Kids Birthday Series

Deals for your home

Here’s a few deals for your home from Ann-Marie of Chaos Is Bliss.

I really enjoy hosting my kids’ birthday parties at home. You would think it should save some money, but when you start adding up the crafts, decorations, food, cake (purchased or ingredients) and party favors; it’s probably better to say it breaks even with dropping $200 on a party venue.

When my son had his 5th birthday this February, he chose a Pirate theme, which was so much fun to plan! Oriental Trading had the coolest pirate party supplies, even a great selection for a girl’s pink pirate theme if you’re looking for something different for your daughter!

Where I did save money was on the invitations, by printing them on my home computer. I wanted them to have an antique look, wound like a scroll. I even sed pirate-speak on the wording… Google is just amazing at finding exactly what you need!

If you’re hosting a pirate party, or any other event where it could be more special or authentic to have an antique look to your paper, here’s the steps on how to do just that:

  1. Create your invitation. I used Word, set the page to Landscape and created 2 columns so I could have a smaller invitation, two to a page. I used Word’s freehand drawing tool to create the border (and set the border to a thick dashed line instead of solid), trying to give it a feel of a treasure map. I printed half as many sheets since I was getting 2 invitations per page. Before antiquing, I used a straight edge to rip the two invitations apart.

  2. For the antiquing process, I boiled 1 cup of water and put 1 family-size bag of tea into it to steep. When it had cooled, I poured about 1/2 cup onto a cookie sheet with an edge so it didn’t spill over. I put two invitations at a time into the tea, turning it over and pressing lightly to be sure it was getting good and saturated. As the tea ran out, I poured the remaining onto my cookie sheet.

  3. Time to dry: Next I placed the wet invitations onto a clean baking sheet, and put it into the oven at 200 ° for about 6 minutes. You can turn it over after 3-4 minutes, or you don’t have to, sometimes it will curl more if you don’t turn it over. If it’s not perfectly dry, no worries – just gently peel it off your cookie sheet and set it aside, it’ll finish air drying while you put the next set into the oven.

  4. That’s it! It is really simple!   It did take a bit of time but in the end it was really worth it. I finished the look by loosely rolling into a tube and tying a string around it into a knot. This wouldn’t work to mail invitations, but thankfully I was passing them out at preschool!   I had so many compliments on the invitations and for me, it’s fun to do something different. I did the same process for the thank-you notes, just changed the wording, and printed 4 to a page instead of 2. I left a blank to detail the gift, and Dylan signed his name on each.

Believe me, I usually purchase the matchy matchy fill-in-the-blank invites; however I wanted to give this a try and thankfully it worked!   Here’s the end result, side by side with an original to see what a difference it makes:

Oh p.s., I also made Dylan’s cake at home, a treasure chest! That was also a quick find through searching “treasure chest cake”, I was able to find a video on how to make it on Family Fun’s website. I’ll be writing up my “How To” on that, so if you’re not yet following me, you may do so via email updates, Facebook, Twitter, or all three!

Ann-Marie is a SAHM of 3 fun-loving kiddos. Her passion for sharing tips & deals with everyone (literally ” therapists, technicians, random strangers in line… ) inspired her to begin her own blogging journey. Chaos Is Bliss was launched in October 2010 to share ideas on all things home & family.

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This is post 7 of 7 in the series Frugal & Fun Kid’s Birthdays.

It’s party day! And the end of our series.

While we’re partying down princess-style, here are 100 silly ideas for your next frugal and fun kids party.   Feel free to use them as is, but I also hope they will inspire you to come up with some of your own your children will love.

