Party Decor on A Tight Budget


My son just turned one last month. His birthday was the 11, the party on the 12 (also our 5th wedding anniversary), and Mothers day the 13th. It was a busy weekend to say the least. It was also an expensive weekend, since we wanted to make sure each of these occasions was special. I really wanted to make his first party a success, without breaking the bank.

Let me preface by saying I love Pinterest. I also hate it. Does anyone else feel like all these adorable parties on there really put the pressure on for when you are a hostess? I spent months pinning and pinning trying to be inspired and create the perfect “pinboard” for his first birthday. This was a big deal, ladies, it was my party planning premiere! It sets the bar for all the other birthday parties I will plan in my life- or so I thought! Needless to say, I felt pressured to make it creative and special.

BUT, at my core I am a thrifty gal. There was no way I’d spend loads of money at the party store on decor I would just throw away. Here are a few ways I made his party very cost effective, and fun!

  • Use things around the house. Shutters sitting in the garage? Awesome, a backdrop for the food table! Scraps of denim from making those white jeans into shorts? Perfect, bunting banner!                                                                                                                                      
  • Speaking of what you have, look in your recycling bin. I used cardboard everywhere. That “ahoy” sign above is just letters printed on cardstock glued to cardboard I had leftover from a diaper box. I also stenciled anchors on cardboard and cut them out and hung them up.  I also took twine and wrapped it around those cans of toddler snacks and formula. I put flowers in them and tada- a centerpiece for a table!
  •  Dont skip the details. Small details can be free and cheap and they go a long way. Print and hang photos, everywhere even. Its your child’s (or whoevers) party, dont be afraid of showing them off! I also used cardstock a lot- for around 50 cents a sheet (or cheaper when on sale), you can cut out shapes (like I did above), string them together and create small banners to place everywhere. You can take cardstock (or even a few paint chips from the hardware store), cut out shapes, and sew them together for another banner idea. Banners are all the rage and also very cheap to make. They also add to those small details that make an impact!
  • Use the theme loosely. Don’t get too stuck in a theme, it can be a money pit. Our theme was “anchor/sailor” with red, white, beiges, and some blue. If it is too specific, it gets pricey, especially character themes. My husband wanted a Pirate theme, but I didnt feel like I could use what I had. It was very much a theme I would have to go buy everything for. Stick to a theme you can be flexible with, and definitely something that is stretchable. For example, our theme was easy- sailboats, anchors, rope, stripes….burlap? sure! Netting? why not? a super cheap pirate ship at the thrift store? ok!
  • SKIP the fancy favors, balloons and pinatas, if you are on a budget like I was at least. For favors I had my sister in law help make muslin drawstring bags ($2 for 2 yards) and then stencil them with an anchor. I filled them with fruit snacks because they are less than $2/box and I felt ok giving those instead of candy to other peoples children. One tragic mistake made on my sons party day was sending my husband out while I set everything up. He went to the party store, bought a dozen balloons, a pinata, and candy for said pinata. He spent $50. Yikes! I know he wanted to spoil our son, but it was money that didnt go very far. The balloons popped in the heat, the pinata got beat up and nearly gave me a heart attack watching the kids swing a bat at it, and the candy I am sure was thrown out by sugar conscience parents.

I hope this helps some of you moms out there planning a party. Parties are so fun, and even better when money is saved, not thrown away. But again, I am a thrifty girl who has big party planning dreams…on a very small budget!




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