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How to Throw Themed Parties on a Budget

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Themed parties are fun but can be a challenge to put together on a budget. Here are a few ways to save money and frustration and throw a themed party on a budget.

Themed parties are very popular, and while party stores and websites offer hundreds of choices of themes and thousands of products, the cost alone can be overwhelming.

princess party decorations on a pink decorated table

Add in the fact that the themed items you need may not currently be available, and party planning can quickly become a chore. Enter some do-it-yourself projects to make your own theme for less!

How to throw a Themed Party for Less

boy with pirate sword and eyepatch and a diy pirate paper hat

DIY Tableware

It might not seem that tableware would be an area where you could save money or have exactly what you want by “doing it yourself,” but it is. But if your child is really stuck on having a certain character appear on their plate, here’s one way to make it happen:

Buy plain colored paper plates or plates that have a border with blank space in the middle. Square ones are nice because they are the easiest to work with (as in the steps outlined below), but round ones work, too.

Often the best place to find this type of plate is at dollar stores, which makes them very economical.

DIY Theme Plates

  • Find a picture or an assortment of pictures that fit with the theme of the party. These can be pictures printed off the internet, cut out of magazines, or collected from personal photographs. Just be sure to size them to fit the plates.
  • Cut the clear contact paper to the shape of the pictures, making sure the contact paper is larger than the picture size so that there is an edge around the outside of the picture that will stick to the plate.
  • Stick a picture to each plate, being careful to seal the contact paper down really well against the plate.

Keep in mind that this will take a little time, so plan ahead and work on them during the days before the party.

For the cups and the napkins, plain colors that accent the plates make a festive table. If desired, stickers can be added as well. For instance, if the theme is horses, a horse sticker could be placed in the corner or the center of each napkin or one on each side of the paper cup.

collage of colorful dollar store paper plates, patriotic tableware and luau leis

Save with Budget Party Decorations

Banners are a fun way to decorate, but especially the personalized ones are not always budget-friendly. Instead of special-ordering, why not find a roll of paper and make your own.

Craft and hobby or teacher supply stores will often sell “butcher” paper by the yard. Buy a couple of yards and use colored markers or paint to write whatever you want on it. Or, type what you want it to say in extra large font on the computer, cut it out, and glue it on.

To make the banner fit the theme, glue on pictures or dollar-store paraphernalia.

For instance, if it’s a tropical-themed party, glue a border of plastic leis around the banner or some tropical silk flowers in the corners.

Decorate Easy Cakes to Match a Theme

Cakes for themed birthday parties on a budget can be a real challenge. The least expensive way is to make your own or enlist a friend who likes to bake to make one. You can also purchase a premade one at a grocery store, and find one that fits within your budget.

But once you have a cake, it has to be decorated. There are thousands of ways to do this, depending on what type of decorating needs to happen and your particular skill level.

You can easily purchase edible decorations on Etsy to match any theme you’d like, or try your hand at making your own.

For a super simple and economical cake decoration, start (again) with an appropriately themed picture.

Finding free printable cupcake toppers is fairly easy online, or you can create your own!

simple cupcake toppers made out of paper and dinosaur toys (3 images)
  • You can either tape a picture to a skewer and stick it up on top of the cake, or try laminating the picture on both sides with contact paper, and lay it on the top of the cake.
  • Add some candles and maybe pipe some frosting around the edge of the cake or even around the edge of the picture.
  • Or try creating a modern cake by lightly placing a cookie cutter in the middle of the top, and then fill the inside with colored sprinkles.

When you remove the cookie cutter, it will have a minimalist shape that goes with the party! Minimalist cakes are actually trending right now, so less is more!

Thinking outside the box is also helpful. You can use items found at the dollar store to decorate—such as small dinosaur toys or army figurines—print graphics to match a theme, or use items around the house to create a little scene around a cake for fun!

creative pirate party decor collage for an easy pirate party, including paper pirate ship and cupcakes

With some planning ahead, a festive-themed party is possible on a budget.

Why not start planning now to do your next party on a budget with some do-it-yourself projects?

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