Budget Birthday Planning

I recently celebrated Merle's first birthday by throwing a party at my parents house. It was such a joy to see family and friends that we don't usually get to see and to have everyone together for a common cause, our love for Merle. When you're on a budget, inessential things like parties often become impossible. It was really important to me to celebrate her first year, so I came up with ways to cut costs and make a party fit into my budget. The most crucial factor to success is to plan, plan, plan. From dividing the expense over multiple paychecks to avoiding expensive convenience purchases at the last minute, planning ahead helps maximize party throwing on a dime.

Party stores lure people in with the promise of cost effective party packages for any theme possible. The reality is these stores are the opposite of cost effective and most of the themed goods feature cheesy graphics. I saved a ton of money by buying all the paper goods (plates, napkins, etc) from the Dollar Tree, as well as items to make the decor and favors. While dollar stores do carry some themed items, they tend to scream 'I was purchased at a discount store,' so I stick with solid colors. With the solid colored plates, napkins, and cups, it's impossible to tell where you bought them and when you purchase them at the Dollar Tree, instead of say Party City, you save as much as 75 percent. The savings add up quickly. One downside can be a smaller assortment, but the selection available at dollar stores changes frequently, so if you plan ahead, you will likely be able to get your preferred color choice prior to the party. For Merle's party, I really wanted pale yellow and white square plates (yea I like to be different) and when I first when shopping, the store only had standard circular ones. I kept checking back and was eventually able to get the ones I wanted.

The same is true of party favors. Dollar stores carry a plethora of favor options at a fraction of the cost of party stores. However you can rack up a big bill giving party goers lots of random little things you find in the favor aisle no matter where you shop. Instead of filling favor bags to the brim with stuff no one needs, do a single thank you offering that ties in with the party. For me, that meant simply buying bubbles and tying ribbon around them in the party's colors. Because the party was outside, the bubbles could be used at the event or saved for a later time.

Another advantage to planning ahead was having ample time to make my own decorations. Martha Stewart Living gave me tons of inspiration for ways to decorate for the party, but a lot of those decorations, even the DIY ones, required $$$ that I didn't have. For example, hanging Pom Pom flowers can cost several dollars a piece, but by making them myself using this tutorial I found on Pintrest, I only spent $2 plus a few standard household supplies to make 8 flowers. I had also seen a beautiful number cut out but the cost of the materials made doing the DIY project not worth it (seen here). Instead of giving up, I made a few product swaps based on what the Dollar Tree had. Using only poster board, cupcake liners, and crayons ($3 total), I was able to make the same thing. To add more elements to the party that showcased the theme (birds and the bees), I created label tents for all of the food with tiny birds and bees printed on them. This nearly free project, plus the $5 I spent on the flower and number cut out making supplies, created a beautifully decorated spread without a Martha Stewart budget.

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