How to celebrate your child’s birthday on a small budget

We all want our kids to have the world, and birthdays are no exception, but you don’t need to spend a small fortune to give them a wonderful time. In fact, some of my children’s favourite birthday memories are simply of running round with water pistols in the garden, or having a disco in lounge with their friends. 

A recent study found that two-thirds of Brits throw their child a birthday party every single year – spending an average of £325.50 each time. But with a bit of imagination you can easily give your child a special day for £20 – £50; especially if you’re willing to host your children’s birthday parties at home.

Here are 15 ways to celebrate in style without breaking the bank:

1. Have a creative party

My daughter and her friends love to be crafty, and there’s a lot you can do to keep the kids busy (and calm!) around the kitchen table. Paint-your-own parties are a lovely idea, and every child has something to take home too, which saves on party favours.

Lola loved her last one so much that we’re doing it again this year – and rather than pay out £12-£15 per child at a craft centre, the DIY version can be done for just fiver (or less) per child. Hobbycraft, The Range and Wilko are a great place to start.

Similarly, a DIY cupcake party is great fun too. You could pre-make the cakes beforehand (or store buy for a few pounds), or if you’re really brave get the kids to bake their own – they can always play some party games whilst they’re in the oven. Decorating the cakes and cake boxes is a great way to keep the little ones occupied.


2. Make a DIY piñata

Is a birthday party complete without lots of hyper children who’ve eaten way too many sweets?! Of course not! Piñatas are always a big hit with my kids – no pun intended! 😉 And, making one together for their birthday party each year is actually really good fun. They’re super simple too and can be created easily with papermache and a balloon, or with junk boxes from the recycling. To give it a go, and see a few we’ve made, check out my article: How to make a DIY piñata.


3. Host a disco

A disco is such an easy and cheap way to occupy the little ones – it’s definitely do-able for £20! Our disco bulb, about £7 from Amazon, has provided hours of entertainment for both children’s and adult parties. Team this with some cheesy music or the karaoke machine, and a party atmosphere is instantly created. A few homemade party games and some cheap snacks (Iceland is great for affordable party food) and the party is complete!


4. Get your bake on

It wouldn’t be a birthday without a cake! If you’ve got the time, baking your own can cost very little. Cake moulds or edible cake toppers are a great way to do something personalised and interesting for your little one without needing lots of skill. But, if you really hate cooking, Aldi do vanilla buttercream or chocolate celebration cakes for under a fiver.

Check out my budget birthday cake post for lots of creative ideas. For a simple, no-cook cake that the kids can get involved with, my tasty chocolate fridge cake is always a winner!


5. Have fun in the garden

If your child is a summer baby, hosting outside in the garden is a great idea. That way you avoid venue costs and cut down on the clearing up – the birds will happily eat the crumbs! Just be sure to have a back-up date should the weather turn nasty, we do live in England after all!

Here are a few fun ideas that work really well in the garden:

  • A ninja Nerf Gun party
  • A pirate themed treasure hunt
  • A bouncy castle
  • A sport / football party
  • A water pistol party – this one is Finn’s favourite!


6. Set up an escape room

Escape rooms are a big hit with adults and kids alike – but they can be really expensive. The good news is that you can set up your own at home for next-to-nothing. My post on creating a DIY escape room will give you lots of fun ideas. Invest in some combination locks (about £15 for 4 locks from Amazon) and they can be reset and used time and time again! 😊 I made a Christmas themed one for my two and their cousins, and they thought it was brilliant.

If you’re looking for an easier option, why not try a virtual escape room? Or buy a ready-made kit, there are lots on Amazon – just pick one that suits the ages and abilities of the kids taking part.


7. DIY decorations

Paper chains, banners and bunting are a cheap and easy way to decorate the house and make it colourful for your little one’s birthday. If you’ve got a bit of ribbon and some coloured paper, you can create all sorts of decorations without any need to head to the shops.


8. Print your own invitations

Check out my free, printable invitations, or get the kids involved and raid the craft box to make your own. Don’t spend a fortune on invites; they’ll end up in the recycling in no time – or just lurk at the bottom of school book bags for the rest of the year! 😉


9. Shop for preloved gifts

A study showed that British parents spend an average of £175.80 on birthday presents per child. It can be tricky to stick to a smaller budget, especially with older kids whose gift list is often full of more expensive items, but a bit of savvy shopping can save a lot.

