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parents panel

Parents Panel: Readers share their tips for planning birthday parties on a budget

Homemade Gruffalo cakes, pound shop supplies and pre-buying the sweets.

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AS PART OF’s weekly Family Magazine, we wanted to create a space for parents to share their views. A place where mums and dads could share their experiences, lessons learned, and even mistakes along the way. 

A birthday party should be simple right? A few party hats, a cake, maybe a balloon or two. Wrong. Much like Christmas, keeping birthdays on budget can be tricky, particularly if your child has already been to a slew of other parties this year and knows exactly what they want. Surely there’s a way to keep spending on track?

This week we’re asking our panel…

What are your tips for planning a birthday party on a budget?

Here’s what they had to say…

Parents Panel All 7 - Copy - Copy Top L-R: Olly Keegan, Alan Dooley, Denise, Ken Hyland. Middle L-R: Ríona Flood, Ross Boxshall, Marta Lisiecka, Denise Cumiskey. Bottom L-R: Kait Quinn, Susannah O’Brien, Derek McInerney, Suzie Kelly

Look out for sweets on offer earlier in the year: I have always held birthday parties for my kids until they hit secondary school. With Ellie, I’ll have the local hall booked with bouncy castle a good few weeks in advance, and I will buy up sweets that are on special offer months in advance (once the sell-by date on them is okay!) and hide them away. This year we had about 30 kids for her third birthday – she couldn’t decide on what cake she wanted so she had her four favourite characters on it…

- Denise Cumiskey

27657806_1758097397588593_1132725907451680677_n Ellie's can't-decide cake. Denise Cumiskey Denise Cumiskey

Set a gift limit with other parents: It’s not the party, it’s the other gifts you have to buy during the year that can cause issues. Staying on budget for birthdays is a subtle art of influencing parents way ahead of time, so you all get on the same page. The ideal set up is to agree on a €10 toy shop voucher as the gift  – or to keep an eye out for bargains or toys on offer during the year in preparation.

- Alan Dooley

20180401_190129 Bouncy castles and Irish weather, not a great combo. Denise Denise

Skip the bouncy castle if rain is forecast (or even if it’s not): Kids’ birthday parties are scary affairs and staying on budget is hard. Let’s be honest, nobody wants to host a boring party! Neither of us are great bakers, so we end up buying a cake. Pass The Parcel only went so far last year so we invested in a bouncy castle this year which ended up being a waste of money and a washout in torrential rain. I’m dreading next year already…

- Denise

Make DIY party food and let the kids loose in the garden: We are lucky that we have a big garden and our son’s birthday is in May, so the weather is usually okay(ish), handy for an outside party. Everything is kept on a tight budget and our one big expense is the bouncy castle. I make the cake, and most of the food: popcorn, some jellies, loads of fruit, mini sausage rolls, meatballs and tortilla pizza. Then it’s just a case of letting the kids play in the garden. To be honest, once the kids can run around, they all just amuse themselves.

- Olly Keegan

dav The Gruffalo, as made by Olly this year. Olly Keegan Olly Keegan

Pick a theme, and team up with another family: Over the last few years we have run parties at home for our eldest, with a theme. Last year’s theme was ‘magic’ (our biggest expense was a hired magician) and the previous years was a team-based scavenger hunt outdoors. Joint parties can save money too. We plan ahead within the theme and cater accordingly with pizza and chips. For party supplies, hit the pound shop.

- Ross Boxshall

image2 The scavenger hunters in their high vis vests. Ross Boxshall Ross Boxshall

More Parents Panel: What’s the after-school routine in your house?>

More Parents Panel: What’s the trickiest parenting dilemma you’ve ever faced?>

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