Let's get on with this, shall we? When planning Tyler's birthday parties, there are a few key areas that I've focused on in the very beginning of of the planning stages to try to both keep myself sane (I heard that snicker, Mom!) and to keep the budget in check. I say the word budget very loosely. I have a budget of $200 for his party this year but that's also only my half since his Dad and I are splitting the party 50/50. So, here are my tips on how to throw a great party for your wee one and keep your budget (however big or small. . .but I like to keep the $$ amount small!) in check.
There are two things that you have to do FIRST: set a budget (even if it's a bit squishy, set a target. It can always move a little up or down later) that is realistic. This is important because I could set a $500 budget but if I can't realistically afford to put out $500, why would I set that as my budget? The other thing is to decide what BASIC kind of party you want. By this I mean, do you want indoor or outdoor? At a food establishment (like Chuck-E-Cheese) or at a recreational facility (like Romp-N-Roll or Little Gym) or at a private residence (like your house). Once you have these two items even remotely figured out, you've already got a great start to your plan.
One tip regarding the budget:
Once you have a total dollar amount that you want to target as the "it" amount, start to break down that total amount into smaller target amounts. A few categories that you might want to consider are venue, food, cake/cupcakes, goody bags, decorations, and entertainment costs. Sometimes just breaking the budget down into smaller amounts will help you to realize that your total budget needs to be reviewed. I mean, it's great to budget $100 for your child's party but if you plan to serve a full meal to 35 guests, give out jam-packed goody bags to 20 kids, and hire Jacky the
* Plan Ahead -- I know you've heard this before but I can't say it enough. Yes, we're busy. . .I sure as heck am, but I start planning Tyler's birthday party anywhere from 4-6 months prior to his actual party. I select the date that I want to throw his party and I start planning things according to that date. Trust me, getting the venue that you want when you're calling 6 months in advance is SO much easier than waiting until the party date is looming and you're frantically calling around looking for somewhere. . .ANYWHERE. . .that has an open party room. That's when things start to get expensive. And we get desperate. Because, somewhere along the line, some ridiculously incorrect book led us to believe that disappointing our children on any level, at any time, was only what BAD parents do. Yeah.
* Call around--once you get an idea of what type of venue you (or your kids) are looking for, make a list and start calling around and getting information. Ask them things like "How much is the party package?", "How long do I have use of the room?", "What is included in the price?". What you're looking for is to see if the venue is going to cover things like food, decorations, invitations, goody bags, activities, etc. There's a huge difference in paying $400 for a venue that includes most everything and $75 for a venue that includes almost nothing. The $75 price tag looks appealing but you may soon find out just how quickly the other items can add up to more than $400 once it's all said and done. That's why you make lists! See, there's a meaning behind my list madness!
* Check into places that might not immediately jump into your mind. Parks, gyms, restaurants, rec centers. . .even our local animal shelter offers birthday party space! Check into local museums and historical monuments. If your kid loves trains, and you have a Train Museum in your area it could very well end up being a win/win situation. This is where having plenty of time to observe and call around to get quotes and information will really help you in finding the right place for your budget.
This, my friends, has most definitely turned into a multi-post event. I don't like to write novels that take you all hours to read, nor do I have that much longer left in the day before I have to scuttle off to pick up my little man from school. So, I will delve deeper into this topic in another Thrifty Thursday post next week. Until then, be thinking about how you've thrown your own thrifty parties in the past. What tips do you have to share with all of us?