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.
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!)
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!