Second hand shopping has never been so easy because everything can be quickly located online.  There are loads of places to hunt for the exact product you’re after with a simple search – Preloved, Shpock, Ebay, Gumtree and Facebook Marketplace are to name but a few. It’s really easy to find lightly / unused toys, movies, bikes, gadgets and books for a fraction of the cost that they would be new – you could slash the budget by half or more – plus you’re doing your bit for planet.

If you’re handy or into craft, you could even make a gift yourself. Try not to get too hung up worrying about things – it’s the memories and quality time spent together that really count. Every penny saved could go towards a fun day out or the holiday you’ve been desperate to book.


10. Be a savvy caterer

Party food is cheap as chips in most supermarkets, and it’s easy food to cook up yourself the night before. Opt for frozen over fresh to get more bang for your buck and be sure to look out for bargains leading up to the big day.

Cakes, bread for sarnies and other treats can often be found heavily reduced in the yellow sticker section. That great news is that most things can be frozen – so pick up some 20p angel slices and freeze them until you need them. You could even freeze a birthday cake too!


11. Book a venue on a budget

If you haven’t got the space at home, or just can’t face the chaos, there are ways to have a frugal out-and-about birthday party on a budget…

  • Swimming party: Host a swimming party without paying the inflated prices of booking one properly. Pick an inflatables session for older kids to have a blast or a toddler swim if you have younger ones. Most swimming centres only charge a couple of pounds per child, so this can be a really affordable option.
  • Cinema party: Make the most of the junior movie screenings at the weekends and school holidays, where you can pay just £2/3 per ticket. Another option is to save your Tesco vouchers and exchange those for cinema tickets at big chains like Cineworld and Picture House – read my Tesco Clubcard post for more info. A Kids Pass subscription could save you a lot too – with up to 40% off of cinema tickets!

  • Sports party: Lots of sports centres offer fun activities that won’t break the bank. For example, at Folkestone sports centre the children can have an hour on the ski slope with sno-rings for just £6 each. It’s just a case of investigating what’s available in your local area and, with Google to help, it’s never been easier!

  • Bowling: If you avoid the party packages, bowling can actually quite affordable – Hollywood bowl charges just £5.85 per child for one game. With the short attention span of most kiddies, one game is plenty, so your little one and five of their pals could bowl for around £35, then wander to a grassy spot afterwards and enjoy a picnic.


12. Enjoy the outdoors

Make the most of what you have on your doorstep, and enjoy some brilliant fun on a tiny budget by meeting pals out and about.

  • Geocaching: Geocaching is a great way to have some outdoor party fun. Plan your little ones birthday at a local country park or walking route (you can find them online) and have a geocaching treasure hunt! Hide some treasure at the final point and you’ll have the perfect freebie birthday party that the kids will love!
  • Park, woodland or beach: If you have a really good park nearby, love a ramble in the woods, or live on the coast; pack a picnic and some party games and make the most of the great outdoors. Good fun doesn’t have to be expensive!


13. Be smart with party bags

If we’re totally honest, party bag items are generally a bit rubbish and they’re usually full of little bits that will be lost or broken in seconds! Instead of spending out on those bits and bobs, grab some paper sandwich bags and fill with pic-n-mix – the sweets will definitely be gratefully received, it’ll be cheap and cheerful, and it’s a more eco-friendly option than plastic toys.


14. Host a gaming party

Anyone who owns a teenager or a pre-teen will know how obsessed kids can be with gaming! If friends / family are happy to loan you some extra TVs and games consoles, a gaming party is an easy party to host at home and a great idea for older ones who’ve outgrown treasure hunts and bouncy castles. And, if you frisbee the kids a few slices of pizza, you’ll be even more popular!


15. Choose a family day out

Sometimes we boycott the birthday party (although we often still end up with a lively birthday playdate at home instead!) in favour of having a special family day out with the kids. Outings like theatre shows, the zoo, and visits to castles or theme parks don’t come cheap, so sometimes it’s nice to trade in the party and use the money to do something a bit different.

Save money at more than 200 UK attractions by getting the kids Blue Peter badges – they’ll get free entry and you can just pay for the adults. Or, sign up to a Kids Pass trial for a quid for big savings on days out. For more info and lots more ideas, check out my post: How to have cheap UK days out – family fun on a budget!


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