The birthday dilemma: Parents want their children to have great childhood memories – but is it necessary to dish out the big bucks for an expensive kid’s birthday party? The short answer is no. When I did an impromptu poll with my kids, my daughter piped in right away that her favorite birthday memory was hanging out with her friends in the yard at night with glow sticks and flashlights. My son just liked hanging out with his friends building Legos. Connecting with friends seems to be the key. Birthday parties can be done on the cheap and within budget if you know where to look — or can muster the courage to entertain at your own place.
Going swimming is always fun – but an expensive water park is not necessary. Check with hotels in your community. Sometimes smaller hotels will let non-guests use the pool facilities during the day for a small fee. There won’t be a water slide or lazy river, but you can often bring in your own toys (noodles, beach balls, etc.). I’ve done this twice now for birthday parties, paying just $5 a head. Plus, I was able to bring in my own snacks and beverages. A couple years back another local hotel let me pay $25/hour to rent out the facility during their off-peak time (between noon and 4 p.m.). The kids had a great time playing water games together and I was able to use the hotel’s breakfast room to gather the kids for cake and snacks.
Take advantage of those half-price deals with Groupon and Living Social. I have taken advantage of half-off deals for trampoline parks, inflatable jump facilities, splat ball and even the children’s museum.You don’t have to buy a costly birthday party package. The kids won’t mind avoiding the tiny party room with the expensive cupcakes. The birthday kid still gets his cake and presents, but at a nearby park or back at our place after we use our Groupon. If you plan ahead or if timing is not important, a little patience for the right deal to show up could save you lots of money.
Other low cost gatherings outside the home include rental of gym facilities or hosting a party at the YMCA. Cost will vary by facility and state but to give you a cost perspective, renting out a school gym facility in my area costs $25-35/hour. The YMCA is $65/hour and if you want a bounce house added, it’s $77/hour. If you are members of the YMCA, the cost may be even cheaper. In addition, many such places have birthday party packages in which a host is provided to supervise and lead the kids through activities. If you really don’t want a house full of energized kids and/or prefer someone else to entertain the kids, this would be a great low cost alternative.
Spa parties for girls can be a hit, depending on the age. But by the time you purchase all the “spa gear” and then deal with the mess, you might be ready to throw in the towel. For an alternative, check with your local cosmetology school for birthday party packages. Prices will vary depending on your region. In my area, I can gather up to eight girls to get a combination hair “Up-do” and manicure for $12/girl. If your local school doesn’t offer any kid packages, just the school’s reduced cost for services, makes the overall cost manageable for entertaining your daughter and a few friends.
For the younger kids, don’t forget about McDonald’s or Burger King play lands. Birthday party deals will vary depending on the franchises in your area. My local Burger King and McDonald’s both offer FREE use of their play land facilities for birthday parties. The McDonald’s also has and affordable party package that includes happy meals, goodie bags, cake and ice cream, invitations and a host for a very affordable $60 (up to 10 kids).
Finally, if you are brave enough to play host to a bunch of kids at your own place, you can find numerous party ideas online to save money. For more ideas on how to save money on kids’s birthday parties by throwing your own, click here for savvy and easy ways to cut costs.