Ideas For Baby's 1st Birthday

Looking for ideas for a fun and affordable first birthday party? It's amazing how fast the first year can fly by. One minute you're pregnant and the next you are dreaming up party ideas to celebrate your babbling, mobile, almost-one-year-old's birthday. But in these tough times, how can you save money while throwing a great bash?

First Birthday Party

More than any other song, "Happy Birthday" is a tune that pretty much everyone knows, and as you approach your baby's first birthday, it's one that will be sung for them for the very first time. Making that party special for your child is important, but so is planning something that is within your means -- whatever they are. These money-saving tips will help you do just that!

Be creative with the venue

If you don't have room in your home for the party, then you will probably need to rent a space. However, event spaces can get pretty pricey. Think outside of the box when looking to rent a space -- some churches, community centers and even schools rent spaces and that can save you a bundle over a reception hall.

"Since we could not accommodate 50 people in our townhome for my daughter's first birthday, we had to find a venue. We used the preschool room at our local community center which was only $100 for five hours," said Lauren A. Clements, a Freelance Public Relations Specialist.

It never hurts to call and ask if there are spaces to rent for a short, calm party. And remember, when a child turns one, the party is more about the parents (and snapping photos) so there is no need to have it at a child-focused place.

Eating options

Having the party catered might be convenient, but it's not cheap. Instead, look at alternative options for feeding your guests. Cooking out can be an inexpensive and easy way to save money on the meal and provide some delicious food. "(My daughter's) birthday is at the end of April, so it was warm enough to cookout, so we saved a lot of money on food! The menu was hot dogs, hamburgers, BBQ chicken wings, tossed salad, potato salad, baked beans, individual bag chips, sodas, juice and cake. Everyone enjoyed it," said Clements.

Potluck can also be a fun way to throw the party. Ask guests to each bring a dish that serves eight and choose a theme such as kid-friendly, childhood favorite or primary colors.

If that's not your speed, how about having the party at an off-time, so that you can skip the meal and get right to dessert? "Of course, you can save money on the party by holding it around a non-meal time and keep to serving cake, ice cream, and drinks. Speaking of cake, the smash cake is another special moment for the birthday child. Prepare a mini cake for your one year old to blow out his one candle and then dig right in. You can have a regular cake for the rest of the guests. The cake in the face snapshot is an important part of any first birthday party," said Lisa Kothari of Peppers and Pollywogs, Inc. (www.pepperspollywogs.com), a kids party business.

Cake cost cutting

You are certainly going to need a great birthday cake to commemorate the occasion. But don't fret -- this is one area where you can definitely save a lot of money.

Some grocery chains offer free cakes for the first birthday, or a free kid cake with a purchase of a large one. "I'm from just north of Saint Paul in Minnesota, and the Byerly's/Lunds grocery stores had a promotion for your first birthdays when I was having my kids (they are 3 and 2 now)...if you brought in the child's birth certificate, then they would give you a FREE cake for the first birthday only. I don't know how (or if) they promote it, but it seems to be very word-of-mouth. So I always tell new moms to check with ALL the grocery stores and bakeries in their area to see if they offer a free first birthday cake promotion. It isn't always advertised, but they are happy to provide something for the one-year-old to dig into," said Amanda Engquist DePhillips, mom of two and a PR professional. Check with your local store to see if they have a program like this.

Warehouse clubs like Sam's and Costco also offer inexpensive options -- often for less than $20.
If someone in your family is handy in the kitchen, baking your own cake can be a huge saver as well.

Share the fun

If you have someone you know well with a child whose birthday falls close to your baby's, you could combine parties -- making a fabulous party half the price. "Consider combining parties with a cousin, neighbor, or friend, and share in the expenses. You only need a little more food and cake and you can share in the entertainment and joy," said Suzy Martyn, a Parenting Consultant and Speaker (www.mothersfriendsos.com).

Tell us! How do you save money on kids parties? Share in the comments below.

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