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Celebrating Birthdays on a Budget: How to Have Fun On The Cheap

Birthdays are special occasions that everyone looks forward to. Whether you are celebrating your own birthday or that of a loved one, it is a time to reflect on the past year and look forward to the future. However, with the cost of living rising and financial pressures increasing, celebrating a birthday can be a challenge for many. Fortunately, there are many ways to celebrate birthdays on a budget without compromising on those fun and memorable experiences.

birthday party budget
Celebrating Birthdays on a Budget: How to Have Fun Without Breaking the Bank.

Plan Ahead To Ensure You Save The Most Money

Planning ahead is the first step to throwing any sort of celebration while on a budget. Doing so will give you ample time to research and plan for the best deals, discounts, and offers. So, start by setting a realistic budget for party and sticking to it.

Determine how much you are willing to spend on the birthday celebration, including gifts, food, and entertainment.

Next, consider the number of guests you will be inviting and plan accordingly. This will help you to avoid overspending and ensure that everyone has a good time.

Here are some of my best ideas for cheap birthday parties

Host a Potluck

Hosting a potluck is an excellent way to celebrate frugally. This involves asking each guest to bring a dish or drink to the party. This not only spreads the cost of food and drinks among the guests but also allows everyone to showcase their cooking skills (which often gives guests lots to talk about).

You can also add a theme to the potluck to make it more fun and exciting, or even turn it into a cooking competition.

Easy Tips For Hosting A Potluck On A Budget

Here are some tips for hosting a potluck on the cheap:

  • Plan in Advance: Plan the potluck well in advance to give your guests enough time to prepare their dishes. Set a date, time, and theme for the potluck and invite your guests.
  • Assign Dishes: Assign specific categories of dishes to each guest to ensure a variety of dishes and prevent duplicates. You can also assign dishes based on dietary restrictions or preferences.
  • Provide the Basics: Provide the basic items, such as plates, cups, napkins, and utensils. If possible, use reusable items to save money and reduce waste.
  • Consider Theme: Choose a theme for the potluck to make it more fun and interesting. For example, you can have a Mexican food-themed potluck or a breakfast-for-dinner themed potluck.
  • Have Guests Bring Their Own Beverages: Have your guests bring their own beverages to save money on drinks. Don’t be above telling everyone to BYOB…lol.
  • Cook a Dish Yourself: Cook one dish yourself to help balance the selection and ensure that there is enough food for everyone.
  • Set Up a Buffet-Style Table: Set up a buffet-style table with all of the dishes laid out for guests to serve themselves. This will make it easier for guests to try multiple dishes and prevent food waste.
  • Clean Up Together: Clean up together with your guests to save time and ensure that the space is left clean and tidy.

By following these tips, you can host a fun and affordable potluck with your friends and family. Enjoy the delicious food and good company, and have a great time!

DIY Decorations

Decorations can add a lot of fun and excitement to a birthday celebration. However, buying decorations can be expensive. Instead, consider making your own decorations.

This can be a fun activity for you and your family or friends to enjoy together. There are many DIY decoration ideas available online that are easy to make and budget-friendly.

Party decorations are definitely not my area of expertise, so here is a link to a great resource for lots of ideas to DIY those cheap event decorations.

Choose a Free Venue

Choosing a free venue is another way to celebrate a birthday on a budget. There are many free venues available, such as parks, beaches, and community centers…Just do a quick internet search in your area to find some good options.

These venues offer ample space for a party, and you can even bring your own food and drinks. Alternatively, you can host the party at home, which is usually more cost-effective than renting a venue.

Have A “No Gifts” Party

Sometimes our friends are also feeling a financial pinch, whether we are aware of it or not, and it can be a kindness all around to host a “no gifts” party when doing a birthday on a budget.

Why throw a no gifts party?

Having a “no gift” party is becoming increasingly popular for various reasons.

