Penny Pinching, Party Planning

I usually start planning my kids' spring birthday parties right after New Year; I love planning kids' parties. However, this year, I have been slightly preoccupied with my health concerns and not focused as much attention on the details of each girl's party. And believe me, each girl definitely has a million and one ideas about their party!

We narrowed down each of their parties to a single theme, instead of the multi-themed endless party that went something like this: mini-golf/mall scavenger hunt/gymnastics/pizza/sleepover party. Yeah, sure. Once we've got the theme down, I don't let them change it, because then I start buying stuff!

My general rule is to try to get as much of the party decor and supplies on sale or with a discount, but that isn't always possible. However, we really lucked out last month with Thalia's party theme! She literally made her final decision about what kind of party she wanted to have while we were driving in the car on the way to Michael's for science project supplies. Fifteen minutes later, we found an entire bin of 50% off party supplies with her exact theme! What luck! Even she was excited. We scored some party plates, napkins, cake candles, stickers and coordinating thank you notes. I'm not allowed to divulge the theme yet, but everything matched perfectly. And did I mention that the the party stuff was originally $1 each? I spent very little money. Hooray for Michael's!

I hurried into HEB the other day for juice and ended up walking down the party aisle on my way to the checkout. Here, the party decorations for Carys's chosen party theme were also on sale! They were about 25% off, not as good as Thalia's find, but since I was already there, I went ahead and stocked up on plates, napkins, party game and treat bags. All matchy-matchy, just how she likes it. We didn't get everything we needed for each party, but this is where I'll fill in with more stuff from places like the dollar store that will coordinate nicely.

Each year I set a ridiculously low price goal for certain things like party favors. This forces us to be creative and not just buy expensive plastic junk to fill a party bag. For example, we've burned CDs with music that matches the party theme, such as Big Top Circus, Kiddie Western, Disney Princess (several times over), Candy Classics, Storytime, etc. A really easy party favor for literally pennies! And we've gotten so many rave reviews about the 'party mix' I do for each theme that some friends have even requested extra copies.

Party Mix CDs for pennies each

We've also trawled the $1 aisles at Target and Michael's when they go on sale. Last year for Thalia's 'Hollywood' party, we picked up High School Musical notebook diaries and pen necklaces for 50 and 25 cents each respectively. And they were actually useful too! For her Western Roundup party, I found mini board book sets in the $1 aisle marked down to 80 cents each. Books are always a welcome treat.

The guests made one of their party favors at Carys's 'Little Mermaid Under the Sea' party last year. I bought extra large popsicle sticks, something like 300 of them for $4, and made them into frames (hello, glue gun!) for the guests to decorate with sea-themed stickers and take home. A great party activity and soooo inexpensive!

50 cookie cutters, only 11 cents apiece

Coupons also come in really handy when party planning. I bought a set of 50 animal-shaped cookie cutters for Carys's 'Little Mermaid' party for only $5.40 using a Michael's coupon. We picked out all the sea animals and gave them as favors along with mini Play-Dohs, bought post-Valentine's Day for 50% off. The deals never end!

Since I've been 'resting' for the past two weeks and doing much online shopping, I've ordered several party activities and favors that were deeply discounted and free shipping. We haven't nailed down all the party details yet, but at least we've got some smashing decorations and favors ready to go!

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