Family Fun

  1. Head to a place that offers freebies   on your birthday like Toys ‘r Us, Dave & Busters, or many other entertainment spots or restaurants.
  2. Curl up for a movie night.   For fun, get a movie that was made or released on your child’s birthday.   Or has an actor(ess) with the same birthday.
  3. Challenge each other to a game night.   Play charades, cards, board games, or whatever your family loves.
  4. Hike through the woods.
  5. Canoe or kayak.
  6. Go on a bike ride.
  7. Have a family scavenger hunt around town looking for inventive ideas like “Dad hanging on the monkey bars” or “The birthday boy/girl at a famous landmark.” Take pictures to track your progress and remember the day.
  8. Try your hand at fishing at a local lake or pond.   Make sure you have a license where required!
  9. Hit the park and play.
  10. Have a picnic.
  11. Build the largest snowman.
  12. Sled.
  13. Make a weekend of it and go camping.   You can get a site for as low as $10 in some areas.   It’s even a great (and cheap) way to visit a new city or state.
  14. Take advantage of your family memberships and hit the local zoo, children’s museum, art museum, or golf course.
  15. Make pottery at a local do-it-yourself shop.

    Food & Eats

  16. Did you know you can take a picture from a coloring book and place wax paper over it, then use the gel or premade icing to trace the design.   Then, by placing the wax paper upside down in your iced cake, you’ll have the perfect outline for your design?   Just fill it in!   Easy homemade cake.
  17. Instead of drawing with icing, use candy, sprinkles, and other items to make your cake design at home.
  18. Instead of making a cake, make cupcakes.   Let each child decorate their own with icing, candy toppings, and sprinkles.
  19. Skip cake entirely and let the kids go all-out making their own sundaes with whip topping, fruit, gooey syrups, and those candy toppings and sprinkles mentioned above.
  20. Concoct a punch to match your theme or look up recipes online.   You can mix different things to make different colors and they’ll still taste great!
  21. Get fun straws at The Dollar Store to punch up beverages.
  22. Spaghetti, macaroni & cheese, or chicken nuggets are always affordable and kiddie favorites.
  23. Side meals with your kids simple favorites – grapes, carrot sticks, string cheese, and cheese crackers.
  24. If you live in an area where it’s allowed, have a bonfire, so everyone can cook their own foods – hot dogs and toasted marshmallows.
  25. Make good use of food coloring! For example, tint ranch dressing for veggie dip purple for a Barney birthday or green for a Monster birthday.
  26. It’s all about perception.   If you call hamburgers Krabby patties at your Spongebob party, then they will be.
  27. You don’t have to go crazy or make something creative.   Enjoy plain peas from Princess and the Pea at a princess party.
  28. Cut sandwiches into festive shapes with cookie cutters.
  29. Roll grapes in Kool-Aid powder for a fun and festive look.
  30. Skip gifts and have your guests bring food instead for a pitch-in.
  31. Skip food. Just serve cake and drinks!
  32. Plan the menu around food that’s in season.

    Party Sites & Decor

  33. String Christmas lights to add to the ambiance.
  34. Use toys to enhance the theme, like toy cars driving on the cake or on the appetizer dishes.
  35. If you’re house is too small, head to Grandmas! We did for Ady and Izy’s first birthdays.
  36. Or hit up that relative with the fun house.   You know the one with the pool and dart board?   Remember to clean up and be respectful, so you’ll be invited back!
  37. Party at the local sprayground or spray park.   It’s usually FREE or cheap to take advantage of the shelters and comes with FREE entertainment.
  38. Think like the character. Head to the library for a Belle birthday or the nature preserve for a Tarzan or Curious George birthday.
  39. Give back. Organize a park cleaning before an outdoor party.
  40. The community center or other volunteer locations will be more likely to let you use a room if you give an hour or two to them first.   It doesn’t have to be all the party guest.   Just you and your husband/wife or the party kid could volunteer the weekend before the party.
  41. Keep it simple.   Teddy bears and blankets are among the few items you’d need for a teddy bear picnic party theme.
  42. Anything can be pretty. Tie bows on plums, roll green grapes in red koolaid, stick a pretty toothpick in a wrap.
  43. Go overboard.   Tie bows and streamers and other fun things you have on hand to serving utensil and drape lampshades with scarfs for a Fancy Nancy Party.
  44. Light the candles you never light, because you are “saving them for a special day”.
  45. Turn on and turn up the music!
  46. Invite your guests to add to the theme by dressing as their favorite Disney character for a Mickey Mouse birthday or have them bring their favorite doll or stuffed animal for a tea party.
  47. Get into it yourself! Moms, your kids will think you are too cool if you wear a tool belt and ball cap to the Handy Manny birthday.
  48. Cut flowers from your garden to spruce things up.
  49. Loop pictures of your child on the television or your computer screen.
  50. Encourage the older guests teach the children some of their favorite “vintage” party games like Pin The Tail on the Donkey, Duck-Duck Goose, or Freeze Tag.

