Frugal Birthday Party

Yesterday, I attended the second birthday celebration for my grand daughter.  The entire party was frugal and used handmade decorations and games already owned.   Since my grand daughter adores Minnie Mouse, and the Mickey’s Clubhouse program, the theme of the party was  Minnie Mouse.  I thought I would share with you just how my daughter-in-law pulled this off to help you pull off the dream party for your child.

First of all my son’s home is small, so inviting a lot of people into the home would be a snug fit with the floor being the main seating. Instead, since my daughter-in-law teaches the local library  story time for pre-schoolers and is on the library board she was able to use the spare room in the library with an attached kitchen at no cost.  In my hometown, the municipal building has a large meeting room with kitchen that is free for all non-profit activities, you may have something similar.

Games and activities were simple. They brought my grand daughter’s slide (Christmas present from Grandpa), and her basketball hoop (first birthday present from another Grandma).  Each was labeled with a different character, such as Pluto’s slide.

You can see the home made label above the poster.  Birthday girl wouldn't allow herself to be blindfolded yet was creative in where Goofy's hat belonged.
You can see the home made label above the poster. Birthday girl wouldn’t allow herself to be blindfolded yet was creative in where Goofy’s hat belonged.

Using a small picture of Goofy from a coloring book as her guide my daughter-in-law was able to draw Goofy on a poster board to play stick the hat on Goofy.


My son’s co-worker and close friend brought a bean bag toss board he has had for years, and my daughter-in-law made bean bags using her bathroom washcloths.

A very good friend used newspaper, tissue paper  to build a Minnie Mouse pinata and a child’s shovel was used to beat Minnie up. This was the only activity which was reserved for the little ones only.  Grown ups had plenty of fun and especially the basketball hoop!

My son is standing on a chair being the holder for the pinata, isn't it cute, praying he won't get hit you know where with that shovel
My son is standing on a chair being the holder for the pinata, which is adorable, praying he won’t get hit you know where with that shovel

Table decorations were simple. A lollipop tree, and planters filled with grass and homemade Minnie Mouse heads on sticks.

My son did insist on buying the cake already made from the local store.  To have the characters on the cake would have cost considerably more, so he designed the cake with large pink polka dots to represent Minnie’s dress.  Because the trademark characters weren’t used he saved $12.

olivia's cake

The food was simple, Mickey clubhouse sandwiches using some cooked ham and cheese slices, hot dogs  kept warm in a slow cooker (for the theme song which is called Hot Dog), a vegetable tray made at home to save money, and a few chips.  The children turned down the offer of a small glass of pop (a treat for them) in preference of water, good kids 🙂

Inexpensive head band was made into Minnie Ears for the Birthday girl, you can see one of the Minnie Mouse table decorations to the left of her.
Inexpensive head band was made into Minnie Ears for the Birthday girl, you can see one of the Minnie Mouse table decorations to the left of her.

Paper plates and cups were used today but to save money there again they were plain plates and cups with embellishments added for the theme, much cheaper than trademark items again. A little dabs of paint created dots around the rim of the plates and the cups had a paper Minnie head attached to it.  For anyone wondering, yes my son made sure to recycle anything that was recyclable.

When all was said and done, the total cost for games, decorations, and food for all came to $60 and that includes the insisted upon store bought cake and ice cream.

I don’t have too many pictures to share as  my daughter-in-law’s best friend was photographing everything again this year.  When she offered to send me copies of everything, I simply sat back and enjoyed the day with family and little girl who had her dream birthday.

How do you celebrate birthdays staying on a budget for very little one’s when wanting to feed everyone and provide children with entertainment?


  1. Wow … what clever ideas. Just proves that one can have a great party without all the expense and waste typically associated with parties. Looks like everyone had fun!


  2. Sounds wonderful. What a big pinata! The best-loved birthday party for Link (age 7) was when I scouted out huge cardboard boxes (from stoves, fridges, etc) and the party guests made them into houses/forts etc. The kids did the painting (with old used adult T-shirts provided as painting smocks) and I cut the doors and windows.


    • I’m sure Link still remembers that party, I would. I may have to borrow that idea for some summer fun for the little ones, the cardboard would be a great play house and keep them out of the intense heat. It’s funny, the pinata was very large, but there was very little candy inside it, just for each of the children to get a handful.


  3. It looks like everyone had a lot of fun, perfect for a little one’s birthday. My boys favourite free entertainment is to get their uncle Troy to chase them around the garden in a game called “The Claw”. They and their cousin Jonathon are all in their teens now but still request it when we get together. Basically it’s a running away from the claw (Troy) hide and seek who chases them with a stick! I don’t know why but they love it! Perhaps it’s that slightly scary feeling they love, children are made to play so safely at school now I think they miss it (but yes, I do see why schools have these rules for safety).


