How Much Would You Pay For A Child’s Birthday Party?

ToriCakeA few years ago, I put together my daughter’s 8th birthday party for under $35. Her 11th birthday, which we celebrated over the weekend, was a different story. There’s a huge difference between the two ages, and we’re dealing with an entirely different set of rules.

The suggestion of playing games for prizes now results in the newly perfected pre-teen eye roll.

The last few years, having a sleep over with her friends as been the foundation for keeping the cost of her birthday celebration down. This year she was adamant she did NOT want a sleep over party because many of her friends stay up all night watching TV, talking, and joking around.

For a girl that likes her sleep, this is unacceptable.

She’s also getting older, and soon the days of having an organized birthday party for my little girl and her friends will be behind us. She still wanted one this year, and we’re in a much better place financially than the last few birthdays, so we thought we would allow her to do something on a bigger scale.

She chose to have her and some friends go to an indoor bounce house.

The Price Of Admission

On Friday nights, they have “Tween Night” which includes a DJ and dance floor, mechanical bull, face painting, adult supervision, and various games that can be played for prizes (apparently these are cool games). The price of $20 per kid added up very quickly, so we started asking questions. They also have open bounce that night for half the cost. The difference between the Tween Night price and the open bounce price is:

  1. Open Bounce kids cannot win prizes in the games
  2. Open Bounce kids must have an adult present (Tween Night kids are just dropped off)

Since we were staying for the entire event anyway, and Tori admitted that the prizes from the games were lame, we went with the open bounce price for $10 per kid.

Cake:cake

We found the perfect pink cake with multi-colored dots on the sides for $14.00. We had them write a birthday message on it in purple and headed to the checkout counter.  The cashier noticed the candy dots on the sides were sliding down the cake. She called the bakery, and got them to give us the cake for half price!

Gift Bags:candy

I hate this concept so much. This isn’t some celebrity award event where participants get a gift for participating. Unfortunately I’m consistently overruled in this area. The good news is that I was able to pick up bags of Easter candy the following week (that were not too obviously for Easter) at 50% off.

Food:

We ordered five pizzas ($12.95 each) and four 2-liters of pop ($4 each). This fed not only the kids but also Vonnie and I, and several other sets of parents that we are good friends with that stayed for the entire party.

Room Rental:

They have a lounge that parents can hang out in while the kids are running around the facility, but if we’re going to eat food and have presents and cake, we needed to rent a party room for an hour.

bounce

Total Cost:




Admission 11 kids x $10 per kid: $110.00
 Cake:                                                $   7.00
Gift Bags:                                           $  13.00
Food:                                                 $  80.75
Room Rental:                                      $  50.00
--------------------------------------------------------------------------
Total:                                                  $260.75

Ummmm, yeah.

I’m comfortable with many of the costs on the list. I’m OK with the admission, even if eleven kids seems like a lot. Having Tori and her friends running around a gigantic indoor area having a great time is the point. The cake was cheap, and even though I personally don’t like the concept of the gift bag, we were able to put them together inexpensively.

What sticks out like a sore thumb is the cost of the food and the room rental. We discovered that the pizza is not made on site, but is actually delivered in from a chain pizza place in town. They marked up the price so they make their own profit, and quite honestly the pizza wasn’t good.

I came up with three alternate options we could have pursued for the food:

  • Not provide food at all and just had the kids meet for the activity, and a gift bag
  • Have the kids meet at our home for homemade food and cake.
  • Met at a locally owned pizza place less than a mile away from the bounce house. Food would have been cheaper, and no room rental fee required.

All three options would have significantly decreased the price of the party, some more than others. Options two and three would have required us to transport the kids to the bounce house after the eating, cake, and present part of the party was over, but that would not have been a problem, especially with other parents staying for the entire party.

We did some things right for her birthday party, but definitely could have improved in others to minimize the cost without sacrificing fun and enjoyment of the event.

What’s the most you’ve paid for a child’s birthday party?  What’s the most you WOULD pay for one?

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38 Responses to “How Much Would You Pay For A Child’s Birthday Party?”

