A month ago I sent out invitations to Son #2’s 2nd birthday party. I allowed plenty of time to plan an OTT extravaganza to make up for doing almost nothing for his 1st birthday last year.
Then we all got sick. Really sick. We’re talking rolling toddler fevers for a week, worrying weight loss and my Mum in hospital for three nights. SICK.
A couple of weeks ago I started to come out of the illness blur. And realised almost everyone who had been invited was coming to our party. All 29 adults and 17 children. To our house. And I’d done nothing to prepare.
I freaked out a little.
As a result, over the past two weeks I’ve become a bit of an expert in planning a party with virtually no time, zero craft skills and a limited budget.
The party was a huge success – by which I mean everyone seemed to have fun and I didn’t have a complete nervous breakdown – so I’ll share my wisdom here for all you time-poor, creatively-challenged and reasonably broke parents.
Freaking out on Facebook helps. I had several offers of help, which I gratefully accepted. Wonderful family and friends brought a cake for the adults, sausage rolls, mars bar slice, fruit platters and a dip platter.
Buy a catering pack
I found a finger food company which does a catering pack which feeds 25-30 people 11-13 items each for <$100. No thinking, cheaper than the supermarket and all the food could be rotated through the oven and served with serviettes and toothpicks. Just add sauce.
Keep it simple
This is a kid’s party, not a wedding. The fairy bread and Vegemite sandwiches I made were hugely popular, as were the grapes, apple slices, strawberries and sausage rolls.
Let’s face it, most kids don’t actually eat a whole lot of food at parties anyway. They’re too busy running around screaming, making a mess and generally having a fabulous time.
Pop top juices for the kids. No preparation, they don’t need refrigeration and they’re less likely to spill them. A slab of 24 at Kmart will cost you around $12. Make it apple and your carpet will thank you.
For the adults, buy a bunch of soft drink and mineral water. Make sure all your coffee cups are clean and top up your coffee and tea supplies.
Lolly bags & decorations
Do not go to a dedicated party supplies shop if you want to save money and time. A late night run to Kmart after the kids are in bed will score you a pack of balloons, ribbon, lolly bags and all the sugary treats you can cram into them for bargain basement prices.
It won’t be Peppa Pig or Thomas but I promise you the kids will not care (and if they do, just tell them to stop whingeing or you will eat their ENTIRE LOLLY BAG).
* Bonus tip from my husband *
Don’t bother tying the balloons up high. Leave them scattered on the floor to create a whole other source of delight and avoid the inevitable requests for the balloons to be cut down and possessed.
I’m not visually creative but I love a lovely cake and I can bake. I made a basic vanilla cake, iced it and slapped on (gently, of course) an edible Peppa Pig cake topper from The Sweet Stylist.
I’ve ordered one a couple of months ahead of almost every family birthday we’ve had for the past year or so. You can send her any picture you find, including family photos, and she’ll print it on to an edible icing sheet and post it to you.
Just make sure you DO NOT put plastic wrap directly over the icing or you’ll end up with the cake disaster we had – I managed to rip the top part off with the plastic wrap!
Nothing a few strategically placed chocolate freckles couldn’t fix…
I saved time and money here by buying mostly things we would use again anyway, or things that we needed. Match that with your child’s favourite things in the world to do and you’re on to a winner.
We needed new sand for our sand pit, so we bought about 80kgs from Bunnings (which always costs extra because you have to buy a sausage in bread with sauce as well…).
I then pulled out two blanket boxes from under our bed, dumped the blankets, put the boxes in the carport and filled them with sand.
The night before the party I buried about 20 fun size Milky Ways.
It was great fun the next day to watch the kids slowly figure out that the sandpit was full of chocolate.
2. Play doh
We had some play doh already. We’ll always need more and it’s so incredibly cheap to make. I made two more batches, hauled our train table out to the garage and plonked all our play doh utensils on it. Hours of fun.
3. Bubbles and blowers
Kids love them, adults tolerate them (just) and Kmart will sell you whole packets for a few dollars. Just try to make sure the bubble and noise making happens outside!
4. Older kids
If you’ve got a few older kids coming, chances are they won’t want the little kids games. Hunt out anything you’ve got that you think might interest them. For us it was a backyard cricket set.
So there you have it, a successful non-Pinterest party on a budget.
What are your tips for saving time and money on kids’ birthday parties?
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