    Slumber Party

  51. Make dresses and accessories out of toilet paper or aluminum foil for a fun game.
  52. Find constellations or count stars.
  53. Place black paper on the walls or windows for slumber party graffiti.   Let the kids doodle on them with glow in the dark pens or gel pens.
  54. Make snazzy socks!
  55. Let them sing! Turn your DVD player into a Karaoke machine for only $29.99!
  56. Hook up your camcorder to the television, so the kids can be stars.
  57. You know all those samples you’ve collected?   Pass them out as goodies and favors.
  58. Pull out the board games.   If you have them, pull out your oldies. Remember Mall Madness?
  59. This is the perfect time to hand over a few of those toothbrushes and toothpaste you’ve stockpiled as favors.
  60. Don’t just pass out toiletries!   Also dish out your sample cereals or granola.
  61. Let the girls make hot chocolate mix to enjoy and some to take home for later.
  62. Give flashlights as favors.   Let the kids decorate them!   They’re often found in the Target Dollar Spot.
  63. Let the girls sign and decorate the birthday girl’s sheets or pillow case for memories sake.
  64. Tie dye or decorate pillow cases. You can get some cheap at Goodwill, yard sales, or a consignment store.
  65. Pull out your old movies like Breakfast Club and Pretty in Pink for a marathon or Annie and Mary Poppins for a younger crowd.
  66. Let them make you over!
  67. Even better – let them make over your husband!   Trust me, it’s fun for everyone (except him). Get pictures.
  68. Fold plain paper to make Fortune-Tellers or Footballs.
  69. Tell scary stories.
  70. Share secrets.


  71. Let your children create their own invitations with paints, bows, crayons, construction paper, and confetti.
  72. Cut out pictures of the invitees.   Use the cut outs to make a card of your friends at your party.   Put party hats on their head, a birthday cake on the table, and have fun with it.   They’ll get a kick out of it.
  73. Tuck pictures of the evening and your guests into their thank you cards to add a special touch.   Remember all those free photo prints?
  74. Hand deliver invitations or thank yous at school or whenever to save money on stamps.
  75. E-vite is always free and can be sent via Facebook.
  76. Not artsy, make cards on the computer and print them.
  77. Press flowers to add flare to homemade invitations.
  78. Sparkle homemade invitations up with glitter.

    Favors, Crafts & Activities

  79. Make kites, then head outside to try them out.
  80. Make daisy chains to wear or teach the kids how to whistle with blades of grass.
  81. Find a stay-at-home mom or dad who moonlights as a clown or has fun balloon skills and would be interested in entertaining for cheap.
  82. Cut up those old magazines you have lying around for free craft accessories.
  83. Better yet, dress your husband up as a clown, if he’s game! The kids (and adults) will LOVE watching daddy be silly.
  84. Face paint. You don’t need to be an artist and the kids will love it.
  85. Use items on sale at party stores to come up with or add to your theme.   Seasonal items are wonderful and always cheap near or after the holiday.   Think outside of the box, like using leis or luau decor as center pieces or favors at a Tinkerbell Party.
  86. Hearts and Valentine’s Day decorations and be used to for little girl parties.   Or do a Valentine’s theme and instead of pinning the tale on the donkey, get Cupid’s bow on his arror.
  87. Decorate eggs and have an Easter egg hunt for birthdays around Easter. My daughter ate this up one year and so did her guests!
  88. Let off fireworks and go red, white, and blue for Independence Day.
  89. Halloween is the best! Let the kids get an opportunity to get an additional wear out of those costumes.   Hang ghost made from tissues, serve pumpkin seeds, and carve pumpkins.
  90. Become Indians in November for a Pocahontas or Indian theme party.   Make head dresses or rain sticks.
  91. Make Christmas ornaments and hang Christmas decorations for December birthdays.
  92. Water balloons, squirt guns, and other water toys can be great entertainment.
  93. Get out what you have on hand – sidewalk chalk, jump ropes, balls, hula hoops, wagons.   The kids will make use of it.
  94. Bubbles are cheap and kids love them.   Plus, they are beautiful.   Automatic bubble blowers will fill your backyard quickly with thousands and are very affordable.

