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SIX Frugal Birthday Party Tips

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frugal birthday party tips

Throwing a creative and unique birthday party for your kiddos doesn’t mean you have to spend a ton of money. Here are some easy strategies and tips you can adapt to fit your party’s theme to make party planning fun and inexpensive. These are a few examples from an Olivia the Pig themed party that I threw for my daughter when she turned five. Olivia was her favorite book character!
Make a cupcake stand from empty boxes Hip2Save
Tip #1: Wrap empty boxes with coordinating gift wrap and then stack them for an easy cupcake stand. Add duct tape or ribbon for further embellishment if you’d like.
Use Dollar Store Tablecloths to Decorate
Tip #2: Use dollar store table clothes and wrapping paper as a party table backdrop. I used three red table cloths, coordinating wrapping paper, and tape to create this fun red curtain. I printed out some other themed images and taped to wrapping paper. The larger poster was printed at an office supply store.
DIY Photo Booth Birthday Party Hip2Save
Tip #3 Create a festive DIY Photo booth using a wrapping paper background and  a large thrift store picture frame. Go around the house collecting funny glasses, hats, tiaras, masks, scarves etc for photo props. The dollar store is also a great resource for inexpensive photo props. We made some simple pig noses to go with our theme from craft foam before the party. The kids had so much fun with this activity!
make your own cupcakes with toppers Hip2Save
Tip #4: Make your own fancy looking bakery style cupcakes at home using no fade cupcake liners like these Wilton brand ones and/or order themed cupcake toppers like these from Amazon.
olivia the pig invite edited
 Tip #5: Make your own party invitations using free photo editing sites like Also consider using, a free online invitation website if you have email addresses for parents.
Use Coupons for Party SuppliesTip #6: Make sure to use online and printable coupons for party supplies at stores like Party City, Michael’s Crafts, and Joann’s. If I know a theme or party colors ahead of time, then I’ll start collecting items as they go on clearance throughout the year.

Do you have any creative party planning tips to add?

 Lina ( loves cooking new recipes, thrift store shopping, and DIY home decor projects. 
Join The Discussion

Comments 57

  1. smellyann

    Awesome post!

  2. jess

    I like to buy character themed stickers, put them on card stock and cut them in squares. Tape them on a toothpick and insert on to cupcake. Super cheap, but cute.

    • Lina (Hip's Modern Martha)

      So smart! And cute!

  3. MommaBear

    Having a Carnival/Circus themed 1st birthday party for my little one in June. Anyone have any fun or frugal ideas for it?

    • Steph

      You can do thinks like a ring-toss with soda bottles, or have a “pin the nose on the clown” competition for older children.

      Similarly, you can have someone dress up as the “ringmaster” and lead guests to “act 1: the games! act 2: the cake, act 3: the presents, etc.”

    • Amanda

      I would imagine for a 1 year old you could be frugal and avoid games. I would check the dollar tree for things – I think I saw this theme there before. I suggest getting a few key items (one cool table decorations or dangly doo-dad for the ceiling) and then just match the colors using tissue paper, plastic table cloths, streamers and balloons. I also like to look at Oriental trading company and see what I can DIY. They used to have a striped circus/carnival booth that I think would be an easy DIY and would make a great treat/food/refreshment table.

    • Theresa

      Check oriental trading they have cute carnival things. Wait til they have free shipping. They do that once a month

    • L

      Hot dog bar for the food!

    • carrie8

      Boxes of animal crackers (the ones that look like train cars) as favors.

    • Suzanne H

      You can buy popcorn (red/white striped) bags 10/$1 at the Dollar Tree. Pop some popcorn for an easy, frugal snack for the adults and kiddos (assuming they are old enough not to choke).

    • Colleen

      Ikea sells a children’s play tent that looks like a circus tent for $15. It could double as a present and a prop/activity

  4. Annmarie

    I find a lot of party serving pieces at estate sales. If you know you are having a party in advance it takes a few weeks and a few sales to accumulate items you may need. Typically estate sales mark items under $50 to half off the last few hours of the sale. I have gotten serving platters, bowls and cake plates for $2. Sometimes you can get multiples of things that you can turn into party favors.

  5. Tracy

    Could use all the tips I can get. I’m planning my son’s 2nd birthday party and I am on a very tight budget. After the cost of the party room. My budget its tight. I have picked a theme out of Lil Monsters. Have been hitting the dollar tree to pick up googly eyes, and paper products in the colors (blue, green, and orange). I want this party to look nice but stay on budget. Any tips on party food would be great. We have about 35-40 people attending. I don’t want to do pizza but more like finger foods. Thanks in advance.

