How to Throw a Killer Birthday Party for Under $100

by Rich Jones
Plan the Best Party on a Budget on only $100

We’ve all been there.  Your little one’s birthday is coming up, and you’re throwing a small birthday party.  Before you know it, your envisioned party under $100 has already cost $500, and you haven’t even gotten their presents yet. What happened to the days when you had a few friends over, played some birthday party games, ate cake our moms made and that was it?

Alas, times have changed and birthday parties are a big deal.  But, just because the parties are huge doesn’t mean your cost has to be.  It is possible to throw a birthday party for under $100, and we’re here give you some fun birthday ideas to make that happen.

Birthday Party Places Under $100

The biggest cost for a kid’s birthday party is usually the venue.  They can easily run $200 to $300 for a two-hour slot.  While it’s impressive to have five or six bouncy houses or ponies for each kid to ride, you can find fun birthday party places under $100.   

Anyone who’s thrown a kid’s party will know about the options of having it at home or at the local park, so we’re not going to cover those here.  Instead, here are some fun birthday ideas for birthday party places under $100.

Fire stations.

This one of the most fun birthday ideas we’ve come across, and if you’re little one is into adventure, big trucks, and sliding down poles, this is one of the best birthday party places under $100 to throw a party.  For a nominal fee, your local firehouse will usually let you go on a tour, slide down the pole and even climb around on one of the trucks.  If you’re really lucky, they might even have time to take them for a quick ride.  It’s our favorite cheap birthday party places for kids, because after exploring, sometimes they will let you serve cake and ice cream to the kids on the truck.  Seriously. Now I want to have my party there.

The library.

As a central spot for community activities, libraries will have the party place you need to throw a great party under $100, and often times the rental is either free or very low cost, making them an easy choice for birthday party places under $100.  You can organize games and activities for the kids and even arrange for them all to get their own library card as part of the goodie bag.

The mall.

You might be saying to yourself, “The mall? What is this, the ‘80’s?” BUT, it’s one of the most overlooked birthday party places under $100, especially for the really little ones. There are play areas in malls perfect for kids 6 and under, and often there are coin operated rides the littles love.  One of the most fun birthday ideas is to give each guest a couple of dollars in quarters to spend on the rides; those little tots will be in Heaven!

Schedule the party for mid-morning or mid-afternoon to avoid crowds, and then stake out a party place in the food court where you can have cake and ice cream.  How’s that for fun but cheap birthday party places for kids?

Churches.

Churches are one of the best choices for birthday party places under $100 and often will let you use the facilities free of charge, especially if you’re a member of the congregation.  If the church offers daycare during the week, they will have great facilities for younger kids and often have a playscape for them to run around on, making it a wonderful party place.

Party Themes

Party themes are usually dictated by what you’re little one is into when their birthday rolls around, and the more generic it is, the easier it is to do a birthday party for under $100. One of the best birthday party ideas we’ve seen is the cupcake theme.  It’s incredibly easy because you can do it at any party place, colors are flexible, it can be the center of the activity with the kids decorating their own cupcake when can then double as part of the birthday party food or the take-home gift. It is also relatively easy to make a cupcake cake in any shape to match what your child finally decides to choose.

You can also let the party place guide your choice of party themes, as in the fire station example.  Red tablecloths and balloons, a sheet cake decorated in the shape of a fire truck, and birthday party games like “Pin the Hat on the Fire Fighter” are all birthday party ideas that are easy to execute and inexpensive.

Other easy and creative birthday party ideas are the color or letter party themes. For example, take the first letter of your child’s name or their favorite color center the theme around that.  If your son’s name is Christopher, then make your party all things “C”: ask guests to bring gifts that start with C, tell everyone to wear something that starts with C, make only birthday party food that starts with C – you get the idea.

Or, do the same thing with your daughter’s favorite color.  If it’s pink, ask everyone to “think pink” and wear pink, have games that use the word pink like Pin the Tail on the Pink Panther or have a scavenger hunt where all the kids have to find things that start with P, I, N, and K.

When you get in the mindset of coming up with fun, personalized birthday party ideas, it becomes a cinch to throw a phenomenal birthday party for under $100.

Invitations

Once you nail down the venue, you can bang out the invitations and customize them to your party themes, dates, etc. If you don’t want to design your own, you can buy a professionally designed, fully customized invitation from any number of designers on www.etsy.com for about $8.

If you’re throwing a small birthday party, just take a quick picture of the invitation using your smartphone, and then text or e-mail the invitations out.  Alternatively, print them out yourself and then send them to school with your child to be distributed by the teacher.

Birthday party games and activities

With simple venues, birthday party games are as easy as 1, 2, 3.  Go to the party armed with a list of age-appropriate birthday party games, and once everyone arrives, orchestrate two or three to help get the party started.  After that, they will most likely be happy on the playscape or creating their own fun-filled birthday party games. 

To make it easy for you when you’re throwing a small birthday party, we’ve put together a quick and dirty list of easy, fun birthday party games:

  • Scavenger hunt
  • Decorate your own cupcakes
  • Bob for apples
  • Musical chairs
  • Limbo
  • Balloon Bust
  • Cup stacking contest
  • Pass the parcel

Birthday party food

First, let me start by saying that unless your party is scheduled over the lunch or dinner hours, your birthday party food does not have to include a meal AND cake.  Just serving cake and ice cream is plenty, and the parents will probably thank you for limiting the junk food and sticking with traditional birthday party food.

