The following post is a guest post by The Happy Geek!  Enjoy!

Birthday Parties.  A phrase that strikes fear into the heart of most parents.  The noise, the confusion, the mess and the cost.  While I cannot help you manage the chaos, I do have a few suggestions for throwing a party that doesn’t break the bank.

Birthday Parties on a Budget

Here are some great suggestions for throwing a birthday party that doesn’t break the bank.

Don’t have one.

Seriously.  My kids get their first friend birthday party when they are 6.  And it will be alternating years after that.  Not only is it pocketbook friendly, it makes the party even more special when they do have one.

This doesn’t mean that we don’t celebrate the birthday, we certainly do, but it is with family, not friends.  The day is still dedicated to the child.   They get to pick all the meals that day, we have a cake with dinner and we hit Chuck E Cheese as a family.

There are many birthday clubs that you can register your kids for and they can have a special treat at little or no cost to you.

But sooner or later, your child is probably going to want to have friends for a party.  Here are some tips to keeping it fun and inexpensive.

Make your Own Cake

Cake mixes are really cheap, icing is easy to make and who doesn’t love a cupcake.  It is nearly impossible to ruin a cupcake.  If your child would like a shape cake, there are a number of websites dedicated to helping you out.  My favorite was Howdini as they had step by step videos on how to do it.  If I can make a train cake, you can do it too!

Have the party at home

Kids really don’t need much.  A craft, a few games, cake and presents can easily take up two hours.  And no one charges you for the rent of your house. Scared to death at the thought of being alone with ten grade-schoolers?  Hire your favorite babysitter to come and be an extra pair of hands.  Or swap with a friend, if she helps at your party, you’ll help at hers later.

Have it at a park

If you are lucky enough to have a birthday in the spring summer or fall, why not hold the party at your favorite playground?  Commandeer a couple of picnic tables, put out a festive tablecloth and some balloons and you are set.  (Do check with your city to see if this is allowed, some by-laws are a bit sticky).

The internet is your Best Friend.

You can find great free printable invitations, games, crafts and decoration ideas online.  Some of my favorite sites are:

Make a craft that doubles as a party favour.

For a sleepover party buy inexpensive pillowcases and have the kids decorate them with fabric paint.  Or have them paint wooden picture frames and then include a picture from the party in their thank-you note.  You are only limited by your imagination in this one and the results are much more fun than a little plastic bag filled with toys that break as soon as the guest gets home.

If you would rather hold it away from home, shop around.

Find out if there are discounts for off-peak times, if you can share the party with another group and split the cost, and if there is a discount for just using the facility and not their party room.

Birthday parties are for making memories, not keeping up with the Jones.

I may be the only one who feels guilty that my child is not doing what “everyone else is” but in case this applies to you too, here’s what I tell myself.  If I make it fun and exciting, and personalize the party to my kid’s personality, then they won’t care that it cost $25 and not $250!

So, what about you?  What do you do to create fun while keeping costs down at birthday parties?