    • jess

      Tracy I like to do subway. And bulk chips from sams. It’s amazing 🙂

    • Angela

      I’ve seen yarn pompom monsters you could make your self and have the kids add eyes and legs from pipe cleaners. Also look for a monster wreath made from tulle that would be really cute.

    • Amanda

      You can do a lot of things with streamers, tissue paper and balloons to make your room look really neat but done cheaply.
      For the price of 2-4 packs of balloons, you can make a balloon column that will look fantastic, take up lots of space AND be cute for pictures. You can find TONS of tutorials online with Google or Pinterest. For some reason people always think those are difficult to make, but they’re really not.
      For a couple of bucks in tissue paper you can make Pom poms and garland (directions easily found on Pinterest) which look great hung around the room.
      Try to make your centerpieces vs buying something. I invested in some little metal buckets I found in the $1 at target and reuse them every year. After putting some floral foam at the bottom of my tin, I print off pictures of characters of my theme (Bubble Guppies, MLP, Etc – you could make your monsters) from the Internet, cut them out and attach them to card stock. I attach kabob sticks to the card stock and poke into the floral foam. Add 2-3 characters and a large number (whatever age your child is turning) into the foam and some tissue paper to hide the foam at the bottom and you’re done. If you’re feeling super crafty you can cut out your kids’ name or just write it in on the number. Pretty cheap, easy and looks great.
      I LOVE decorating for parties – I’m the go-to gal in my family. I even do all the decorations for all of my nieces parties. I do some pretty fun stuff and have NEVER gone over more than $75.

      • Sara

        Amanda maybe you should start a company to decorate for parties as a part time job…

    • brindha

      Hi Tracy for party foods you can do finger sandwiches like pb & j , ham and cheese, turkey and cheese. Make a sandwich cut the crusts off and cut into 4 triangles or squares. It looks so cute and fancy. Also strawberry cream cheese between bread is so yummy. You can cut sandwiches with cookie cutters to make cute shapes. Also turkey cream cheese tortilla pinwheels are so good and even adults love it. Cucumber and butter between bread is so good too. Egg salad, chicken salad between bread is good. Fruit cups with different fruits is healthy and easy. Or put some cut fruits in mini plastic toothpicks.

      • ashley

        party subs from Walmart are REALLY cheap! I ordered them for both of my kid’s first birthday parties. It’s a fraction of the price of subway. I worked at subway and used to make the party subs and Walmart’s 6 foot party sub is almost double what a subway 6 foot sub is.

    • Amy

      My sons 1st bday (last yr with just family) was monsters my daughter helped me make a paper mâché piñata it looks kind of like mike from monsters inc but blue and I made monster pops from marshmallows and donut holes dipped in colored melting chips with Wilton can’t eyes and piped icing hair, I wish I could share pics they were so cute, check out Pinterest oh we also made a game called put the eye on the monster I found eye ball stickers on clearance for 25 cents at michaels and we drew a pic of a monster on a poster board then you play like pin the tail on the donkey

    • Jean

      I remember for my son’s 2nd birthday, I wanted to serve all of HIS favorite foods. I wanted to be able to say “yes” to him for all the food on his birthday. We had cheese cubes with pretzel sticks, crackers, grapes, apple slices, etc. I didn’t have any other “adult” food. He was so pleased that he had all his favorites!

    • Angela

      On my daughter’s 2nd birthday we did a hot dog bar! Really inexpensive and fun. has ideas on how to make dogs from around the country. I printed them on card stock and had the ingredients and people topped them however they wanted. Chicago style, California style, southern style etc. I think we are going to do it again soon bc it was so fun and different. Added chips and a noodle salad and that was plenty of food.

      • Lina (Hip's Modern Martha)

        Love this idea!

    • Tracy

      Thanks everyone. I love all the tips and I think we will either do a hot dog bar (seems cheap and could fit anybody’s taste) or do the sub sandwiches. I never thought of this. All I had for food was the kids snacks (animal crackers, goldfish, pretzels, ect). I am starting to look around for great deals. Tonight I found melting candy on sale at Meijer for $0.75 a bag and grabbed two. Not sure what I’ll do with those yet but I’m sure I can figure it out. Thanks for all the tips. I can’t wait to get started and see how cute it turns out. He’s our little monster and we are so lucky to have him with us.

    • Zanne

      Make the party mid afternoon and just do cake, ice cream, and punch. I did add some chips and dip too. People should have had lunch and this is so much less stress and expense on you.

  6. Ashley

    I invested in an oilcloth table cloth I can use for multiple parties. It just wipes clean and was only about 4 dollars with tax. I use it for more than 4 parties and I have the dollars store beat.
    It’s also amazing how much you can do with tissue paper for decor that’s costs next to nothing. I reuse whatever I can when I can and try to look around the house first.

