March 15, 2011

Fiesta Birthday Party on a Budget & Lessons Learned

DSC_5339Before I start into the meat of this post, let me first say that I learned a lot of lessons from this birthday party.  Y’all know that I like to entertain and have a good time—well this year I went a little overboard.  We don’t have tons of parties over the course of a year, and so we try to make birthday parties fun and themed. 

Last year we had a princess and knights theme and held the party at our church.  We invited the girls from our daughter’s preschool class only along with a few other close friends and family.  There was really the perfect amount of people last year—there were still quite a few people, yet it still had a level of intimacy present.  Our daughter was able to play with her friends, we had face painting, people wore costumes, there was food, and there was a craft. 

We learned that last year a lot of the boys from her class were disappointed that they weren’t invited, and so we planned to invite the boys this year.  Our daughter is also more active in the children’s program at church now, and she had a lot of friends from there that she wanted to invite.  We didn’t want for the kids to feel excluded, and so we invited everyone.  First and foremost we wanted our closest friends to be there—those pals that she has grown up with and who are so dear to her.  If you’re keeping count of the invites, you’re right, we were crazy!  I realized that it was getting out of hand too late.  When it was all said and done, though the party was fun, the kids had a good time, and there weren’t any really major snafus.

Lessons Learned

The most important lesson that I learned from this party is to keep the invite list short.  There were 20 kids at the party, counting our daughter and a younger sister of one of her friends.  This was really too many kids for her to have much individual play time with each.  The other important lesson was to keep the age range close.  There were children who were 9, 10, and 11 mixed in with children who were 3, 4, and 5.   I found it difficult to keep the different age groups entertained and to corral them all together.  With that many kids there were really too many activities that we had planned.  Our daughter thought that Pin the Tail on the Burro would be fun, and she wanted to play musical chairs and have a piñata.  I thought that making paper flowers would also be neat.  In hindsight I should have eliminated the musical chairs because I learned the hard way that: 1) it is hard for younger kids to get the concept 2) even when you separate the children in age groups, there is going to be some hurt feelings and 3) having a pinched finger from a chair smash at your own birthday party is the pits. 

The biggest lesson is of all is to say no.  When I say this, I realize that many of y’all don’t know me and are probably thinking, “Yeesh!  What an overindulged child she must have!”  You would be wrong.  We’re pretty good about saying no, and sometimes I think I probably am too strict with her.  Birthday time is the one time of the year when we try to say yes within reason.  The problem is that Momma’s reasoning went out the window!  :) I didn’t want to exclude people because we all know how it feels like to be excluded.  I knew that I could pull this party off on a budget, and I knew she would enjoy having all of her friends there.  I lost sight of how hard it would be to wrangle all those kids together for two hours.  Oh well—live and learn! 

If you are wondering, next year we’ve decided that the three of us will go camping or to a cabin instead of having a party. 

Now to the ways that I saved money

I’ve had this party before.  Many of the themed parties that I host I’ve either been to before or have hosted similar ones for different functions in the past.  When I was in college, we had a fiesta for one of the groups with which I belonged.  I was one of the organizers, and from that experience I knew that we could feed a large amount of people for just a little money.  I also knew that the decorations would be easy enough to come by and pretty inexpensive.  Later, I hosted a fiesta themed couples bridal shower for a friend.  It was a smaller scale and even less out of pocket cost.  When our daughter said that she wanted a Dora Fiesta, I knew it could be done.

The first place that I always look when we decide a theme of a party is I think that it is one of the best forums for getting really great ideas for themed parties.  After looking through all of the posts about fiestas, Mexican parties, and Dora parties, I took a little bit from each one to make it our own.

DSC_5332 Venue

The church graciously allowed us to have her birthday party there. We did not have to pay any kind of venue fee, but we did make a donation to the building fund as a thank you for the space.  The space was large enough to host everyone, and it is easier for people to find than our home. 


The church has a bunch of plastic tablecloths that are used frequently for functions.  I pulled the brightest of colors out to use for the tables—bold reds, hot pinks, bright yellows, oranges, greens, and blues.  We cleaned them after the party and had no out of pocket expense for those.  Also at the church were some silk flowers and vases, I used a few of them on the cupcake table. 