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  1. Stephanie r says:

    I’ve done fairly well so far – my daughter has a summer birthday so we always have a pool party at our neighborhood pool and I’ve kept food/expenses under $100 every year. Last year I made it for just a few hours in the afternoon so that I didn’t have to feed everyone and their parents lunch or dinner. My son’s birthday party was this weekend and we opted for the sleepover for the reason you just mentioned. We tie dyed tshirts (total cost for 4 kids $24) and I made the cake and pizzas so probably $8 in extra supplies. He just turned 5 and said his party was ‘awesome’.
    I try to keep the kids party costs under $50 and I never spend more than $50 in presents for any birthday. But I recognize that I am the exception to this as 100% of all the parties in the past two years have been at a place you must rent or book for a minimum price of $150 that doesn’t include cake or food or supplies.

    • Travis says:

      Birthdays have become a huge business opportunity….and unfortunately it sometimes turns into a game of doing it bigger and better than your friends. It’s awesome that you work so hard to keep your costs down – we’ve done really well over the last couple of years, so this was quite a departure from the recent norm. The cake is THE biggest ripoff. Making your own cake is sooo inexpensive. Last year I made a multilayer rainbow cake that my daughter and her friends just LOVED. Although $7 for a cake isn’t bad either. :) Thanks for sharing your experience, Stephanie!

  2. David says:

    My younger brother recently had a birthday party and my parents were also faced with a budget dilemma. I helped my mom clip a ton of coupons from the weekends paper and got goodie bags, frozen pizza, balloons, plates, napkins, silverware, and the cake all at discounted prices. I told my mom that for the future, her budget should be somewhere in the $200 range but she should look for ways to save through coupon clipping!

    • Travis says:

      It always helps to have a partner to bounce ideas off of, or to give a different perspective on how to bring down the cost of a birthday party doesn’t it David? Kudos to you for helping your mom….and can I give you a call next year about this time?

  3. Wow, that is a nice little sum of money! Our oldest is five so we’ve not had anything major so far…just having a friend over to stay the night. I am not certain what we’ll do as they all get over, but their three birthdays are within four months of each other, so we’ll have to keep it down to avoid needing a second mortgage to pay for them. ;)

    • Travis says:

      It gets harder as they get older (in my opinion), John…as they transition from the age of “yay it’s my birthday” to “Listen, this is what I want to do for my birthday.” In the end, we’re the parents and we have to make sure we stick within our budgets and not go completely overboard. Three birthdays in 4 months? Yikes…..keep sharpening those skills my friend! :)

  4. Gina says:

    I keep our birthday parties simple, for my stress level as well as to keep costs down. This year, when my twins turned 7, they said all they wanted was “to have our friends over and play games.” Perfect! We ended up with a fabulous Western Birthday Party for around $50. I always have parties from 2-4 so I don’t have to feed the kids more than snacks and cake. I know that as they get older, they’ll want to go places, but then we’ll do what we’ve done with our older son–let him invite 2 or 3 friends and we go somewhere. Fishing, camping, bowling, somewhere with a Groupon, still in our budget but very memorable for him.

    • Travis says:

      Having the party in the middle of the afternoon to avoid a “meal time” is a smart idea, Gina. We could have easily done that. In fact, for the time frame we scheduled it (6:30pm to 10pm), it totally would have been in bounds to not provide a meal. Lesson learned for next time, thanks for your comment, Gina!

  5. For the most part, I have not had to spend much on my daughter’s birthday parties. Since her birthday is during the summer, we usually invited family and friends over for a cookout or something simple. For her second birthday, we were visiting my family in Georgia so Grandpa footed the bill for a party at Chuck E. Cheese.

    Last year was her 5th birthday, and we treated it as a milestone event for her. We had her party at the local bowling alley. I won’t even put the cost down here because people will go crazy, but the party was so much fun. Luckily, we were in a situation where we could afford it and it’s not a party we would think of doing every year.

    The one thing that still kills me is just how much it costs to go bowling nowadays!

    • Travis says:

      Ooooh, the bowling alley….I’ve felt this pain, Kieron – and I can guess how much it cost you. This may make you feel better – in our “spend happy, rack up debt” portion of our marriage, we once held a bowling party for my son and invited his entire class : 28 kids. That year was the gold standard of what NOT to do when planning a birthday party…….

  6. Joe says:

    Gift bags? That’s BS! I thought the guests are ones that bring gifts. Our kid is only 2 so we haven’t spent a lot of money yet. We’ll see how it goes…

    • Travis says:

      It’s completely BS, Joe! Like I said, I HATE that concept. I’d like to find whomever came up with it, take them outside and whip them with a wet noodle. As if b-day parties don’t cost enough the way it is. If I hadn’t gotten the candy for half price or less, I would have complained a lot more about it. :) Thanks for reading Joe!

