A tight budget doesn't have to mean a lame birthday celebration. Throw a fun birthday party with all the trimmings for less. Keep to casual themes, keep catering simple and don't leave everything until the last minute. The most important factors for a successful, cost-effective birthday celebration are careful planning and shopping around.
The obvious way to save money on a birthday is by throwing a BBQ or casual party at home. If your house is too small or you want to invite lots of guests, consider a picnic-style affair in a local park, weather permitting. Or find a mutual friend of the honoree with a larger home. Think about this as early as possible to avoid a last-minute panic.
If the honoree is the type of person who will appreciate decorations, don't omit them just because you are on a budget. You can pick up a wide variety of decorations from dollar stores. If you are unsure what the style the honoree likes, keep it simple. Pick a colour theme, for example blue and silver, and select balloons, ribbon and confetti in those colours.
Have a potluck to save money on food. Make sure guests know they are to bring a dish with them. Tell each guest whether she should bring nibbles, main, salad or dessert to be sure you have an even balance. This idea works really well for barbecues, too. As the host of the party, you will need to stock up on a few basics. Chicken wings are a cheap and popular party food, while you can save money on nibbles by making your own hummus, blending chick peas, salt, lemon juice, garlic and olive oil and pairing the dip with inexpensive pita bread. Ice cream and fruit will complement any dessert guests bring. Keep an eye out for discount vouchers and supermarket deals in the weeks leading up to the party to get the best deals on crisps, soft drinks or beer. You can make a cake cheaply from a mix and get creative with icing. Larger supermarkets sell all manner of cheap sprinkles and icing.
Give yourself plenty of time and shop around to find the best-value gifts. Where possible, sign up to voucher websites that send through different deals to your in-box every day. You can then purchase one as a gift. You can buy everything from beauty treatments to weekend trips to cooking lessons on these sites. If you print a voucher as a gift, it will list the original value, rather than how much you paid.
Make up a special birthday play list of the honoree's favourite tracks. You can do this on your iPod or laptop. If the honoree has a friend who is a DJ or musician, ask him to play free for a couple of hours as a special gift to his friend.