Benjamin’s birthday is coming up in a few weeks and although I’m majorly excited, I’m also well aware that we have to be careful with the pennies now that Ed is doing his teacher training course and I’ve handed in my notice at work (argh!). I have also ended up with three children whose birthdays fall in September, October and November, shortly followed by Christmas, so autumn is a season we have to budget for months in advance!
With the older two children, we tend to treat them and their closest friends rather than throwing money at a big party for the whole class. With Benjamin, he doesn’t yet have proper ‘friends’ as I’ve been quite lax with going to Baby groups. Therefore, we are planning a small tea party rather than anything more extravagant for this year.
Having a background in events, I always like to apply a theme to a party, no matter how small it may be. For Benjamin’s baby shower, I went with a whale theme and loved it, so I thought it only fitting to return to the sea for his first birthday.
If you’re planning a birthday party for your little one, but don’t have a huge budget, here are my tips…
Go into things with a clear idea of what it is you want and you won’t end up being overwhelmed and getting more than you need. I always look at how much money we have and then what we need to get, and shop accordingly.
Choose your Guest List
Knowing who you want to have at the party is key, as most party items come in packs of 8, 10, 12 or 16. I always stick to Catering for babies/children only at parties but I make sure there’s some nibbles for the adults as well. This helps to keep the costs down
Rather than spending extra money on themed invites, which we then don’t get round to delivering on time, I now stick to electronic invites, whether via social media or in an ecard over email. You can often keep the theme going this way without the added cost.
Make sure you invite guests as far in advance as you can as well, to ensure they are available and so that you can adjust numbers if necessary if people aren’t able to make it
Shop Around Online
I always have a look online for party stuff, there’s just more variety than on the high street. The older kids tend to have a current favourite tv show or Disney film they are obsessed with and it’s fairly easy to find corresponding themed party bits (although they are now obsessed with blooming Grossery gang, and no such luck there).
For Benjamin, finding whale themed items was quite easy as it’s a popular option. I ended up buying most of it from Amazon, but it’s always worth a price comparison on eBay as Amazon’s delivery charges can add on a hefty amount of money (can you tell I’m still bitter about this change to their site)
I used to always cater myself at parties, stocking up on the cocktail sausages, mini sausage rolls and multipacks of crisps. For Benjamin’s christening we ended up buying some of Marks and Spencer’s pre-made wraps and it was a game changer. It ended up costing around the same amount as it would have done for us to have done it ourselves and they were so nice. Most of the main supermarkets will offer this service, and it’s totally fuss free as long as you order far enough in advance. We tend to mix catered food with some bits ourselves to make a nice spread, and it always goes down well. Alternatively, if the party is over summer, why not go for a barbecue instead?
To Bake or Not to Bake
I’m not going to say don’t attempt to make your own cake for their birthday, I’m just going to show you the results of when I attempted it for Cameron’s first birthday and let you make your own decision…
The Unmumsy Mum recently attempted to do the same after relying on Colin the Caterpillar cakes for many years. She also regretted the decision… Unless you are actually amazing at making cakes (which to be fair, I used to be, I totally blame baby brain for my decline in skills), then I would leave such a special occasion to the experts and either order a professional cake or just pick up a trusty Colin, or similar, at the supermarket to keep costs down.
Make Your Own Games
When browsing for party things online, it’s tempting to order all of the party games as well, after all, they look totally cute! For a first birthday, I wouldn’t go crazy on games, they just don’t have the patience for them, but even for subsequent birthdays, it’s a lot cheaper to make the games up yourselves.
Pin the Tail on the donkey is really simple to put together with a printer, some blue tack and a blindfold (get creative with a tie or scarf if you don’t have one to hand). Pass the parcel is always a hit too (even if I do tend to cheat so that we don’t have any meltdowns during gameplay).
Invest in a Ball Pit
For younger children, I’ve found that they don’t really go in for the traditional party but shove a ball pit (you can usually pick one up from Argos for around £10-£15) in the centre of the room and they will be entertained for hours! I’ll also put a box of toys for the children to play with, just don’t make the mistake of adding in the brand new birthday ones – I learnt this the hard way one year…
Less is More
Lastly, don’t stress out about it. First birthdays in particular are a little overwhelming for babies and less is definitely more. Having a fantastic Pinterest worthy birthday bash is not worth going into debt for, so only ever plan within your means.
All you really need for a fantastic first birthday is your baby and their loved ones, and maybe some cake thrown in for good measure… everything else is just a bonus!