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This is a guest post by Heather from Space for Simplicity.
Your child’s birthday is quickly approaching. What are you worried about most when planning his party?
Cleaning the house? Prepping the food? Snapping the perfect family photo to share on Facebook? Decorating in a Pinterest-worthy way?
Do you know what your child cares about at his birthday party? Cake, presents, and playing with friends.
But mostly cake.
As a mother in the age of social media, it’s natural to feel pressure when planning your child’s birthday party.
To internalize the belief that the party’s success is a reflection of your skills as entertainer, crafter, and decorator. That said, I’d argue that it’s not worth your time, money, and stress to throw an over the top affair for a child who only cares about presents and playing with friends.
But mostly cake.
If you’re like me and actually enjoy brainstorming and decorating, let’s talk about how to do so in a way that’s manageable.
Over the past 4 years of party planning, I’ve learned how to balance this interest in decorating with my frugal, minimalist lifestyle.
What does this balance look like in practice?
Below are my top 6 tips for decorating for your child’s party in a way that’s easy on your wallet,
easy on the environment, and easy on your time.
Oh, and in a way that’s still Pinterest-worthy. I promise.
6 Budget-Friendly, Pinterest-Worthy Decorating Tips for Your Child’s Next Birthday Party
1. Shop Your Home
When you pick a theme for your child’s birthday party, how do you choose? Do you ask him outright what he wants? Do you make the call yourself?
Either way, there’s a good chance it’s related to the character, movie, or topic that he’s most interested in.
The good news about that is that you likely have a lot of memorabilia related to that theme. Action figures, books, backpacks, toys, DVDs, shirts, stuffed animals, puzzles, blankets, cups. (Man, do these companies know how to take advantage of impressionable young children and their money wielding parents or what?!?)
Even as a minimalist mama, this is the case in our home. The things that we’re most likely to keep are those related to my son’s favorite character (currently…Spiderman).
On that note, my first tip for you is to shop your home.
Pick a theme your child is excited about and then collect everything you can that fits that theme. Don’t focus too much on what the items are. Just take an overall assessment and make a list of what you have to work with.
You may even pile everything in one place to brainstorm ways to group and display them.
For my son’s second birthday party the theme was Curious George. We had 3 George stuffed animals and 4-5 books. Not a ton of stuff (I am a minimalist after all). However, it was a great base to work with.
For his third birthday, the theme was Legos. I used his big Lego tub (which is shaped like a Lego) and also used some actual Legos as well (more about that in tip #6 below).
Don’t just stop at character themed items. If anything goes with your color scheme or can be repurposed, consider that piece as well. For the Curious George party, I decided to use my son’s wooden blocks to spell out “party”. I also used the number “2” block since it was his second birthday.
When collecting items to use, don’t be afraid to mix themed decorations with some of your existing decor pieces.
For both parties I left things like faux grass, wheat, and plants on the mantel. This helped fill out the displays, elevated the space, and gave everything a classier feel- a nice mix of child and adult.
You want to know the beauty of shopping your home first? I spent just $5 on my son’s decorations for his Curious George party (for a tablecloth, paper cups, paper plates, and balloons). I spent just $1 for his Lego party (for the tablecloth). I already had leftover balloons from the year before!
2. Pick one or two focal points.
When decorating for a party, it’s tempting to fill the entire room. You want to hang streamers across the whole ceiling, tie a balloon bunch to every other chair, and sprinkle decorative confetti on every surface.
OK, maybe you don’t want the confetti on every surface, but you get my point.
Instead, try embracing the ‘less is more’ approach and pick just one or two focal points to decorate. The mantel, the food table, a statement wall, the coffee table.
Whatever makes sense in your space and works best for the items you’ve collected. Grouping all of your decorations in a few spaces will make for fuller displays without needing to purchase a bunch of items.
In our home, I focus on decorating the mantel-place and the food table. This keeps the rest of the space
looking clean and clutter free, cuts down on the number of items I need, and saves a lot of time and
3. Make pieces multi-functional.
When you’re trying to save money and stay minimalist with party decorations, it’s a good idea to make items work double duty.
Cups, plates, party favors, and food can all be used as key decorative items on a tablescape.