Here are some reasons why you may consider having a no gift party:

  • Reduce Stress: Gift-giving can be stressful for both the giver and the receiver. By having a no gift party, you can reduce stress for everyone involved and allow them to enjoy the party without the pressure of gift-giving.
  • Save Money: Parties can be expensive, especially if you factor in the cost of gifts. By having a no gift party, you can save money for both yourself and your guests.
  • Focus on the Experience: By eliminating gifts, you can focus on the experience of the party itself. Instead of worrying about what gift to buy, you can focus on creating a fun and memorable experience for your guests.
  • Reduce Waste: Parties often result in a lot of waste, including wrapping paper and packaging. By having a no gift party, you can reduce waste and promote sustainability.
  • Encourage Quality Time: By removing the focus on gifts, you can encourage quality time between friends and family. This can help create a stronger sense of community and enhance the enjoyment of the party.
  • Respect Personal Beliefs: Some people have personal beliefs or financial limitations that make gift-giving difficult or uncomfortable. By having a no gift party, you can respect those beliefs and ensure that everyone is comfortable and able to enjoy the party.

Overall, having a no gift party can be a great way to promote a stress-free, affordable, and enjoyable party experience for everyone involved.

Movie Night

A movie night is an excellent way to celebrate a birthday on a budget. This involves inviting friends over for a movie marathon, complete with popcorn and snacks. You can choose a theme for the movie night, such as romantic comedies, action movies, or horror films.

Alternatively, you can also have an outdoor movie night in your backyard, complete with a projector and a screen.

How do I host my own movie night?

Hosting your own movie night is easy when you have a few tricks up your sleeve.

Here are the steps to host a movie night:

Choose a Date and Time: Choose a date and time for your movie night that works for everyone. Make sure to plan it in advance so that everyone has enough notice.

Select a Movie: Choose a movie that everyone will enjoy. You can either select a movie yourself or ask your guests to make suggestions. Make sure to have a backup plan in case the movie is not available or doesn’t work for your guests.

Set the Mood: Create a cozy and comfortable atmosphere for the movie night. Turn off the lights, use candles or string lights for mood lighting, and have plenty of pillows and blankets available.

Decide on Seating: Decide on seating for your guests. You can use a couch or chairs, or create a floor seating area with pillows and blankets.

Prepare Snacks: Prepare some snacks for your guests to enjoy during the movie. You can make popcorn, chips and dip, or cookies. Don’t forget to have drinks available as well.

Test the Equipment: Test the equipment, such as the DVD player or projector, to make sure it is working properly before your guests arrive.

Invite Guests: Invite your guests and let them know what movie you will be watching, what time to arrive, and what snacks will be available/what they can bring.

Start the Movie: Once everyone has arrived, start the movie and enjoy the show!

By following these easy steps, you can host a fun and enjoyable movie night with your family and friends. Once you’ve done everything just relax, have fun, and enjoy the movie together!

Here is a great resource about hosting your own back yard movie night on the cheap.


A picnic is a fun and budget-friendly way to celebrate a birthday. This involves packing a picnic basket with your favorite snacks and drinks and heading out to a local park or beach. You can also pack some games or sports equipment to make the day more exciting.

What are some cheap ways to make a picnic?

Having a picnic is a great way to enjoy the outdoors and spend time with family and friends without spending a lot of money.

Here are some frugal ways to have a nice picnic:

