Cheap Birthday Ideas - The $5,000 Money Saving Mama Challenge

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Cheap Birthday Ideas - $5,000 Money Saving Mama Challenge

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Cheap birthday ideas are really not that hard to come by. Learn about free birthday stuff and ways to be frugal with parties. You can save some cash while still having a blast.

Birthdays can get expensive. From buying a cake, to planning a party - not to mention gifts! - a birthday can really test a family's budget in any given month.

Add to that the countless parties your kids get invited to and it really adds up! But here are some practical tips on ways to make birthdays special without going overboard.

Are you new here? This cheap birthday ideas page is part of the $5,000 Money Saving Mama Challenge. We'd love for you to join us!

Simply click the link for more information on how you can participate, and save some money this year.

Frugal Birthday Cake

I have a confession to make. I hate cake. Really, I do. This year, my sister made crème brulee, my absolute favorite dessert, for my birthday instead. My daughter is requesting an ice cream cake this year (her birthday is in August - I promise to video us creating a Hello Kitty Ice Cream Cake). But, most people do like cake, especially birthday cake. But most families do NOT enjoy spending $15-35 on a custom made cake at the grocery store!

The cheap birthday ideas solution, therefore, is to make one yourself. This can be as simple or as complex as you'd like. You can whip up a cake and frosting completely by scratch, or use coupons and get an inexpensive cake mix. As long as you don't go overboard with decor and a crazy theme, you'll be saving a substantial amount of money. And when you multiply that by the number of kids (and hubby) through the year...

No baking skills? Try trading with another mom who likes baking. In exchange for her making a birthday cake for your child, you could offer to watch her kids one evening while she goes out for a date night with her husband. Or perhaps your sister could make a cake in lieu of a gift.

Or, like me, you can abandon the idea of a birthday cake altogether, and find another fun dessert item to use instead. Kimberly at RaisingOlives.com uses store bought cookie dough to make a giant birthday cookie for her children. Their favorite part? On their birthday they get to decorate it!

I've also seen Groupons on a regular basis for various cupcake places, and even once for an ice cream cake. Keep your eyes peeled!

The Birthday Party

Probably the most expensive part of birthdays is the birthday party. I remember my son's 5th birthday. We went to Chuck E Cheese. I had scored over 1,000 tokens from a combination of really good coupons and a trade I made with another mom for Box Tops for Education points. (We homeschool, so they do us no good.) We invited just four of his closest friends, made a homemade cake (yes, my son likes cake) and used another coupon for a pizza deal. The boys spent four hours going through all the tokens, and when they left, they said it was hands down their favorite trip to Chuck E Cheese - ever!

We don't do "friend" parties every year. We offer our children the choice of what they would like to do for their birthday, a special day consisting of a big activity and dinner out, or a party with friends. My son usually chooses the special day while my daughter goes for the friends.

So, how to throw a frugal "special day" party? Start the day by letting your birthday boy or girl know how great they are. When I turned 10, my mom covered the opening to my bedroom door with crepe paper (dollar store) and when I opened the door, I walked right into it! Both my parents were waiting for me on the other side with a loud (it was 6:30am) "Happy Birthday!" These corny things we do to our kids are much more memorable than a new Barbie or Lego set.

Next, do some special activity with them, such as the zoo, the movies, or an amusement park. The key here is getting a discount on the activity. The Entertainment book offers buy one get one free admission to various local attractions, and if you plan in advance, Groupon can be another great way to go. If your child is small (under 4 years old) you can plan the day for them. If they are older, get their plans well in advance so you have time to find some deals. I've traded on Listia for gift certificates to my son's favorite restaurant and scored free tickets to Disney World from a friend who was an employee, making a very expensive birthday wish nearly free.

For friend parties, there are lots of ways you can trim the budget but still have fun. First, have the party at home, or in a park that does not charge for use of the gazebos. Utilize the dollar store for decor and party plates and napkins. You'd be surprised at what they offer!