  7. Jennifer says:

    Our son is only three months old so the big party around usually is mine. I am a 27 year old, almost 28 who still ADORES my birthday and planning parties. But we are within six months of being debt free and so the birthday debate is raging in my head. Last year when we were working on our debt snowball but not as agressively as this year I had hoped to have a pool party with friends and their kids at the local pool. To rent it here with a few pizzas is about $250. Now that we’re so close to being debt free, I don’t see room in the budget for a party that expensive. And we’d also have wanted cake with that one too. So now I am considering other options, maybe even a potluck party-my friends are okay with that idea since I’ve asked a few already. Or getting a giant cut of pork at Costco for about $30 and having a pulled pork, baked potato feed with money we could take from our food cash envelope in May and plan around. Still debating since I have about another six weeks till the big day but I know I do want a party even if it’s just cake and punch with friends, just not a $200+ party that delays our big debt free day!

    • Travis says:

      Ooh, it looks like you’ve got your eye on that special prize, Jennifer – congrats on being so close to being debt free! If it means anything to you, I can tell you that buying some port shoulders and making pulled pork will be AMAZING. Price per pound, you just can’t find anything that is as easy to make, generates a huge amount of food, and tastes fantastic for that price. I love to grill and smoke meats and pulled pork is my “go to meat” when I want to feel a lot of people for less. It’s a great way to have that party with friends, and still get to that big day! Please come back and share what you end up doing with your party, and also when you get to that debt free date!

  8. I think you did well, Travis. We routinely spent $200-$300 on parties before we faced up to our financial situation. We lucked out a little bit being that we’ve got 2 kids born in one month, and 2 in another, so we always did 2-for-1′s , but still too much for us to spend, given our situation. Nowadays, on the new budget, we usually just do games and cake here, and being we have lots of land here, and the horses, kids of all ages love to run and play here. $300 is probably about the max we’d spend on a party though, if our debt were paid off.

    • Travis says:

      I know exactly what you mean, Laurie (see above comment about bowling party for 28). The thing that is flooring me the most right now, is how “inline” that kind of cost for a birthday party seems to be. I was honestly worried about publishing this post because I was sure that it was an insane amount to pay for a party….but it seems that many people do it. I want my kids to stay small forever (like most parents), but forking out this kind of money for bday parties is something I could totally do without. Somebody is making A LOT of money off of birthdays..LOL.

  9. Karie says:

    You did well! We had chicken nuggets and cake at our house and my husband drove our son and 5 friends to play paintball. I think it ended up costing about $450. That was my ultimate top and I didn’t realize how all the costs would add up. Party places make a killing around her. I was looking at a spa party but it was $300. I think I could let the kids hang out here and then take them all for a kids’ manicure for half the price or better!

    • Travis says:

      A thought occurred to me while reading your comment, Karie….I wonder how many people who have expensive parties also give a present to their kids vs the expensive party actually being the present as well. For example, was the paintball considered your son’s present, or did he receive a present in addition?

  10. Cassi says:

    I’m pretty sure my mother spent roughly $5 on my 18th birthday party. The only birthday party I have had since I was 4, was my 16th birthday party. It was at an ice skating rink, and was really bad (One girl fell, started crying, and everyone went home.)

    • Travis says:

      Oh no, your ice skating party doesn’t sound like it turned out very well at all, Cassi! One thing I’ve learned through being married is that different families put a different amount of emphasis on birthdays. My wife’s family makes a HUGE deal about birthdays whereas my family….not so much. Sounds like your mom fell more into the “not so much” category. :)

  11. Dr. Sheba says:

    Last time we had a party was when the twins turned 7 and my son turned 4. The parties were at least $300 each. Since then, we haven’t had any, but I plan on doing something this year since the twins will be 10. I’m looking for cheaper ideas that will coincide with my plan to become debt free. I was thinking a theme park in a nearby city, but the price won’t be that much different. I would also have to factor in food. Maybe they can go skating with a few of their friends. Either way, it all seem to add up in the end…especially when there are gift bags involved.

    • Travis says:

      I’m happy to hear that you’re looking for alternatives that will be in line with your financial goals, Dr. Sheba – stick to your guns, and keep looking for that perfect idea. Please come back and let us know what you decide on!

