09 April 2014

Partying Big on a Little Budget (Plain Party Challenge)

Just a few days now until Scrag's 6th birthday "Just Plain Party" and do I look worried? Do you see me rushing around like a headless chook, spending weeks making and creating?
Hardly at all.

Why? Because it's a Just Plain Party, created to Scrag's very specific instructions and it's wonderfully simple, while at the same time colourful, festive and fun. And cheap. Stylish-but-cheap. Simple but beautiful. Easy but fun.

I have set myself the challenge of creating all my parties this year for under $100 each for everything including food sweets drinks decorating, the lot. So far, just a few days out I am sticking ruthlessly to my budget and I can see the finish line.

With a combination of re-using, upcycling, dollar-store shopping and a bit of ingenuity and creativity the party is promising to be a load of colourful fun. I even have a rain plan.

Here's how I'm putting on a great party for ten kids for under a hundred bucks...

Re-using, Re-cycling:

  • DRESS-UPS: I have gone through our mountainous pile of dressups and pulled out a bunch which we are happy to part with. When the guests arrive they will be able to choose a costume to wear and they will be able to keep it. This helps me clear space in our cupboards and sends each guest home with a cool new dress up outfit = win. (Cost=zip)
  • FACE-PAINTING: We are pulling out our collection of face-paints and upon arrival the guests will also have their faces painted by Miss Fab and her clever pal, Yaz (who rocked Scrag's Carnival Party with her awesome paintjobs). I love getting the big kids involved in running the party. The girls will also take photos of the guests dressed up which I will email to their mums afterwards. (Cost = zip)
  • LEMONADE STAND: Where would I be without my trusty Lemonade Stand? I built it last year (myself!) for the carnival party - it cost nothing because it was made out of ripped-up decking timber. You could easily build something very similar using pallets found free at the dump. (Cost = zip)
  • DECORATIONS FROM PREVIOUS PARTIES: I have a few bits of bunting and a ribbon chandelier that we will be re-using - the more bunting the better, I say. My clever friend Deb has also whipped me up a strand of gorgeous vintage sheet bunting for (in exchange for a book) which is a dream come true. (Cost = a book).
  • PRIZES: Scrag has requested Pass-the-Parcel and a treasure hunt. For the prizes we are making use of unused Happy Meal toys (cars, packs of game cards) as well as outgrown DVDs, leftover choccies from the goodie bags and a few other repurposed bits and pieces. More on the games later on. Cost=zip.
  • GAME PROPS: Scrag also wants to play musical "chairs" and have a sack race. I'm pulling out my felt toadstools (made for Miss Fab's fairy party six years ago) to use as the "chairs"; I'm using old pillowcases for the sack races. I did splash out on a $2 medal for a prize for that one. (Cost $2)


I have tried hard to juggle cuteness, colour and party-cool with Scrag's requests and the restricted budget. By shopping at the dollar store  and making use of every colourful dish and plate in my possession the eclectic style will scream "fun". Everything is paper (straws, cups, plates) so it is recyclable (good for the planet); I found the same style you usually see in boutique party stores but at a fraction of the price. (Most of it I found at "Look Sharp", a new dollar store which has a massive party range, really cheap; when I went in they also had 30% off everything - bonus!)

I am particularly proud of  my recycled painted tin cans in their wooden holder (found at Typo a while back for a bargain; I use it all the time). The cans have their labels peeled off, are washed and painted using left over testpots. The holder will display straws, spoons and napkins.


Of course a party of mine would not be complete without some printables. These ones are based on Scrag's hand-drawn party invitations, and are perfect for a non themed party for either a girl or boy. I printed them out black and white and then hand-coloured them with colour pencil (being so very budget conscious). If I were braver I might have let Scrag help me colour them. But I wasn't.
First we have "Thank you for coming" labels...

Next is the "fizzy pop" soda bottle labels, which turn .85c Homebrand lemonade into a work of art....

