Somewhere in the past decade, children’s birthday parties have gotten completely out of hand. From top-notch entertainment to bouncy castles and strolling musicians, some parents have lost all sense of perspective when it comes to throwing a kid’s birthday party. If you prefer to fund your child’s 529 college savings plan, instead of buying clowns and cotton candy machines, the GradSave team has a few fun, inexpensive party ideas for your kid’s next birthday bash.

  1. Skip the paid venues. Repeat after me: “I will not rent a ballroom for my child’s sixth birthday.” There is no need to pay exorbitant fees for a venue. Hold the birthday party in your home. If it’s nice outside, save your carpet and your sanity by having the party in the backyard, or better yet, a nearby park. Leave the paid parties to the celebrities who can afford to rent out entire amusement parks for the afternoon.
  2. Take advantage of free labor. No one will remember the decorations after the party is over. Enlist your kids to blow up balloons, hang streamers, and make table decorations. What cannot be made can be bought at the Dollar Store, which has an impressive selection of party goods and enough favors to fill tons of goody bags.
  3. Go old school. Remember what you did at birthday parties? Do that. Provide plenty of games — such as pin the tail on the donkey or duck, duck, goose — to keep the kids busy. You can also try activities such as a water balloon toss (if it’s warm) or a three-legged race. Provide token items or homemade ribbons as prizes. There is no need to pay for entertainment. Kids are entertaining enough on their own.
  4. Forget the feast. Plan the birthday party at a time shortly after lunch. This frees you from the obligation to feed 20 hungry kids. Clearly state on the invitation that cake, ice cream, and beverages will be provided. Skipping the pizza, burgers, or tacos can save tons of money. If you’re brave, create memories that last a lifetime by making the cake on your own. Remember, Sponge Bob is just a square with legs. And calamity is always memorable.
  5. Give the gift of a college education. Your child is going to get plenty of toys for you to trip over when they’re left in the middle of the floor. Instead of buying more toy that will clutter up the house or clothes he/she will outgrow, make a contribution to their GradSave account. You can also encourage your family and friends to contribute by sharing your child’s GradSave profile. Your son or daughter may not appreciate it now, but he/she will really appreciate it when it comes time to head off to college.


Saving for college is far more important than making your child’s birthday party is the talk of the town. Resist the temptation to keep up with the Joneses and host a low-key affair filled with love, laughter and memories.