Kids Birthday Parties: Don’t Blow The Budget

IMG_1549.JPGKids birthday parties. Love them or hate them, you’ve gotta have them.

I don’t think I have ever seen such extravagant parties for children than in the UAE. I’ve seen everything from hotel ball room extravaganzas to backyard bonanzas complete with face painting, clowns and five-star catering. Many of our friends have opted for organized parties at indoor play parks and some have even taken their kids and their friends to a major theme park for a day.

One friend once confided in me that her 10 year old’s birthday party cost them over 6,000 dirhams!

Nowadays, you just need to type in “kids’ birthday party” into Pinterest and you can brace yourself for images of most beautiful, elaborate, expensive and otherworldly events that are enough to put any world class event planner to shame. It’s a game of “keeping up with the Jones’es” on a whole new level!

But it doesn’t have to be this way! What ever happened to doing things ourselves?

When I was a kid, a birthday parties were simple celebrations. My parents would let me invite a few friends and their parents for a cake at my house or at the park.  My mum always made our cakes and the catering was simple – usually some fairy bread (bread with butter and rainbow sprinkles), some fruit and some chips. The kids played, there was an occasional game of pass-the-parcel and everyone went home on a sugar high and with a sweaty face from playing so hard.

My twins turned four this week. We had a simple party in our back yard and the whole event cost a little over 400 dirhams.

Here are some of the ways we saved money and still had an awesome day:

  1. Digital invitations: I designed the invitations on PicMonkey and sent them out via What’s App, saving money on printing.
  2. Don’t invite everyone: With twins, I wasn’t prepared to invite two whole classes of kids to the party, so I let them invite four friends each for their fourth birthday. We added a few close family friends (the Tribe) to the list to round out the numbers.
  3. Homemade decorations: I cut the decorations out of old paintings that my kids had made. We went for a mermaids and monkeys theme, so we had bunches of bananas and leaves and starfish and shells strung across the yard.
  4. Party at our place: We have a nice big back yard and with the weather still being so pleasant, we had a lovely relaxed afternoon chatting with the grownups while the kids played.
  5. Simple catering: I baked cookies and muffins, had bowls of goldfish crackers and plates of fairy bread (of course!), a simple fruit platter of grapes and watermelon, water, juice, tea and coffee for the grown-ups, and CAKE!
  6. Home made cake: I baked the cake and assembled it myself. All of the cake decorations were home made. It tasted delicious and all it cost was the ingredients. (Side note: I am aware that some people aren’t confident in the kitchen – but I bet you have a friend that is! A little help from your friends can go a long, long way!)
  7. Limit the games. Because our kids are still small, they don’t really understand how the typical party games work. We opted instead to let them play in the communal playground in our compound and let them write on the pavement with sidewalk chalk. Everyone’s a winner and no one needs a prize!
  8. Simple party favours: I am mindful that most parents (including myself) don’t really want a sugared-up kid coming home just before dinner and bedtime the night before school. I bought simple gifts from Daiso, including a pen, origami paper and a few stickers. No candy = a win for the parents!

At the end of the day, the kids left sweaty and happy from playing with their besties. Our clean up was minimal, our costs were low and most importantly, our twins thought it was the best day ever.

Have you been caught out with the expense of your child’s birthday party before? What would you do differently next time?

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