Friday, September 21, 2012

{REAL} Party Planning on a {BUDGET} - Part 1

So, hopefully the words REAL BUDGET stood out to you in the title above, because that is the whole premise of this post! With the trend this days leaning towards lavish birthday parties for children, this party-plannin'-lovin' momma has to keep herself in check when it comes to spending money on birthdays! ;)

It is my personal opinion that birthdays should be the most special day of my children's year...even more special than Christmas in a way.  Their birthday is the one day that can be centered around them. We try to celebrate Christmas and other Christian holidays with a focus on the true meanings of those holidays, but birthdays...well, that is THEIR day!! And as I plan their parties (which is totally FUN for me!), I really strive to keep that philosophy in focus. The purpose of a birthday party is NOT to impress anyone, see who gives the best gifts, or break the bank on outlandish decor. The purpose of the parties I plan for my children is to make sure their day is extra special - and a stressed out mommy does not make for a special day!

All that to say, everyone's budget is different - and not everyone likes to plan parties. Some families prefer to keep it even simpler with just family outings.  I have a few of those planned for future birthdays... But if you like to plan parties and you live on a budget, this post is for you! :)

So first, I'll share my personal philosophies and then I'll give some practical ways to save a few dollars:

1. Set a budget!!
This seems obvious, I'm sure, but I have planned parties with a general budget in mind...and gone over!! If you can only spend so much $$ on the party, then write it down!! Obviously you will want to get the most bang for your buck, and keeping track of expenses not only lets you know how and where you can spend your money, but, for me at least, it helps get the creative juices flowing! I've found that my creativity starts where my money ends! :)

2. Decide on a theme.
My children are still at an age that I can greatly influence their choice of party theme. I try to notice what they enjoy doing and incorporate that into my theme choice.  Don't fall prey to planning a party for YOU based on what you always wanted as a child or the characters you like. :) This year was the first year my son chose his party theme.  He turned four, and I let him choose between dinosaurs and pirates - his favorites pastimes. :) Too many choices can be overwhelming and they often can't make up their mind, flip-flopping back and forth between themes...can't plan a party like that. :)

Your budget will play heavily into what party themes you can afford.  Some parties lend themselves to a more expensive budget. Custom themes are all the rage these days...what theme can I think of that no one else has done??!! can't - it's all been done! But you can put your own twist to a popular theme.  

I usually have great ideas of all sorts of custom designs I'm going to do, but that is not feasible for my time or my budget. Unless it can be found in stores, I am either going to have to make it myself or pay someone to make it for me.  To save money, I always opt to make it myself, and there is only so much I can do.

3. Plan the menu
Food is one of the bigger expenses...but it doesn't have to be expensive!  For example, for my son's birthday this year, the main course was dinosaur shaped PB&J sandwiches. The party was a weekday lunch play date with his friends, so the simpler menu was perfect.

However, we knew that for my children's first birthdays we wanted to invite all those who were like family to helping us with our children and really loving them like their own.  At one year, children don't have "friends" necessarily, so we used it as an opportunity to say thank-you to the people in our children's lives.  We spent the money to have nice food and even catered one of the parties.  Really, we could never do enough to repay all the free babysitting, help with running errands, etc...

But for a party with your children's friends, please don't spend a ton of money on food! At a young age they don't even care about the food! :) Now, I am sure that as my son gets older, he's going to opt for more food vs. nice decorations!! And that's okay - it's all about a special day for them!

As a side note - themed food is all the rage...and I love to plan the party food around the party theme!  In my Google searching for parties, though, I've noticed a lot of parties are "styled" - meaning they aren't real parties! They are styled to give you ideas...which are not always feasible if you are having a large party.  Cake pops for 50... that's either a lot of work or a lot of money!

Until next time, remember it's all {IMO} about
"Keeping it REAL!!"

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