I am currently in the midst of planning my eldest daughters 4th birthday party. A task known to be stressful, time consumimg and above all expensive for most if not all parents!
I have in my limited years picked up quite few tips to keep the cost down which I hope you may find useful.
Last year a good friend of mine & I doubled our efforts and saved £s & lots of energy. Our daughters birthdays are only 4 days apart so rather than replicating the same parties for the same children, we teamed up and did a joint party. We hired a hall and split the cost. We spent an evening ordering all the food and party bag fillings online & had it delivered a couple of days before. She did the craft & invites - as this is her strong suit & I did the food & party bags. It was great, so much easier and cheaper and the girls LOVED it!
This year as my friends daughter has started at school - they are a year apart - the two girls now have different sets of friends.
We are having a small fairy tea party at home. This is tip number one don't bow to the pressure of inviting the entire nursery class. Hall hire is expensive when you add in setting up and clearing away time so keep numbers low and have it at home. Your children will thank you for this too. It can be overwhelming and less enjoyable for small children particularly (but big ones too) to have hoards and hoards of noisy children.
Classic party games that have stood the test of time are always a winner. A small book or colouring book makes the perfect prize for pass the parcel. Wrap the final layer in colourful paper & subsequent layers in newspaper with a wrapped sweet or forfeit in each layer - cheap as chips!
Stickers also make perfect treats/rewards they are inexpensive and small children love them. Instead of knocking people out of a game of musical statues award the stillest person a sticker each round and keep everyone in.
Party bags - these can be very tricky. The amount of horrid plastic junk that goes straight to landfill we have had in party bags doesn't bear thinking about. Go for quality not quantity is my tip but this doesn't have to mean expensive.
Use paper bags - either save your own up or buy on e-bay. Print colouring pictures onto them or write the childs name in glitter glue to decorate.
A handful of sweets, a piece of cake and small gift that you know the children will enjoy is better than a load of rubbish.
Crayons and a pretty notepad, a plastic dinosaur for boys, hair accessories for girls.
If you have the time try this tip - buy a packet of hair pins and colourful buttons. Using a glue gun, attach the buttons to the slides and pop them onto a square of scrapbook paper. Perfect party favours and impromptu gifts for little girls.
If you fancy being really radical you could dispense with the party bags all together.
This year to tie in with our theme I've bought fairy wings for each of our guests and will make and wrap individual cup cakes for them to take home. I am not ashamed to say the wings cost £1 each but I know the girls will love them.
At a party we recently attended my daughter was given a lovely activity book to bring home.
A word about food, keep it simple and remember they don't eat that much of the savoury stuff they are all waiting for the cake!
Finally be imaginative. A friend of mine who has three boys found a manufacturer of bouncy castles near her who was selling up the business when her eldest was still quite young. She bought a bouncy castle very cheaply and has used it at countless boys birthday party's ever since. It's definatly paid for itself several times over and made her very popular.