How Much to Spend on a Birthday Party

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Need an idea of cost of a successful birthday party

May 2007

I am trying to gather some information regarding children's birthday parties. On average, how much (from start to finish) are mom's spending on their childs birthday party? (ages 4-9). This would include invitations, games, favors.....basically everything except food. Are people renting jumpers? Entertainment? Trying to get a realistic idea of how much I should put into my child's birthday party for it to be a success. I would appreciate any information you could share Thanks a bunch!

You will probably get tons of responses saying ''don't spend anything!'' so here is my two cents. We spent about $600 on my son's 3rd birthday - 20 kids (plus parents), we rented a playspace, had pizza and cake, goodie bags, etc. It was also a ton of work, very exhausting.

My son had a great time BUT, I am sure if I had had a small party at home with three kids, he would have had just as much fun and it would have been just as special. My issue was who to invite. He had been invited to so many parties, I felt I needed to invite all those people to reciprocate.

So, if you are really wealthy with lots of energy, go for it. Otherwise, go small and simple. anon

As little as possible!! Seriously - I keep hearing about how birthday parties have ''gotten out of control...oneupmanship...competitive... too elaborate...'' but I tell ya - as a Rockridge resident, I haven't really seen it.

The most expensive party we've been to was at a park, full BBQ, siblings invited, and for entertainment pinata and the Vivarium reptile guy (around $200).

The best one we attended - where the parents put in a lot of homemade effort with a Pirate treasure hunt - enlisted a friend to dress up as their Pirate guide, handmade invites, and they got to divide the ''booty'' to take home in hand-decorated paper bags in lieu of goodie bags. Timed it so that there was no lunch - just cake and juice. Short, sweet and a ton of fun. But the most successful party I threw for my son? Handmade invites for 8 kids, carrot sticks, apple slices, pretzels, cupcakes and juice at a park where we grabbed the first table we saw (didn't pay to reserve a spot). They played at the park, had a few organized games to change the pace a bit. Goodie bags - went to the 99c store for stickers, fancy pencils and token amount of candy.

Personally, I hate jumpers - you need to enlist a responsible parent to control the kids, and somebody always, always ends up in tears.

Matching tablecloths, plates, invites do not impress me. Waste of $$. Entertainment is nice... but all depends. I did hire a low-key clown/storyteller when I held the party at my child's preschool - the teachers appreciated the treat as well. But I didn't spend money on anything else that year. If you don't compete, then there's no competition. Do want YOU want. Mom of Two

Honestly, our single income budget determined how much we spent on a b-day party, not what others are spending. In April, for our daughter's unicorn/pony themed 4th b-day party, the budget was a $100 total for the whole party (invites/plates/napkins/balloons/pinata/food), excluding our gifts (different line item on budget). I know we could have done it for cheaper while still being festive & fun had our budget required it. Our daughter had a great day. My husband put on a little puppet show. We played a home made game of pin- the tail on the unicorn, opened presents, played dress-ups & had cake. My daughter really wanted a unicorn pinata, so that was our party luxury which I filled with some great girlie items from the $1 store & a few sweets. No fancy gift bags, just the items from the pinata. Of course, as the kids get older, it does get more difficult, but I really believe that you don't have to spend a lot to make it a special day, just perhaps be creative. Good luck.
Good timing on question as I am getting ready for my 8 year old's party but I think there is no relationship between money spent and amount of fun had. For our three kids we have had the following guidelines: Each does not get a party every year. Up until about age 9 or 10, the number of guests equals the child's age - after that, they tend to want smaller and sometimes sleepover parties. Things we have done for parties (all of our children are boys): Miniature golf, batting cages, Oakland Air Museum, football theme party, mini remote control car racing party, scavenger hunt, and this weekend it is a paper airplane party. One candidate for this year's party was kite-flying. Party invitations are almost always home-made and preferably by the birthday boy.

In virtually every case the children come to our home, we do the outing, we return and have simple lunch and cake. We don't usually do goodie bags with lots of stuff but rather one thing that goes with theme of party. If I do goodie bags I put them in brown lunch bags my child has decorated and tie a balloon to it - kids love them. I would be surprised if we have spent more than $100 on any party, including admission to outing, probably more like $50-75. We haven't purposely tried to be cheap but we believe in involving the child in producing the party rather than producing it for him - this lends itself to things that kids can do themselves. And they love being involved! Less is more