For the Curious George party, we created simple yellow hats by taping a black band around yellow cups and flipping them upside down on yellow plates. The hats provided some extra decorative elements but were still functional when it was time to eat.
The party favors were Curious George stickers and monkey masks. I didn’t actually use these as part of the decor, but I certainly could have!
Food is another popular way to add to a party theme. Use cookie cutters to cut fruit into different shapes. Layer items on tiered plates to make them look more dynamic. Taking a little extra time to arrange the food in a decorative way will make the space feel more festive and beautiful without spending extra money.
4. Browse Pinterest.
If you want a Pinterest-worthy party, what better way to get inspiration than to skim through Pinterest itself?!? Type in your theme and see what ideas pop up.
The key to maintaining simplicity and not getting overwhelmed, is to stick to the pins that are
simple to execute and don’t require many materials to complete. I also recommend sticking to just 2-3 ideas to keep your to-do list and budget in check.
For the Curious George party, the only Pinterest idea I used was the yellow hats made out of cups
and plates (mentioned above). They took next to no time to complete and required no extra
For the Lego party, the only Pinterest idea I used was making the yellow balloons into Lego faces.
Again, no extra supplies were necessary (I was already planning on using the balloons), and it took
under 10 minutes to draw both
5. Buy Theme Neutral Party Decorations
A great way to cut down on cost and avoid buying new decorations each year is to invest in a few small
decorations that can be used again and again (regardless of theme).
I don’t store many things. However, I’ve had a chalkboard pennant banner for the past 3 years, and I
love it. It can be customized for any occasion, takes up virtually no room in storage, and works well on
mantels, walls, or tables.
I also generally buy a bag of mixed color balloons in a 10-20 pack. For the George Party I used yellow,
red, and blue.
For the Lego party the next year, I was able to use the same bag to get some more red,
more yellow, and a green. Again, balloons take little room to store and are generic, so they worked for
I don’t recommend storing a ton of party decor all year round, but if you can find a few small, versatile items like the ones above, it makes decorating quick, budget friendly, and low waste. A win-win-win situation.
6. Get Creative.
One of the most important elements when throwing a budget friendly, Pinterest-worthy party, is to get
You’ve collected materials from around the house, scoped out some Pinterest ideas, and picked up a few neutral decor pieces. You have a blank slate and a few key pieces to work with.
Arrange the items in a way that makes sense and get creative to fill in any holes. For the Lego party
decorations, I only had the Lego shaped box and the Lego face balloons. To complete the mantel display, I decided to build a “3” out of Legos. It went with the theme, and I knew my son would be excited about it.
I then decided to take a black frame (that always lives on the mantle) and insert a hand-drawn Lego logo. If you’re not particularly artistic, you could just find the image online and print it. Printables in frames that you already own are great cheap, minimalist options for birthday parties.
Simplify Your Decorating
At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter how many compliments you get on your birthday decor and Facebook photos. You’re celebrating another year in the books for your little one.
You deserve a pat on the back for keeping him alive for the year, not for how well your tablescape turned out.
That said, I get it. I’m human too. I love an aesthetically pleasing space. I love putting on my creativity hat. I love the positive feedback I get for my hard work. I do put in some effort when it comes to throwing my son’s parties, but my goal is always to have a balanced approach when planning.
You don’t need to spend a lot of money, introduce new clutter into your home, or make 20 trips to Michael’s and Party City to throw a fun party for your child. Spend 10 minutes shopping your home for items that work with the theme, pick one or two focal areas to decorate, and browse Pinterest (in moderation) to fill in any holes.
You’ll still get cute photos. Just prop the birthday boy/girl in front of one of your focal areas.
You’ll still get positive feedback. In fact, it’ll probably feel even better since you were so creative, resourceful, and budget-friendly in your decorating efforts.
Most importantly, you’ll have more time to invest in the actual party and celebration of the little life you’ve created.
…And you’ll have cake.
Suggested Action Items:
Does your child have a birthday coming up? Take a minute to think of a theme (s)he is very into at the moment.
Now take 5 minutes to go through your home, looking for objects that match the theme and could serve as decorations. Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box.
Lastly, pick 2 focal points in your home to decorate when the party comes around. Great! By taking just 5-10 minutes, you’ve already made significant progress on your budget-friendly party planning journey