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Toddler Party by the Numbers


We had a great time this weekend spending time with friends and celebrating our girls’ second birthday! Spoiler alert: the party definitely made us go over on our grocery budget this month. We tried to go cheap, but it still cost more than our normal weekly grocery budget would allow.

I’m going to give you the financial run-down of the party (all costs, etc.), but first let me show you our cake.

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Homemade strawberry cake with strawberry cream cheese icing. That was as good as it gets with my level of (in)experience. Funny story real quick…..I made the cake in three layers. I let them cool properly, but tried to assemble all at once (instead of one layer, then refrigerate to harden icing and “set”, then next layer, etc.). Once the icing was all on and the layers were assembled, I could immediately see there was going to be a problem. The cake was…leaning. A lot. Then one side completely blew out.

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I put it in the fridge to “harden up” the icing. After a couple hours, I kind of shoved the side of the cake back in and iced over the side so you couldn’t see the total disaster. I tried my hand at some lettering which also didn’t go great. But it was a fun process and made some funny memories to look back on.

Still tasted good…cupcakes

So without further adieu, here are the numbers of how much the party cost:



Crepe paper = $1

Balloons = $5

Total Cost = $6



Cups = $1

Plates = $2

Cutlery = .50

Napkins = $1

Total Cost = $4.50



Chicken Sausages = $12 (8 links, bought from meat counter at Sprouts, $3.50/lb.)

Turkey hot dogs = $2.50 (8 links, 1 pkg @ 2.50/pkg.)

All beef hot dogs = $5.00 (16 links, 2 pkgs @ 2.50/pkg.)

Bacon = $7.00 (bought from meat counter at Sprouts, $5.50/lb)

Total Meat Cost = $26.50


Jalapenos, tomatoes, cilantro, onion = $7

Mustard, Mayo = $3

Guacamole = $10

Cheese = $5

Total Toppings/Condiments Cost = $25


Chips and Salsa = $5

Pinto Beans = $5

Fruit (mangoes, pineapple, banana, blueberries, watermelon) = $15

Total Sides Cost = $25


Pantry items used for making and icing a cake + candles from store = $5

Tea = $1

Beer = $12

Hot dog buns = 9

Total “other” item costs = $27




Of course, some of these things we already had on hand (some of the fruit, tea bags for iced tea, some of the condiments), but I tried to estimate as best I could the total cost, even if I didn’t purchase the item this week. I like to err on the side of caution, so I would probably add a couple extra bucks and say the full cost of the party was probably about $120ish.

We never really made a budget for the party so I don’t know what I expected. On one hand, I feel like a hundred twenty bucks for a birthday party isn’t terrible. On the other hand, I look at the cost of food items and think I went overboard again. We had a LOT of extra food and I surely could have saved money by buying cheaper stuff (e.g., pre-packaged chicken sausages and bacon instead of the fresh butcher-counter stuff). For a “hot dog” party, it was pretty pricey (though, to be fair, I won’t eat the cheap Oscar Meyer hot dogs so I splurged with the more expensive, all beef and nitrate-free franks).

At least the food isn’t wasted – we can eat it this week to save on groceries. This will be necessary because the party put us over on our grocery budget for the month (we’re already out of money with over a week to go!), so I have to institute a no-spend week for the remainder of the month.

Financially speaking, it could have gone better but it also could have been worse. The total cost though (let’s say $120ish) made me think….should I have this as part of my monthly savings? Putting aside $10/month would hardly impact our budget, but it would certainly help save the budget for the one month a year with the girls’ birthday.

What do you do to budget for children’s birthdays? Do you save a little money monthly?

Do you have a set limit on what you spend on children’s birthdays? If so, what is it?


  • Reply mary m |

    I don’t think that’s unreasonable at all! I’m assuming you fed a fair amount of people for that amount, and still have leftovers! It’s more like $120 for a meal–that would only pay for maybe 6 people at a fairly nice restaurant. I’m betting there were way more than 6 people there 🙂 It always helps me to look at a per person cost rather than the whole total..

