So, let’s just get this out of the way first– you don’t have to have a birthday party for your kid. That will, clearly, be your cheapest option.
Also, you can definitely host a party at your home and this may save you some cash (though not necessarily.)
I, for one, have elected to let my older children have “friend parties” and I have made the wise-for-me choice to outsource said parties. Hosting them at my home was not fun for me– it was stressful and, ultimately, made me physically sick. Having them both born in the winter (Christmas Eve and late January) really didn’t help since the holidays are already such a busy time and New England weather is not conducive to outdoor parties.
If you LIKE planning and hosting parties? I think that’s awesome. But I do not.
Last year, I planned a Manicure & Pizza Party for my older daughter and that whole thing came in just under a hundred bucks. It was fun and easy and remains one of my favorite parties ever. For our son, we did a fabulous Hockey Party and that one, too, came in just under a hundred dollars– $97, to be exact.
Their birthdays just came and went in December and January, respectively, and we, again, let them have friend parties and chose to outsource them. Our need to keep them within a strict budget remains and, quite honestly, that makes us a little odd compared to many Connecticut families. Still, we can’t afford to spend $300+ on a birthday party and it’s all too easy to do just that. I know that might sound crazy but, once you factor in food, a venue, goodie bags, decorations, etc, it can quickly get out of control.
While I would have happily planned another manicure party for my daughter, some of her best friends are boys and we weren’t sure they’d enjoy it so much. So I looked into other options. One thing C. had mentioned that she enjoyed was bowling, so I checked into that. Bowling is a good winter option, since it’s all indoors.
Honestly, I took the total easy route on this one. The local alley had a “birthday party package” that included two hours of bowling, shoes, a free game pass for each guest (for a subsequent visit), and pizza or hot dog plus a drink for each child. I believe it was $11 per kid and we had eight or nine. I was allowed to bring in my own cake, but they cut and served it and washed my pan. I was also allowed to bring in water bottles and a bag of chips, so we didn’t have to buy pricey snacks there.
That party? Was crazy easy. I gave out books for favors and, with those and my cake/snack costs, I think the whole shebang was right around $125. Is it the cheapest party I’ve ever done? Nope. But it was a super fun event and, when done right, a party is kind of a gift in and of itself.
On to the next birthday!
Our son turned nine in January and, again, I was determined to keep the party out of my house. Nine-year-old boys, while delightful, are balls of energy that are just getting longer and bigger every year– my house feels smaller and smaller!
For his party, we booked two hours on a Sunday afternoon at the Microsoft Store. If that sounds like a weird time to you, let me assure you that, for some reason, it’s often the best time for this age group. Most kids do not have sports practice or church on Sunday afternoons. Also, with a late January baby, the risk of icy or snowy roads is high and holding it in the afternoon allows time for the town to get the roads treated a bit.
Anyway, we chose the Microsoft Store because they have a dedicated party space and devote a staff member to helping make sure your party goes smoothly. The boys got to play all sorts of games on individual XBOX consoles and also up on the big Kinect screen. They provided us with a table on which we could put snacks, cake, gifts, etc, and we were allowed to bring in anything we wanted (except alcohol .)
Planning a party at the Microsoft Store was very simple. I communicated via email with their events coordinator and was able to secure my first choice time slot about a month ahead of time. She sent me a form with a list of all the games they had available to play and we were able to edit the list to exclude any games we thought weren’t appropriate or wouldn’t be fun. We took out the Teen and Mature games but, if you want your kids to be able to play those, you can do that, too– they have special waiver forms that each guest’s parent needs to sign, in that case. Honestly, it’s a pretty good system, I think.
I wound up sending out evites for this party because the weather was so lousy I couldn’t get out to get stamps!
So, are you ready for the total cost for that party? Brace yourselves–
That was the cost of the snacks, baking materials, and paper products. Oh, wait. I did buy favors, too. So I may have lied a second ago. Anyway, it was still well under fifty bucks.
The Microsoft Store does not charge to have parties there. So, if you have one in your area, definitely file that away as an option!
I’m a firm believer that, above all, a birthday should be fun and should match the interests of the birthday child. I have also learned that my children have a much better time at their parties if their mom isn’t stressed to the hilt and about to lose her mind. For those reasons, outsourcing has been a blessing to our family.
It really is possible to outsource parties and stick to a reasonable budget. I’m pretty sure my family is glad I discovered that.