Brilliant Birthday Parties On A Budget

15 July 2013

According to research by the Holiday Inn, parents will splash out almost £5,000 on birthday parties for their kids by the time they reach 18.

Not this parent, I can tell you.

A study of 2,000 parents found that in a bid to out-do others, most parents fork out £269.92 a year on parties. Almost half of the parents polled admitted to feeling overwhelmed at the thought of birthday party planning, and a third of parents said that they worry about impressing other children’s parents with their party arrangements.

I think this is utterly bonkers. A spokesman said:

“These days children are no longer content with simply having a few of their best friends home for a party tea after school – so it is no wonder parents are becoming more competitive than ever before.”

Er, what? The day my sons, aged eight and six, announce that they're 'no longer content' with a small tea party in honour of their birthday will be the day they can start paying for their own parties!

So here are five tried-and-tested golden rules for throwing a brilliant birthday bash without breaking the bank.

1.Take it outside
Forget paying through the nose for some poor excuse for a party at an indoor play centre. Get creative with all the free stuff that Mother Nature can offer up. Mum of one Sonja says:

"Most kids like nothing more than mud and sticks and bugs, and you can organise themed activities like building bug hotels, shell collecting, treasure hunts and pond-dipping (providing there is lots of adult supervision with that one!). Gets their imaginations going... and much cheaper than those awful, soulless 'conveyor-belt' play area parties!!!"

Mum of two Aisling agrees that keeping it simple is the key to throwing a good party:

"I loved the parties I had as a kid living in the country with a stream at the end of our field! Do a treasure hunt with 10p bags of sweets as prizes. Bake some home made fairy cakes, make some sandwiches and a birthday cake, throw in a few crisps and that's you!"

2. Bake your own cake
The poll also showed that parents are more likely to buy a ready-made cake than bake one themselves, forking out over £15 on it. But the best birthday parties don't have to be expensive, and you truly cannot beat a home-made cake. In our house a birthday is not complete without the now-traditional chocolate and strawberry meringue cake that I've baked every year since my firstborn's 1st birthday - which costs a fraction of the price of supermarket cakes and tastes infinitely better

3. Get creative
Mum of three Henrietta recommends a make-your-own-ice-cream party.

"I did this for my daughter's 6th birthday party and she loved it. We set it up like a factory with sprinkles, toppings etc. I got cocktail umbrellas cheaply online, and the girls had fab time making their own ice cream sundaes!"

4. Don't waste money on food
Mum of two Allie says:

"Don't worry too much about healthy food. They're there for jelly, sweets and cake!"

But Sonja adds that lots of kids also love fruit and veg when presented attractively, which can make really affordable party food that you don't have to slave over or even turn the oven on for! Try fruit kebabs, melon slices, strawberries or carrot sticks.

5. Forget party bags
Or at least don't waste money on shop-bought ones full of plastic tat. Sonja adds:

"Popcorn is also a great party food and cheap (home-made of course) and you can make up individual paper bags full of it to send home with the kids, which they'll love!"

Above all, don't get sucked into the psychology of trying to impress other parents with ever-more elaborate birthday parties - remember who's having the birthday, and keep the focus firmly on them.

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