  12. When my sons were under ten years old I put a note in the invitation asking parents to limit the amount they spend on a gift to $5.00 and each child was given a small bag of candy as a goody bag. Parents were creative with the gifts and most stuck to the budget. We had sports parties at home and the boys could invite as many kids as they wanted. No one needs 15 gifts and they are a waste of the parent’s money and would just clutter up our house. Frozen pizzas and home made desserts were a big cost saver.

    After age 10 I had a strict no gift policy and I did not provide a goodie bag but everyone had a great time. Special occasions should not be a gift grab but should be about spending time with family and friends.

    • Travis says:

      Great perspective, Jane – special occasions should definitely not be about the gifts, unfortunately we’ve been conditioned since birth otherwise. Frozen pizza, home made cake, and small prizes for playing games was how I kept her 8th birthday so inexpensive. I’m sure there’s a way to do it for older kids too, more imagination is just required. Thanks for stopping by!

  13. It seems like a lot of money for a birthday gift but if you can afford it, then it is worth it as those days are the ones they will remember for a long time.

    • Travis says:

      Having the cost fit within the budget certainly is key….but it’s always good to look at the cost of things, identify mistakes, and learn for the next time. In this case we could have had the same amount of fun and made the same memories, but reduced the cost by making some very minor changes. In fact, I think that by having the food at the nearby pizza place, we would have had better food, paid less, and had the same memorable experience.

      Live and learn – thanks for reading, Alan!

  14. Annie says:

    Hey Travis! I’ve done home parties for our twins for the last six years… this year they don’t want the awesome pirate party at home with my homemade cake and hand made scavenger hunt! (I know, right?? They were the best parties!!) We did Alex’s party last year at WildTree Ceramics, had 8 kids for $150 with each getting their own piece to paint. I let her pick out a cake–she chose Cold Stone, so paid about $40 for the ice cream cake, but hey, it was so good. So about $200 for the party. Honestly, I’m with you on the gift bags. I didn’t do any for this party, since they got to take home the piece they painted. I think it’s ridiculous that we have to give out gift bags. This year with the twins, they want to do Chuck E Cheese, I’m thinking HELP ME, no! They are pretty reasonable though–and we are all about the games in our house. :) Pizza isn’t even that bad when we were there last week for a party. Personally, I prefer my pirate parties… ARG!!

    • Travis says:

      Horray! Another parent that’s with me on the gift bags….I say we start a movement to BAN them from birthday parties. :) Tori and Tristan used to LOVE Chuck E Cheese, and I’m sure that if it had opened in our city when they were younger we would have ended up having a party there too. But seriously….knowing your creativity, Annie, I’d prefer your pirate parties too! Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

  15. Serena @ Get Your Life Straight says:

    Ha! I went to a bday party once when her son was turning 4, at one of those jump bounce places, and I happened to see the signed bill lying on the counter and couldn’t help being nosy. It said $500!!! I couldn’t believe it. I have a 6, 3, and 17 month old, and I have never paid that much! Maybe $150 for food and supplies for a house party, but that’s my max!

    • Travis says:

      I can see how it could end up at $500, Serena – and that’s completely crazy! If we had done the Tween Night, we would have been out another $110. Add in some other extras and we’d be pushing between $400 and $500. YIKES – it’s just too easy to say “Yes” to everything because we want to give our kids the best b-day ever. But man….that sticker shock of the bill HURTS! T

  16. Jerri Lyn says:

    I have such strong ideas about birthday parties!

    1) I don’t believe in a big party every year. So I have a schedule. The kids get parties at 5, 10 (entry to double digits), 13 (teenager!), 16, 18 and 21. All other years my sons get to pick ONE person to have a sleepover.

    2) I’m pretty sure I loathe goodie bags more than you do. I refuse to give them out. My youngest son’s 5th party was last year and my ex’s fiancee did them for me. I think they’re ridiculous!

    I live in a small apartment, so in-house parties aren’t an option. We went to the Little Gym and ended up spending about $125 for 10 kids, which included pizza and cake! (Ben and Jerry’s cake, too! At a discount because they have a partnership set up with the gym. Win-win-win!) Best part? I didn’t have to clean up!

    Most people around here have a party at a place: Chuck E Cheese, Bounce House, Little Gym, etc. And if they have them at home there’s usually magicians, puppet show, bounce house. All of it is too much money!

