The Frugal/Green Life is One Big Party

by Katy on June 2, 2008 · 4 comments


A parenting challenge that is sure to rise its ugly head exactly once a year is this – How do you throw a kick-ass kid birthday party yet stick to your goals of frugality and green living? No one wants to have their child suffer as a result of their parents’ idealistic goals. But I’m here to tell you that you can have it all – a fun, cheap and environmentally responsible party to wow the pre-teen set.

I will use the example of my sons’ 10th birthday party from last week. We organized an “Arcade Action” party at the house, and not to sound too smug, but it was a huge success! The party was such a hit that even my finicky 12 year old wants a repeat of it for his next birthday.

We already own 2 TV sets and 2 video game systems, and I borrowed extras from family and friends. An air hockey table was freed from its basement exile, and my husband set up a goalie net in the driveway for kids to take lacrosse, street hockey and soccer goal attempts. We also played Dance, Dance Revolution, Guitar Hero, Pac Man, and a couple other games. 

Each child was given a “game card” at the door. The cards had little squares to check off for each game played, and when everything was checked off, the kid could then pick their favors from the prize table. This meant the children circulated through all the stations and we had no problems with kids hogging the “good” games.

The favors were secondhand books I had been amassing from a local Goodwill that often prices juvenile fiction at 49 cents apiece. I only bought books that looked new, and most were classic fiction and “Newberry Award” winner types. I also had a juicy stash of comic books from “Free Comic Book Day” which is held on the first Saturday of May each year. Each kid got to choose 2 books and 2 comics, and were very excited about these prizes.

Mugs and plates were ceramic, napkins and tablecloths were fabric. My goal here was for zero garbage to be generated. Cupcake liners did hit the landfill though, so I guess I am human. Of course the gifts received were as packaging-o-rrific as could be expected.

The total cost of the party was approximately $20 for the books, homemade cupcakes, lemon-aide concentrate and snacks combined. It would have cost us more to take the family to a first run movie. 

Have you thrown a great party that you want to share with the “Non-Consumer Advocate” community? Please tell us about it in the COMMENTS section below.

-Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Julia T June 3, 2008 at 8:01 am

I compost my cupcake liners — they are paper with all those crumbs baked on — I never have a problem with them not decomposing. I love your party, and we’ll aim for something similar next time our boy has a party (he’s 10). Our version of that has been to give everyone a Nerf gun and send them outside for a Nerf war. We paid for the nerf bullets — about $20 for those, and then everything else was homemade. But I like your idea better. (We live in a big open space so outdoor play is safe and wide-ranging.)


thenonconsumeradvocate June 3, 2008 at 8:16 am

I wouldn’t have thought about composting the liner, I will do that next time. Unfortunately, both my sons have birthdays during iffy weather seasons. Here in Oregon, it’s a real gamble to plan an outdoor party certain times of year because of the ever present rain. Thanks for your comment.



lise June 6, 2008 at 10:45 pm

It was a really cool party and I really appreciated the books (which had I not known better would have thought were new). So much better than icky plastic things that get lost under the floor mats in the car.
Last week a mom and dad at my daughter’s school were celebrating their daughter’s birthday at school and brought not sugary treats but a little pot with a little sunflower plant for each of her classmates. I thought that was brilliant.


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