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Budgeting for Birthdays + Party Planning Template

The Beastie Boys were don't have to fight for your right to party after all.

Want to plan fun-tastic kids’ parties without breaking the bank? All you need is a plan, a budget category, and our handy-dandy birthday party planning template. Our Senior Support Manager, Melissa Barnum, has plenty of experience to share.

With four kids who have birthdays that take place within 25 days of each other (two of them actually share a birthday, and no, they’re not twins), having a plan to fund birthday celebrations was essential.

So I created a birthday celebration category in my YNAB budget that I fund every month, however, I often ended up overspending from that category by the fourth birthday because celebrating birthdays—as fun as they may be—adds up quickly! Although I could have just started budgeting more, I decided to try something different last year.

Budgeting for Birthday Parties

So, since I didn’t have a time machine to sort out the birthday spacing issue in our family, I had to find another way to make the birthday party madness more manageable. I ended up giving each of my kids a birthday celebration budget and full ownership over choosing how we celebrated as a family. It turned out to be a great way to teach my kids about budgeting and priorities.

Here’s what I did. I created three lists: an activity list, a dessert list, and a dinner list. Each list contained several ideas and a price next to each idea. I also made sure to include at least one free option in each list.  For example:

Activity List:

  • Trampoline Park ($70)
  • Zoo (free — membership)
  • Movie at the theater ($48)
  • Arcade ($50)
  • Children’s Museum (free — membership)
  • Board games (free)
  • Swimming ($30)
  • Movie at home (free)

Dessert List

  • Cold Stone ice cream ($35)
  • Costco cake ($20)
  • Daylight Donuts ($15)
  • Frozen Yogurt ($25)
  • Cupcakes (free)
  • Homemade Brownies (free)
  • Homemade Ice cream sundaes (free)

Dinner List

  • Dinner at home (free)
  • Fast Food ($35)
  • Costco pizza ($10)
  • Sit down restaurant ($60)

Then, I told my kids that they each got $75 to celebrate with our family. They could choose any combination they wanted, as long as they didn’t go over $75. One child chose an expensive activity so we had dinner and dessert at home. Another child chose to eat dinner at a sit down restaurant, so we stayed home for the activity and dessert.

Not only did this help me stay within our budget, but my kids loved being in charge of the planning process for their big day. Playing party planner made the day feel even more special to them—and I snuck in an educational lesson about budgeting and making sure your spending aligns to your priorities, which is a clear parenting win.

Interested in entertaining resources to teach your kids about budgeting? Check out YNAB Kids!

Budget Birthday Party Ideas for Kids

Although we enjoy our family celebrations, our kids have also requested “friend” parties in the past. That can add a little more to the budget, but you can still have some affordable fun. Although there are a few variables, kids birthday parties generally follow a formula:

Venue + Activity + Refreshments + Guest list = Party

Sure, there may be a party theme with matching party decorations and party favors, but as long as you’ve got those four main components, you’ve got the foundation for a great party that any kid could love.

We’ve designed a free printable party planning template to do some of the heavy lifting for your next event but let’s do some budget-friendly brainstorming before you put your new event planning checklist to work:

Affordable Party Venues for Kids

When it comes to choosing a venue, your home is often your least expensive option! However, think outside of the box for other possibilities, including:

  • City park
  • Community center
  • Fire station
  • Library
  • Museum
  • Church recreation rooms
  • Community clubhouse
  • Local farm or zoo
  • Beach or lake
  • Ice cream parlor
  • Pizza place
  • Splash pad

Inexpensive  Party Activities for Kids

Let’s be real—it doesn’t take a lot to entertain kids. It’s good to have a few activities planned but you don’t have to go all out when it comes to finding fun ideas. Consider the following:

  • Making a craft
  • Obstacle course
  • Scavenger hunt
  • Dress-up station
  • Minute to Win It games
  • Escape room activities
  • Balloon volleyball
  • Glow-in-the-dark dance party
  • Board games for kids
  • Kickball
  • Pizza making
  • Cookie decorating
  • Homemade photo booth with props
  • Carnival-style games
  • Water balloon fight
  • Nerf war
  • Freeze tag
  • A Piñata
  • Slip and slide
  • Musical Chairs
  • Simon Says
  • Pin the Tail on the Donkey
  • Red Light Green Light

Kids Birthday Party Food on a Budget

The best budget-friendly tip for saving money on food is to plan the party between traditional meal times, but here are some other ideas for inexpensive birthday party refreshments:

  • Small sandwiches cut into cute shapes
  • Fruit kabobs with yogurt dip
  • Pizza
  • Hot dogs
  • Hamburgers
  • Chicken nuggets
  • Fruit punch mixed with seltzer
  • Frozen juice concentrate
  • Homemade cupcakes
  • Homemade cake (it doesn’t have to be pretty…kids don’t care)
  • Cookies or brownies
  • Make-Your-Own-Sundae station
  • Chips and dip
  • Popcorn
  • Meat, cheese, and cracker tray
  • Veggie tray with ranch and hummus
  • Mini muffins
  • Trail mix

Inexpensive Birthday Party Invitations

Obviously, the guest list is up to you and your child but involving them in the budgeting process might help keep parties on the smaller side. Save money on invites with the following ideas:

  • Use a free download and print your own invites
  • Use an app like Canva to design and print your own
  • Turn it into a craft project and have your child make invitations
  • Buy blank invitations or cards and hand write the information inside
  • Email party invitations instead (it’s also a great way to stay organized with RSVPs)

The reality is that you can throw a super fun birthday party without spending a ton of cash. Even better, you can turn your celebration into a real life lesson about the realities (and importance!) of budgeting while helping your child practice important skills like critical thinking, math, bargain shopping, organization, and how to be a good host while letting them play event planner.

The most important thing? Making memories together—and that doesn’t cost a lot.

Printable Party Planning Template

Ready to plan a party? We’ve created the ultimate party planning checklist and budget planner. Use this free party planning worksheet to make decisions about your venue, decor, refreshments, and other fun ideas and then stay organized about it all with the shopping list, to-do list, and guest list!

Printable Party Planning template to help brainstorm and budget for a venue, activities, party decor, refreshments and other fun ideas.
Printable Party Planning template page two has a section for a guest list, a to do list and a shopping list.
Here’s a sneak peak of our printable party planning template. You can download your own below (don’t worry, it’s free and we don’t even ask for your email address.)

Print the party planning template or fill it out digitally! Interested in starting a budget while you’re getting organized? Try YNAB for free for 34 days.

Download YNAB’s Printable Party & Budget Planner

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Budgeting for Birthdays + Party Planning Template