My son recently turned 10 and with that came the annual task of planning a birthday party that would both delight my child and not leave my checking account in ruins. He always prefers a party in our backyard — we rented a bounce house for his party when he was a toddler and ever since then, that’s what birthdays are about to him.
I came across Joker Jumpers (either through a friend or Craigslist, I can’t quite recall) and we’ve used their services for at least the last five years, if not more. They’re super reliable, their rentals are always clean and on-time, and they offer competitive if not better prices than everyone I’ve compared against.
My ongoing positive experience with Joker Jumpers led me to think about the other things I’ve done to plan budget-friendly birthday parties, and to seek out advice from other parents to share here with you, as I think all of us parents could use a hand keeping the whole raising humans thing within financial reason.
Besides using Joker Jumpers, who’ll bring you an awesome bounce house for just $60 all day, here are 10 additional tips.
1. Skip the cake
Order churros instead! My son (and I!) both love cinnamon and sugar and somehow, I got the idea to see if Costco would allow me to order a big batch of churros from their snack bar ahead of time, like you can with their pizzas. Answer: YES!
For just $1 a piece, you get giant churros that can easily be cut in half for two kids to enjoy. Cut them into gradually smaller pieces and stack them into a pyramid and you have a churro cake! Voila! Impresses children and it’s cheaper than a bakery cake too.
2. Plan the party during an event held by ValleyPBS or the Fresno Chaffee Zoo
Both of these local organizations frequently host family-friendly events such as Pancakes with Clifford or Breakfast with the Animals. Invite your child’s friends to attend and bypass all the setup, cleanup, and event planning! These events are often affordable or even free for members. For information on ValleyPBS’s Family Circle Membership (which offers monthly events for families) or a zoo membership, just follow the links. (Thanks to Loren Nikkel, parent of two girls, for this tip.)
3. Throw a party at California Pizza Kitchen
I’ve written about this before, but it’s worth an additional mention. For just $10 per child, party-goers will enjoy a kitchen tour, get to make their own custom pizzas, decorate pizza boxes, eat ice cream sundaes for dessert, and enjoy some of the friendliest, most patient customer service you’ll see anywhere – all before the restaurant opens for the regular business day.
4. Visit the Home Depot
Got an industrious little one? Enjoy a hands-on experience by inviting their friends to a free kids workshop at Home Depot! My son has participated in these before, and has built a wooden car, a jewelry box, a birdhouse, and more. Each child receives an apron and a pin for each project they complete, too! For a schedule of local kids workshops, click here. (Thank you Karla Rojas, mother of two boys, for this idea.)
5. Scavenge for candy at Powell’s
Did you know that Powell’s Sweet Shoppe in Clovis, for a small fee, will host a scavenger hunt for kids during which they hunt down 34 types of candy and get to keep it all at the end? It’s true! Check it out. (Thanks for the lead on this one, Jennifer Downing, mama of three from Clovis.)
6. Let the kids build and take home Lego creations
JJ Johnstone, who has two boys, suggests purchasing Legos inexpensively on Craigslist (or maybe ebay if Craigslist pickings are slim at the time) and allow each child to build something they get to take home as their favor. She also says baking a rectangular cake and topping it with cupcakes placed upside-down then frosted makes for a simple and fool-proof Lego cake!
7. Serve nacho average party food
Natalie Wallis, mom of two from Fresno, suggests not serving a big meal and instead making fun, affordable buffets for your kids’ parties. She likes to set up a nacho bar and plans to do a sundae/banana split bar this year to change things up. These options are affordable, and kids will think you’re the coolest for serving them!
8. Have some backyard fun
Noemi Valenzuela, mom of two from Fresno, suggests hosting an outdoor movie night with a projector and a sheet, and having each child bring their own chair or blankets and pillows. Additionally, she suggests having a water-themed party, no in-ground pool required, as she has had great success purchasing Dollar Tree water guns and setting up home bases in kiddie/wading pools around the yard.
9. Throw a $5 movie party
Megan Crutchfield says with her two girls, the best and most affordable birthday she’s ever held was reserving seats in advance at the Sierra Vista movie theater in Clovis (she says you can even do this for the $5 movies!) then treating the kids to Big Kahuna Frozen Yogurt next to the theater afterward. Rumor has it, if you bring your movie stubs, you’ll even get a discount off your yogurt purchase!
10. Plan a weekday party
Last but certainly not least, savvy party-planner and budget-minding mom of six girls Lacey Dunkin says “Weekends are more expensive than weekdays. Some places include Friday in their weekend prices, some don’t.” So, be sure to pay attention to cost differences when you schedule parties outside of the home.