    Just For Fun

  95. Blow up balloons and toss them all over the floor of your child’s room after they fall asleep, so they wake up to a sea of balloons.   Have teenager? Fill up their car while they’re at school or work!
  96. Wrap presents in newspaper or paper you decorate.
  97. Let your kid pick everything (with in reason) no matter how silly.   Izy wore jeans, a plastic Barbie tiara, a HUGE black and pink polka dot tutu, a pink cotton top accented with silver sparkles, and her dressiest purple shoes all day for her birthday.   Yep, we took her out like that and loved it!
  98. Take pictures and e-mail them to the parents of your guests.
  99. Donate toys from your playroom before the big date to make room for new stuff and help others.
  100. Skip gifts and have everyone bring a toy to donate or something else for a cause, so you don’t add to an already crowded play room or area.

Your turn! How do you celebrate in frugal & fun style?

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Frugal & Fun Kid's Birthdays: All The Extras

by Beth Montgomery on March 12, 2010

in Holidays, Tips & Basics

This is post 6 of 7 in the series Frugal & Fun Kid’s Birthdays.

It’s all about the theme! I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned that before.

So what’s your theme?

Once you have it, you can get your inspiration from there.

Invitations & Thank Yous

Have you tried e-vite?   It’s FREE.   You can decorate and create your own invitations, gather RSVPs, and send them out via e-mail or Facebook.

Or use all those FREE photo prints or photo cards to make your own creative cards.   In the end, it will only cost you a stamp (and maybe shipping).

Don’t forget to check The Dollar Store cheap cards!

Party Favors

I hate party favors.   Usually it’s a bag full of tiny plastic toys, candy, and stuff that will just add to our playroom chaos until I toss them out.   But, it’s typically expected, so you can’t send them home empty handed.

Instead of buying the inexpensive, small toys for every kid that fit into your budget, let the kids make their own favors.   You’ll get a fun activity and party favor in one!

It could be as simple as letting the children make their own party hats to designing flip flops.   Or if you want to be really frugal and knock out the snack, favor, and activity all in one, let the kids make their own snack mix!


Balloons!   They are cheap and beautiful.   You can tie them in shapes to make arches, center pieces, or whatever you can come up with.   You can throw them around the floor for toys, use them in games, and send them home as party favors.

Also, think about what you already have on hand that fits your theme.   Think outside the kids room and playroom too.   It could be the leis you have laying around that could easily be placed around a plate to add to the table or stuff from your husband’s sports memorabilia to add to a football theme.

Next, head to The Dollar Store to get a few supplies.   And finally, use your coupons to get the rest!   Instead of buying the tiny party-themed decorations, go for larger items that will take up more room.   That way you won’t have to buy many to get your party site themed up.   Steamers are also a cheap purchase that can quickly fill up a room and make it look festive!

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Frugal & Fun Kid's Birthdays: Slumber Parties

by Beth Montgomery on March 11, 2010

in Holidays, Tips & Basics

This is post 5 of 7 in the series Frugal & Fun Kid’s Birthdays.

Just party all night long!   It’s a cheap way to thrill your kids and have a blast on their birthday.   We had our daughter’s first sleepover at the ripe-old age of 3 years old.   We invited her cousins and one non-family friend. Shockingly enough, there were no midnight calls to mommies!   It was a hit.   Luckily for me, she was young enough I got to be in the middle of it all.   I’m going to be so sad when the yget older and I get excommunicated from the party, because I’m so uncool.

Don’t forget the food and snacks!

For Girls

I’m so much better with girls, because I’m still a little girl at heart and know what I’d want!   Makeovers are FREE.   Just curl, braid, twist, paint, sparkle, dust, and spray!   You can usually get cheap nail art stickers, tattoos, and other fun accessories at The Dollar Store.   Use your FREE Redbox rental codes or pay $1 for the night to get some age-appropriate chick-flicks.