Next, have your party between lunch and dinner, say at 1:30. This way you do not need to feed all the kids lunch; just provide a small snack along with cake. And speaking of cake, try making cupcakes and having the kids decorate their own! Not only will this save you the trouble, but it will also give the kids something to do at the party. Or, do a lunch or dinner potluck instead.

And instead of creating expensive goodie bags for each child to take home full of candy and trinkets that won't survive the day, do some sort of craft with the kids that they can take home. These cheap birthday ideas can be as simple as decorating party cups with younger kids, or making lip gloss for tween girls.

Free Birthday Stuff

And let's not forget the freebies! Personally, as I get older, this is about the only thing I look forward to on my birthday. This year I started off with an iced coffee at Dunkin Donuts, got a free lunch at Rain Forest Cafe, was treated to cheesecake at TGIFridays, and got a free ice cream cone at Baskin Robbins. I feel so loved with these cheap birthday ideas!

There are gobs of businesses out there ready to wish you (and your kids) a happy birthday. Get your name on the list here:

Free Stuff on Your Birthday

Free Food on Your Birthday

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  • Frugal Birthday Presents

    Birthday presents don't have to break the bank! Need some cheap birthday ideas? The best way to tackle this cost is to plan in advance and take advantage of good deals along the way. For example, in our home, we have a "gift closet". This is where I store all the little goodies I come across throughout the year from couponing deals and clearance sales. That way, when the kids are invited to a party, we don't need to run out and buy a last minute, full-priced gift.

    During back-to-school season, I stock up on markers, colored pencils, and art supplies. These make fantastic gifts when paired with coloring books for younger children. I also buy wrapping paper when it is 90% off after the holidays. I try to get the plain colored/generic ones that can be used as birthday gifts as well.

    I will admit that last month, however, I was caught unprepared. The kids were invited to a birthday party for twin 12 year old boys in less than two days, and I had no cheap birthday ideas in my gift closet that would work for them. So we made PVC marshmallow shooters. They were a huge hit!

    Making gifts is a great way to give a unique gift and show someone you care. Anyone can buy a gift, but when you make something it shows that you really care. Time is a finite resource; you can always make more money, but no one can make more time. Which is of itself a wonderful gift. Often, just spending time with someone we love is so much more important than a pretty wrapped box with a bow.

    I'm of the mind that too many presents at a birthday are overwhelming for a child. I’ve seen parties where a six year old has fifty gifts! Where on earth will they even put them all? Usually kids just want to see their friends, have a couple nice gifts from mom and dad and grandma to open, and eat a lot of cake. Many parents are catching onto this idea and are doing "donation" parties, where instead of bringing gifts, party-goers are encouraged to bring unwanted but in good condition items from their homes to give to charity.

    One time my daughter was invited to a birthday party at the local humane society. They got to play with some of the puppies and kittens, and instead of bringing a birthday gift for the child, were encouraged to bring a bag of dog food. It was a clever way to give back to the community while still celebrating a friend. (I just happened to have three bags of dog food we had gotten free using coupons, but we don’t own a dog. We were intending to donate them to the shelter anyway!)

    Sneak Peak at Next Week

    Like this section on cheap birthday ides? Next week we'll talk about frugal family vacations. We'll go over ways to vacation with the kids without going broke and more.

    Not part of our $5,000 Money Saving Mama challenge? Sign up for updates below so you don't miss even a single money-saving week.


    How Much Will These Cheap Birthday Ideas Save You?

    I'd love to hear how you are coming with your frugal and free challenge.

    What does your family do to save money on birthdays?

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    Related Pages

  • Cheap Birthday Ideas
  • Frugal Birthday Cake Ideas
  • Frugal Party Favors
  • Frugal Kids Birthday Parties
  • Frugal Birthday Party Crafts
  • Frugal Party Games
  • Free Stuff on Your Birthday - Kids and Adults
  • Free Birthday Meals
  • Throw an Inexpensive Homemade Baby Shower

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