Economical birthday parties

Sure, the economy is in the toilet. But moms and dads are still finding ways to celebrate their kids' birthdays

It takes guts to start up a new business — especially in the midst of a recession. But when Funnelz Indoor Party & Play Center opened in Toronto last November, the state of the economy didn’t cause its four co-owners to worry any more than they would have otherwise. The 10,000-square-foot venue can host up to five parties simultaneously, with parents paying $350 to $450 for a prime two-hour weekend slot. Steep? Sure. Nonetheless, Funnelz and other party venues across Canada say they’ve been busy. Apparently, giving their children a memorable birthday celebration is a luxury many parents aren’t willing to give up.

In its first six months of business, hair salon Sharkey’s Cuts for Kids in Bedford, NS, hosted 65 glamour-themed girls’ parties at $225 to $325 a pop, says senior stylist Nancy Stanton. Partygoers aged four and up get their hair and nails done, dress up for a group photo and DVD, and nosh on pizza. Invitations and thank-you cards are included in the price. Those kinds of touches are a godsend for busy parents, says Gurvinder Johal, owner of KidZone play centre in Richmond, BC, where packages range from $10 to $20 per child. “Parents say all the time, ‘This is so convenient!’”

Birthday budgets

Erin Bateman
mom to Henry, 5, Jane, 3, and Alice, 1, North Milton, PEI
$50 “Since our kids are still so young, we try to keep birthdays quite simple. We invited our neighbours and good friends over. We didn’t bother with loot bags and the kids didn’t mention it. We made decorations out of construction paper and things we already had around the house.”

Dorin Greenwood
mom to Quinn, 5, and Ezra, 2, Toronto
$175–$200 “For Quinn’s fifth birthday, we decided to go ‘old school.’ Including my boys there were 15 kids, and all of the activities took place in the basement rec room. I found an old pin the tail on the donkey game at a factory outlet for $1, and we played musical squares using the coloured foam squares that we already had. For lunch, I ordered three party-sized pizzas because I expected the adults to eat too.”

Corina Quezada Contreras
mom to Matilda, 8, and Mateo, 6, Whitby, Ont.
$450–$550 “I plan a year ahead and buy throughout the year. We have two parties at home: One for school friends (about 25 kids and some moms), and family and friends (40 to 50 kids and parents in total). My policy is to invite the whole class because I have seen reactions when kids are not invited and they feel hurt. I suspect I might have one more year before Matilda wants something with just girls or smaller overall. My objective is to give her great birthday memories while I can — it’s fun to see how excited she gets.”