Cheap (But Clever!) Birthday Party Tricks

I am an event coordinator for a country club so I have seen it all. Elaborate one-year-old birthday parties with 200+ guests, a fancy 50th birthday surprise party with a fully furnished outdoor “jazz bar,” a graduation party with designer linens and drapes, the list goes on and on.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good party, but I also love high impact decorations for minimal cost. I’m going to share a few of my ideas that when combined with a party, were met with the “now isn’t that clever” remark from quite a few party goers.

Visit your library. For a Curious George party I hosted for my then four-year-old, I decorated the tops of our cabinets and plant ledges with Curious George books. Everyone thought I bought them, but why buy when you can borrow?

Make friends with someone who has access to a color copy machine. If you can’t find anyone who has a machine you can use, then a color scanner will work as well. I made copies of the Curious George alphabet book to make letters for the favor bags. I also copied pages to place in frames and even some to mod podge on to frames. Again we are thinking high impact, minimal cost.

JMB Curious George

Decorate with inexpensive pictures of your kids. For a Max and Ruby party, I used pictures of my kids at Valentines Day, Easter and Christmas and put them in frames next to pictures of Max and Ruby on the same holidays. I printed out pictures I found online (I love Google Image Search) and cut them to size. I only paid for the 4×6 pictures I used, so I’m certain I only spent a $1 to decorate my wall shelves.

Can’t find any ideas? Turn to a book! I spent more time than I care to admit searching Pinterest for Max and Ruby party ideas. Finally, I realized I would have to come up with my own ideas. I decided to take my kid’s favorite Max and Ruby books and recreate them around the house. I put a small pink phone on an end table and made a bus stop sign, and called it “Max misses the Bus.” I borrowed my projector from work, hooked up my laptop to it and fired up Google Image Search. I hung a poster board on my wall and traced Max dressed up like Jack from Jack and the Beanstalk. I easily fashioned a beanstalk out of brown paper and a little bit of gold spray paint. “Max and the Beanstalk” stayed up for months because the kids absolutely loved it!

JMB Max and Ruby

Candy displays do not have to cost a fortune. No, I don’t mean individual candy bars, I mean the beautiful, elaborate displays of assorted candy in various glass containers. Download the Michaels or Joann’s Fabrics apps for your phone. They have a weekly 40% off any one regular price item coupon there. If you aren’t able to borrow the glass jar from a friend, then buy one a week using this coupon. You will save tons in the long run. And, buy hard candy after each holiday if you are planning a party in the next few months. Hard candy lasts longer and looks great in those glass jars!

JMB Max and Ruby

Personalized anything shouldn’t break the bank. I bought a $17 Groupon for $70 worth of products on last year for my daughter’s party. I purchased a large banner, a yard sign, thank you cards and pens all using that Groupon deal. Don’t pay retail for any sites such as Vistaprint, Shutterfly, Tiny Prints, etc. Always search the web first. (Using the Google Search tool option and selecting “Past Week” will list the most current results first, so you don’t waste time clicking on expired deals!)

What is your super cheap tip for party decor?

Jessica was born in the “Bold New City of the South" and loves her some Jacksonville. Not only is J-Ville the place where she was raised with her twin brother, but is it also where she met and married her super-handy hubby, Melvin. Together they have a lovely daughter named Lily and a very competitive son, Henry. Professionally, Jessica spends her days as the Activities Director at Jacksonville Golf & Country Club,- because her target audience is 5-11 year old children. Jessica has appeared on local television discussing topics ranging from Black Friday to couponing, - dirty hair, consignment sales and summer camps. Jessica enjoys showing up to parties in costume, Florida Gator Football, all things Disney, singing show tunes, making fudge, big ugly shelter dogs, reading Emily Post and writing in cursive. Keep up with all Jessica's antics at


  1. Perfect timing on this post! My daughter is turning 3 on Saturday and I was going to email that you guys should do a blog on neat budget party favor ideas. I never realized that was expected until I had kids and went to other parties! I hate to put cheap plastic junk in there that will just go to waste but I also feel like it’s inappropriate hosting etiquette to not give anything. Any other good ideas for simple single item favors or alternatives to goody bags?

  2. Wendy – cookies in cellophane bag with a ribbon that match the theme. we did heart cookies with red icing for my daughter’s alice in wonderland party (the icing dried so it didn’t get all over the cellophane). everyone got a cookie and I found the alice in wonderland book on for $1. so the favors people got were super cheap! 🙂

  3. It’s not shown here, but for the Curious George party, I did small Hersheys bars with a big marshmallow into graham crackers and printed a label that said “we hope to see you s’more this year”. It was very expensive and easy. I am always a fan of new cup crayons and coloring books as well in favor bags. I tried to stock up on crayons during the back-to-school sales so I have them to distribute all year. For Spiderman, we strayed from the theme and put hot wheels in the favor bags, because they are usually under $1 and we had a lot of boy guests!


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here