On they day your child was born you looked into his beautiful eyes and knew this was a day you would remember forever. Fast forward about 2,500 days when your child is about to turn seven years old as mine is. If you’re the type of family who goes all out for the birthday celebration you may be finding it harder and harder to come up with creative, fun, original and affordable ideas for the bash you want. In the short seven years I have planned birthday parties for my daughter I have found a few ways that help us save money and cut corners without minimizing the importance of the day or excluding my daughter’s many friends.

Go “all out” every other year – Last year Jayla had a more affordable party whereas Nasir’s cost a bit more. This year Jayla will go “all out” and Nasir will enjoy a low-key celebration. When there are two or more birthdays to celebrate, this can be especially helpful. Buy a cake and keep the snacks simple Or if you want to buy food, bake the cake or cupcakes yourself, this could be done the day before to save time on party day.

Do NOT, I repeat, DO NOT buy all-things Dora the Explorer to decorate! - Decide on your theme, then choose one or two paper supplies like Dora plates and a table cloth, then pick a color out of the plates like purple and do purple forks, napkins, cups, streamers, etc. And for balloons, pick one theme-related mylar balloon along with latex balloons in colors that coordinate. I have found balloons to be the cheapest way to decorate, so check local party stores for deals and once at home, divide them into small bunches and place them around your party area. Afterward, let each child take a balloon home if you’d like!

Goodie bags are all the rage, but… - Try to fight the urge to fill theme-related bags with a bunch of “bottom of the toy box” fodder. I love “goodies” that my kids will actually use like Play-doh, sidewalk chalk, bubbles, a ball from a sports-themed party, or even the $1 coupon booklets from local food chains. Those cute bags can even hold something fun like “dress-up” jewelry (bracelet, lip gloss, a compact mirror) for each glamour girl. When my son was younger he loved bath toys, especially boats, so each boy received a bath boat and a small bottle of bubble bath. Consider your child’s interest and incorporate it!

Clowns? DJs? A magic show? – Party entertainment still baffles me, but I know full-well that I can’t afford much by way of keeping the party-people entertained, so I wing it. Games we played as kids still work pretty well, so don’t write off charades or freeze dance, and hang man is pretty popular among the first grade sect. Disney music is pretty easy to come by online or on CD and what kid doesn’t like to rock it out to music they enjoy at home, plus you don’t have to worry too much about content. Turn on some tunes and let them dance, just keep the video camera rolling! Some moms do crafts, I’m not that mom. Whatever you choose as entertainment, don’t stress too much over it – activities your child enjoys doing at home will likely go over well with the kids he or she hangs out with.

Last but not least, don’t think that party shopping can only be done at party stores because that’s just what the party stores are hoping for. Check out dollar stores and super centers as well, if nothing else, buy your themed goods at a party store and your matching goods at a dollar store!

Birthday parties are the norm for many families but they don’t have to be a financial strain if you can do a little planning and thinking outside the box.