Planning Ahead: My $30 Birthday Party Challenge


Since my motto is Plan Today, or Plan to Fail, it should come as no surprise that I have been plotting out next week’s birthday party for both of our daughters for weeks already.

I already bought their gifts during the pre-Christmas sales at a steep discount. Each girl will be getting one gift from us: a water table for the toddler and an Easy Bake Oven for the almost-kindergartener, each bought at 50% off or more.

We will probably have about 20 people in our home, including about nine children. My goal is to spend $30 or less on the food and activities for the party.


I plan on doing what we do for every birthday party and printing off some free pictures on the internet (My Little Ponies this time) and hiding half a dozen around the house for the kids to find. We also have some coloring pages (free printables again) and will be doing manicures. For the manicures, I went to Sally’s Beauty Supply and spent $8 on small $1 bottles of nail polish. I would have used my own but I rarely wear nail polish, so I only have a single half-used bottle.

I don’t do a lot of planned activities for our birthday parties, as the kids tend to have fun, run around, and be kids, and I am just fine with that. I fully expect my house to look like a hurricane ran through it once the party is over.

I don’t give gift bags or prizes at our birthday parties either. To each their own, but I feel kids are constantly getting gifts and special treats all year long at school and other parties. I think a fun playtime with some food and a special treat is plenty, and kids don’t need to be constantly overindulged. I usually ask that guests do not bring presents either, unless they are family.

Running total: $8


For the cake, I am making a couple dozen cupcakes from scratch. Miss E, our older daughter, requests chocolate, so chocolate it is. I will be using this recipe for the cupcakes, and then I will make white vanilla buttercream icing in rainbow colors. This will take about 3 sticks of butter, which is exactly what I have left in my fridge. I don’t need to buy any special supplies. Cost: $0

Running total: $8


I plan on making two pans of mac ‘n cheese, a veggie tray made from baby carrots and celery (cut by me), ranch dip, fresh grapes, cheese and crackers, Pringles with French Onion dip, white cheddar popcorn, bottled water, mason jar iced tea, and juice boxes.

We already had bottled water left over from a party and plenty of tea bags for the tea. I spent $4.98 on cheese at Sam’s, which should cover me for mac ‘n cheese and the cheese for the crackers. Two boxes of elbow macaroni were already in my stockpile. Ritz-style crackers are $1.50 at Aldi and grapes are $4 for 4 pounds of grapes. A case of juice boxes at Sam’s was $9.98, but at the most we will need one-third of that, so I am counting $3.29 towards our total. Carrots will be $1 and celery $1.69. The two dips will be $2 for both, on sale at Kroger. I bought 2 cans of Pringles for $2 and the bag of popcorn was free at Kroger. I bought 7 pounds of powdered sugar at Sam’s for $3.99, and I will only need 1 pound, which is $0.57.

Final total: $29.03