I plan to drop a couple of dots of colour into each bottle just before the party, for a bit of excitement without too many nasty chemicals....

These labels print out black and white on an A4 page; you can then colour them in yourself or get the kids to do it (if you're brave). Click to view them larger. Right-click to save to your computer. Print them out then colour them in, trim and use. Enjoy!

Game Ingenuity and Rain Plans
So all this was of course planned to be gorgeously outdoors under the trees, with bunting flapping gently in the breeze. The weather forecast has put a bit of a dampener on that and after a brief moment of panic (and disappointment) I've made a Rain Plan.

Some the of the games can easily be played indoors: Pass the Parcel, Musical Mats and even the Treasure Hunt. But Mr G is convinced that we can still do Scrag's favourite Hide'n'seek outside along with a few other energy-burning faves if we tell the parents to send their kids with gumboots and jackets.

We shall see. But in the meantime, at least I'm prepared and not freaking out (the weather is so unpredictable at this time of the year; hope for the best but plan for the worst).

[I used leftover Christmas wrapping paper for the layers and a collection of treats and repurposed gifts for the big prize]

Pass the Parcel can be a bit "meh" for those of us watching on, so I've added a couple of surprises in some of the layers along with the inevitable lollipop between each layer, just to shake things up a little. The kids who unwrap three random layers will find a note saying: "To get a lollipop you must...." Sing the National Anthem. Hop on one foot for ten seconds while patting your head. Stuff these six marshmallows in your mouth and say "fluffy bunnies" three times. Hehe.

Meanwhile my upcycled treasure hunt is a wonder of cleverness and ease (if I do say so myself). On the left you see twenty (mostly upcycled) prizes tied up with curling ribbon and tagged with a numbered ticket.
The tickets are left over from the carnival party last year and have a matching ticket which will be hidden either around the garden or the house, depending on the weather. I have added colour coded ribbon - pink for girls' prizes, blue for boys', green for gender neutral; no boys will end up with Barbie Mariposa, and the girls should avoid ending up with a bag of toy cars.

It can easily and quickly be set up either indoors or outdoors depending on how the weather turns out. Feeling so clever right now.

And there you have it. Three more sleeps until my first ever Just Plain Party. I think it's coming together nicely.

  • KEEP the things you make for one party to be reused at other parties. Keep the crafty leftovers from one party to the next. I collect all my leftover bits and bobs in file boxes - ribbons, string, tickets, feathers, fabric, you name it. You just never know when that stuff can be used again. Toadstool mats from the fairy party will come in handy again, as will the lemonade stand, the ribbon chandelier, the bunting. The tin cans you carefully collected and peeled labels off for Boy vs Wild, will be reused and/or repainted. Save yourself time and work by keeping what you've already made.
  • COLLECT/INVEST in things that can be used again and again. Like a face paint collection you add to bit by bit. Like our glass drinks dispenser, the mini glass drink bottles, whitewashed crates, mini blackboards, cake and cupcake stand... over time these generic items have accumulated until now we have enough cool stuff to whip up a stylish party at a moment's notice. They have all been used again and again.
  • PLAN AHEAD so you can shop on sale: If you know what the plan for your next party is well ahead of time, you can grab the bargains when you spot them. Adding a bag of sweets or cake decorating bits (when you see them on sale) to your groceries over time also helps absorb and spread the cost.
  • BE CLEVER. Instead of spending 10% of your budget on a bunch of helium balloons, buy a pack of long balloon sticks from for $2. Or make faux helium balloons like I did here. Don't buy branded soft drinks - get Home Brand and then add your own printed labels (use my freebies; I have loads of styles). Use what you have, borrow what you don't; enlist friends and even your kids to help run the party instead of parting with cash for entertainers and face painters.
  • REMEMBER that the most important thing is that the kids have fun - not that your party is fit for Donna Hay. Take the pressure off and simply enjoy celebrating your kid.

Party on, my friends!

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