Party planning on a budget

Claire’s Blog

Am I the only person who cried when my baby grew out of New Born sized clothes? 3 months later I was mourning the 0-3 month size and a season later I had a proper little human running (never walking) everywhere and exploring everything, and I cried about that!

 The big “1st” birthday was just that… big! Everybody who ever even cooed at my baby was invited! One would’ve thought my child was turning 21. Themed invitations went out a whole month before. The
party décor was carefully thought out and purchased, along with a themed cake and party favours for all. Many living in the current economic climate would immediately assume that one requires a small loan or should sell a car or something expensive to pull this event off, especially if there was going to be some kind of entertainment! Well that I did not do. Inspired by the effort my mom always put into my parties, I determined to do it all myself. I am no secret event planner or caterer, just a mom with a vison and a budget.


The first party went off fairly well. It cost me a huge amount of effort but came in low on the expenses… as a party for a 1 year old should. Not much entertainment is necessary for a 1st birthday as the party is really

for all the adults. Perhaps less effort would have been nice! From the second party, one should plan more around the children and keeping them busy.

Between my 3 kids I have planned many a party and I have learnt so much about what works and what doesn’t. While this will vary from family to family, some fundamentals are worth mentioning:


How to word the invitation
Firstly, your invitation will help you establish the most important factors of the party, so consider these beforehand.
• There will always be a sibling that slips in uninvited, either cater for these or specify who is invited.
• Don’t feel pressure to have the whole Moms ‘n Tots group or the whole school class present at the party. One can keep the numbers down through discretely inviting the guests, your child’s closest. More intimate is less chaos and more meaningful.

• If you have the space at home this could help save costs.
• Always have an indoor plan, even if it is plan B, should the weather let you down. It’s a real chore to be at a party feeling wet and uncomfortable.
• Make sure the area is absolutely safe! No swimming pool, open road, dogs etc.

• For budget saving purposes it is probably wise not to plan the party over a meal time. This would inevitably mean more than just party snacks on the catering list, which is more effort and more money.
• Morning parties for little ones are best as they are at their best in the morning, their absolute worst in the afternoons – but that goes without saying!


Hosting a successful party
Secondly, there are 3 key areas to hosting a successful party: 

The guestlist
No party-poopers allowed! Grumpy Granny who guards the cake table should not be invited! Neither should the uncle who brings his own beer. Both are hazards to fun-filled party vibes

It was only when I got Covid and lost my sense of taste and smell that I could fully understand why the food is so important at a party. The food is always what I remember from big occasions. Unfortunately, quantity
and quality count here, however divine food can be made on a small budget with the right recipes on hand.

Children don’t need much to be entertained, it is more about reaching them at their age and their level of interest.

However, they still need to be entertained! A fun party is where they do just that, have fun! And that is what will make it the best party ever!

For under 8’s, I highly recommend a jumping castle. Not too expensive to hire and you don’t need to do much else. Have two or three other activities the kids can do as a group that either involves all hands or
prizes. From gardening to musical chairs, kids love to ‘do’ things. Don’t underestimate the fun in good ol’ fashioned party games, as long as they are age appropriate. I suggest having one or two other activities setup that the kids can do if they want to. Anything from cupcake decorating
to painting, stickers or beading are all great go-to activities.


Some thoughts to help guide your party planning process

Choose your theme with your venue in mind
Broad and timeless themes like ‘wild animals’ or ‘flowers’ are easier to decorate for. Character parties are great but limit creativity regarding décor and coming up with theme-related food and activities. It is so much fun to carry the theme throughout the different areas of the party. Venue plays a big role.

Party packs or favours can double up as snacks and entertainment
For little ones I learned to put the treats in their party pack instead of on the table, and to give those out during the party rather than at the end. This limited scoffing and potentially sick children as well as expenses. One can then have a treats table with Flings, marshmallows and straw-
berries for example, and the table still looks delicious.

Party packs can be made up of just about anything delicious. One could go completely sugar, as these portions are rationed anyway, or completely healthy. The fact that it’s in a party bag is the key. Some examples include Flings (or popcorn when they are older), one or 2 sweet treats, bubbles or a theme-related toy or activity, a cookie or drinking yogurt and a fruit stick or cheese.

Here are some examples of party themes

THEME 1: Under the sea
Hanging fish and helium
balloons in shades of blue.
Fish shaped pretzels, marsh-mallow fish, blue jelly and cream or vanilla ice cream.
Bubbles, swimming (if older), face painting, mermaid treasure hunt.
PARTY FAVOUR: Mermaid tails for the girls, very simple to make with elastic and organza. Shark fins for the boys.
4-6 years old, boy or girl.

THEME 2: Flowers and worms
DÉCOR: Plastic spades and paper flowers.
FOOD: Crushed Oreos and sour worms, flower shaped watermelon and green grapes on skewers.
ACTIVITY: A half shell filled with potting soil, seedlings and spades. The children can dig up and plant their own flower in a little pot. You could have a table with stick- ers, washi-tape and gems where they can decorate their own plant pot.
PARTY FAVOUR: The plant is the party favour.
AGE: 2-4 years old, boy or girl.

THEME 3: Wild Animals
DÉCOR: Orange and yellow balloons, lion faces from paper plates, animal print material for cloths or draping.
FOOD: Zoo biscuits, animal pasta in Neapolitan sauce served in cupcake cups, animal print cupcakes or animals’ faces if you can either do it yourself or print them on rice paper, chuckles for animal droppings.
ACTIVITY: Face painting, animal cupcake decorating.


PARTY FAVOUR: The cupcake they decorated with a “thank you for coming to my party” on a tooth pick.
AGE: 1-7 years old, boy or girl (just adjust the activity to be age a

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