Challenge #1: 4yo BDay Party

Having kids is tough. AND expensive. Sometimes you just don’t have the monetary ends to throw the wild and crazy party that your kids want. That’s the position that we’re going to deal with today: A cheap kids’ birthday that doesn’t feel like a cheap kids’ birthday.

What are We Starting with?


Our first Challenge is from a single mom who has 3 kids, all small. She describes her budget as zero since she has a part-time job. She doesn’t want to ‘punish her kid’ by not having any type of party because she can’t afford to have a party like usual.

Step 1: The Budget & Guests

The first thing we needed to do was to determine the budget of the party, since clearly it’s not literally $0.00. She says she has $150 to spend that her sis-in-laws were helping with. She also advised there would be about 8 kids and 12 adults including her own family. “Plenty!” I told her. Our next step was to look at venues.

Step 2: The Venue

The budget is $150. There was one major consideration: It had to be a local place. She couldn’t have it at her home and she doesn’t have a car.


Obvious option: The Park. The local city parks near her home are lovely. Lots of grass to play. Lots of parking. There was one trick though: No reservations allowed. That means she would have to get there when the park opened to sit at the tables she wanted to make sure no one else got there first. She’s a single mom. That makes things a bit problematic. Not over the top though so we’ll keep that option in our fold.

The local McDonald’s has a party room that can be used but there is a deposit required and there is no cake allowed to be brought in; you have to get it from them. And you can only be in the space for 2 hours.

We looked at a local indoor playground for little kids and OMG considering the shape the venue was in, the cost of having a party there, I thought, was a little outrageous. We declined.

We looked at the bowling alley for possible bowling party. The cost was reasonable but outside of her budget. If she would cut the guest list to 5 kids and 5 adults, she would’ve been okay, but it wasn’t possible. Her little family alone has 1 adult and 3 kids.

One last option we looked at was Chuck E Cheese’s. For those of you not familiar, Chuck E Cheese’s (CEC’s) is a staple in kid entertainment. It’s an arcade, an animatronic show, prizes, and pizza. They also serve beer, have Wi-Fi, and more food options than just pizza. They book their parties out in 2-hour blocks and depending on how many kids, can cost in the ballpark of $500+. Seems like we struck out.

Not quite. CEC’s doesn’t have a policy stating that if you’re going to have a party there, you have to have a reservation. In addition, they do have a policy that allows you to bring in your own cake and decorations for use at the regular tables, not just in the party area.

There is some give and take though. You don’t get to spin in the ticket chamber deal. Chucky doesn’t come out and dance with you when you sing happy birthday. And you have to cut your own cake. But I think that’s a small price to pay. The pros definitely outweigh the cons for this particular instance. It’s decided: Party at Chuck E Cheese’s.

We got the Where, Now What?

Her daugher wants to have a Moana birthday party. We went on Amazon and found some great decorations that are perfect for the areas at CEC’s. They are easily carried on the bus and are light. It was $18 for the first set (included invites, 1 table cloth, 1 banner, 8 cups, 8 plates, 4 popcorn cups, and 8 goodie bags – all Moana).

Other things we got at Amazon was a pack of 8 Moana goodie bag stuffers ($15) and an additional bag of candy ($5) to finish off the goodie bags.

Mom, I’m Hungry

Having $110 left of our budget, we had to think about food for 20 people. Large cheese pizzas are $13, with toppings costing a whopping $2 for each one (if you opt for specialty pizzas, those are $17 each). They also cut the pizzas in a strange, ultra-thin slices- leaving you feeling hungry and guilty at the same time, after eating 3 slices. You figure 4-6 people per large pizza.

Adult size drinks are $2 and the kids drinks are $1.80 (not a huge savings between the two), but they’re refillable. Wine is available by the glass or by the pitcher (at the one we looked at anyways). In the case of my client, she’s having a dry party. If her guests want a beer, they can get it themselves.

So, for the total guest count, you’re looking at 4 large pizzas ($52), and 20 cups ($40) for a total of $72. That’s of course not including the coupon I found for $2 off large pizza. As long as we don’t use it on the same order (meaning, she just has to order the pizzas on separate checks), then we’ll get an additional $8 off, bringing our total from $72 to $64. That’s right.

Also, one of the guests is bringing a cake from Costco for $22.

What else do you really need?

We started with a budget of $150. $38 for decor, $64 for food, $22 for the cake. There’s $26 left. What to do?

Well, I go back to my coupon page at CEC’s and figure it out: There’s a coupon for 100 points for $20. Oh yes. One of the nice things about CEC’s (as opposed to a place like Dave and Buster’s) is that the games are CHEAP. One token for every game. They have now moved onto the electronic cards to store the tokens (no more getting tokens stolen from little kids). So, we get the coupon for the points to give to the kids to play. And of course their parents can supply additional points if and when they want. Everyone gets to play. Everyone gets to eat. Everyone is entertained.

How Did it Turn Out, You Ask?

I got pictures and it seems to have been brilliant. In this case, Swingin’ Dolly helped plan it, but she actually took action. She got to CEC about 90 minutes before party time and was able to secure 3 tables that were a bit more secluded and ‘private.’ There ended up being 7 kids and 8 adults who came – so that cut down the budget even more and the extra cash went to getting the kids more credits on their game time.

There was no rush to clean up and get out. The guests even enjoyed wine and got to chat while the kids were playing. There was no need for party games or prizes because it’s Chuck E Cheese, it’s an arcade for crying out loud!

Here are some of the pictures of the party. Enjoy!

Bday Girl and Cousin
Here’s the birthday girl!

If you have any ideas for a challenge, let us know!

Maybe we will feature you in our article!

Thank You for Stopping By!

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— Our client was compansated with planner services for the purpose of this article. —

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