated cake from a local shop because it's cute.  Fight the urge!  You can get a cake from the grocery store that is much cheaper and DIY some decorations to fit your theme.  We don't like the sickeningly sweet butter cream icing from the grocery store, so we opted for the marble cake with fudge icing from our local Giant.  It was delicious, and everyone loved it!  Best of all, it was cheap.

If you want balloons, you should always go to the Dollar Store.  They have very decent balloons for just a dollar.  Party stores usually charge three or four because of the high price of helium.  Dollar stores use balloons as a loss-leader in hopes that you will buy your other decorations and plastic utensils there (which you should if it's cheaper than Wal-Mart).  We didn't buy the weights for the balloons because we still have the weights from my wife's baby shower that we were able to reuse.  You could easily use something else around the kitchen to weigh them down or just tie them to a chair.  We also have various decorative pieces that are generic for birthdays, and they have been recycled for several parties now instead of buying new for each party.

5. Regift or Recycle a Gift

Sometimes, your child will just get tired of opening Christmas presents, and you can simply save the unopened ones for their birthday.  Take advantage of that!  Other times, you just have to go with what life sends your way.  Last year, my daughter received a Disney Princess inflatable ball pit.  After about six months of use, it tore at the seam.  I sent away for a replacement from the manufacturer, and we just saved it for this year.  The reaction this year was much better than last year, and I don't even think she remembers that she had this ball pit before.  Winning!  Plus, your family will buy your kid a lot of presents anyway, so you don't have to go all out.

What other ideas do you have for saving money on a second birthday?  What other events have you pulled off on the cheap?


  1. I'm sorry if you've never heard of a children's resale show, you're really missing out. it's where a bunch of parents gather up all their gently used kids things (you know, the brand new clothes they wear once, or those Christmas gifts that they opened and never played with) and sell them for dirt cheap. We have gotten many of our 'big ticket' items for our kids at these for ten bucks or less when we would have had to pay fifty or sixty retail in the store.

    1. Consignment sales are a part of our regular money-saving routine. We usually attend three or four each year. We also live less than a mile from a consignment shop, so it's easy to sell our stuff too when we're done. Thanks for the comment!

  2. I'm going to have to remember all of this when it comes time to celebrate our sons second birthday later this year! Great post.



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