  7. Caroline Hileman Schaffer

    We have birthdays in May, so I buy clearance candies from Easter to use them in the goodie bags

  8. jamie

    Does anybody have any frugal wedding tips? My fiance and I are getting married next year. We both have lived together for the last 3 years and cant fathom spending and arm and a leg on one afternoon, especially considering we already live like a married couple. Personally I would love to elope and throw a big reception with everybody, but im sure family members would be hurt. Ideally I want to get married outdoors somewhere, but it seems like “venues” are all 10K+ in our area…which we dont want to spend. Goal is no wedding debt… Help?!

    • smellyann

      No help here, we eloped! lol Good luck…

    • Bri

      Maybe look into renting space at a public park? Probably won’t be as private of a ceremony though. My husband and I got married in a park by someone he worked with who was an ordained minister so our wedding was very inexpensive.

    • Chantal

      Jamie, I absolutely LOVE your attitude! Your future husband is fortunate to have you. I hope my son finds a sweet down-to-earth girl with a level head regarding finances. May you be blessed with the best marriage ever!
      As far as keeping a wedding on budget, I have never understood why we can’t plan 3-4 marriages on the same day, in the same venue, with the same decorations (price split 4 ways). If 4 like-minded brides got together, I believe you could each have an amazing wedding (for very little money). You could hire a photographer & a videographer who would work all 4 weddings (negotiate upfront that they give you the digital photos & video on a flashdrive so you can make copies & create a video yourself).
      The start times could be spaced out (for example: first wedding at 1:00, next wedding at 3:30, next wedding at 6:00, last wedding at 8:30).
      And, if you could find a venue (church, etc) that had a high budget wedding on Friday night, maybe you could “rent” all of their flowers & decorations (again, split 4 ways). The only thing you would have to buy is the bouquet, corsages & boutonnières.
      You could handle the reception the same way (rent a place, divide up the time & split the price 4 ways).

    • Diane

      Check out state parks. Costco and Sam’s are great for wedding flowers and centerpieces. My niece discovered the same thing when she was planning her wedding. She ended up at a country club with a lovely view of trees and golf course. No rental fees and reasonable food prices.

    • Jenn

      I got married on Sunday of Labor Day weekend. I had my pick of venue and everything was much less expensive and a great turnout because most guests had Labor Day off. You could also see if the Saturday wedding might have decorations to resell or split the cost.

    • Julie

      If you have a local college, some have a culinary program. They will work with you for the reception. It is usually much less expensive, you might have to “grade” the experience, since the students need the real life interactions.

      • Lina (Hip's Modern Martha)

        Wow love that idea!

    • Stacy

      Like others check state parks. We had under 75 people so our park didn’t charge us for our reserved covered area. And we got married in the middle of a open field. It was beautiful with all the greenery and trees. All we paid was $50 for all our guests to park. And that was for wedding and reception site.

  9. Chantal

    Great post!
    Minor correction:
    It’s “Table cloths” not “table clothes”

    • Lina (Hip's Modern Martha)

      Oh thanks!! 🙂

  10. tishabell

    Help I need high school graduation party tips

  11. Martha

    Super super cute and creative! Loved it! M

    • Lina (Hip's Modern Martha)

      Thanks Martha!

  12. Jennifer

    I got 75% off plates and napkins with cute little bunnies on them for my 2 year olds birthday because she loves everything. It’s a good idea to take advantage of the years that the child doesn’t request certain characters, lol. If you have a lot of guests I like to put a lot of hotdogs in a crockpot to warm while I get everything else ready. Plus something about the crockpot makes the hotdogs really tasty. This is super cheap and goes a long way. Also, popcorn is awesome for a carnival themed party. My daughter just got married. She had a “barn theme” reception. This is a really good theme to get married cheaper because lots of things can be homemade yet elegant. Mason jars, flowers, and candle centerpeices. We used wooden discs from a tree that had been cut in our yard to sit things on. Small intimate ceremonies are so beautiful and special to me. Remember that you do not have to provide a “meal” if you have the wedding at a non meal time of day. A good cheap wedding appetizer if you make them yourself is buy those tiny pastry cups in the freezer section and fill with homemade chicken salad. Garnish with rosemary sprigs. Lots of cheap things you can do ahead if you have the time. Skip the booze and just have tea, water, and lemonade or have a byob. Skip the guest book and go to Hobby Lobby, get a large wooden letter of the first initial of your new last name, a sharpie, and let your guests write meaningful messages. Print a coupon for hobby lobby first! I paid $6 for our big letter “D” and you can use a sharpie, lol.