  • Reply M |

    I feel ya on being out of grocery money with a week left to go. I budget $400 a month and have spent $406.15. I’m trying so hard to make $400 work and it’s tough! Any dinner ideas to make it through the week?

    • Reply Ashley |

      I’m planning to do a bunch of freezer meals. Fortunately, I have a few things already frozen (lasagna, enchiladas), and I have several meat options also in the freezer. I like to try to do rollover meals because they save on time AND money. So I might do a full chicken (which I currently have in freezer) one night, then use the leftover chicken to make enchiladas (I do homemade tortillas) the next night. It’s still tough and can require some extra prep work, planning meals and such. But its definitely doable.

  • Reply Den |

    I think you did great! All were reasonable costs. I don’t remember if you have a line item in your budget for “gifts, parties” but that might be a good idea for next year.

    We save $100 a month for gifts – birthdays, Mothers Day, Fathers Day, graduation gifts, weddings, etc…..and a separate $100 a month for Christmas. With a large family we use it up easily, but it helps us stay within budget (who graduates this year? Who is getting married?) plus we buy gifts all year when they are on sale.

    Last point – if you plan your party menu a few months in advance you can start stocking up when ingredients go on sale…Great job!

  • Reply hannah |

    I think you did really well. I’m with you on healthier hot dogs!
    The only thing I’d suggest for next time is not offer as much selection to keep your food costs down. So why not cake + hot dogs + basic condiments + watermelon? That seems like pretty standard fare for a toddler b-day party. 🙂

    • Reply Ashley |

      Yeah, that definitely would have cut down on the expenses! I know I have a couple friends who don’t eat beef, so originally the plan was beef hot dogs + chicken sausage, but then at the last minute I added turkey dogs to the list. If I’d cut out the chicken sausage and cut down the fruit (to watermelon only) I would’ve easily saved at least $15 on food!

  • Reply OC Budget |

    I think it’s pretty darn good amount you were able to stick to for a party. All my friends have kids and their kids parties run at least $300 +. I remember one of them finally had a budget conscious party one year for a 6 year old by having it at home with a hired taco stand and them saying that this is the cheapest they have done a birthday party and just the taco stand rental/food service was $300.

    I wish i didn’t see that cake first thing in the morning…to me, it looks so delicious, lol.

  • Reply Kayla @ Shoeaholicnomore |

    I’m doing the 52 week money challenge, only I am spending a bit of it here and there as needed for family birthdays, father’s day, mother’s day etc. The money for the challenge is “extra” money that I earn from side gigs, etc. Also, I totally get being out of grocery money. I might have to bump up my grocery fund as I’ve run out a couple months in a row now 🙁

  • Reply Diana |

    Our birthday party budget is $50. My girls are almost 13 and 14 now. 14 yr old had 2 friends and I stay all night at a hotel. Got a nice suite for $139 from a manager friend. Laid around watching movies. Gave the 2 friend nice, cozy blankets as their goody.
    12 yr old loves One Republic. Last year took her and 2 friends to a concert. Got 4 tickets for $100. Awesome concert. This year spent $25 each for me and her and a friend to see the special showing of Fault in Our Stars. She loved the book and seeing the special showing was a great shared memory. Some years are cheaper than $50, some are slightly more. When my oldest was turning 4 she just wanted her friends to come over and play barbies with her. We found barbies on sale $2 each. Gave each kid a barbie and new outfit. Had them wear their pajamas and do a fake sleepover. Great, cheap fun. My mom decorates cakes and did a barbie cake for her.

  • Reply Tania |

    Trying my hardest not to laugh at the cake. If it makes you feel better, I’ve seen $800 wedding cakes cave in under the weight of the 6 layers, and I’ve seen some other wedding cakes MELT OFF and look very much like the leaned tower. I’ve also seen a groom’s cake (with a soccer ball), where the ball opened like an egg. Just cracked right down the middle and opened. It was a disaster. Delicious, chocolatey disaster. (Sorry, no experience with kids or kids party. Single childless person here!)

    • Reply Ashley |

      lol, thinking about the delicious chocolatey disaster is hilarious! And no worries about laughing at my cake. I got a good laugh from it, too! : )

So, what do you think ?