I thought this information was really important, given that there are plenty of things you can do to put on a birthday for no cost at all! I also realize that many of the strategies in the previous three chapters will be beyond the budget of many parents, and simply out of the question, and that many of the resources that are recommended in the previous chapters may not be available to many parents. Some parents may not have access to a computer or a stable internet connection; some parents may not have a dollar store nearby; and some parents may not have the money to make birthday foods. Still, none of these things really matter if the point of your celebration is to enjoy the company of those around you. If you’re trying to hold a celebration in order to impress someone, then you probably shouldn’t have picked up this e-book in the first place and there’s not much I can do to help you in that department. However, if your goals are to genuinely enjoy the company of your friends and family, well, then this can be done for $0.00. This chapter highlights the barebones strategies that you can employ TODAY to get your party off the ground for NO MONEY!
So is food a problem? Are you not a natural-born chef? No money to make anything birthday-related? No worries! Below is a list of things you can do to get around this:
- Make the party a potluck. You can save yourself a lot of time and unnecessary energy if you just simply christen the party a potluck! On the invitations, invite your guests to contribute some of their favorite foods. Don’t specify what, leave it open for creativity or have your guests clarify. Emphasize that everyone will pool their resources together and make the party the best it can be with the help and contribution of everyone involved. If well executed, this could stir up some serious creativity and a level of excitement in those guests who are more than ready to rise to the occasion. You might even be able to generate some healthy competition! Just make sure to keep channels of communication open amongst the guests so that everyone knows who is bringing what and there isn’t any unnecessary overlap!
- Have the party between lunch and dinner. If the potluck idea doesn’t work for you, you can still do some serious cost-cutting by simply deciding that the party is going to be RIGHT AFTER everyone has had lunch elsewhere! This takes the pressure off of you to produce any food whatsoever, as it does many of the guests who might not be so eager to bake something. Of course, if you have resources to provide a little snack, then go for it. But if not, you can just establish the party as something akin to a meet-up, where everyone congregates after coming from lunch from wherever. This can be just as successful a birthday party as any other!
- Drop the cake. I only recommend this as an absolute last resort. I understand that there are times in our lives when we sometimes miscalculate and overshoot the budget. If this happens to you, don’t panic! Just simply decide not to bake anything and tell your guests that you had this elaborate plan to helicopter the cake in from a top-secret location and that you accidentally dropped it en route to the birthday location.
- Portion Control. Okay, so let’s say you have enough money for food, but you’re just not sure it will be enough? Simple. Reduce the portions. Plan on minimizing the rations, and have only the hungriest return for seconds once everyone else has had their first. This will not only help reduce costs, but will also nicely pace the flow of the party.
So you want to make the party look festive, huh? Believe it or not, much of what you already possess in your living room can probably be leveraged for decent enough party-style decorations. It just takes a little imagination and creativity to reinvent your living space for that one special day! Here are some helpful tips that you may find useful:
- Outsource to your children. Want to keep the kids busy while you work out the more important logistics of the party? If you got some paper and crayons handy, organize an arts & crafts session where your child/children make pretty decorations in preparation for the party! Aside from being a useful time-filler, this activity will also teach your children the delicate art of party-planning. (Important Note: this will probably not work if your children are old enough to complain!)
- Print, print, print! I’ve already recommended this strategy in a previous chapter, but it bears repeating because it is really effective! There are websites that you can actually use to print out party banners, invitations, party favor bags, and all sorts of goodies that you would find useful for enhancing the party atmosphere! Of course, this IS a chapter about strategies that will cost you NO money and technically, this particular piece of advice DOES imply that you have a printer handy. However, many states in the U.S. have workforce development centers with open-access printers you can use for NO MONEY! Of course, many centers require business-related only printing, but if you have a modest number of copies that you need to make (say, below 10), you should be fine. Besides, it’s your taxpayer dollars that fund these centers, so why not take advantage?? Their entire purpose is to accommodate you! So use them.
- Park it. You can just as easily totally skip out on the whole decoration problem by having the party in a park. This not only takes the burden of decorating the party off your back, but also your child learns to appreciate the great outdoors as an added benefit! That’s two birds with one stone!
Games and Activities
Most of the games and activities mentioned in this e-book require no upfront costs. Still, it never hurts to highlight some of the easier ones to initiate! Some of these games and activities might even serve as some backup activities just in case the others that you had originally planned fall flat. Never hurts to have a Plan B or C!
- Movie Party. One of the easiest activities to initiate. Pick out a few age-appropriate DVDs at your local library and have a movie birthday. Don’t have a DVD player? Ask your local librarian if you can rent out a DVD player for a birthday.
- Funny pictures. Ask the guests of your party, particularly the older guests, to bring cameras. Those who do bring cameras can enjoy taking funny pictures of all of the guests and then creating a scrapbook later of the event. This will also help to develop the party-atmosphere a little bit.