  13. JES

    My daughter’s first birthday party is this weekend. I found most of her supplies on Amazon for less than $30 I found plates, napkins, cups, balloon set, streamers, forks, table decorations, birthday banner and confetti all themed for a party for 30 people.

  14. Shawna

    Instead of goodie bags for my 6 year old’s party, we bought a bunch of Mylar balloons ($1 each inflated!) from Dollar Tree. They had princess themed ones and for the boys we just had silver star balloons. Was a great decoration, too!

  15. Maria

    I will love to here any ideas for frozen themed party my soon to be 7 and 4 what to have a frozen themed party we usuallly have a budget of of $150 to $200 for food, veberage, and decorations. For 35 to 40 people.

    • Amanda

      Lots of handmade 3D snowflakes! They are super easy to make and beautiful. Your 7 year old can probably help too.
      You can make your own glittery play doh to give out for favors.
      For an activity you could have the kids make shaving cream snow (it really gets cold!). If you can get little frozen figures for them to use even better.
      Lots of blue streamers and tissue paper balls for decorations.
      You can also check living social and groupon for deals on bulk food. My local sub shop frequently offers a great discounted sub platter with cookies. Keep your eyes open for a good deal

  16. StephB

    Love your Olivia Theme, So cute:0)

  17. carrie8

    I would recommend making/serving food that keeps well and that you don’t mind eating for days afterward!
    Also, when planning an event, I swear Pinterest is my best friend!
    I hosted a party last year and made all the food (except for the desserts.) I have a thing about shared bowls of stuff and am also vegetarian, so everything I made was single-serving: individual portobella sliders, potato salad on a stick, 7-layer dips in individual canning jars with snack-size bags of Fritos, pasta salad on a stick, etc.

  18. Suzanne H

    I tend to make a lot of my own decorations using clip art or images from Google and by downloading a free font that matches the theme. Last year was Star Wars – used a free Star Wars font I found online. I Google or look on Pinterest for cute sayings, etc. Put them together, print and frame in Dollar Tree frames that I use over and over. I look for free printables as well. Someone had already done all of the work for a cute Star Wars banner online – I downloaded, printed, cut it out and taped it to some ribbon – looked great on our mantle. I also like to use toys that my son has (or is getting as a gift) for decorations. That way I’m not spending money on paper decorations that wind up in the trash. Last year I found a 3′ tall Darth Vader on clearance at Target for $8 (reg. $35). I put it in the middle of the food with a sign saying “Come to the dark side; we have cupcakes” in his hand (we were having cupcakes for the “cake”). Afterwards, that was one of my son’s gifts from his dad and I – he loved it! I like to use themed plates with solid colored cups, etc. That cuts down on expenses as well. Of course, coupons for Party City, Michaels, etc. help. I also ask around on a local Facebook yard sale group I belong to. People are frequently willing to give away or greatly discount party supplies they no longer need. But the best tip I have is planning early. Each year, I pick out a theme as early as possible and shop all year long. I bought a bunch of pirate themed party supplies on clearance at Target months ago. That will be this year’s theme. Also, for my eldest, I bought graduation cups, plates, etc. for $0.25 on clearance after graduation last year (just made sure it didn’t include the year). I also made up one of the banners that Collin frequently posts. I’m all set to go come this June!

  19. Ana

    You can always print your own partying pack for free by doing an online comes with cupcake wraps and toppers.also you can make your own piñata without paper mâché just by using a box.i have made them for $5.

  20. Jessy Shaw

    I absolutely love the photo booth idea! I have been to a few parties with them and they are such a cute idea! My six-year-old is turning seven in a few weeks and she wants a Disney princess party. I have been looking for party supplies and I think having a princess photo booth would be so cute and fun! Thanks for the tips!

    • Lina (Hip's Modern Martha)

      Oh I love that idea!

  21. Melody Brown

    I like your idea to use wrapping paper for a backdrop. That makes the photos look more professional, and it also makes the photo shoot fun. I am going to try this for the next party I have.

  22. kristinavialpando

    My youngest is turning 1 in less than a week. It’s just snuck up on me so quickly with Thanksgiving and Christmas and on top of a ton of stress having pregnant brain too. I used to think I was creative but reading everyone’s comments here I am nowhere near creative. I’d be forever grateful for any comments/help. Especially anything very cost effective as my husband says we have $0 for a party or anything for my son which is depressing added stress. I will figure out a way to get something done probably from dollar tree. Does anyone have any tips or ideas, Party and present wise. And my son loves everything like literally every single thing he loves. Thanks in advance and God bless.

    • Lina D (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      Aww well Happy Birthday to your little one ❤️ The good news is the dollar store has awesome bday supplies like candles, hats, plates ect. You can even make a cake from supplies there. Keep it simple and enjoy 😉

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