Even if you’re just throwing a small birthday party, it’s tempting to phone up Chick Fil A and order a nugget platter and a fruit tray and be done with it, but dang those things are expensive!  Instead, here are some ideas for inexpensive birthday party food that everyone will love and keep your party under $100.

Pull apart grilled cheese.

Get a couple of loaves of French bread, slice ¾ of the way through the loaf, and then fill it with cheese.  Give the outer layer a quick swipe of melted butter, and then cook until the cheese is melted.  If you want the recipe for this killer birthday party food, you can get it here.

Mac and Cheese.

What kid doesn’t love mac and cheese?!  And this one is easy whether you’re throwing a small birthday party or a huge bash. You can even up the nutrition factor by using whole grain pasta, low-calorie butter and skim milk. 

Pancakes.

This is a great option if your party is near a BBQ pit or a stove and you’re throwing a small birthday party.  You can let each kid request a shape that you can create yourself using empty condiment bottles, and then let them add a topping and syrup themselves.

Watermelon sticks.

Watermelon can get pretty messy, but if you cut it into sticks, it turns into an easy to eat, healthy birthday party food.  To do this, cut the melon horizontally and lace one half on a cutting board with the flat surface down. Cut slices in one direction, and without separating the slices, cut slices perpendicular to the first, and voilà! Watermelon sticks!

Grape Caterpillars

Make fruit super fun to eat with fun birthday ideas like fruit critters that the kids will eat right up.  Pick up some green and red seedless grapes, vanilla frosting, wooden kebab skewers and sugar eyes at the grocery.  Put 4 to 5 grapes of one color on the skewer and a final grape of the other color at the end.  Dot the odd colored grape with a bit of frosting, add two eyes and you have created the perfect birthday party food.  If you go with party themes centered around critters, this is a great way to make the food fun without spending too much.

Decorations

A little color goes a long way when it comes to decorations for any number of party themes, and you don’t have to go over the top to make the setting fun and festive.  Here are some of the best ways to make an impact and still keep your party under $100:

Plastic tablecloths

These are usually available at the grocery store or any party supply shop for about $5 for a pack of two, keeping you well within your goal of a birthday party for under $100.  Not only do they add color and give the tables a finished look, but they also make clean up super easy.  Just put all the trash in the middle of the table, wrap it in the tablecloth, and bin it. 

Balloon bouquets

Balloons make great centerpieces.  You can either splurge on a tank of helium or pick up a couple of dowel rods from Home Depot and attach the balloons to the end.  If you go with the dowel rods, get an old flower pot and fill it with rocks to serve as an anchor.  Don’t worry if the flower pot is a bit banged up – simply cover it with wrapping paper and secure with ribbon.

Picture pennants

Print out pictures of the birthday boy or girl and attach them to triangles of construction paper.  Connect them with a string, and you have an adorable banner to decorate the walls.

Goodie bags

This is such a dilemma.  You want to say thank you for coming, but you don’t want to spend a fortune. How do you keep your party under $100 without looking cheap?

My favorite idea is to use the birthday party games and activities to actually make what goes in the kids’ goodie bags.  For example, if the activity is to decorate your own cupcake, then provide simple baking boxes like these that the kids can decorate and use to take their masterpieces home.

Or, if the activity is a scavenger hunt, make the goodie bag items the “treasures” and let the kids fill their own goodie bags as they try to find out where x marks the spot.

The cake

The cake is the pièce de résistance for many parties, but again, you don’t have to go into debt just to get a great cake.  I say ditch the designer cake with rolled fondant and all manner of characters adorning every nook and cranny of the cake.  To keep your party under $100, check with your local grocery store or Costco for birthday party ideas for cakes. They can make them for you, and they usually have a book of theme cakes to choose from and can add customized pictures using edible printer ink.

If you’re throwing a small birthday party, make the cake yourself, and this will definitely help keep the party under $100, but stay away from Pinterest ideas unless you’re really confident in your artistic abilities.

The easiest way to get a successful outcome is to make your own sheet cake and buy edible icing pictures of your kid’s favorite characters to put on the top.  You can get these on www.etsy.com, and I have used one like this for my own kids’ cakes. You can also get one or two sheets of sugar paper and use cookie cutters to cut out shapes for a more professional look without blowing your budget for a birthday party for under $100.

Here are some other fun birthday ideas for cake decorating that won’t break the bank:

  • Let your kiddo decorate the cake with you. They will love showing off their artwork to their friends, who will no doubt be impressed. 
  • Use a baby picture of your child and have it turned into edible icing

Extra help

If you’re looking for more structure to plan your birthday party for under $100, check out Deanna Cook’s FamilyFun Parties: 100 Complete Party Plans for Birthdays, Holidays, and Every Day for some great ideas and help pulling everything from the party place to the cake together.

For those of you who decide to make the cake yourself and want some guidance on birthday party ideas for easy but impressive cakes, have a look at the book Step-by-Step Kids Birthday Cakes by Karen Sullivan for some easy to follow directions for creating impressive cakes.

Conclusion

When all is said and done, these fun birthday ideas can make it easy to throw a birthday party for under $100. You don’t need bouncy houses or a flashy party place to have a good time.  Toss around these birthday party ideas with some friends, and come up with a fabulous fiesta for your offspring. 

Also read: 7 Days of Healthy Kid-Friendly Dinners

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