  • Use What You Have: Instead of buying new picnic supplies, use what you already have at home. Use a blanket or beach towel as a picnic blanket, and use plastic or paper plates and cups instead of buying expensive reusable ones.
  • Make Your Own Food: Prepare your own picnic food instead of buying pre-made items. Make sandwiches, wraps, or salads using ingredients you already have at home. You can also make your own fruit salad or homemade potato chips to save money.
  • Shop at Discount Stores: Shop at discount stores to buy your picnic supplies. You can find inexpensive plastic containers, utensils, and napkins at dollar stores or discount retailers.
  • Choose a Free Location: Instead of paying for a picnic location, choose a free one. Parks, beaches, and hiking trails are great places to have a picnic without spending money on a rental location.
  • Bring Your Own Entertainment: Instead of paying for entertainment, bring your own. Bring a frisbee or ball to play games with friends and family. You can also bring a book or magazine to read or a portable speaker to listen to music.
  • Make Homemade Lemonade: Instead of buying expensive drinks, make your own homemade lemonade. All you need is lemon juice, sugar, and water. You can also add other fruits or flavors to create your own unique blend.
  • Use Reusable Containers: Instead of using disposable containers, use reusable ones. Bring your own water bottles, food containers, and utensils to save money and reduce waste.

By following these tips, you can have a fun and pretty nice picnic without using very much of those hard earned dollars. Just remember to enjoy the beautiful weather, the company of loved ones, and the delicious food, and have a great time!

Board Game Night

A board game night is an excellent way to celebrate a birthday at home. This involves inviting friends over for a night of board games and snacks. You can choose from a variety of board games, such as Monopoly, Scrabble, or Settlers of Catan. Alternatively, you can also have a game tournament, where each guest brings their favorite board game and everyone takes turns playing them.

How to host an inexpensive board game night:

Hosting aboard game night is a great way to spend time with friends and family without spending very much money.

Here are some tips for hosting an inexpensive board game night:

  • Invite Friends to Bring Their Own Games: Ask your guests to bring their favorite board games to play. This will give you a variety of games to choose from and ensure that everyone has a game they enjoy.
  • Choose Simple Games: Focus on simple, classic games that don’t require a lot of expensive equipment or setup. Games like Monopoly, Scrabble, or Apples to Apples are easy to play and require only a few pieces.
  • Make Refreshments: Prepare some simple snacks and drinks to enjoy during the game night. You can make popcorn, chips and dip, or finger sandwiches. Serve soft drinks, lemonade, or hot cocoa to keep the party going.
  • Use What You Have: Use what you have at home for game night. Instead of buying new game pieces, use coins or buttons as game markers. Use a simple tablecloth or sheet as a game board.
  • Create a Fun Atmosphere: Set the mood for game night by creating a fun and festive atmosphere. Use colorful decorations or balloons to create a party-like atmosphere. Play some upbeat music to keep the energy high.
  • Choose a Theme: Choose a theme for game night, such as a pajama party or a 90s throwback. Ask your guests to dress up or bring snacks that fit the theme.
  • Have Prizes: Have small prizes for the winners of each game. This can be anything from a homemade trophy, a small gift card, or something you picked up at a Dollar Store. Even a simple/cheesy prize will make the games more competitive and fun.

By following these tips, you can host an inexpensive and fun board game night that everyone will enjoy. Enjoy the company, the games, and the refreshments, and have a great time!

Here is another good resource for hosting a game night on a budget.

DIY Spa Day

A DIY spa day is a relaxing and budget-friendly way to celebrate a birthday. This involves creating a spa-like atmosphere at home, complete with face masks, scrubs, and massages. You can also include some healthy snacks and drinks to make the day more enjoyable.

Tips For Having An Inexpensive DIY Spa Day

Having a DIY spa day at home is a great way to pamper yourself or spend time with friends without spending a lot of money.

Here are some tips for having an inexpensive DIY spa day:

