Sunday, June 1, 2014

The 30 Dollar Birthday Party Challenge

It's time. 

Previously in this post, I told the story of "The 30 Dollar Birthday Party Challenge", or at least the beginnings of how it came to be...   

You know, the story of how I wasn't planning a party for Sara this year, but then husband Dion said, "Let's do something simple. I'll take care of it."  

And how, in the end, that translated, "I'll do games; you do the rest.  With a week and a half to plan.  Oh and sticking to our regular 30 dollar per birthday budget."

That is how the challenge to host a fantastically, fun birthday party for 10 kids, while sticking to that 30 dollar budget, became mine.

Turns out there were 9 kids at the party including Sara and Siri, and two parents. Plus husband Dion and me of course.

Here are some photos of the final result, with links to simple project tutorials, of what ended up being...

"the bestest birthday ever"...Sara

To which I replied, "But Sara, what about the 200 dollar storybook party two years ago when you turned 8?...the one I poured gazillion amounts of time and imaginative energy into?!"

That's not at all what I said, but maybe I thought it. (I DID.)  Either way, I was thrilled that her 10th birthday, this party, was every bit the success...and funtastically cheap.

It began with a trip to The Dollar Tree.  Here's what's great about The Dollar Tree.  ANY ONE THING is an option. Under no circumstance do I need to stand back and think, "Poor me.  I can never have that thing of wonder.  for a dollar."  

Here are the goods.
We got the lollipops at TJ Maxx.  Husband Dion and I split half the bag (and cost), so he could keep some in his office.

Next we used the birthday gift tags to make our invites.  See how here.

Then the decorating began with a 15 minute banner. Banner instructions here.

There were balloons.  Lots and lots of balloons.  to blow up.  Being on a budget, Sara and husband Dion were recruited, and together we became a family of light-headed people. Amazon has inexpensive balloon pumps here.
Balloons are one of the easiest, least expensive way to add color to a party.  I do wish I would've thought to add a small balloon cluster in the very middle.
The thing with parties is there's always more that can be done.  When the party starts, it's time to walk away from the planning and relax.  I usually get there about half way through.

Presents were assembled.  
Our gift to Sara is the basket of pink tissue papered goodies.  Total cost $2.50.  The theme was pink stuff...Sara's favorite color.  Plus the vintage storybook to begin her own collection.  Gift cost was included in the 30 dollar budget.

Next came food.
There was a popcorn stand.  Click here for instructions on the ice cream cake stands and popcorn stand...great examples of using what we already have.
  (pouring popcorn into cups is easier in a cake pan,
because you can just dump the bag/bowl of popcorn in.)

There were iced animal cookies, and Sara requested strawberry lemonade.  If you live near an Aldi, frozen organic strawberries are 2.50 I believe.  We were already stocked up, so I didn't calculate them into the birthday budget.  Husband Dion made came up with this lemonade recipe in our early years, back when our budget told us that anything at the dollar store was NOT an option.  easy. cheap. Maybe if we ask nicely, husband Dion will
share the recipe in the comments below. We added the strawberries for fun.  But the lemonade on its own is every bit as good, and also pretty.

She also requested an ice cream cake
with strawberry cake inside, so we made single
serving sized ice cream cakes, and they were amazing!

Typically, I make a special cake from scratch.  We pretty much abide by a no box policy, unless it's a box of pasta or cereal. But this year I saved time and money buying a yellow cake mix at The Dollar Store. With a few changes, it became a deliciously moist strawberry cake.  It was one layer in the ice cream cakes. Here are the instructions to make a box mix taste like it's from a bakery, along with my single serving ice cream cake recipe . With the chocolate ice cream and crunchy layers...yum. yum. and yum.
This candle is actually an 8 used for Sara's 8th birthday party, bought at the dollar store. (found the idea here) I redecorated one side as an "8" and the other an "S".  Sara's special cake was at the top, wrapped in duct tape.  The original was similar to this one.

Adding to the decorations, our recently transplanted knock-out rose bloomed on the day of her party!  just in time.

...speaking of time, time for the party to begin!

The rose on the table is recycled from Sara's musical earlier in the week.  She was the Queen of the High C's. The stones in the vase are from our mancala game.  They can also be bought at The Dollar Tree.

 There were games. 
I call him husband Dion. Others call him Mr. Fun.
He came up with games based on what he could find in the garage, leaving all 30 dollars to me.  He's a smart one that husband Dion.
Prizes were lollipops, and there were extra for the kids to take a few home.  Kids don't need all the cheap, little, plastic, junk stuff in a little bag to take home.  That stuff finds its way straight to the garbage, or under my feet in the middle of the night.  Instead, give them an organic fruit lollipop or two, and they're good to go.  

Hey, Laura Ingalls Wilder was happy with an orange in her Christmas stocking.  Tough it out kids.  Tough. It. Out.

There was photo taking.


 unplanned storytelling.

There was present opening and lollipop sucking.

And to end this great day, down came the balloons, as we indulged in a hipper than a hippopotamas dance party.
(he's so dreamy)

When the kids left, lollipops in hand, their eyes were filled with light, their bellies with sugar, as it should be.

Now, if I were to do it again, the napkins would stay on the store shelf, since not one attending child believed in the use of napkins.  I would use a brownie mix from the dollar store, instead of pretzels, for the ice cream cake's bottom layer.  I would hang balloons in the middle of the balloon canopy and use thicker thread, and I would take a little time to blend a few strawberries into the lemonade.

also. have I mentioned a balloon pump?

But really this party was a super success.

This "best birthday ever" girl was thankful.
 (although she didn't really want to stop playing
to get a picture with her mama. some people's kids.)

And I DID IT!!! I conquered "The 30 Dollar Birthday Challenge!"  The total party from invites to thank you notes (and including Sara's presents from us) came to $30.23, with tax. I'm calling it a win. Click here for an expense breakdown. 

Here we are enjoying the after party.

(Pull down your shirts ladies.)
As parents, we may choose to financially indulge our children with birthday parties, Christmas gifts, clothes, and whatever else, because we want them to be happy, to have all the things they want in life, maybe sometimes the things we didn't have.  But really I wonder. Are we using these occasions as a way to prove our love for our child?

Birthdays are a time to celebrate a life.  It can be done with thousands of dollars, and it can be done with thirty.  Whatever we decide, the important element is having authentic celebration. Every day is the chance to demonstrate our love for our kids.  Sometimes, many many times in our home, our parental love is demonstrated through discipline and lectures deserving the very bestest of eye rolling, every bit as much as it is through the snuggles and laughter.

Love is a parenting style. not a dollar amount.  And beauty comes from pure hearts, not from our wallets.

How are you making your
today world beautiful?
(talk to me)

if you liked this story, will you please share it with a friend? or all of them? do you have many friends? if not would you consider sharing it with a stranger? How about lots of strangers? If you didn't like this story, would you still consider sharing? friends or strangers...either one really. 

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  1. That was an amazing party!!!! What creativity...what FUN!!!! Most of all what LOVE!!

    1. Thanks! It really was a lot of fun. and a lot of love too <3

  2. Knowing your busy schedule and sometimes hectic lifestyle, the one birthday gift that I see reverberating throughout this piece is TIME. What a loving and generous mom you are!!

    1. Thanks so much Linda! I set aside one day and one night to work on the party. Really, those balloons were the most time consuming. Everything else was a "piece of cake".


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