Frugally Green Birthday Ideas

Birthday Ballons

With Kaelyn’s 3rd birthday last week, and attending her friend’s 3rd birthday party over the weekend, I’ve had frugally green birthdays on my mind.  Trying to think of ways to make birthday parties frugal, green, and still fun.

It seems that birthday parties can be a big source of waste – whether disposable paper products used for food, cake, and drinks, wrapping paper that’s used once and then thrown away, or cheap plastic trinkets given as party favors.  Fortunately, there are many ways that you can reduce the amount of waste that your birthday celebration creates.

Ideas for throwing a green and frugal birthday party

These are just simple tips, because so far, I haven’t thrown a big birthday party for my kids.  And because we just believe in simple birthdays.

Use real plates, cups, silverware and cloth napkins.

At my friend Jenica’s daughter’s birthday party we went to last weekend, we had a nice lunch that was served off of dinner plates, drank yummy hot cider out of real mugs, used cloth napkins, and the little girls even drank punch out of super cute glass tea cups (and none of them spilled or broke their cups!)

If you are having a bigger party with more people than you have real plates, consider investing in some inexpensive plastic plates that you can wash and reuse. You will probably have another party again sometime that you can use the plates for, making it worth it to spend a little extra for reusable over disposable products.

Birthday Gift Bag

Wrap presents with fabric bags, newspaper or other recycled paper.

Just like for Christmas, we can reduce the amount of wrapping paper that we buy to use just one time and then throw in the trash, by getting creative with wrapping gifts.  This year my daughter had two gifts wrapped in the comics, which she did enjoy ripping open, and two gifts wrapped in fabric gift bags, which she enjoyed opening just as much.

Investing in a few reusable gift bags will pay off in the long run when you no longer have to spend money on gift wrap that just gets trashed anyway. Or save your comics from the newpaper for several weeks before the birthday, or find other types of paper to wrap with, like old calendars, gift wrap that you saved and can reuse, or brown paper bags cut open and turned inside out.

Give usable favors, make a craft, or make a donation.

Instead of goody bags full of cheap plastic trinkets (which as parents most of us probably would rather our child not bring home to clutter our house, right?), give a favor that is actually usable, like the handmade hair clips my daughter received at two different parties, or flower seeds or bulbs (great for a fall birthday), or just a craft that the kids can do at the party and then take home.

Get creative and think outside the box for a favor that is a little more meaningful, or in place of favors tell your guests that you’ve made a donation to the local homeless shelter (this is a great idea to use in place of wedding favors too!)

Birthday Presents

Simplify the gift giving.

If you’re having a party with friends for your child, consider a no-gift policy. I know this can be a little controversial, but I believe that kids can have a great time playing and celebrating together without opening gifts.  And, it saves you from having an overflow of toys, that you might not really want (and really don’t need), come into your home.

Set a limit on the number of gifts a child received from the family.  This year we decided to use the phrase: “Something you want, something you need, something to wear and something to read”, to define our gift giving. So Kaelyn received 4 gifts from us, and that was it. (She did also receive gifts from extended family).

Following that phrase really made picking out and purchasing gifts easy and simple. I love that I wasn’t stressed about getting her all the right gifts.  We had our limits, we bought simple gifts that fit those definitions, and we were done.  And she was more than excited about her presents, and happy with the gifts she received.

Consider buying used gifts. I found 2 of Kaelyn’s 4 gifts second hand, and they were still great quality and she didn’t even know the difference. Buying items second hand is a great way to save money, and save earthly resources at the same time!

Birthdays are a special day to celebrate a child’s (or adult’s) life.  But there are lots of ways we can make a birthday boy or girl feel special and loved, while still maintaining our value of being a good steward of all the resources God has provided for us.

I’d love to hear your ideas for how you throw green and frugal birthday celebrations!


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Linked to: Frugal Friday at Life as Mom


  1. says

    I love the idea of “Something you want, something you need, something to wear and something to read!” What a great way to focus gift giving!

  2. says

    I like your rhyme, too!

    One way to be frugal and green is to serve homemade food. The last time we bought pizza for a party, we were astounded at the expense, and then there were all those greasy boxes that weren’t recyclable and didn’t fit in the trash can! Cakes from a bakery are pricey and packaged and usually not that tasty or healthy anyway. So we make a homemade cake and as much homemade food as possible–sometimes this means scheduling the party for snack rather than mealtime if we don’t have the time to make a full meal.

    • Emily says

      Thanks ‘Becca!
      Yes homemade food is a great way to have a green and frugal party, although it definitely does require extra time. But, the better tasting food and cake, and the money saved, is usually worth the effort!

  3. Lori says

    I just had my little guy’s first birthday. I tried the “no gifts” thing. I wrote “gifts are not expected” on the invitations but he had sooo many gifts it was crazy. Next year I think I’ll do a “stock my bookshelf” party so he will only get books. My family is going to get him something and it may as well be something I would like him to have :) I also made soup and bread which is super frugal and easy and I made a pinnaple carrot cake. It was delicious and cheap and everyone didn’t feel like a blimp after the party :) I used real bowls, cake plates and silverware (I have a bunch of cheap silverware set aside for parties and a large dish set from Goodwill) and just filled the dishwasher and my mom helped me wash what wouldn’t fit. It took maybe a half hour to clean up the whole huge party.
    I also read about a “sandbox” party were the guests are asked to bring some sand to fill the sandbox instead of gifts. Then the kids get to play in the new sandbox as the activity. If I every have a child with a summer birthday I’ll definitely do that. So cute.

  4. says

    I have been looking for some personalised party banners for my sons bachelor party. Can any one let me know a good site where I can get personalised banners? Any help would be great. Thanks Richard


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