  • Use Homemade Products: Instead of buying expensive beauty products, make your own using natural ingredients. There are many DIY recipes available online for face masks, scrubs, and hair treatments that are easy to make and budget-friendly.
  • Use Everyday Items: You don’t need to buy fancy spa equipment to have a relaxing spa day at home. Use items you already have, such as towels, washcloths, and bowls, to create a spa-like atmosphere.
  • Create a Relaxing Atmosphere: Light some candles, play some soothing music, and dim the lights to create a relaxing ambiance. You can also add some plants or flowers to make the space more inviting.
  • Set up a Spa Station: Set up a designated area for your spa treatments. Use a small table or cart to organize your products and tools. This will make it easier to access everything you need and create a spa-like environment.
  • Invite Friends: Invite some friends over to share in the spa experience. You can take turns giving each other massages, facials, or other treatments. This will make the day more fun and enjoyable.
  • Make Refreshments: Prepare some healthy snacks and drinks to enjoy during your spa day. You can make infused water, herbal tea, or fresh fruit salads to keep you hydrated and energized.
  • Choose Simple Treatments: Focus on simple treatments that don’t require a lot of expensive equipment or products. For example, give each other hand or foot massages, do each other’s nails, or use a simple face mask made from ingredients in your kitchen.

By following these tips, you can have a relaxing and rejuvenating spa day at home without spending a lot of money. Enjoy the pampering and relaxation, and don’t forget to take some time to unwind and de-stress. Remember, you can find many DIY spa recipes and tutorials online that are easy to follow, but here is a good resource to get you started.

Scavenger Hunt

A scavenger hunt is a fun and exciting way to celebrate a birthday on a budget. This involves creating clues and hiding them around your home or a local park. The clues can lead to a hidden gift or surprise at the end of the hunt. You can also include some fun challenges or tasks along the way to make the hunt more challenging and exciting.

How to have a scavenger hunt?

Here are the steps to organize a scavenger hunt:

Determine the Location: First, decide on the location of the scavenger hunt. You can have it in your backyard, a local park, or even around your neighborhood (keep safety in mind).

Create Clues:
Create a set of clues that will lead the participants to the different locations where they can find the next clue. The clues can be riddles, puzzles, or simply directions. You can also include some fun challenges or tasks along the way to make the hunt more challenging and exciting.

Plan the Route: Plan the route for the scavenger hunt, taking into account the location of the clues and the difficulty of the tasks. Make sure the route is safe and accessible for all participants.

Set Up the Clues: Once you have created the clues, print them out or write them on index cards and hide them in the designated locations. Make sure the clues are well hidden and not too difficult to find.

Provide Instructions: Provide the participants with clear instructions on how to start the scavenger hunt, what the rules are, and what they need to do to complete the hunt.

Organize Teams: If you have a large group, divide them into teams of 2-4 people to make the scavenger hunt more competitive and fun.

Set a Time Limit: Set a time limit for the scavenger hunt to make sure the participants don’t spend too much time on any one clue. Depending on the complexity of the clues, you can set the time limit anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours.

Have a Prize: To make the scavenger hunt more exciting, have a prize for the winning team or for all participants who complete the hunt. The prize can be anything from a small gift to a certificate of completion.

With these steps, you can organize a fun and exciting scavenger hunt that everyone will enjoy. Don’t forget to take pictures or videos of the scavenger hunt to capture the memories!

Here is a good resource on where to get a free printable scavenger hunt items lists for all ages.


Celebrating birthdays on a budget can be a challenge, but with a little creativity and planning, even when budgeting for a cheap party, it is still possible to have a fun and memorable experience without breaking the bank.

With these low budget birthday ideas for adults and children, you can celebrate that birthday on the cheap and still have a great time.

Thanks so much for stopping by my blog and supporting my endeavors to make people’s lives a little easier/better/more affordable. If you liked this post, or found it helpful in any way, please make sure to share it with your family, friends, and co-workers via social media…or you could even send them the direct link via email. Whichever way you choose to spread the love, I super appreciate it! ~Sarah

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Other Helpful Resources

If you weren’t particularly a fan of my ideas to celebrate birthdays on the cheap…here are some other great places to look on the topic:

If you would like to check out my entire frugal tips section, go here.

Here are direct links to several of my other posts that you may also find helpful:

* Please note that this article was originally shared to this website on 04/27/2023, and has since been/will continue to be updated to improve user experience, remain relevant, as well as to be as shareable as possible across the social medias.