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$500 for a Birthday Party? Guess Again, Kids

Let's share some tips on cutting costs and still having fun

June has arrived, and that means planning a party for my oldest child whose 10th anniversary of birth takes place this month. There is no shortage of budget-busting options to please a group of energy-filled pre-teen boys, but I’m hoping to put together something equally entertaining for less cash.

I hadn’t anticipated having to hunt for budget-friendly birthday fun, but a case of sticker shock prompted me to get moving on this. My son asked to have his birthday party this month at Cinemark Strongsville at Westfield SouthPark mall. He wants to take a few friends to see the upcoming Disney flick Cars 2.

Through the Cinemark website I learned the theater’s birthday party package requires a minimum of 20 guests and costs $385. This includes use of a party room, private use of a theater prior to regular show hours and a few snacks. Cake is the only outside item allowed. To my son’s dismay, I declined to spend nearly $500 on his party.

A look at other appealing local activities yielded some costly packages.  Even the less-expensive packages end up about as much as the pricey parties once food, cake, goody bags and extra game tokens are factored in.

The Jump Yard in North Royalton will cost $250 for 15 kids on a weekend. Included in that package is pizza, pop and that alluring inflatable throne that the birthday child perches himself or herself upon for the shower of gifts.

Swings-N-Things, a family fun center in Olmsted Falls, offers a few different options for about $17 per person, though none of the packages include use of the Go-Karts, Bumper Boats and batting cages.  A minimum of 10 children is required, and packages offer a meager 10 game room tokens per child. My sons probably could use up 10 tokens in five minutes.

Not quite as eye-popping as the Cinemark package were the Strongsville Recreation Center’s birthday party options. These are the packages I have heard the most complaints from other parents about being overpriced. Use of an activity room (capacity 16 people) for two hours is $70 for members and $100 for non members. This includes nothing other than use of the tables, chairs, sink and trash cans. Other packages offering food items and use of the pool and gyms cost $200-$300.

Are budget-conscious parents relegated to hosting parties in their homes or risking the weather at a public park? I don’t think so, but it might take some careful planning to craft an enjoyable party that won’t break the bank.

I once tried to avoid the expensive package by inviting several children for a couple hours at the now-closed Bounce City followed by cake and a piñata at my home. We arrived at Bounce City to find the facility was closed for the day, so I was forced to immediately pull together a three-hour gig at my house. It worked out fine, but I wouldn’t want to do it again.

I am confident other parents have some fantastic ideas for economical parties. Let’s share these tips. Do you have a success story to share? 

Janice Krusoczky June 09, 2011 at 12:58 AM
If you have a mini-van, drive your child & 5 friends to bowling or putt-putt or a movie theatre (marines). Start the party at your home with a cheese pizza, make a boxed cake& decorate it with plastic cars, army guys, dinosaurs or whatever. Serve vanilla ice cream with it after singing and blowing out candles. Pile in the van and head out. Use a coupon if you can. Go back to your house for an hour or less of play time before parents pick them up. Kids like doing something fun together. Don't waste money on a florid bag filled with junk. Whenever my own kids brought those home, the stuff ended up in the trash within a week. Put the money into the activity.
Janice Krusoczky June 09, 2011 at 01:00 AM
Typo- meant" matinee"
Stephen diLauro June 14, 2011 at 02:59 PM
Try the new Strongsville-based Party for a Living. We send costumed characters such as princesses, superheroes and cartoon characters to your birthday party. See our photos and contact info under Services.

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