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by Michelle Levine

Related: budget, money , birthday, party, home,

  It’s an image tinged with nostalgia: the old-fashioned, at-home birthday party. In today’s economic climate, this image is no longer a charming memory; many parents are reviving the tradition of having parties at home. But does this really stretch your dollar? Or do you end up spending just as much money as you would at a typical birthday party place?

   Lisa Kothari is the expert behind Peppers and Pollywogs, a website designed to empower parents to plan their own parties in creative ways that are easy on budget and time. Kothari believes that whether or not you save money by keeping the festivities at home truly depends on the numbers – number of guests, time of day – and what limits you put in place.

   For example, inviting guests to a mid-morning or mid-afternoon event can save you the cost of providing a meal. Limiting the menu is a key way to economize. Another important consideration is how many guests you are allowing. In addition to the children invited, parents might ask to bring siblings along; you must decide in advance how you will accommodate these requests. Allowing friends to bring brothers and sisters adds to the number of mouths to feed as well as how many goody bags you need.

   Kothari points to goody bags as another potential pitfall. Either eliminate them altogether, she suggests, or treat any prizes given out for games as the party favor. You can also have simple crafts for the children to do, which can serve as the take-home item.

   Entertainment is a definite budget buster. Consider having your teenager do the face painting or your husband put on the puppet show. Classic games can be tweaked to fit a theme, i.e., Duck Duck Goose becomes Puppy Puppy Bone for a dog lover’s party. And with the nicer weather here, you can look into having the party at a nearby park (check with local authorities regarding permit requirements). Choosing an outside venue does save other “costs,” such as set-up and clean-up time and the stress of hosting a party at your home.

   Kothari believes that you can provide a wonderful party for your child no matter what budget and time constraints you might face. As she mentions in her book, Dear Peppers and Pollywogs: What Parents Want to Know About Planning Their Kids’ Parties, you have to direct your child and not let it be the other way around.

   “Step back and really think about what your budget is,” she says. “Don’t play into parent pressure and guilt.” Think about what is best for your family, and no matter what, enjoy the day.

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