A tighter budget doesn’t mean you have to scrimp on the fun – it’s just a case of thinking outside the box. “With a smaller budget, you should have the party at home as it’s the cheapest option, but this shouldn’t restrict you,” says Deirdre Bounds, director and founder of Parties Around the World. “Be creative and use themes that won’t cost you a bundle, such as baking, crafts and football parties. You could even hide a few cheap sweets in the garden for a thrilling scavenger hunt.”
Keep costs down further by sending invitations via email, making homemade decorations with your little ones and serving up nibbles instead of massive platters of food. “Avoid the hefty cost of an entertainer and rely on old-fashioned games such as pass the parcel to get toddlers active. Children rarely play these games any more, so it’ll be great for them and needn’t cost you a penny,” adds Deirdre.
When to start planning: Choose your theme two months ahead
Number of children to invite: Between six and eight, depending on the size of your home
With a slightly bigger budget you can get more adventurous with the venue, but keep looking for bargains. “Sometimes mums can feel lost if they haven’t planned a party before. Organisation and knowing your limits with your cash flow is key,” explains Rebecca Lousky, company director of Celebrationz.
So how do you achieve success without spending a fortune? “Village halls and local community centres are usually about £25 to hire, so that’s the venue you should choose. As most of your budget is going into the venue, remove the cost of things like party bags. Get a big black sack, fill it with shredded paper and cheap gifts from the pound shop, then make it into a mystery gift game. The children will love it,” says Deirdre.
Keep food to a minimum as the little ones will be busy playing and you could end up with a lot of leftovers. “If you’re strapped for cash, ask parents of children coming to each bring a tray of kiddies’ treats, so the hall is decked out with a tasty feast,” adds Deirdre. And always watch what other mums with the same budget are doing, as you can get some fantastic ideas from them.
When to start planning: Three months ahead as you’ll need to book your chosen venue
Number of children to invite: Between 10 and 25
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With this budget you can opt for a posher venue. “But keep on top of invites and RSVPs. You’ll need to know exactly how many children are attending, so you don’t waste money buying more goodies than you should,” says Deirdre.
Save pennies by baking your own cake, bringing your own music and relying on classic games like musical chairs for entertainment. “Buy cheap winner’s medals to award the kids, it makes them feel special and will be a keepsake from the day,” adds Deirdre.
“For this kind of venue, dancing and interaction are essential, so hiring an entertainer can really bring a party to life,” adds Rebecca. Prices of entertainers vary, so only hire one if you have the cash. “You can head to the party shop, hire a suit and get Dad dressed up. Then he can entertain your toddler and his buddies,” says Deirdre.
When to start planning: Popular entertainers can get booked up six months ahead
Number of children to invite: Between 15 and 30
“Save money by baking your own goodies. This year, for my little one, I made an amazing Mickey Mouse cake for a fraction of the price I’d have bought one for. It wasn’t a masterpiece but was great fun to make, and made the day extra special.”
Kerry Laville, 31, from West Yorkshire, mum to Taylor, 1
“Plan ahead so you’re prepared. I got my little ones making paper chains, colourful invites and name badges. I also printed out images of their favourite characters and got them to colour them in and stick them around the house.”
Kirsty Madew, 26, from Stockport, mum to Heidi, 3, and Alfie, 19 months