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Birthdays on the breadline: throw a kid’s party without breaking the bank

Tahmina Mannan
Written By:
Tahmina Mannan

How to plan a party while on a tight budget.

Increasing numbers of parents are busting their budgets for their childrens’ birthday parties, with many going into their overdrafts to cover the cost of their kids’ day of fun. 

A recent report from Money for Life, a personal money management programme from Lloyds, highlighted that many families are driven to spend on birthday parties because of increasing pressure to impress other parents, friends and family members.

The report also highlighted that some parents overspend on their children to compensate for their own memories of poverty in childhood.

With almost three quarters of low income families having less than £100 a week to spend on the essentials, according to charity Family Action, it is often a stretch to meet the needs of children in these current financially constrained times.

If you want to throw a party but you’re on a strict budget, follow these tips :

1. Throw the party at home. Setting up a birthday party at home for your children and their friends is cost effective and with a little time and planning you can give your child some very happy memories at home.

2. Set a budget for your party. Then STICK TO IT. It may be cheaper to pick an external party venue with an all-inclusive cost per child, or it may work out cheaper to do it yourself at home. Do the sums and make sure. Use this opportunity to teach your children about budgeting – help them decide between a more expensive party with fewer friends, or a cheaper party with more friends. This is a good life lesson for them too.

3. Summer party? Get your children and their friends out to the park. All you’ll need is some blankets, picnic food and games for the kids – which you can even ask friends to bring along with them. Get your children involved – get them to make up games, make their own toys or even get some cheap water paint and let them make a mess outdoors. Not only are you saving the pennies, you’re also saving yourself the clean-up later.

4. Start saving up in advance. Put loose change in a bottle each week to collect for your child’s birthday – you’ll be surprised at how much you can save! Also get your child involved – this will teach them the value of saving for a goal.


5. The party bags. These are often expected at children’s birthday parties but they can be expensive to put together and tend to include useless items that get thrown away within a few days. To lower the cost of this – head to the supermarket, bulk-buy some sweets. Head to the local poundland and get some cheap treats and them make your own party bags. Get your children drawing to make personalised gifts for their friends. You could also try a ‘lucky dip’ as an alternative for the children to pick one small gift each as they leave the party.

6. If relatives offer to buy a gift for your child’s birthday ask them to pay for fees like swimming lessons, karate or any other groups the child attends. This will save you money when the bill comes through.

7. A trip to the cinema with some friends makes a great birthday treat but the cost can quickly spiral out of control. However, many cinemas now show kids’ films at the weekend at a fraction of the cost. Check out your local cinema to see what’s on offer. And, if your local cinema allows it, remember to take your own snacks with you to further reduce the cost.

8. Use the internet. If sending out invitations why not send out an e-invite to parents and their kids instead. It’s cheaper than buying cards and you’ll also save time, and money on postage.

9. Make the birthday cake at home. Shop bought cakes are expensive, so make yours at home. There are loads of simple, delicious recipes online that you can make for under a fiver.

10. Forget the entertainer. Make up the games instead of having a children’s entertainer. Good old-fashioned party games are just as fun for little ones. Musical chairs and musical statues are fun for kids. You don’t even need to splash out on prizes – just buy gold stars that make the children special.

11. If your child receives gifts that they already have or that you know they won’t use, why not sell them on eBay? This can be a great way of earning some extra money and putting it in savings, or towards something that they do want or need. Another option is to recycle them by giving them to a different friend in a different social group. Just keep tabs on what’s going where.