Don’t forget some activities!   Let the girls make friendship bracelets, beaded necklaces, or other fun craft.

Be ready to hear giggling all night long! That’s part of the fun… and really the best part.

For Boys

Sleepovers are for boys too!   Want to make their day?   Pitch a tent in the backyard and let them camp out.   Winter?   Pitch it inside or make your own tent out of chairs and blankets.   This time use your FREE Redbox rental codes or pay $1 for the night to stock up on Star Wars and other popular boy movies.

Keep them entertained by sending them on a scavenger hunt or bug catching.

A Hotel

Yes, it’s not very frugal, but it’s always an option.   Instead of paying per person for a party location, you pay for one room and get access to the pool and other amenities.   Be sure to read your hotel’s policies, because there will be a limit on how many people can bunk-up in one room.

To be frugal, use your points, if you travel often.   If you travel enough, you could end up with a FREE party location!

The Next Morning

You’ll be sleep deprived.   They’ll be sleep deprived.   So plan an easy and quick breakfast.   Freeze a few pancakes or waffles to pop into the toaster, grab donuts, or, my favorite, breakfast burritos.

If your kids are old enough, you can always let them cook their own breakfast.   They’ll have fun whipping up omelets with their friends.   Don’t forget to set a pick-up time, so parents know when to arrive and the kids can be ready.

Not ready for the fun to end?   We bundled everyone up in the minivan and took them to church after Ady’s first sleepover.   I’m sure the Sunday School teachers loved me when I dropped off 4 hyper and overly-tired 3 year old girls.

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Frugal & Fun Kid's Birthdays: Party Sites

by Beth Montgomery on March 10, 2010

in Holidays, Tips & Basics

This is post 4 of 7 in the series Frugal & Fun Kid’s Birthdays.

I have to say, partying at home is almost always your cheapest option. It’s FREE!   No rental fees. No admission.   And, best, no restrictions.   It’s your house. You make the rules.   And you can do what you want.   I love parties at home.   They don’t have to be boring.   They can even be better than the big Chuck E. Cheese parties.

  • Plan crafts, games, and activities
  • Pull out the kiddie pool, water balloons, slip ‘n slide, and sprinklers
  • Invest in a small bounce house when they are on sale near the end of summer
  • Get a automatic bubble blower to add ambiance to the backyard (or inside if you dare)
  • Turn your DVD player into a karaoke machine for only $29.99 using your own CD or Karaoke CDs

Want to leave the house?   Call the local park.   Shelters are often FREE or very affordable.   Plus, the playground offers FREE entertainment.

Having a birthday in the winter?   Think outside the box.   Instead of heading to the typical big party places that charge a fortune, many other places you might not consider also have options for large groups.   For example, near us is a small make-your-own ceramics business that allows parties and each kids gets to make something of their own to take home.   They don’t charge room rental or anything.   Just the cost of the ceramics.   Typically they host mom’s night out or similar groups, but they are a great place for a kids party too.

Also, places like Home Depot that often have FREE kid events, also host birthday parties.   You can bring your own food and the kids get to build something.   The cost here – FREE!

Places to consider:

  • restaurant
  • family-owned businesses
  • nature center
  • library, church, or community center
  • neighborhood recreation center/room or pool
  • “make-your-own” businesses
  • orchard, pumpkin patch, nursery, farm
  • places that often host groups from field trips to book clubs

If you are heading to a favorite party spot, keep in mind that your location typically has limitations, so check with them carefully.   Then bring whatever you can with you on party day.   Buying items from them like cakes, cards, and favors, is often insanely expensive, since they hike up the prices considerably.

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This is post 3 of 7 in the series Frugal & Fun Kid’s Birthdays.

Parties are always fun, but they can also be a lot of work!   When   you pick a party time, another thing to think about is the food situation.   Will you be serving a meal, like lunch or dinner?   Will you be having appetizers?   What about just cake and drinks?

You’ll quickly find that when it comes to my party planning, it’s all about the theme.   So, pick your theme and have it in mind.   Then use my ideas to launch your own to match your party theme!   Go crazy.   Get creative. Think outside the box and you’ll be the coolest mom (or dad).


