If one of your children has a summer birthday, you know that it can be a bit disappointing for them to celebrate their special day during a time of year when they are on summer break from school. It is certainly one of the great joys of childhood to celebrate the act of turning one year older with your friends in an exciting way. In the summer, it is extra important to plan a celebration that really makes your child feel special… but that doesn't mean that it needs to break the bank! Here are some tips to plan a fantastic summer birthday celebration that will create a magical day for your child without costing you a lot of money:

There are 4 keys to planning a successful birthday party:

Today we are going to cover how to pull together all of the party supplies you need — without spending a pile of money!

Invitations

These days, many people use Evite to send an electronic birthday party invitation to their party guests — it's free and very efficient! But if your child simply loves to hold onto a printed party invitation as a way to look forward to their special day (as my children do), you certainly don't need to spend a lot of money on something that is ultimately going to be thrown away by all of the recipients — make your own! There are tons of free printables on the web that you can use, or simply design your own invite in Microsoft Word and print them out for free if you have a color printer. And while you are in design mode, be sure to make the thank you notes too!

Paper Goods and Decorations

This is one area where people get way-too-carried-away with the theme and spend a great deal of money on things that will just be thrown away. A better idea is to be on the lookout for solid-colored paper plates, napkins, and plastic forks in bright or pastel colors, and buy them in bulk when you find them on sale so that you can use them at more than one party. Red, blue, and pink paper goods can be used for many different party themes. And buy a large-sized white table roll (that plastic table covering that comes on a giant cardboard tube). A party table set with a white plastic cover, brightly colored plates, napkins, forks, a few groupings of balloons and a themed birthday cake looks fantastic and is all that you need!

Food

I like to set the table with bowls of snacky types of food that the kids can munch on while they are waiting to be served their lunch. Grapes, goldfish crackers, and pretzels are all good choices. A few years ago I found a great deal at a party supply store on plastic serving bowls so I purchased a big stack of them and re-use them for all of our parties.

You can certainly save some money by not hosting your party during a meal time and only offering the kids a light snack followed by the birthday cake. Or you can decide to serve lunch and save some money by preparing the food yourself ahead of time and warming it up right before it is served. Kid-sized sandwiches, homemade pizzas, or chicken nuggets are all kids' party favorites!

Cake

A beautiful themed cake from a local bakery can set you back a pretty penny… and you'll cringe when you see that most kids just scrape off some of the icing and throw the rest of their piece of cake away. Sometimes they are just too jazzed up at the party to really enjoy the cake!

But truth be told, I really LOVE birthday cake, so I go through the extra effort of creating a special homemade cake for each party. It is now something special that my kids love about their birthday, and many times they pick out what they want their cake to look like before they even pick a theme or figure out their guest list!

Baking and decorating a birthday cake doesn't have to be super-fancy. I have never taken a cake decorating class, and I find most of my ideas by just searching online. But I highly recommend this fantastic cake-decorating tutorial that I found at Make It and Love It. It taught me how to make homemade fondant icing and use it to easily and beautifully decorate a birthday cake. Give it a try!

Tables and Chairs

To serve lunch or to work on crafts, it certainly helps to have a few tables and some chairs for the kids. If you have a friend who will allow you to borrow theirs, then great! But if not, you might want to look into buying one or two tables and some folding chairs if you think that you are going to plan a few at-home birthday parties over the years. The first time we had a party at our house, we rented tables and chairs from a local company. After paying the rental fee and delivery charge, we realized that making the investment in a few of our own would be a good idea and would save us a lot of money in the long run. Sam's Club and Costco are great places to look into for deals!

Goodie Bags

I have to admit, I am not a fan of the birthday party goodie bag, nor do I like birthday piñatas. Maybe it's just me, but all of those cheap plastic toys and piles of candy are just no good for my kids' teeth or controlling my household clutter! So when I put together a goodie bag for our parties, I try to limit it to just one item that is something that the guests will like and can actually keep and use — and doesn't cost too much money.

I have given away small stuffed animals and Beanie Babies that worked along with our theme more times than I can count, and I have found them all online for less than $3.50 each. For older kids' parties, I have given away baseball and soc

cer cards, and even playing cards with a sheet tucked inside listing instructions for some great age-appropriate card games.

Another favor idea that I have used lately is a picture frame. I take a group shot of all of the kids at the beginning of the party, and when the kids are eating lunch, I quickly print off a dozen copies on my color printer and insert them into the frames (or I have a helper do it) while the kids are eating the birthday cake. School-aged kids love keepsake photos of themselves with their friends, so this idea has been a huge hit!

Music

Having background music during a birthday party, especially one that is being held outdoors, just adds to the festive party atmosphere. I often put my husband in charge of downloading some music to fit the theme, and burning a CD so that we can play it outside. For our baseball party, we even downloaded organ music that you hear in the stands at a real baseball game and played it in between batters — the kids loved it!

Related Reading: