2. Use what you have. For example, my daughter's second birthday party was a country ladybug theme. I use my red and white checked tablecloth and made centerpieces from old Mason jars filled with flowers from the garden. It was beautiful - and frugal!
3. Limit guests. We have family-only birthday parties, but if there are no nearby family members with kids near your child's age, ask your child to choose a couple of close friends to invite.
4. Don't go overboard with favors. One year we had a Curious George birthday party; favors were puzzles and coloring pages I found online for free, plus George bookmarks I printed off the Internet for free. Another year, I bought punch balloon-balls for the kids. (They were 4 for $1.) You might also consider saving money by making part of the decor party favors. Toddlers will love taking home a balloon, for example.
5. Make the cake. I know, I know, not everyone is a good baker, let alone cake decorator. But who says the cake has to be perfect? My nearly 5-year-old remembers every cake I ever made her - mostly because Mommy made them. These days you can find lots of relatively easy kids cake ideas online.
6. Forget Chuck E. Cheese. Have the party at home, or at some other free location. Many parks allow you to make reservations for little or nothing, also.
7. Gather ideas from online party stores - then get creative. For example, my girly girl wants a pirate birthday party this year. (She's been watching Peter Pan a lot.) I found a cute pirate ship bean bag toss online, but I can make it better and cheaper at home with some scrap plywood. Another year, I saw a no-longer-available Eeyore "Pin the Tail on the Donkey" game. I enlarged a picture of Eeyore from one of my daughter's Winnie the Pooh books and made my own version out of poster board. (And it hung in her room as a decoration for a couple of years.)
8. Don't hire entertainment. Period. Offer a few simple and cheap party games, then let the kids play on their own.
9. Make your own invites. If your child is old enough, she'll enjoy helping. There are lots of creative invitation ideas online. And if you want to spend zero on invitations, find graphics online and create a digital postcard to email to guests.
10. Ask your child what's most important to him. The answer might surprise you. For example, one year I learned my daughter really didn't care about decorations, but she really wanted party hats. So guess where I spent my money?
11. Keep the focus where it belongs. Birthday parties are about showing appreciation for those we love. One important way to do that - more important than any decorations, gifts, or cake - is to let your child hear you thank God for bringing that child into your life. Make sure today, and every day, your child knows what a blessing he is in your life.