Drinks are something you can’t skip.   You have to keep those guests hydrated, so they don’t faint mid-party.   Luckily, drinks are affordable.

  • Skip canned soda and go straight for two liters.
  • Mix-up your own delicious punch (recipe below or search online for one to match your theme)!
  • Make a gallon of tea, kool-aid, or lemonade.

Punch up your beverage selection by making your own ice cubes in fun shapes, colors, and flavors.   Think heart-shaped ice cubes made from pink lemonade or blue-raspberry kook-aid boats. Also find other ways to incorporate your party theme.   Thomas the Train?   Set up your toy track, so the train runs around bevages.   Little Mermaid? Sanitize him first, then drop Flounder in and let him swim in the punch bowl during the party.   Tinkerbell?   Scatter flowers around the table near the cups and drinks.

Frugal Party Punch

    1. 1 liter lemon-lime soda
    2. 1 gallon fruit punch
    3. 1 container orange sherbet

Pour lemon-lime soda and fruit punch, then stir.   Plop scoops of sherbet in and let them float, while the punch gets foamy.   Delicious!

Food & Eats

While drinks are a necessity, food isn’t.   It really depends on where you’re having the party, your schedule, the time everyone arrives, and all the other stuff you’ve planned.

When it comes to saving on food, use coupons and deals, whether you’re heading to a restaurant or cooking it up yourself.   I have to recommend cooking, since it will save you tons, but you can always look for great deals near party time. We ordered pizza’s one year during a great promotion at Pizza Hut.   But when you cook yourself, you can end up with something creative that would have cost you a ton from a caterer and will impress your guests.   You don’t have to be professional chef either.

Of course snacks would be the cheapest way to go.   Be fun. And keep that theme in mind.   Finding Nemo? Try mixing up some Party Mix that includes Pepperidge Farm Goldfish.   Princess or Fairies?   Make edible wands! Or you could go with the healthier version of edible wands that includes less white chocolate and more fruit.

Appetizers can be a bit more expensive, but more filling than snacks. Having a Mexican Fiesta? Turn a bag of tortillas and some ground beef into Taco Cups. Pool party?   Turn deviled eggs into boats!   Plus, appetizers can keep your guests busy early on while others arrive.

When we party at meal time, we tend to almost always cookout (or grill in)!   Stock up on hot dogs and hamburger when they are cheapest near holidays where cook outs are popular, like Independence Day.   Or grab a whole chicken (or a few) when they are $0.88 per pound.   Spice it up by mixing Worcestershire sauce, onions, barbecue sauce, or other great herbs to your burger meat before you make patties.   You can use inexpensive seasonal fruit to make fruit salad for a side.   You can easily go with the traditional frugal cook out sides like chips and potato salad.   Plus, almost everyone loves a cookout.

But, a cookout doesn’t have to be the answer.   Other foods are just at cheap or cheaper.   Unfortunately, I also love messy kids (did picture give me away?), because they are usually unbelievably happy kids.   So, whip up a big batch of pizza dough and let the kids make their own individual pizzas.   Play games while they cook.   Or go for finger foods.   They are typically cheap and delicious, like mini-quiche or pigs-in-a-blanket.

The Cake

It’s all about the cake (or at least it is at my house).   When your kids are too young to notice, make them yourself.   You can use the baby and toddler years to perfect your cake skills, so that when they do notice, you’ll be a pro.   Ady’s first birthday cake was Barney who, unfortunately, resembled an octopus, but two years ago I managed to whip together a guitar shaped cupcake-cake that was quite impressive.

Not creative?   Or artistic?   You don’t have to be.   Use candy and props to decorate your cake instead of icing to make something beautiful.   Or, if it’s totally out of your area of expertise, head to the grocery store.   Many make delicious and cute cakes for cheap.   If you’re looking for something unique or more elaborate, look around you.   In your mom’s group, church, or somewhere, is probably hiding a skilled cake decorator who wouldn’t mind whipping you something fantastic up in her spare time for a lower cost than the pricey bakeries.

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