Birthday on a Budget

Birthday parties. I don’t know about y’all, but it’s so easy to get carried away with something so simple these days.

Between Pinterest, your neighbor’s friend’s sister on Instagram… well, everyone seems to go all out. Fancy custom cakes, bounce houses, a ton of decorations – it’s almost like it has become a competition at this point, and everyone is getting involved. What happened to grabbing a sheet cake from heb, a piñata from the side of the road, and calling it good?

In honor of throwing my first double birthday party recently, I’ve put together six easy ways to cut costs while still throwing a rager of a (cute?!) party that your kids will love.


First things first, the cake. Quite possibly the most important part of a birthday party, other than presents of course (this is according to my four year old). I am notorious for getting sucked into buying a very pricey custom cake. They’ve always been amazing and I get so many compliments… but at some point I realized it wasn’t worth it. So I made my son’s birthday cake myself this year! My husband was thrilled.

Naturally, the most budget-friendly option would be to bake the cake yourself. If you are able, I would recommend doing a trial run – especially important if you’ve never made this particular type of cake before. Pinterest has lots of really cute ideas for easy-to-decorate cakes for almost every theme. However, baking and decorating cakes takes lots of time, and might I add, talent?  Definitely assess your time restraints before committing to baking the cake, because the last thing you want is add unnecessary stress. If you don’t have the time or talent to bake your own cake (and I definitely don’t blame you), then try your local HEB. Their cakes are usually really tasty, and you can get them at short notice. 

Upgrade: source a cake (or dare I say, cookie cake) from a local bakery. Keep it simple to keep costs down, you can always add your own decorations – small figures, cars, construction vehicles, or even Barbie accessories work really well here.


Time a party between meal times, and serve snacks! You were most likely going to serve some finger-foods alongside those burgers and hotdogs anyway, so skip them and aim for kid friendly and filling snacks.

Some ideas include: easily prepared fruit (grapes, strawberries, blueberries), cheese (cubed/sliced Cheddar, Colby Jack, Boursin), crackers (club, ritz, etc.), veggies (cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, sweet peppers, broccoli, carrots), chips and dip (guacamole, salsa, ranch, etc.), and salami/pepperoni. People of all ages tend to graze at parties, toddlers tend to pick, and busy party-going kids “don’t have time!” to sit down and eat – at least, if they’re anything like my child. And before you say, “my goodness I could have just bought burgers for all of that!” remember that this is just a list of lots of options that you can pick and choose from.


If you have a large drink dispenser, fill it with filtered water rather than buying bottles. You could even fill it with sliced lemons, cucumbers, strawberries, etc. to elevate the water and provide a nice centerpiece! It’s easy to find nice but inexpensive cups at Dollar Tree or Walmart, and easy to refill a water dispenser with cold water as needed. If it’s super hot, skip the kids drinks (juice boxes or pouches) or sodas. In my experience, with summer birthdays at least, most people drink water and never touch the drinks. And honestly, everyone carries their own cup these days! 

birthday party decorations and foodDecorations

Our favorite thing to do is buy a balloon arch kit from Amazon. OK, it may just be my favorite thing – it’s definitely not my husband’s! Anyway, they range from $20-$30, and usually come with a few decorations and maybe a tablecloth included, too. My signature hack is to keep the table cloth folded in a rectangle, and use it as a table runner instead. Skip the themed plates and napkins, which are expensive for the number of plates you get. Check Dollar Tree to see if they have the colors you need, if they don’t, Walmart or Party City certainly will. Dollar Tree also has small gold or silver “number” balloons, and sometimes a “happy birthday” one as well. It adds a little bit of “extra,” but fits a budget!

Party Favors

Man, this one’s hard for me – I can get carried away easily. First, don’t waste your money on junk: those tiny little toys that will get thrown away the next day, or something that will fall apart instantly. Second, I don’t think they necessarily have to match the party theme. Sure, it’s great if you can, but it’s better to find quality items than be a slave to your theme. Third, check Dollar Tree! (Is there a trend happening here?): they often have cute themed crayons, stickers, hot wheels cars, monster trucks, crafts, puzzles, sunglasses, water bottles, chalk, bubbles, coloring books, and more! You can buy a pack of inexpensive clear treat bags, or a 3 pack of small craft paper gift bags and put the treats inside. The Target dollar spot has similar items, another affordable option.

Upgrade: buy the 3-packs of small gift bags at Dollar Tree, and print out something related to the theme (train, monster truck, etc). Cut it out, write each child’s name on it, then tape or glue it to the bag. Extra, but still budget friendly – the cost is primarily your time.

Guest List

Last, but certainly not least in the never-ending way to stay on a budget, cut down the guest list. I know this can be WAY harder if your kids are in school and you have to invite the whole class. But, if you homeschool or your kid has a summer birthday, invite the people who matter. There’s absolutely no need to make it a block party!

At the end of the day, you’re throwing your kid a party – that is the only thing that matters! Spend money on what is most important to you, whether that’s a gift for your child, the cake, food, etc. Start planning early so you can shop sales on Amazon, Party City, or wherever else. I was able to score my balloon arch kit for $13 this year on the Prime Day event, versus the $30 I had seen it for originally.

Most of all, remember that it’s about celebrating another beautiful year of life for your child. With that in mind, stay off your neighbor’s friend’s sister’s instagram!

Miranda Martin
A true south Texas native with a brief stint in Lubbock and DFW, Miranda is happily settled just outside of San Antonio. Not one to sit around at home, she is constantly on the go, with a coffee in hand! No matter where her daily activities take her, her two boys Nash (2019) and Lochlan (2022) are usually in tow. She is happily married to a wonderful, dad-joke-filled husband, who she runs a Landscape Architecture firm with. Miranda and her husband, Jordan, both have bachelors degrees in Landscape Architecture from Texas Tech University, go Red Raiders! When she is home, she spends her time tending to the small farm they’ve accumulated, coming up with more projects for the to do list, and all things homemaking. She lives for an evening escape to La Frite, loves the Floresville Peanut Festival, and is absolutely fascinated by the rich history of the San Antonio Missions.