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10 cheap birthday party ideas that don’t skimp on the fun

With some creative thinking and resourcefulness, a cheap birthday party that doesn’t skimp on the fun is within reach. Here are some cheap birthday party tips and ideas to get you started. 

10 cheap birthday party ideas that don’t skimp on the fun

Children aren’t the only ones to get a bit carried away for birthdays. Parents often do it too, pursuing party plans that exceed even their kids’ imaginations…and their own financial expectations. Mounting social pressures to host a blowout birthday bash coupled with the increased cost of living makes it challenging for parents to keep celebrations feeling affordable. 

It’s hard to put a price tag (or limit) on your child’s joy at their birthday party. Yet, not doing so is one of the reasons why costs might end up exceeding expectations.

The plus side is it doesn’t take much to keep kids happy. “Remember, the party is for the children and not the parent,” said Jessica Bishop, budget event expert. Catering to the children’s desires instead of what will look good on social media keeps the party affordable and enjoyable, she added.

With some creative thinking and resourcefulness, a cheap birthday party that doesn’t skimp on the fun is within reach. Here are some cheap birthday party ideas and tips to get you started. 

Tips for hosting a cheap birthday party

These suggestions make it easier to utilize the resources you already have when party planning.

Stick to the budget and theme

Birthday parties need structure and limits, suggests Yonnie Colleluori, balloon artist and owner of Sapphire Balloons and Events, an events company in Hammonton, New Jersey. Without a budget, you’re destined for sticker shock once you tally up the cost of the party. On the other hand, a carefully created budget will set guidelines to help you stay within your means. 

The same goes for your birthday party theme. Focus on one theme, and then, stay in that lane. “You’ll know what you’re looking for and won’t be distracted by all the cute items tempting you to buy more,” she said. 

Utilize parents’ skills

Birthday parties require human power from skills such as cake baking, decorating and more. That said, it makes sense to tap your network for parents who can pitch in, suggests Colleluori. Some parents may be willing to teach the kids a hobby they picked up like juggling or calligraphy. It saves you money and gives the parent some practice in a low key environment. 

Be strategic about the location 

Aside from the size of the guest list, where you choose to host your party can be one of the biggest determining factors of cost. Free or discounted birthday party locations can include your backyard, church or VFW if you are a member. If you don’t have a large enough home or community memberships, choose a location that’s inclusive of another party element. For example, a party in the park can eliminate the added expense of decorations. Or a pizza-making party at a restaurant means the activity is also the meal.

You can also save money by booking out-of-the-box venues found on venue rental websites like and Peerspace, suggested Bishop. “However, be careful about renting spaces that are blank slates,” she notes. “What you save in the venue you may find yourself spending that and more with decor.” 

Be selective about customization 

Parents want to throw a one-of-a-kind birthday party for their kids. But that doesn’t mean every decor element or food item has to be one-of-kind. Though customized items are trending, it’s OK to personalize one element, such as the birthday child’s T-shirt while keeping the other aspects more generic. One special item is enough to make the birthday kid feel special and for guests to feel wowed, says Colleluori. 

It also cuts down on cost and potential waste. Even if you’d like to keep event decor as mementos, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to keep the customized banner, favor, cake topper and tablecloths forever. 

DIY as much as possible

The labor behind all of the moving parts of birthday parties is costly. That said, DIY some aspects of the celebration can save you a ton of money. You might even be able to get your kid involved. But remember that DIY birthdays can still get rather expensive, so you have to assess what you already know how to do and what you have before going the DIY route, points out Bishop. “Don’t pick something that requires a Cricut if you don’t already have one,” she says.

You’ll do well to keep DIY simple. For example, see if you can find shortcuts, like looking to Etsy for templates of character activity sheets you can print at home. 

10 cheap birthday party ideas

Here are 10 affordable birthday party ideas. 

1. Brunch birthday party

If your kids simply don’t care how much you’d like to sleep in on the weekends, it’s to your benefit to throw a morning, or “pancake and pajama” party. Invite the kids over in their favorite pajamas, make pancakes and get some boxes of cereal for an extra treat. They can have fun experimenting with flavors by mixing different ones together. Then, gather the kids around to watch cartoons.

