Each year, my wife and I ask the same question: What kind of birthday party are we going to throw for our sons? Sometimes we’ve had a party at a play place, and sometimes we’ve had it at home. We have had a big party with tons of friends, and some years we keep it low-key with just a friend or two and family.

It mostly depends on the money.

Here are some easy ways to save money on your child’s birthday party.

1. Stick to Your Budget

This is probably the most important thing that you can do. If you establish a realistic budget for the party and stick to it, you’ll be far ahead of the game. Make your budget workable and try to think through each cost, so you’ll be able to pinpoint how much money you’ll need.

2. Have It at Home

This is a big money-saver. Have the party at home instead of at a restaurant, theme park, movie theater, or kid’s gym. Sometimes those parties can cost hundreds of dollars on the location alone. If you have it at home, you eliminate those costs. However, there are other considerations. Is your home big enough to accommodate dozens of kids and their parents? Are you comfortable with having that many people in your home? Are you able to spend the time preparing your home for such a party?

3. Send E-mail Invitations

Skip the expensive invitations and stamps and send out email invites instead.

4. Make Your Own Food

Buying pizza, drinks, snacks, and cake can add up big time. Catering costs can be expensive, too. If you have the time and inclination, you can save lots of money by making food for the party. It will be time-consuming and you’ve got to start early, but you can control your expenses by playing chef.

5. Skip the Bounce House

One of the biggest costs at parties is a bounce house. Sure, they’re a lot of fun for the kids, but they are not cheap. Instead, try to come up with simple, fun games for the kids to play that will keep them busy.

6. Eliminate the Goody Bags

It’s stuff that no kid needs and will only add to the clutter of someone’s home. The best gifts that we’ve gotten are cookies, coupons to a play place or another family spot, and a kid’s t-shirt that goes with the theme of the party.

7. Forgo the Party

If you’re looking for an alternative to a birthday party, choose something else. Go to a movie, ballgame, or enjoy another family activity that will save you money, but will allow your child to feel special on their big day.