- Treasure Hunt. Take any small object that you own–be it a spoon, a tennis ball, a puzzle piece, etc. and hide it! While this game will usually only be successful with really young children, older children and even some adults can really get into this as well with the right attitude! Obviously, the personalities of your guests is something that you’ll have to factor into your planning, but if you have the type of guests who don’t mind evoking their inner-child every once in a while to have a good time, go for it!
- Goofy Relative. Invite a goofy relative, preferably one who can crack jokes that are age-appropriate while performing a few neat magic tricks. This is assuming you have one of these, but if you don’t, a good friend will also suffice. Just make sure you give these guests fair warning and enough time to prepare. It also won’t hurt for you to tell these guests what role you would like them to serve, making sure that they are okay with filling this need. Otherwise, you could potentially get confused–and unwelcome–reactions. On the whole, the person must be someone you’re EXTREMELY comfortable with!
- Invent your own board games. Whether you’re playing for points or for prizes, in a small group or multiple groups, almost anything can be turned into a game! You can create board games or just simply use your body in unconventional ways to create fun and interesting moments. You’d be surprised what you can come up with if you just put your mind to it! The following list, although by no means comprehensive, should give you a better sense of the possibilities here. You’ll want to modify or change these according to your individual needs:
- Simon Says
- Tic Tac Toe
- Make your own piñata
- Guess Who
Finally, a note on invitations. Firstly, you don’t need to make invitations if you don’t want to. I suspect that for many of you, invitations will be irrelevant for your purposes–either your child is too young to invite anyone or you’re inviting few people whom you’ve already spoken to inperson. Still, if you’re interested, there are some invitation-strategies for you to employ that will cost you NO MONEY at all. Keep these strategies in mind as you plan your “attack”:
- Electronic invitations. This probably goes without saying, but email has changed the way we as a society, invite guests. Nowadays, there are literally an infinite number of ways for you to go about e-inviting people to particular events, whether through Facebook, Twitter, or the more “conventional,” email and evite.com. Just remember that there’s nothing more powerful than a personalized invitation through e-mail. The rest is liable to end up as spam or junk mail or internet fodder.
- Last-minute invitations. Plan on sending last-minute invitations, and then renege. I only recommend this as an absolute last resort. If you’re really pressed for time and resources, you can reduce the number of guests by simply… well… reducing the number of guests and then telling these guests later on that you were going to send them last-minute invitations but didn’t really see the point. Believe it or not, I’ve heard that some guests will feel inclined to provide a birthday gift to your child even after hearing a story like this! Dare to try it?
- Recycled-Paper Invitations. Finally, if you’re going to go the more conventional route of mailing your invitations to your guests, you can cut costs by making your own invitations out of paper that you would otherwise have thrown out. Paper is everywhere, and you can often find enough of it to make really clever little cards for your guests who will appreciate the added thought and creativity that went into making one of these. You can use printable white paper, lunch-bag paper, old comic books, newspapers, magazines, cereal box cardboard, even wax paper!
Ask Guests to Participate
There is one final note that I cannot stress enough: Ask your guests to participate in the planning. Not only does this make good sense in terms of cutting time and money, but it can also provide an opportunity for you to bond with your guests over a collective cause. In the end, offering guests ways to participate provides a great lesson to others that a store bought gift may not be the most special gift; that affection does not come with a price tag; and that there are just some things that last far longer than any material things that could have been purchased. Memories very often last a lifetime.
Generally speaking, less is more when planning an event, either at home or “abroad” in your neighborhood park. Turn down the volume on the amount and types of food, the amount of activities, and the amount of gifts, and you will find money getting saved. The tips for this particular section were designed to provide you with really practical, and most importantly, actionable, advice that you can use to make your child’s birthday party the most enjoyable it can be, and without breaking the bank.
In many respects, this is probably the most important chapter of the entire book because it contains many strategies that you can use to ensure that you don’t pass your budget of $12.00. And since all of these strategies can be implemented for NO MONEY AT ALL, you definitely shouldn’t have a problem in this department.
We’ve covered a lot of ground, and if you’ve been reading this e-book from cover to cover, you’ll know that you have a lot of useful tools and resources at your disposal that can help you plan for those memorable birthday moments. However, you’ll probably also notice that there has been an overarching theme underscoring all of the major recommendations throughout, and if you take nothing else away from this book, please at least realize this: A lot of what you need to make a successful birthday party you already have. In other words, most of the resources that you need come from within. I know this probably sounds trite and cliché, so let me put it inanother way: birthday parties are about celebrating the lives of the people you care about–and in this case, it’s your child’s. Sure, there may come a time when your child has some specific ideas about how the party should be set up, but any of these demands should be counterbalanced with teaching your child some good values, such as how to be a good host, how to budget, and how to exercise thrift, particularly when you’re working from limited resources (as I’ve already mentioned). Most importantly, teaching your child that birthday parties are occasions to express appreciation and affection for others, and to also say “thank you,” is probably the best gift you can offer. That’s what birthday parties are all about, and it is from working with this basic premise that you cannot fail.