Tween and teen

Birthday Party Themes that are Budget-Friendly

How to host an unforgettable birthday bash that boasts a fun theme and doesn’t break the bank.

Birthday Party Themes that are Budget-Friendly


Birthday parties today have become way over the top. Back in my day (ahem, the 80s) I had simple at-home birthday parties with pin the tail on the donkey, cupcakes, and presents. It was easy, sweet, and memorable. I don’t know when things changed, but today’s birthday parties have suddenly become lavish three-ring circuses that cost as much as a mortgage payment. It’s time to get back to basics. You can still host an unforgettable birthday bash that boasts a fun theme and doesn’t break the bank. Here are a few birthday party themes that are (almost) effortless and inexpensive.

Choose a colour or pattern theme

Opt for a colour or pattern theme as opposed to a trademarked one. You can buy decorations in the birthday boy's or girl's favourite colour, making it much simpler to find things that match, like paper plates, cups, napkins, tablecloths, and balloons. Another cute option is to stick with a pattern, like stripes, polka dots, hearts, or stars. You can add these small details by way of coloured tape and stickers, and it will only cost a few bucks. You can mix and match colours as well as motifs.

If your child does want trademark items and has a favourite character from Marvel or Disney, you can flex your creative muscles with a few simple projects that will only cost a few dollars. If your kiddo loves superheroes, for example, print photos of their favourites onto labels that can be transferred to plain paper cups, balloons, and hanging birthday decorations.

Gather up their favourite superhero toys to incorporate into the birthday décor – small tabletop play structures can be centrepieces, while the little figurines make great cake toppers. You can ask kids to dress up as their favourite superheroes, or, as part of a birthday activity, you could have the kids make their own costumes, including masks, hats, and capes. There’s always a way to bring their favourite characters into their birthday party without breaking the bank.

birthday party outside on wooden chairs and table iStock

Arts and crafts theme

An arts and crafts birthday party has limitless possibilities, and it keeps guests happily busy. The best part about this theme is that it can be adapted to any age group and budget. You can do a tie-dye project and ask kids to bring a plain white T-shirt or pick up something inexpensive at the dollar store that they can dye, such as white pillowcases, socks, slip-on canvas shoes, or scrunchies.

Host a crazy science experiment party and make volcanos with baking soda and vinegar, or stock up on glue and food colouring so everyone can make their own slime. Does your child love space and astronomy? You can create cool galaxy bottles from reusable two-litre soda bottles, oil, water, food colouring, and glitter. And the best part is that the kids take home their creations, so there is no need to spend money on goody bags!

Keep it simple

What kids really want is to be able to play and hang out together, so sometimes the best birthday parties are the ones that allow them to do just that. For younger kids, it might be having the freedom to run around at the park with all their besties while enjoying some sweet treats. You can add a few games, such as an obstacle course or scavenger hunt, to really put things over the top. For tweens or teenagers, it could be as simple as outfitting the living room with many comfy pillows and blankets and setting them up with video games or a movie where they can hang out, chat, and have a great time.

Cooking theme


A cooking or baking-themed birthday serves two purposes: it’s a fun activity for kids to participate in, and they’ll also be making the food they’ll be eating at the party (so no menu planning needed!). “Make your own” food bars that could include pizza, tacos and nachos, sandwiches, or other kid-friendly menu items are easy to set up, relatively cheap (buy things in bulk), and delicious to eat. The same goes for dessert bars: kids can make their own ice cream sundaes or decorate cookies and cupcakes.

birthday cupcakes and a hat iStock

Hollywood theme

A ”be a star” party allows everyone to have their moments in the limelight. For younger kids, a dance party with fun go-withs, like silly hats and blow-up guitars (all of which are sold at the dollar store), could be the best way for kiddos to let loose and show off those signature dance moves. Maybe you could turn it into a talent show! You could create an interactive photo booth or selfie area for older kids and teenagers. Make sure it has a tripod, selfie stick, and props (such as fake mustaches, hats, glasses, feather boas, etc.). Roll out a red carpet. Serve bubbly apple cider to the stars of the show.

At the end of the day, a child doesn’t remember how much money you spent on their birthday parties. The things that stand out the most in their minds are the memories that they got to make with their family and friends. And there is always a way to make a lasting impression that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.

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