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14 Cheap Ways to Stuff a Goodie Bag

Rebecca Desfosse
June 16, 2017

Tired of your typical throw-away goodie bags? Consider these creative, budget-friendly party favors for your child's next birthday party.

With all the stress of planning your child's party, it's easy to overlook the party favors -- but that doesn't mean you have to resort to last-minute junk. To help decide which items are worth including in a goodie bag, Cherie Lowe, author of the money-saving blog Queen of Free, does what she calls "The Step Test." Before you put that trinket in your cart, imagine stepping on it in the middle of the night. If you wince in pain, put it back. No parent wants toys that end up smashed in the trash. "Even if you spend a bit more, it's wiser to purchase an item that will go the distance," she says. Here are 14 smart ideas that will wow all of your party guests:

  1. Pack Up Some Snacks
    From small bags of flavored popcorn to individually wrapped candies or packs of gum, the options are limitless. However, watch out for allergies. "Before you load the bags up with Twinkies and candy bars, ask if any of your guests have food allergies, and be mindful of that," says Lowe.
  2. Make Them Laugh
    Cindy Smith, a party planner with Party Cheap, recommends something as silly -- and timeless -- as a whoopee cushion. The kids will get a kick out of playing pranks on each other (and on you)! Joke gifts keep the kids laughing and entertained long after the party has ended.
  3. Read It
    For a goodie bag that will keep kids and parents happy, pick up a few copies of your child's favorite books or choose ones that match your party theme. You can snag inexpensive books at your local discount or dollar store.
  4. Be Practical
    Get some toothbrushes, bubble bath and other practical personal care items with your tot's favorite characters. "You might be able to even match a character up with the theme of the party," says Lowe.
  5. Give Dress-Up Supplies
    Give them the right tools and kids will entertain themselves. Smith recommends giving packages of eye patches, plastic tiaras, stick-on mustaches or temporary tattoos and letting your guests pretend to be princesses or pirates.
  6. Decorate a Water Bottle
    "My daughter recently received a teeny bottle of water with a special heart wrapper as a party gift. She loved it, and it was water -- simple, healthy and fun," says Lowe. Simply wrap colorful paper around the label of a mini bottle of water for a pint-size present.
  7. Let It Grow
    Nurture your guests green thumbs. Give the kids a packet of flower or vegetable seeds with instructions, so they can plant something special at home and watch it grow throughout the year.
  8. Make Bracelets
    Gather colorful beads or teach kids to braid embroidery thread before letting them make a special bracelet of their own design. "You provide the materials, space and oversight," says Lowe. "The kids provide the creative power."
  9. Prolong the Fun
    Consider handing out gift cards in a small amount to be used at a later date, such as ones for a local ice cream shop, arcade or toy store. "You can quickly spend $5 per kid on goodie bags without realizing it," says Lowe. "Make one simple purchase, decorate the envelopes with your theme and you're good to go."
  10. Get Artsy
    Small coloring books, pencils, sidewalk chalk, stickers and erasers encourage creativity -- and won't take up space once they're used up.
  11. Play Stylist
    Let the kids' style shine through. Colorful hair clips, head bands, slap-on bracelets and inexpensive plastic sunglasses are sure to get a lot of use.
  12. Rock Out
    Make CDs for each guest with of some of your kid's favorite kid-friendly songs. Have your child decorate the CDs for each guest and include a playlist. This is a great way for your little one to say thank you to her guests!
  13. Stay Seasonal
    Offer goodies you know will get a lot of use right away. Buy colorful swim goggles for a summer party, or gift hot cocoa mix and marshmallows for a winter affair.
  14. Mix It Up
    With a little prep from you, you can send your guests home with a treat they can make themselves. Package up the dry mix for your favorite cookie recipe for the little chefs to make later (just be sure to include directions for how they can bake the cookies at home).

Need some extra help organizing or setting up the party? Hire a babysitter or housekeeper to help out for a few hours.

For more party-planning advice, check out these 7 tips for stress-free birthday party planning.

Rebecca Desfosse is a freelance writer specializing in parenting and family topics.

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