In Which the Frugal Paragon Throws a Toddler Party

2014_01_23_firetruckBig Brother is turning three. Now, at this age his expectations are limited, and I could probably have just sent some cookies to his day care and he would have been happy with this. But he likes parties, and I wanted to do something nice for him and his little friends.

Throwing parties has never come naturally to me; in fact, I think Big Brother’s first birthday was the first time I tried it as an adult. The trouble for me is that I like “simple,” and it’s so hard to find the perfect sweet spot where “simple” is charming, not “cheap and boring.” And what if I think it’s charming, but my guests think it’s cheap? This dilemma plagues me every time I think about entertaining.

But I decided to go for it! Mr. FP suggested doing tour of the firehouse that is just a couple of blocks from our house. Oooh, now I had a THEME for the party and everything. The plan was to tour the firehouse together, then come back to our place for cake. Not cake and ice cream; not cake and games; not cake and presents, because we said no gifts. We’re talking about four kids between the ages of twenty months and just-turned-three. It’s not they’re going to be playing organized party games.

And it was a great success. Since it wasn’t an overwhelming, overdecorated, overplanned event, none of the toddlers got overstimulated and had a fit. The firefighters clearly enjoyed having some visitors on a quiet Sunday; they even pulled the ladder truck into the yard so the kids could see the ladder go up and down. The boys got to climb in and out of the engines and pretend to “drive” them.

And was cake “enough”? While my mother would maintain that a birthday party without ice cream is simply embarrassing, only half the kids even finished a whole slice of cake. No one went hungry and no one’s dinner was totally spoiled.

The total cost of the party was less than $20. We could have easily spent ten times as much and—here’s the important part—had less fun.

Total list of party purchases:

  • Construction paper to make a banner
  • Extra butter and powdered sugar for cake baking
  • Balloons
  • Candles for cake

Party purchases we avoided:

  • Decorative, disposable plates, napkins, and cups–so wasteful. We already own these things.
  • Invitations—Since I only invited two families, I just e-mailed the moms.
  • Party favors—Who needs ‘em? I sent each guest home with a balloon. And as an unexpected bonus, the firehouse gave every kid a little bag with fire safety coloring books and stickers and whatnot, so there were good bags after all.
  • Ice cream, potato chips, and other snacks. Like cake isn’t a good enough snack?
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About frugalparagon

I'm a part-time librarian and mom to two small boys. I blog about striving for the long-term goal of financial independence while running a tight ship at home.

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