My answer is: a ton. Way too much. All in, around $500. Anon
I bet you'll get a variety of responses on this one, but personally I don't think it's how much money you spend that influences whether people have a good time. We've been to about a dozen parties in the first 5 months of 2007, and they've all been different and wonderful. Everything from the simple backyard bbq to the full-on jumpy castle thing, and the kids are always having a great time regardless of the specifics. (In all fairness, these parties have all been for ages 2-5; maybe the kids get pickier/more entertainment-driven as they get older.) Personally, I generally aim to spend $100-200 on a party, but I imagine I'm at the low end of what people spend around here. We're Happy as Long as There's Cake
That really depends on what you have more of: money or time (or desire to host) and whether it is more comfortable for you to invite everyone who might want to come vs. limiting the guest list to a few close friends. We enjoy hosting parties with elaborate themes, which we do pretty cheaply with a fair amount of work (i.e. creating a Dora adventure in our house & yard using toys/equipment we already have and enlisting siblings and friends to play roles). If we didn't enjoy that, it would make more sense for us to hire an entertainer or have the party at a place that takes care of all that (more $). But the short answer to your question is that I think we end up spending somewhat under $100, of which about $20 is for ''goody bag'' stuff (so if we have 10-15 guests we spend $1-$2/goody bag; 5 guests we spend more for each). I don't think kids really need elaborate themes or entertainment though. --enjoys themes more than my kids do I think
You'll probably get lots of lectures about how you shouldn't have to spend anything on birthday parties. However, you asked what people typically spend. I've had parties for my two kids at outside venues and at home, and at the end of the day, it's usually about $300, regardless. This includes the cake, favors, food, and entertainment. Since I figured out that it costs me just as much to do it at home, I've been MUCH more open to outside venues, especially if they take care of everything. Hope this helps. mom of 2
My first reaction to this question is, I'm not sure I really want to add it up! I like to give big themed parties and my kids' birthday parties are no exceptions -- but I don't hire jumpers or clowns, preferring instead to do a fairly old- fashioned at-home type party. I suspect between invitations (and postage!), decorations and paper goods, favors and goody bags, supplies for the party games and activities, and food, I usually spend $300 to $500 on a party. But that's for a couple dozen kids -- so I think it still works out to be cheaper than a ''hired entertainment'' party. Or maybe I'm deluding myself, but that's okay, since my reason for doing parties the way I do them isn't primarily cost.

If you simply have a ''playdate with cake'' at your house for a handful of children, you could easily have a nice party for a hundred bucks or less -- possibly a lot less.

If you do a rental deal at a place like Habitot, the Y's kiddie gym or the Lawrence Hall of Science, it's likely to cost you $100 to $300 depending what's included (you may still have to buy invitations, food, party favors and/or some decorations). You're generally limited to a maximum of 10 or 15 kids and there may be rules about what food and decorations you can or cannot bring in. If you're lucky enough to be doing this in good- weather months, reserving a spot at a public park is cheaper (or even free if you plan to just stake out a spot early in the day) and doesn't involve as many restrictions, but doesn't come with any special activities or other ''package deal'' benefits, so you may spend more on supplies. This is the type of party to which my children have most often been invited.

Bottom line: All told, I'd expect to spend $15 to $20 per invited child, but that budget can easily be adjusted up or down depending on what sort of party you choose to give, and on how carefully you shop for the things you do buy or rent. Holly

About $200 to $300. When I first started tracking this figure I could not believe it, but everything adds up. My daughter's birthday is just before Christmas, and my justification is that she kind of gets short-changed, but I KNOW that's just justification. We live in a very small house.

My daughter helps plan the party, since she was 3 turning 4 and we must stay within the budget. We've had a lot of fun. First birthday, Jungle Party in our house, just a couple of kids and family. Decorated jungle theme, brought out ''wild animals'' stuffed. Second birthday was a ''fish'' them. Had a small swimming pool we made into a ''lake'' and had fishing poles with magnets and foam fish with paperclips. Take home goodies were fish squirters for the bathtub. Maybe 4 - 5 kids. Third birthday was a ladybug theme held at the preschool (rented for nominal amount) red and black theme brought our own jump-o-lene and a friend brought there's - take home goodies were the ladybug hats we made and the ladybug necklaces. Four year old party was a butterfly theme held at the Lawrence Hall of Science - great deal under $150 kids learned about and held animals then could spend the rest of the day there if they wanted to - about 12 kids and their parents - butterfly wings / dragon fly wings as take home. Fifth party was Blue's Clues at the preschool again. Kids worked together on a clue hunt to find dog bone cookies which they decorated. Lots of fun, little money, lots of work. Goodies were the cookies chair notebook and green crayon and blue yo-yo. Sixth birthday was a bowling party in Alameda. T- shirts with the kids names were the Goodie. Lots of fun - whole party under $150 for 12 kids. 7th birthday was MOCHA. A little more expensive, kids had a great time making fairy and dragon art and decorating cupcakes. Goodie was Art Kit and pad of paper.

These were very fun in the planning. If you can have a party at home as we did in the early years, you can have a GREAT party for $75. Kid's Birthdays are Great!

about $50 - plates, napkins, cups, hats, balloons & decorations, homemade cake, just a few friends, simple games or crafts Erin
for dd's 2nd birthday we spent ~$100 total for invites, kids crafts, decorations, location rental, ice cream, napkins, spoons, water. That was for ~15 kids and thier parents. partied out