Cheap and Easy Birthday Party Ideas

The new Mighty Mommy has 6 expert tips on how to throw a great children’s birthday party without going broke.

Cheryl Butler
6-minute read
Episode #187

Idea #4: Backyard Carnival   

This idea takes a bit more work, but if you have a big backyard, or even a large garage, and can spend a few weeks planning and creating some neat games, this can be a frugal alternative to going to a bowling alley, gymnastic studio, or other pricey venue where kids get to be active. We did this for our 10-year-old daughter a few years ago and it was a big hit. 

Some of the games we made for the carnival included a mini golf course, a ring toss on soda bottles (which we filled with water and food coloring to make them festive), a beanbag toss that we constructed and painted using some large appliance boxes, and we even had a cotton candy and popcorn stand. We also had a tattoo station, face painting, and balloons. Prizes were given as well, and these were a combination of purchases from thrift stores, the dollar store, the party store, and other sale items I had found in my weekly shopping. This party took us about 3 weeks of planning, but it was worth it.

Party Cost:     

Cotton candy machine rental: $30

Appliance boxes: Free from a local hardware store

Balloons, accessories, paints, prizes: $40.00

Food: $30.00

Grand total: $100


For Tweens/Teens

Idea #5: Craft Party  

Many tween girls love to create things. Channel that interest into a craft-themed party. Buy some unfinished items such as wooden trinket boxes, unpainted pottery, T-shirts, picture frames, and bags. Make sure they’re as plain as possible so that they make for a nice blank slate.  Present the partiers with some fabric, paints, sparkles, glue, markers, and any other decorative items and let them go to town. Decoupage is also an awesome way to create one-of-a-kind decorations for girls’ bedrooms. Get ideas from your child of what she’s interested in, and then the two of you can spend some time quality time together shopping for the items you’ll need. The financial investment for a craft party is pretty minimal—bits of fabrics, glitter, paints, picture frames, and other such items are pretty cheap. So you won’t spend a ton, but the kids will leave the party with something special that they made in their own individual style.

Idea #6: Scavenger Hunt    

A scavenger hunt is one of the most thrilling parties for kids of any age. The key is to put some thought into the items you will be hiding and, of course, creating sneaky clues are also a large part of the draw!  My 13-year-old son attended a scavenger hunt party at the beach recently. Each child received a message in a bottle (water bottles were used and filled with confetti to make them really colorful) and each child had a different poem with clues. They worked against the clock to see who would find the buried treasure (it was actually a tin box that contained movie tickets, gift certificates to a local pizza place, and some books and board games). Every kid was a winner because there were lots of prizes to be found along the course of the scavenger hunt. But the main treasure was only found by one child. The kids loved it because it was a bit competitive, but it also got silly and exciting for them to see who could figure out the clues. 

Those are just a few of the many wonderful party ideas for a tight budget. A few others are: indoor camping parties, cooking parties, scrapbooking parties, or stewardship parties where kids spend a large part of the party gathering items for a food pantry or making a thoughtful craft for people at a local nursing home.

And don’t forget that sometimes less is definitely more. Kids don’t need a fancy party or an entire park of wild animals. What they want is to spend time with you and their friends doing something fun. 

If you have a question or have a suggestion for a future Mighty Mommy episode, please e-mail me at mommy@quickanddirtytips.com.    Check out the Mighty Mommy Facebook page where I share lots of quick parenting tips all week long.   You can also follow me on Twitter @MightyMommy or join me on Pinterest where you can visit all of Mighty Mommy’s family-friendly boards.

Enjoy a wonderful week with your family and as always—Happy Parenting!


All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own mental health provider. Please consult a licensed mental health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Cheryl Butler Project Parenthood

Cheryl L. Butler was the host of the Mighty Mommy podcast for nine years from 2012 to 2021. She is the mother of eight children. Her experiences with infertility, adoption, seven pregnancies, and raising children with developmental delays have helped her become a resource on the joys and challenges of parenting. You can reach her by email.