We’ve totally done the rented-venue birthday party, but learned that you don’t need to spend a lot of money to give your child a special memory to mark his or her new age. Even a real party with activities, favors, and treats can be achieved for a low price. Our best efforts to save money on a third birthday party taught us even more. We had a great plan — some of it was even well-executed — and we still spent more than $150. Ouch! So, learn from my successes and my mistakes and take a look at some super-cheap three year old birthday party ideas.
3 year old birthday party ideas – 5 tips to make them cheap(er)
1) Limit the Guest List
It cannot be overstated that the easiest way to cut costs is to cut guests. Holden wanted a “big party” so we started off with an evite of all his friends (who come with parents at this age), our whole family (most of whom live out of state and wouldn’t come), my coworkers, and all our friends with kids (who, of course, come with kids).
The e-vite was up to 37 adults before I asked WTF: Is Holden’s idea of a BIG PARTY even this big? On the brink of sending the message; we decided, no, and chose a few kids who were his close friends (the ones he would choose) and their folks. Ahhh, better.
2) Choose a Free Place!
There’s nothing wrong with holding your child’s birthday party at a location that costs absolutely nothing. In fact, we encourage it!
We’ve been to some super fun third birthday parties this year: an all bouncy house party, a play space rental party, a pirate themed party (also with bouncy houses), a kickas$ backyard festival, and had our own fantasies of petting zoos and king cobras.
Luckily, we asked the kid where he wanted to celebrate and he chose the local (and free!) playground with picnic tables. Yeehaw. We had a biking theme and brought Holden’s trike and “wobbly bike” for others to try out and encouraged his guests to do the same. It was terrific. Between the kids, we had a scooter and another tricycle to add to the mix. Kids were great about sharing and trying out the different sets of wheels.
3) Plan Ahead- It’s About the Kids!
Planning ahead for all aspects of your party will seriously help you when time starts ticking down. Before you know it, those three weeks you had left to plan out what foods would be served, what games would be brought, and what you’ll be wearing to the shindig has trickled down to just three hours before guests start arriving.
One way to help yourself in planning ahead is to have your little one pick what he/she wants to eat at their party! After all, kid food is cheap food. I offered some choices I could live with: sandwiches, pizza, or Mexican and Holden chose (emphatically) sandwiches. When pressed for specifics, he wanted PBJ. Hecka cheap. He also asked for dry cereal, but I decided that was too weird.
The morning of, we cut about 5 sandwiches into quarters and then panicked about what the adults would eat. I went to the grocery store for a last minute run on beverages (water bottles, juice boxes, milk boxes), berries, watermelon, green salad to the tune of $83. I think a little pre-planning might have helped. You don’t need to cater the party to the taste of the adults. Worst case, they leave a little hungry and don’t think that three-year olds eat very well.
So what. Maybe they’ll snack before coming next year. Best case, they appreciate your simplicity and think that the kid planned a menu of his favorites (in this case it was true!).
4) Budget Your Decorations!
Again, this is a place where you can go unnecessarily overboard, especially if you have been browsing Pinterest for inspiration. For about $30 at the party supply outlet, I got 3 helium balloons (best investment!), blue plates, blue cups, blue napkins, plastic cutlery, a teensy number 3 candle, and a white table cover.
The solid blue is was good because it can all be reused (Hanukkah!!) but we really only used the plates. All the food is finger food (only one mom touched our green salad with a plastic fork, the rest was undisturbed) and drink boxes. I could have probably gotten away with spending $5 on just the balloons, plates, candle, and table coverings.
Another great idea when it comes to decorating your child’s birthday party is to shop online. Amazon is uhh-mazing when it comes to perusing different decorations (along with practically anything else you might need for the party). Plus, if you have Amazon Prime, you can expect your delivery in just a short 2 days. No need for getting dressed in publicly-appropriate clothes! That’s a win-win.
36 Counts Hawaiian Leis– Perfect for any Luau themed party!
Mickey Mouse Birthday Banner– Just the perfect tough to any Disney themed birthday party!
Star Wars The Force Awakens Wall Poster– Bring on those photo opportunities!
5) Bake Your Own Goodies!
Get crafty! Baking your own goodies not only serves as a little mental break from adulting, but saves you money in the long run. Plus… you get to lick the spoon (and bowl, if you decide to go a little crazy) in the comfort of your own home.
For $5 rather than the $42 I spent on fancy bakery cupcakes, you can bake some tasty mini cupcakes if time permits or even make some awesome minion cupcakes. I went to one of my favorite bakeries and custom ordered (the minimum) 24 cupcakes, like a sucker. Learn from my mistakes. We also baked cookies (because he very specifically asked for cake and cookies, but the kids didn’t go for them, so they were tragically wasted).
My grand total was $257ish. $83 (food) + $30 (decorations + $42 (cupcakes) + $0 (location) + $7 (favors of sand toys to use today and take away) virtual $100 (invitations)
My revised grand total $55ish. $45 (less food) + $5 (less decorations) + $5 (cheaper cupcakes or $12 for a dozen brownie bites) + $7 (reusable favors) $0 (for location and invitations)
Keyword: 5 tips for a cheap(er) third birthday party