You can also pull out the champagne flutes and orange juice (and maybe bubbly for mimosas) for parents to enjoy. 

2. Simple nostalgia birthday party


Birthday party on a budget! Tbh there was no budget the parties all kinda look like this. My kids are young and they are happy with this style and I’ll take it for as long as that’s true! We also have a family birthday supper on their actual birthday @Alex 🥘 Budget Friendly Foodie . . . . . #birthdayonabudget #cheapfood #momhacks #easyentertaining #entertainingonabudget #kidsbirthdayideas

♬ original sound – Alex | freezer cleanout meals

For a cheap, stress-free concept, treat the birthday party like a big play date  — just like our parents used to. Before social media and trending topics, there were parents making it happen with a birthday banner and whatever they had at home. And the kids had a blast! 

You can still have a theme tied to characters, such as Spiderman. For example, you can frame character wrapping paper or use it for an activity.  For instance, one TikTok parent used wrapping paper to make streamers and create a laser field for a Spiderman themed party.

3. Dance birthday party

Dance parties aren’t limited to traditional dance studios teaching ballet and tap. A dance party is the natural choice for a child with toe-tapping feet and a song in their heart.  Introduce them to Just Dance video games or other dance-related activities such as freeze dance. 

Thanks to Kidz Bop and YouTube favorites like Gracies Corner, Doggyland and Jack Hartman, there’s no shortage of kid-friendly music options. You can even have them follow this Zumba kids’ routine to a remix of a “Frozen” classic. 

4. Finger paint birthday party

Save money on decor by keeping the space a blank slate and leaving it up to the kids to beautify the space during a paint party. Give the kids some canvases they can hang up when finished with their masterpieces. White table mats and tablecloths can also be fun to color.

5. Scavenger hunt birthday party

A lost button, old book or loose change, mom’s gold necklace. Children are always finding “hidden treasures.” A scavenger hunt party is the perfect way to incorporate their natural inclination to find hidden gems. Hide a few things throughout the space, print out a scavenger list and have them go to town. 

6. Relay race birthday party 

Children are natural competitors. Whether it’s putting on their clothes, finishing a snack or running to the car, kids turn anything into a race. So turning anything from your daily routine into a race means a cheap yet fun birthday party.

If you can’t think of races on your own, The One Simple Party blog shared several inexpensive and stress-free ideas for relay races. Kids can be challenged by a turtle crawl relay, balloon bounce relay, bean bag pass, or more. Don’t forget the cheering section for the supportive spectator parents. 

7. Backyard movie birthday party

If your child’s birthday happens to fall during a season that’s outdoor party-friendly, all you need is some popcorn and a favorite movie like Encanto or Sonic. Invite the kids to bring some folding chairs and blankets to sit on or get some blowup chairs from the dollar store like this mom on TikTok. The kids will sit still for at least an hour and a half, and the parents won’t have to worry about chasing kids around. When the movie is over, let the kids roll over and count the stars or look for constellations. 

8. Game night birthday party

Create stations of various games you may already own or buy some inexpensive games at stores. The best part of a game night birthday party is that it can be modified to suit all ages and abilities. Games like Twister can be set up and played by older guests and those who may be more limber. Meanwhile, bingo or Chutes and Ladders can be a great option for younger guests or those with limited mobility.

9. Builder birthday party

Some kids have a knack for building unique structures. And there is no limit to what kids can come up with when they have an endless amount of supplies. Pull out your usual building supplies such as blocks, Kinetic Sand, MAGNA-TILES, LEGO sets and Play-Doh. Even the boxes from your last online shopping spree can be a builder party paradise. Throw in some protective eyewear or a hard hat so kids can feel like the real deal. 

Even more good news: You won’t have to share too many instructions. All you need to do is be prepared to repeatedly hear the phrase, “Look what I made!”

10. Cake decorating birthday party

Any party that can combine life skills and a fun party activity is a win-win. With a cake decorating party, children can have fun finally helping out in the kitchen and get a head start learning how to cook. Aprons and chef hats make the cutest party accessories. Try making this layered fruit “cake” from the creator behind Kimmy’s Kreations. It’s a fun food alternative if you are concerned about the amount of added sugar from traditional birthday cakes or food allergies.