5 Ways to Make a Birthday Special on a Budget

This post could otherwise be titled “Birthdays the Old Fashioned Way”.

Check it out:

According to Google (which I know is an iffy source, let’s just roll with it for now).

“On a child’s birthday party, a new study found that the average parents today spend $450 on each birthday party for each one of their kids, every single year. And that’s BEFORE they spend $250 on presents.”





I don’t know about you, but that alone is over my monthly grocery budget and if I ended up spending that much money on my kids birthday I would literally be in debt over it.

We recently celebrated two birthdays around here, and I am learning that there a lot of ways to make a kid feel special without spending an arm and a leg on on Pinterest-perfect birthday.


  1. Stick to a budget and simply say NO. This is the easiest and most obvious solution, but also the one that is hardest to stick with. It’s been so easy to for me to compare myself to all those other Mom’s who are KILLIN’ it in the party planning department. Surely my children will need to go to therapy as adults if their party isn’t epic? Nope. It’s not true. In fact, I personally think that my children will learn more from me sticking to a budget and saying no than from getting every gadget and a Pinterest worthy party for their birthday. Our budget for birthday parties covers tablecloths, streamers, balloons and some finger foods. And that’s ok. 
  2. Pick either a party or an outing. Now that we have three children, birthday parties are starting to get really pricey. Even if I stick to the allotted budget, I’m doing that three times…which really adds up. Instead, we are starting some new traditions. The first one is that the child either picks a family outing (the zoo, the arcade, chuck e cheese) OR they pick a party with their friends. Another brilliant idea that I recently heard is that there is not a big birthday hullabaloo every year, but only on specific years- even years or odd years, or even designated special years (like 5, 8, 10, 16, 18). My SIL come up with another awesome idea, and that is to have a girls event and boys event. She has four kids, so they boys get to a do a campout and the girls are doing a tea party in lieu of birthday parties! I thought this was such a great idea!!!
  3. Make the morning EPIC. Of course, if we choose to not do a party I still insist on celebrating the child ALL.DAY.LONG on their birthday. I’ve found the best way to do this is to make the morning EPIC. Hang up streamers and balloons, have things set out for them for when they wake up in the morning. Sing Happy Birthday at the top of your lungs as they blink sleepy eyes at you. My kids love nothing more than emerging from their rooms and knowing that this is THEIR day. Make a special breakfast and make sure that there are things all around the house that just shout HAPPY BIRTHDAY!! 
  4. Balloons, Balloons, Balloons. This is the cheapest way to make a birthday awesome! I absolutely love hitting up party city and buying a helium balloon the night before a birthday! The kids wake up to a balloon tied to their chair and they are THRILLED! Seriously, hours of entertainment. I usually end up just getting a $4 one that says Happy Birthday, but for Tera’s birthday I splurged and got this $10 3. It was so perfect and the kids are still playing with it! Tera wants to take it everywhere that we go. Another easy way to make a birthday special is by blowing up lots of balloons and filling up a bed or bedroom with them. One of our favorite birthday traditions is to write something that we love on a small piece of paper and stuff it into a balloon. We blow the balloon up, and then the child has to pop the balloon to get their “secret” message. I know some kids would be terrified of popping the balloon, but all my kids have loved it so far! For Heavenly, we wrote 11 things and for Tera we each wrote 3. It would also be fun to hide the secret message balloons amongst a lot of other balloons so that the child has to find them. Or do a scavenger hunt! A pack or two of balloons will cost less than $5 and can give the child everything they need for their birthday! 
  5. Fill the day with their choice. Another thing that we love to do on birthday days is let the child have many free choices. One of Heavenly’s favorite things to do is give me a solid punch whenever she spots a punch buggy. I’m not going lie, though..I’m pretty good at getting her right back. But on her birthday, every punch buggy spotted was HERS. She loved it. It’s easy to do many similar things to this. Does your child always want dessert after lunch? Maybe let them eat the cookie FIRST or the vegetables last instead of the usual way around. We always let our children choose what they want for dinner and they get to choose what we do with the day. It’s always fun to give them the reins for a short period of time and see how much they love it!




This is just five simple ways to make a birthday feel incredibly special without spending much money. Our children don’t need as much stuff as we think they do. In fact, they are often just craving time and attention.

If you are struggling to keep up with the Pinterest-perfect birthday parties and the constant whining and asking from your children, I want to challenge you to be intentional on their next birthday. Sure, many of these things take a lot more time and energy from us parents, but it will stick out in their minds so much more than a toy or huge birthday parties.

I’d love to hear from you! What do you do to make your children’s birthdays special? Do you have any fun birthday traditions? I love hearing your brilliant ideas for parenting tips!


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