Making a First Birthday Special - But on a Budget!

Your little one may not remember all the special details of his/her 1st birthday, but you will! And so will your guests. Memories may fade, but the pictures will last a lifetime, so you will want to make this event extra special. On a budget? No worries. You can add personal, homemade detail that will make this 1st birthday party an event to remember. Here are the 10 easiest ways to make a 1st birthday special while sticking to your budget.

Guest List

Baby Present Keep the guest list small to avoid going over budget in food, party favors, and supplies. It may tough to limit the friends and family you invite, because few things are more special than your child's 1st birthday. But remember, two parents are likely to come with each child. Once you add both sets of grandparents and aunts and uncles, the number can climb quickly! Try to limit the the number of toddler party guests to around 5 or 10.

Choosing a Theme

A theme is what drives most party decisions from food, to cake, to the decorations and party favors. Choose a theme that is both exciting and realistic for your budget. Keep it broad to avoid being backed into a corner. For example, if the theme is Cinderella, then guests might expect to see the princess on the cake. They'll also expect everything to be blue and some glass slippers to make an appearance. However, if your theme is Disney Princesses, you now have many colors, ideas, and decorations with which to work. Other popular themes include: Toyland (teddy bears, toy soldiers, and peppermint candies), a safari party (zebra napkins, giraffes on the birthday banner, and toy safari trucks), or a color themed party (pick a single color with which to decorate, or choose the whole rainbow!).


Venue cost is often the most expensive piece of hosting any event. Rather than dropping mountains of cash for a venue, host the event in your own home. If you have the space, host the party in your own backyard. String up those holiday lights you have stored away, and add a little outdoor light and decoration. If you're tight on space, you can also choose to hold the party in a public place like a town square, park, library, or city zoo. Ask around your community for kid-friendly public venues. Also, clean up will be a breeze!

Event Time

The time of your party will give guests a strong message about what to expect. A 12:00pm party will be expected to serve a light lunch, and a 7:00pm party will likely be expected to serve a full dinner. Skip the confusion and plan for a morning or late afternoon party (around 2:00pm). You can also mention what foods will be served on the invitation. For example, "Join us for a Pizza Party to celebrate Charlotte's 1st Birthday" or "light snacks and cake will be served."


Homemade invitations offer a one-of-a-kind touch. Save a copy for your child's scrapbook, or you can go green and use electronic and emailed invitations. Many sites offer free templates and theme appropriate options.


Custom cakes, regardless of size, can end up busting your budget. Tradition calls for the birthday boy or girl to have his/her own cake. Don't skip this detail because the pictures will be little treasures for years to come. Instead of a 6 inch round, however, give the little guy a little cake to match. A cupcake is not only a more accurate serving size, but it is also more affordable. Use the remaining cupcakes you baked to serve to the other children, or make a tiered cupcake display to serve as both a centerpiece and dessert display. Baking from scratch can be another way to cut costs. To save time, use a semi-homemade approach by using a boxed mix and homemade icing. Homemade icing has as little as 3 ingredients, and you can add a few drops of food coloring to perfectly fit any theme.


Homemade banners and re-purposed toys are a great way to save a little money when planning a your child's first birthday bash. You can peruse his/her toy collection and set out a few pieces for display (think Lego tower for a Lego party, or dolls and teddy bears for a Toyland theme). Also consider balloons of various colors and sizes. Skip the helium tank and simply tape blown up balloons over doorways and along backs of chairs for a festive, easy decoration. Most balloons are available at discount stores and grocers. If you are looking for an extra special balloon for the guest of honor, talk to your local florist or grocer. Specialty party shops can often charge too much for these items.

Serving Dishes

Disposable plates, cups, and napkins can really add up when purchasing to fit a particular theme. Instead, opt for a simple, white plate and decorative napkin, or vice versa. For the most cost effective option, use your own dishes. No one likes to clean dishes after a party, but these reusable plates and utensils not only help eliminate waste, but also keep more money in your pocket. This may be another incentive to be selective with your guest list!

The Food

Skip the caterer and make your own. As the chef, you can also make healthier recipes and adjust for allergies unlike many catering companies. It may be time consuming, but your wallet will thank you. Choose simple recipes, or ones that you can make ahead of time like grilled chicken kabobs, snack mixes in cupcake liners, or a veggie tray you can make the night before. You can also make things easier on yourself by limiting the food choices according to your theme. For example, make pizzas for the pizza party, or choose to only serve coffee and cake for a dessert party.


No one wants to miss those magic moments, but instead of hiring a professional, ask a friend or two to take photos of the big event. Even asking them to share their posts via Facebook or Instagram can be an easy way to make sure you capture the moment while not missing out on the present. Try to avoid asking family members because they will likely want to be just as involved as you.

What is the Verdict?

MoneySavingPigConsider these top 10 ways to plan a 1st birthday bash on a budget. With a little time and creativity, you can give your loved one a special, personable, and exciting party with a homemade touch. Do you think you will be putting some of the above into action?  We love feedback so please use the comment section below.

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