How to Plan a Child's Birthday Party on a Budget

1.Decide what you can afford to spend on the party. Stick to it.
2.Pick an inexpensive location. Parks and backyards are perfect for large groups of kids - they're free, and there's plenty of room to have fun.
3.Decide what games, if any, you'll invite kids to play. Bring out the old favorites, like pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey, duck-duck-goose, red light/green light, musical chairs or Simon says. Or get more ideas by talking to other parents, checking a party games book out of the library, or clicking on some of the Related Sites.
4.Make a piñata, if you have time (see Related Hows). While store-bought piñatas can be expensive, making one yourself doesn't cost much, as long as you fill it with inexpensive treats. Plus, it's a fun activity for you and the kids to do together in advance.
5.Decide what food you will serve. Try to make most of the food yourself, including the cake. Enlist the aid of the guest of honor, as well as any siblings.
6.Purchase any premade foods in bulk, and remember that kids are usually happy with inexpensive foods like hot dogs and pasta salad. Have plenty of snacks such as goldfish crackers and pretzels on hand, too. For vegetables, go for baby carrots and celery sticks.
7.Serve juice, punch or soda from large bottles, rather than offering individual containers.
8.Write and give out invitations. Handwritten or computer-generated invitations work well and add a personal touch to the party. If you like, you can even give them out by hand and save a few dollars on stamps. Or, if your child's friends all have e-mail addresses, consider using an online service such as Evite (see Related Sites).
9.Buy decorations, game prizes, paper goods and candy from close-out or discount stores. Or ask friends if they have any paper goods left over from parties they have thrown.
10.Try incorporating some items you already have on hand as part of the decorations. For example, if your child is a fan of trains, set up her toy train set around the perimeter of one of the tables.
11.Use paper lunch bags as goodie bags. As a fun activity, have the guests decorate them at the party. Fill them with candy bought in bulk, and think about buying some low-cost gifts in quantity as well - stickers, inexpensive yo-yos, and so forth. 
Tips: If your child wants to go somewhere expensive, such as an amusement park, have him or her invite just one special friend. 
Warnings: If you hand out invitations personally, don't have the guest of honor do it in a play group or classroom situation. Not only does this result in lost invitations, it can hurt the feelings of children who are not invited.   

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