This post contains affiliate links, which are designed for this site to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to other websites.  For my full disclosure policy click here.

50+ ways to give your kid an awesome birthday on a budget. Mommy Standard Time
Birthday on a budget. 50+ low-cost ways to make your kid's day extra special. Mommy Standard Time
How to make awesome birthday memories with your kids when you're broke
How to give your kid an awesome birthday on a budget. Mommy Standard Time

Let’s face it. Birthdays can be EXPENSIVE! We all love to help our kids feel special on their birthdays, but that can be difficult when money is tight.

Or what about those years when you budget enough for a birthday party on the weekend, but your kiddo’s actual birthday is on a Tuesday? How can you celebrate twice without PAYING twice?

Luckily, there are TONS of ways to help your kids feel special on their birthdays…and you don’t have to spend ANY money! I’ve compiled a list with over 50 of my favorite ideas.

Most of the following ideas are completely free, but there are some ideas that have a minimal cost. You will also notice some Amazon links to products that are fairly inexpensive. They might cost slightly more than the dollar store, but you can have them in your mailbox in two days with Amazon Prime. We all know that I view time as money, so I’m always willing to part with a couple of extra bucks to save a trip to the store. I’ve included a few links in case you feel the same way, but all of these ideas can easily be replicated with things that you find at home or at the dollar store.


Start the day off with some fun birthday festivities!

  1. Drape streamers at his bedroom door.
  2. Do a “balloon drop” – Cover her bedroom doorway with saran wrap and then put balloons between the saran wrap and closed door. When she opens the door she will have a fun surprise!
  3. Wake him up with a fun birthday song. There are tons of fun ideas on Amazon Music. Here is one that we used.
  4. Have a pajama dance party with birthday music before getting ready for school.
  5. Let them sleep in.
  6. Make her favorite breakfast (or a special breakfast).
  7. Write a happy birthday message on the bathroom mirror.
  8. Draw a morning bubble bath.


If your kiddo has to go to school on his/her birthday, here are some ways to make it a special day (without shelling out thirty bucks on store-bought snacks for the whole class):

  1. Drive her to school (if she usually walks or rides the bus). Bonus points if you turn your rig into a Birthday Bus, decorate it with window paint, and pick up your kiddo’s friends on the way to school.
  2. Give him a button to wear that says It’s my birthday!”
  3. Deliver a dollar store balloon to the school, if permitted by school policy. (Believe me…as a teacher I have seen many birthday deliveries to the school. One simple balloon is just as exciting to kids as an expensive floral bouquet.)
  4. Make her a special lunch if she usually eats school lunch.
  5. If he takes a brown paper bag for lunch, decorate the bag with markers and stickers.
  6. Include a note in her lunch box. I recently saw that The Professor had carefully saved the simple little birthday note that I left in his lunchbox a couple of months ago. It really is the simple things that can mean the most.
  7. Add a special treat to his lunch box.
  8. Eat lunch with her at school
  9. If lunch falls at an inconvenient time, try to pop in for recess
  10. If birthday treats are unofficially “expected” at your child’s school (know what I mean??), opt for store-bought bakery cookies. They are less expensive than cupcakes and the teachers will be grateful for no frosting messes to clean up.


Spice up an otherwise-dull afternoon with some of these fun birthday ideas:

  1. Have the family make party hats to wear at dinner. One of my favorite bloggers has a tutorial that can make use of a piece of posterboard from the dollar tree and fabric scraps. Check it out here.
  2. Let the birthday boy/girl watch their favorite movie, with popcorn for an afternoon snack.
  3. Give him a “pass” on after-school chores. (Read this post about our family’s chore system.)
  4. Take her to her favorite park.
  5. Go on a birthday treasure hunt.
  6. Have the siblings make birthday cards.
  7. Watch old family videos from when the birthday girl/boy was a baby.
  8. Display one picture from each year of his life and have the family vote on their favorite.
  9. Look at her baby book or scrapbook.
  10. Decorate the house with balloons or a birthday banner (inexpensive at the dollar store)


It is always tempting to take your kiddo out to a special birthday dinner, but that can be difficult when money is tight. Here are some other ways to create a special birthday dinner (without breaking the bank):

  1. Use a decorative tablecloth from the dollar store (I am always amazed at how exciting a plastic tablecloth can be to kids.)
  2. Make a birthday “chair cover” out of a pillowcase (or even a dollar tree tablecloth). This can seriously be as simple as pinning a piece of paper or balloons to the pillowcase.
  3. Tape a “birthday girl/boy” sign to the back of the chair.
  4. Decorate a piece of paper as a birthday place mat (or find a printable, like these cute ones)
  5. Use a special plate like the one pictured above (if you don’t have a birthday plate, you can just decorate a plain Chinet plate with birthday messages)
  6. Cook his/her favorite meal
  7. Let the birthday boy/girl cook the meal (This would be a gift for one of my kids. For the other, it would be torture.)
  8. If he/she doesn’t have a favorite meal, you could make a meal with an out-of-the-ordinary theme. One of our family’s favorites is “finger food night.”
  9. Have a birthday picnic (if the weather doesn’t cooperate, you can have a picnic in the living room)
  10. Serve sparkling cider with dinner
  11. Have music playing in the background
  12. Go candle-lit!
  13. Center the dinner conversation on the birthday boy/girl. Talk about his/her favorite things about the past year and what they look forward to in the next year.
  14. Have him/her invite a friend over for dinner.
  15. When you’re on a tight budget, a cheap cake mix is usually the way to go. Due to my limited cake decorating skills, I’ve found that plopping a dollar tree figurine of their favorite cartoon in the center of a cake can be just as exciting as a fancy store-bought or homemade cake. (Read about one of my lazy cake secrets here) OR you can make a homemade cake more exciting by letting THEM decorate their cake.
paw patrol birthday cake
Check out this post for the lazy cake decorating secret that created this cake.


There are also many ways to make a birthday boy/girl feel special after dinner is through. Here are some ideas to end a birthday with a bang!

  1. Create a birthday time capsule to open next year.
  2. Family game night (let the birthday boy/girl choose the game)
  3. If there is a sport or activity that your kiddo loves, but normally does on their own…do it together as a family! (Like building with Legos)
  4. Read birthday-themed picture books together. (You don’t necessarily have to plan ahead and go to the library for this. You can sign up for a free trial of Kindle Unlimited and have instant access to tons of ebooks!)
  5. Have a “camp out” – either in the backyard or living room
  6. Let the birthday girl/boy stay up late (staying up after siblings go to bed is always super exciting)
  7. Have a photo shoot! You can make it fun with crazy costumes and props.
  8. Measure the birthday boy/girl. Believe it or not, my kids LOVE when I add a mark to the height chart. Their birthday is a great time to do this!
  9. Make a birthday video. Have each member of the family record a special message to the birthday boy/girl. Don’t forget to have the birthday boy/girl include a message about what they liked about being (previous age) and what they look forward to about being (new age)!
  10. Three words: Glow Stick Bath
  11. Trade beds! Let the birthday girl/boy rule the master suite for the night.

So there you have it! This list is not meant to be a checklist for how you should spend your child’s entire birthday.

That would be exhausting!

Instead, I hope that you can find a few new ideas to help your child feel special on his/her birthday, even if you can’t afford a huge birthday party or fancy gifts. We don’t have to empty our wallets in order to create happy memories for our kids.

I hope this list helps YOUR family savor some special moments together. What is your favorite way to help your kids feel special on their birthdays? Leave me a comment below!

Pin this post if you want to come back to it later! Or, better yet, {click here} to follow me on Pinterest to see many more time-saving and time-savoring ideas!