I bought cilantro to use for the black bean salsa and put what remained in a bright yellow cup as a vase.  I picked some of the daffodils from our yard and tied a bright orange ribbon on the mason jar as another vase of flowers.  We gathered all of our daughter’s Dora books together, a few of the puppets that my dad bought me when he was in Mexico last, and borrowed some sombreros from the youth group at church.  I bought 2 lbs of lemons from Aldi and put them in a clear bowl to add a little more color.  I indulged and bought a $1 plastic plate in the shape of a sombrero at the dollar store.  I took some 3x5 index cards and wrote English to Spanish translations for various things around the room—church, table, chairs, flowers, napkins, cupcakes, etc.  The only other decorations were balloons that we had leftover from a party years ago and the paper flowers.  See below for more details on that.

Out of pocket expense was $2--$1 for the plate and $1 for the lemons.  The lemons will be used this week by my family on dishes, and the plate will be used again at our home.

As far as our attire, I decided that the kids probably wouldn’t get it if I dressed like Frida Kahlo.  I put a silk flower in my hair and that was it.  Our daughter wore a little shirt that I had when I was young from Mexico and also wore flowers in her hair.  So sweet!

DSC_5338 Activities

Balloons—we had balloons blown up for the kids to play with as they came into the party.  I learned this from another friend’s party two weeks ago.  We just so happened to have a bunch of balloons that were leftover from a party my husband gave for me when I turned 30.  They were a big hit for the kids!

Paper flowers—this was both an activity and a party favor.  We had the pipe cleaners already in our craft closet.  I found a great buy on bright colored tissue paper at the dollar store ($1 for 30 sheets.  I bought 6 packs).  We went to Home Depot for the dowels.  We had a $10/$50 coupon, and since we were buying a water filter replacement, the price of the dowels was free after the coupon!  We bought the cheapest dowels that were there, and hubby cut them into thirds.  We bought 14 dowels.  The scissors were already at the church and we borrowed them for the craft.  Daughter and I made 6 flowers for the decorations before the party, and each child was able to make at least one flower while at the party.

DSC_5392 Pin the tail on the donkey/burro—I bought the game at Dollar General for $1, but I had overage from coupons on other purchases that lowered the cost by a few cents.  Since we needed more tails than were included in the game, Hubby made some up on the computer.

Musical Chairs—we had a few CDs of Spanish music at home, and I borrowed some more from the library

Piñata—the cheapest piñata that I found was at Party City for $9.99.  We had a couple of coupons that we used for this and to buy the Dora bags and stickers (both on clearance) for the goody bags.  It is hard to say exactly how much each cost, but the coupon probably lowered this expense by a couple of dollars.  I scored a few Mentos for free at Kroger with coupon and sale and bought some organic candies and lollipops through Frontier for filling.

Learning Spanish—throughout the activities, I tried to teach the kids new Spanish words as we were interacting.

Total cost—Balloons $0, Paper Flowers $6, Pin the Tail $1, Piñata $7 and candy $7.50=$21.50

The food and table

I had paper plates and napkins leftover from the coupon fair, which I had donated for the event and bought with a great coupon at Party City.  The colors were red and black.  I also had quite a few leftover cups from Ladies Night Out that I had bought months ago and had leftover.  I picked up another container of cups at Target with a coupon for a little less than $2. (We had a recycling bin in case you are wondering).  I added a few Dora napkins that we bought at Party City to fit the themr.  We borrowed real silverware from the church. 

Total OOP—approximately $8

The food was by far the biggest expense, as I’m sure it probably is at many parties.  In hindsight we had way too much food for a 3pm party.  I’d always rather err on the side of having too much food rather than not enough food, and the bonus is that I haven’t had to cook for the last few days.  For more info on what we served and how we saved money, you can check here and here.

DSC_5334 Goody Bags

We kept these simple because the kids were also getting a paper flower and candy from the piñata.  We picked up some Dora Gummies at Kroger for 90cts for each box of 10 after catalina, sale, and coupon.  The bags and stickers were on clearance at Party City.  When I was at Walmart last week, I used some of my overage to buy these little tracer rulers.  At Target we found bags of Dora pencils in the dollar spot section.  Since we weren’t sure how many kids would show we made 40 gift bags.  We had 20 leftover, and if that is enough, we’ll hand them out to the kids who come to the tamale dinner on Friday night.  Approximate cost of these was $23 for 40.

While this wasn’t the cheapest party we’ve ever thrown, we did host a lot of people for not a ton of money.  Had we hosted the party at some of the other popular kids birthday party venues, we could have spent a lot more. We’ll definitely be scaling back from now on, but in reflection on how things went, we were happy to spend a day with some of the people who are dearest to us to celebrate our sweet little girl.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds so fun! Wish I could have been there! Great resourcefulness!!! Maybe your website should be, "Creativity in Critical Times!"