Money-Saving Monday: Party planning

Yep, it's Tuesday, and yep, there was no money-saving post last Monday. A little family vacation and then Jack's party ate up much of my time.

Unlike previous parties we've hosted, my husband and I decided to set a firm budget for Jack's barnyard birthday. It would have been easy to get really carried away because celebrating his first year seemed like a big deal to me, and there were so many fun possibilities with the farm theme. So we set the budget at $100 (not including his birthday gift and his party outfit) for invitations, food, paper goods, games, prizes, favors, and decor. I think we may have gone a few dollars over when we had to run to the grocery store for some last-minute ingredients, but basically we stuck to it. Here's how:

  • Reuse: I found various craft supplies around the house that I was able to use or repurpose for the party, including cardstock, markers, and foam shapes for paper-bag puppets we made at the party. In addition, I was able to use a candle screen and some blue fabric I had left over from my wedding to create the "fish pond" (children "fished" for candy treats), and various baskets and boxes I had to hide plastic eggs in the "chicken coop."
  • Make it: Except for a $1 stick-the-tail-on-the-donkey game, I made simple games and activities rather than purchasing them. And while I usually order a grocery-store bakery cake, my husband and I baked and decorated the cake ourselves, which was actually quite fun.
  • Shop carefully: I found several items at a local dollar store (including a straw hat for Jack) that worked perfectly, plus I used coupons and found sales on several of the items. 
  • Get free money: I wrote some reviews on a mommy website that was offering a $5 Target card for contributing 10 reviews, and earned another $5 gift card with a Target purchase. Plus, I got at $21 check from Ebates after doing some online shopping that I would have done ordinarily. This made my budget $131.
  • Splurge a little: There were some elements to the party I couldn't save much on, such as watermelon and hay bales (although the feed store staff suggested I purchase straw instead of hay for a bit less, and I did). I didn't mind spending the money because I felt those were important elements and I was able to save in so many other areas. 
How do you save on kids' or other parties while still making them fun?

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