    That being said, I expect to spend between $4000-$5000 on my son’s 9th birthday because we’re going to Disney World! (His “magic” birthday is when he turns 9 on the 9th, so he gets to spend his Magic Birthday at the Magic Kingdom!)

    • Travis says:

      Your loathing of goodie bags made me laugh, Jerri Lyn! $125 for 10 kids for a party including activity, pizza, and cake is outstanding! I’d take that option any day! I think it’s awesome that you’re taking your son to Disney World for this golden birthday – I’m sure that will be a b-day he will never forget – thanks for sharing Jerri Lyn!

  17. Dayna says:

    I have four kids ranging in age from 6-14. They have “friend” birthdays every other year, and while I still try to watch the cost, I usually try to let them pick what they want to do. My budget is usually around $200. I’m fortunate because my daughter loves to bake and decorate cakes, so she’s been handling that detail. The location of the party and type of activity determine whether we have goodie bags. If the kids are cashing in tickets for candy and other little toys, it seems crazy to give them a little bag of the same stuff. After the age of 13, we let them invite a friend or two for a sleepover, go to a movie or some other activity, but it’s not an actual “birthday party.”

    • Travis says:

      I’ve had several commenters say they don’t have “friend” b-day parties every year….huh, I had never thought of that. I’m afraid it’s too late for me as I’m not sure how many more official bday parties my daughter will have, and my son is already in that age range – as you had mentioned – where it’s more of a hangout and do something special with a friend than it is an organized event. Thanks for stopping by Dayna!

  18. We spent about $200 for our son’s 1st birthday, but significantly less afterwards. If its in the budget- Go for it!

    • Travis says:

      Being within budget is one thing, Brent, but I think it’s still worth looking at ensuring we’re getting good value for what we’re spending. I’d rather save a little bit on the party and give my daughter a bigger present. :) Nice to hear from you Brent!

  19. Moni says:

    I’m a little late to this posting but my daughter who recently turned 16 had a party a week ago. That’s a whole different scenario folks!!!! I’d been told some horror stories but am happy to report there were no thefts, vandalism or “tragic” behaviour. Fortunately most of her friends are sporty kids and half had had sports events on the Saturday and the other half had games scheduled for Sunday morning, so they paced themselves and shut down by 1am without any prompting on my behalf. I’m still thanking my lucky stars on that one.

    OK. Parents were invited to wine and nibbles in our smaller lounge area at drop off, some stayed for a while, some didn’t. I am not good at catering and panicked a bit and over bought the options. I spent about $90 on food for the adults plus 5 bottles of wine (an average of $10-ish each, some were on special – I wanted a bit of a selection for preferences – and my hubby had beers available and a few stronger options but those could be considered ‘stock’ items. I ended up using about $40 of the food – and that included some packets of crackers which we realised we already had in the pantry – and only three bottles of wine were used or partially used. Have been able to freeze the other food so it hasn’t been wasted entirely, but I’m still a bit bummed. I knew at the time I was panic buying, as I said, I’m not a natural at catering or menu planning. Am going to ask a friend who is a Chef to run thru some ideas with me and give me some guidelines for working out quantities etc.

    There were some RTD’s for my daughter but I notice she only had two.

    Food for the partying teens. The master plan was to order 10 pizza’s from Pizza Hut’s classic menu at $4.95 each. Because it was torrential rain I opted for delivery and the price of a classic pizza goes up to $7.90 each straight away. A number of kids came requested specific pizza’s which came from the darer menu/options – I’m not sure how they knew I was ordering but food always gets the attention of teenagers. So amongst our order were some $10+ pizzas. Plus there was the delivery fee. Given the weather conditions, I’d say the guy earnt it. So what I’d allowed $50-ish for pizza turned into just under $100 but given there were 30+ teens it wasn’t too bad. We ended up with too much pizza, at least 3 left over but they got eaten over the next couple of days.

    One parent brought along a tray of sausage rolls which were a hit. We’d bought about six packets of potato chips, 3 of which didn’t get used. We bought bottles of coke and sprite and orange juice as alternatives – I think we bought about 10 bottles and had 3 left over.

    • Travis says:

      Thanks for sharing such detailed information, Moni….it was very generous of you to provide wine and finger foods for adults too. Leftovers are always a problem, we ended up with a left over pizza as well. So where was the party located? Did you have 30+ teens at your house? (WOW)? What was the grand total of what you spent? Hope your daughter had a GREAT birthday!

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