How to throw a kid's birthday party for $100

Photo Credit: Getty ImagesPhoto Credit: Getty ImagesI consider myself a birthday party veteran having thrown nine of these shindigs between my two sons. Here's the thing: I always end up overdoing it. Not like Tom and Katie droppin' $100K for Suri or parents up spend upwards of $10,000 in parties with $1,500 birthday cakes. (Read this, you'll laugh in that "oh my gaw" way). But I've ordered way to much food, invited too many people or and spent money on entertainment for kids that could have just as easily been a simple game of pin the tail on the donkey.

I'm a huge believer and supporter of birthday parties without pressure. It's easy to get carried away. It's a party! You want everyone to have fun! The kids must be entertained at all times! You can't run out of food! And don't forget the goody bags!

But as my youngest son approached his third birthday, I decided to get back to the simple birthday party. I was on a mission host a party that was easy to plan and execute...on a budget. I gave myself a $100 limit. Now, the goal was not to be cheap. It was to keep myself in check and stick with a plan while still dishing up delish food and good times.

It was a family-only party with 14 adults and six kids under the age of 7. And guess what? I came under budget with $6 to spare.

Here's how I managed to keep this birthday party to under $100:

  • I planned an afternoon party where we didn't have to offer lunch or dinner.
  • We had tons of snacky finger foods and salads for everyone to nosh on. We had pita chips and tortilla chips with store-bought salsa, fresh guacamole and hummus. I made three platters of tea sandwiches (cucumber/cream cheese on white, turkey/swiss on wheat and peanut butter and jelly on white for the kids. I bought three loaves of bread, a tub of cream cheese, a pound of turkey and half a pound of swiss chees). We also had a cherry tomato/fresh mozzarrela and basil salad (two pints of organic cherry tomatos and tub of mozzerrella balls and a fresh bunch of basil). I also had some family help with the cooking of two side dishes (macaroni salad and fruit/jello salad). One plate of leftovers, perfect for school lunches.
  • I made the birthday cake saving myself $30 from a store-bought cake. I baked one 13"x9" cake that I decorated using a store-bought icing pen to create train tracks. I placed two of my son's Thomas the Tank Engine trains on the tracks and it looked pretty cute until he managed to get his fingers in the icing. Five times. We served generous slices and still had leftovers.
  • We're still in the middle of heat spell in Silicon Valley, so beverages were flowing and were the most expensive items on the shopping list. We had kid's boxed drinks, Izze sparkling soda (because I am addicted), bottled water and a few adult-oriented drinks. Tons leftover but will use them.
  • We didn't hand out goody bags for the kids. I'm not sure how this trend started and while I so appreciate the gesture, I don't think it's necessary. Again, this is all me. If you dig goody bags, go on with your bad self. Some ideas for low-cost goody bags include a take-home cupcake (homemade), a little bag of homemade mini-cookies or a small, inexpensive book.

What's your typical birthday party spending limit? What's you're take on goody bags? Share your ideas for low-key, low pressure birthday party for kids.