    • I laughed at this because I know the claw game well, but then realized your version is slightly different. There was a movie with Jim Carrey where he pretended his hand was a claw. That’s how we play it here, the kids run around and we adults try to catch them then tickle them with the claw.

      There wouldn’t be a party in our family if the adult males weren’t chasing the little ones around at some point to much laughter. The kids love to be caught! Of course the adults wear out much faster than the kids do.


  4. Love the creativity and lack of waste with your party. I try but am not a baker so I usually buy a cake too.
    The spots were ingenious! My favorite game is called “chase the “mintie”. Minties are attached to an athletic grown up (not me) and then the grown up rushes around a big park or football oval while the kids scream after him grabbing the minties . Minties are attached to a pullover with reusable valcrove spots.


    • I love your minties game and will have to share that idea with my son and wife for future use if you don’t mind.

      At our party very little waste was produced, the decorations are being saved to use again or incorporated into toys for my grand daughter.


  5. Looks like a fun party! Our kid’s parties were just family members, dinner or a tea party and cake. Now that they are older, we still do the same, but they are allowed to have a couple of friends over for a sleepover on a different date. So far it’s worked out well for us. Big birthday parties aren’t the norm in our little community, so we’ve gotten off easy.


    • I would think your family would make quite a good sized group. This one was family and a few close friends as some of our friends are closer than some family members. I too like just having those people closest to me at functions.


    • Thank you, she was so cute with her gifts. Everything had to be handled with great care which is really funny. The gift paper can’t rip either, I think she believes the wrappings are part of her gifts as well. That particular package was from one of their close friends, their daughter is her frequent playmate. When the little girl’s mom was going through her gift wrap the little girl spotted bows and wanted to give bows as the gift as well. Right inside the top of the bag were 5 different bows that my grand daughter ooh-ed and aah-ed over as if it were the best present ever, much to her friend’s delight.


  6. Birthday parties are tough. I like the idea of having it at the library–that looked like a lot of fun, AND inexpensive!

    So often, I think the parties are more for the mommies to show off for each other, than for the kids. We’ve downscaled Beanie’s every year–last year she did a double party with her friend, who shares a birthday, and they just had two other kids over, at the boat. It was still kind of sensory overload; she prefers just having one friend over at a time. We’re planning on just celebrating with us, and whoever else is at the marina, until Beanie ASKS for a party!


    • Parties are tough if you try to compete with other parties that are thrown, like you said so well “mommies trying to show off for each other”. With my youngest grand child it’s more a time for everyone to get together as they live a couple hours away. All the extended family tries to make it. As for the number of children, there ended up being only 3, birthday girl, her cousin and local friend. It was a nice size.

      A marina party would be a lot of fun, I always wanted a summer birthday where I could be outdoors, but we don’t have a choice on when we are born.


  7. This looks like so much fun! It reminds me of the parties when I was a child…all home,add and about having fun with friends and family. How wo default that your son and his family are ” small thinkers” too! You are a good influence!


    • It’s really funny, my daughter-in-law grew up with very little and wanted all the nice things. Her favorite TV show was Sex In The City and she wanted a room full of shoes. When she first moved here with my son I introduced her to yard sales to furnish their first home, she was so excited having never seen a yard sale before and took off on a thrifty path from there.


  8. Looks to be great fun, at a reasonable cost. The only birthday cake I remember from childhood was a chocolate train cake which was home made.


  9. It sounds like she had a wonderful birthday!

    For my son’s 3rd birthday, we found a bunch of large boxes and bought 1 roll of duct tape. We built a castle, complete with drawbridge, turrets and look-outs, in our living room. All the kids had a blast playing in there. We left it up (and all our furniture stacked in the bedroom) for 3 weeks after his party. The grand total cost for the entertainment part of his party — $1.99 for the duct tape.

    For my daughters 9th birthday, we were planning on repainting the walls of the family room soon, so we let them and all their friends paint a giant coloring page on the wall. My son and I drew, then painted black outlines for an island scene. The kids painted in the picture with poster paints. We actually left their painting up for a few years, we enjoyed it so much.


    • I loved reading about your son’s 3rd birthday how much fun that would have been, all the children I’ve known love to play in boxes. But then I came to your daughter’s 9th birthday, what a wonderful present you gave her. I’m sure she and her friends will remember that for a very long time. Have you gotten the label of best mom ever yet? You should.


      • I had really wanted to allow my kids to paint on the walls just once, as you know how kids are, with markers or crayons they are just drawn to walls, for some reason! I had a friend as a child whose mom let us paint on their dining room wall, just before they stripped the wall paper off. This was definitely the most memorable summer experience from my childhood! Really, what kid gets to paint on the walls?!


        • So true. Most of us would rather have that nice perfect home and to have children’s paintings on the walls would make them feel they needed to explain themselves to guests. Your leaving it there for a couple of years tells me you and I would get along well as neighbors and friends, as family definitely comes first for you.


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