Friday, January 20, 2012

Friday's Review: Professional v Homemade Birthday Party

I love throwing parties. I really, really do. And since I'm not working anymore, we are throwing parties on just Joe's paycheck now, which means I'm always looking for ways to have a great party at a decent price. I usually throw my kids' birthday parties, but the boys have had a few at a professional place. This year I decided to keep track of every expense for Abigail's birthday party to see if throwing one for her is worth every cent or if I should just let the professionals do it. If you were also wondering if it is worth it, I'll give you a run down of Abigail's party, how much it cost per person, and then compare to the average price of taking your kids to Chuck E Cheese, a painting place, or a bouncy place.

And just as a little side note, I know there are some who are in the opinion of not throwing kids a big party or a party with a lot of people. I was actually recently criticized for throwing my 3-year old such a big party. The way we Debneys look at it is everyone should feel special on his or her birthday party. Joe doesn't necessarily want a lot of people, I only want my closest friends, but the kids are all social kids who love having a lot of people. So if that is how they feel special, then we throw parties accordingly.


I have to plan the birthday parties for my family months in advance. We are all holiday/special event babies, so if I do want to go somewhere, we have to plan in enough advance to make sure we can get what we want. If you don't know what I mean about holiday/special event babies, this is what I mean:

  1. Abigail: January 19th, which is usually around MLK weekend 
  2. Joe: February 5th, almost every year it's right near the Super Bowl, which works for me because he LOVES football, so we just have a Super Bowl Birthday Party for him every year. 
  3. Jed: May 25th, TWO THINGS: this is usually Memorial Day weekend and near the last day of school. In fact, he was was born on the last day of school and his first year at school ends on his birthday this year. 
  4. J: June 17th. It's almost always Father's Day weekend. This year his birthday is actually on Father's Day. 
  5. Jana (ME!): November 17th. That is usually 1 week before Thanksgiving, right before Thanksgiving break, right around the Carolina/Clemson rival football game, and right before Black Friday. Tricky! 
So, obviously, I need to plan in advance. Every year right after Abigail's birthday, I start looking around the stores to see what they have on sale. Since her birthday is near New Year's, we decided last year that this year's party was going to be "Stars", especially since most of the plates, napkins, and decorations on sale have stars on them. Savings!!

About two months before the actual birthday, I start making a list of ideas of what to make for food and what kind of decorations. I look at what the stores have, brainstorm on a notepad, and search the internet (Thanks, Pinterest!!!) for ideas. 

One month before the party, I send out Evites. This saves us money big time. But I always ask for addresses for those who request a hard copy invitation. My grandfather always gets an actual birthday card. 

Two weeks before the party, I plan out what needs to be made and when the decorations need to be up. This year my husband had an election to conduct, so I knew that I wasn't going to be getting a lot of help from him. I needed to plan specific days that would be focused on making decorations, which foods could be made ahead and still be fresh, and what needed to be cleaned on which days. No point mopping until the night before, right? 

A big, BIG help this year was to decorate the night before. That way, the day of the party could be focused on last minute cooking, setting out food, and getting balloons blown up and placed properly. I also reserved the day of for final vacuuming, sweeping, mopping. 

Day of: we did the last minute cooking, cleaning, set up. It worked great, and I had time to sit before the party. Abigail's first party was in the evening. I was afraid of having a party for little ones in the evening, but it turns out great, in my opinion. Not only do I have the time to finish last minute stuff, but Abigail was able to get a nap, take a bath, and get dressed before everyone showed up. Also, the kids all get worn out at the party, so parents get to put their little ones to bed as soon as they leave. Nice for everyone and (my personal favorite) people don't have to rearrange an entire day around a kid's birthday party. 

Chicken Nuggets (got four bags of Walmart brand chicken nuggets) 
Banana Bites (Pinterest) 
Pretzel Bites (Pinterest or see my version here)
Veggie Plate 
Fruit Plate
Homemade marshmallows (Pinterest or see my version here
Chips and Salsa
Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Dip (Pinterest or here
Bowl of Twizzlers (thanks MOM for that Christmas present) 
Bowl of Caramel Corn (again, thanks Mom!) 
Juice boxes (for kids) 
Sweet Tea

See how pretty it looks? It actually was enough to feed everyone and  have a few leftovers! 


Stars are bright and shiny, so I wanted my daughter to have a house full of things that just shined! Since the party was in the evening, with all the lights on, this worked out great! I picked up a few streamers from the store, left out three stands of white Christmas lights, made a star (Pinterest!), and bought two boxes of cheap dollar tree aluminum foil. 

For the table, I had already invested in a few cheap plastic table coverings for other events, so I just placed one that would highlight the foil-wrapped serving dishes. Let me tell you, foil-wrapping it was as GREAT! It made for easy, easy clean up, and kept the chicken decently warmed almost all day since I made those early. 

I made these stars from toilet paper rolls I had been saving for a few weeks. Easy, easy, but they need to be made a day or two in advance to give time for drying. But they were cute!!! 

We hung a few stars around and lit some lights. It was all very pretty once it was done! 

Guest Gifts

I found a cute tutorial (on Pinterest) on homemade crayons. So I found a mold that was "star" shaped, made some crayons, printed a star worksheet, and got packets of star stickers, glow sticks, and star bouncy balls at the dollar section at Target. I replaced the bouncy ball and the glow stick for the little ones (crawlers and barely walkers) with a pack of Num Nums and a rubber duck (all found pretty cheap at Wal-mart). They turned out great! I also found a HUGE sheet of crispy treats at Big Lots for $5 each. Each sheet yeilded 20 stars I cut out, which was perfect for the older kids at the party. 

Here's the big comparison: 
So how much did all this cost per person? We had 70 people TOTAL (yes, 70, don't judge). The cost per person was a little over $4 per person. So, obviously, if you have only 20 people at the party, this would be a pretty decently priced party. 

I compared that with the local professional places that do everything for you. Let me tell you, those places are nice. You literally don't have to do anything. It is a LOT less stressful, and no one will care if your house is messy because NO ONE WILL BE THERE! After looking at those places' prices, they are averaging between $8-$12 per person, with generally a limit of 15 guests. And this is for the cheaper places. I found another one today I was thinking for Jed's birthday. Their average price per person was $22. Um, no thank you. 

So, you can have a nice party at your home for a decent price. OR you can let someone else do it for you for a little bit more. It's up to you to weigh the cost. I had fun. My daughter had a blast, and the guests all seemed to really enjoy themselves. 

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