If you were a child in the 1980’s your birthday party might look something like this: friends, cake, ice cream and the backyard. Or, if you were really lucky, you got a party at McDonald’s.

mcdonald's party

If you are a child in the 2000’s your birthday party might look something like this: A high society ball.

We do birthdays a little different. Instead of spending several hundred dollars on a single party, we take our kids on a family vacation. Instead of entertaining them with a 4-hour party we spend the week visiting museums, aquariums, swimming, hiking and making lifelong memories. But my kids do have a specific formula for a birthday: play time, cake, presents and goody bags. In that order.

This year we did not go away because we are saving for a bigger trip next year. But, to satisfy my kids’ birthday requirements, I had a cozy play-date with cupcakes with an under the sea theme. We had a total of 10 kids and 8 adults the day of our party (down from 15 kids and 12 adults). Sadly, six kids cancelled due to ear infections and colds. A common hazard for winter parties: sick kids and snow days.

Our total budget for the party including food, cake, new birthday outfits and presents was just around $170. Here’s what it looked like:

Twin tanks with subtle embellishments.

I made these adorable shirts by simply ironing on little octopus embellishments to a tank top we already own. Paired with a 5-layer tutu and leggings, we have a complete ensemble for $15.00 each kid. Total for outfits = $30.00

After a little search on Pintrest I found I can make seaweed out of crepe paper. What? It was really easy! Just tape and twist two different colors of crepe paper together- done! I used less than 2 rolls for all our decorating. I used colorful paper plates as coral, and cut out fish shapes from glittery scrapbook paper.

Next I hung a fishnet that I found for only $3.00 at the local party store. I added seashells, pictures of my kids and little fish embellishments I found at the dollar store.

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Jelly fish/sea creatures.

I took a little help from the party store and purchased pre-made tissue paper pom-poms. (I have attempted to make on my own and they do not look the same). I used crepe paper to look like tentacles. I hung these throughout the play room to look like sea creatures under the sea.

Total for decorations = $23.00

For activities we had a pinata (at my daughters’ request), an under the sea mystery box filled with shells we collected at our last beach outing, and the toys in our play room (totally free by the way).

I left the goody bags empty so the kids could fill them with the loot from the treasure chest. Instead of filling up the box with bags and candy, we chose fake jeweled rings, compass rings, under the sea creatures, necklaces and (chocolate) gold coins. It’s more like pirate booty and less sugar for the kids.

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Making our loot bags was super easy thanks to Michael’s. I simply picked up a pack of plain white paper bags for $5.00 and attached some beach themed scrap book stickers. These adorable 3-D sea shell stickers were on clearance. I tied a pretty ocean blue ribbon on the top and done!

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The mystery box contained sea shells and beach rocks we collected during our visit to the beach. We added  “sea urchins” (little spiky rubber balls) and a few plastic sea creatures. Believe it or not, we already had those items on hand. The only cost for this is the wrapping paper ($1.00 at Target).

Under the sea mystery box.

I even made a space for an under the sea photo op!

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Total for activities = $45

I went really simple with the food: cheese cubes and grapes on skewers to look like coral, fish shaped peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, homemade shells and cheese, fish and chips (Goldfish crackers and potato chips) seaweed salad and sausage and peppers (I couldn’t find a clever name for that).  Drinks for kids were juice boxes and for parents beer, wine and seltzer. Easy! Total food & beverages = $60.00

Our total for gifts = $10.00. I know you’re thinking, “What kind of cheapskate parents spend only $10 on birthday presents?” We bought only a handful of small gifts for the kids to open at the party. Their big gift from mommy and daddy was a ride on the polar express. (Purchased months in advance- not part of the party budget).

Since the girls’ birthday falls between Thanksgiving and Christmas we often ask guests to bring a canned good for us to take to the food pantry. This year we collected gently-used coats and warm winter clothes for children in our local foster homes. I was completely taken aback by everyone’s generosity! I hope this is one birthday tradition my kids will continue throughout life- giving back on their birthday.

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After the party dust settled, the girls and I recycled some of the party decorations into thank you cards for our guests. I gave the kids some dot paints and paper, then we embellished them with the little decorations from our fish net.

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The party was relaxed, the kids had fun and the moms even got a chance to sit down with a glass of wine and finish a few sentences. We didn’t break the bank for the kids to celebrate and get together with friends. I’d say that’s a formula for a successful party!

 

 

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