Planning your child’s birthday party can feel overwhelming. You want to create the perfect day for them and memories to last a lifetime. In today’s world of Pinterest boards and Instagram, it’s difficult not to get into the comparison game. You may even find yourself creating a party or theme with those photos in mind — and that’s okay — they have lots of ideas for you.

It can be easy to go over the top and spend a ton on catering, decorations, and party favors. Instead, take a deep breath and think about what your goal is for the party. Then, you can throw a fabulous party without stress or colossal expense. Keep reading tips on stress-free ways to plan your kid’s next birthday party.

1. Send Out Digital Invites

One stressor many parents unnecessarily place on themselves are the invitations to parties. This is especially true for milestone birthdays; to get an invitation with enough time, you must set up details months in advance. This gives you time to print and mail out the cards. And you have to remember to get stamps!

Save yourself time (and expense) and go with digital invites. You can send these out to loved ones via social media or email. You could even set up a Facebook event for your party. Another option is designing a calendar appointment on your device and inviting your family to that. There are plenty of free websites that let you create e-vites that look great for your themes.

If you have family members who aren’t inclined to receive things through text or social media, call to invite them. Of course, you could also call to have them save the date and mail one or two invites to those folks.

2. Plan Ahead

The sooner you plan an event, the less stress you might feel. For one, more venues and date/time options will be available further out. It also gives you time to shop around and look at spaces that fit your budget and theme. Birthdays aren’t a surprise. You know all year when they will be.

Especially if your kid’s birthday is in the summertime or close to Christmas, look in advance. These times of year tend to be busy. Same with kids who have fall birthdays. If you want to rent out a pumpkin patch for an October birthday, don’t wait until the end of September.

If you have difficulty not letting dates sneak up on you, set a calendar reminder. You can put your kids’ birthdays on the calendar and set a two-month reminder. This reminder is an “it’s time to book and buy gifts” notification.

3. Reign in the Guest List

As a kid, there’s nothing better than your own party. But throwing a birthday party for 5-year-olds with 100 guests might be a little unreasonable. You don’t have to show the neighborhood you throw the best parties. Make it personal and tailored to your child and family. It might be just immediate family and a few friends.

Don’t feel compelled to keep up with everyone else in the class, either. It’s okay to do just a family cake celebration. If you invite your kid’s class to a pool party and they each pay their own admission, that’s fine too. Keep it age-appropriate and a budget you can control as well.

Think about how your child reacts to others when picking your guest list. If they are more reserved and like more one-on-one interaction than groups, take that into consideration. A sleepover versus inviting their whole class might make them feel more comfortable. This applies to you as the parent, too…what are you most comfortable with?

4. Location Location Location

Location can be the most challenging part to decide and nail down. It all depends on your guest list and what activities you want to do. Outside or inside? At home or a pool or park? Location can also be determined a bit by time of year. Fall is an excellent time for a bonfire night. Summer birthdays are wonderful for pool parties and water balloon fights.

Don’t forget to keep your child’s needs in mind when picking. For example, some kids hate theme parks or are scared of swimming. Others find lights and crowds intimidating. Narrow your list down by thinking through the theme and what your child likes to do.

The party venue can also be determined or whittled down in choices by price. What is your budget for the party? It’s okay to look for free options like a park. On the other hand, you might decide for milestone birthdays like the first or sixteenth that you’ll go all out.

5. Simple Foods

If you have to haul your own food to the birthday party, think simple. Kids often eat more simple things. Having a more limited and easy menu is less stressful for you. More kids will probably eat it too.

Think taco bars or bonfire s’mores and hotdogs. Goldfish crackers could be a great snack if you have an underwater theme or pool party for a six-year-old. So would blue juices. Older kids might enjoy grilling out or ordering one-topping pizzas.

Don’t forget your cake and ice cream! You can go inexpensive here too. Just buy a family-size of vanilla ice cream and toppings. Then, let them make their own sundaes. The kids will love it, and it’s easy and cheaper to buy one flavor of ice cream.

Cupcakes are sometimes easier as well, but you can sometimes buy a large sheet cake at your grocery store for a heck of a deal.

6. DIY Party Favors & Decorations

Unsurprisingly, decorations can add stress and eat up your budget. But, sometimes less really is more, especially if you’ve booked a neat venue. So, for example, only do a couple of decorations if you’re at a park or bowling alley. But there’s so much else going on that a slight nod to the theme is all you need.

For the most part, the kids won’t even notice your streamers. Now, if you have a ninja birthday party, you could do a combo decoration and party favor. First, get foam swords and masks and decorate with them. Then, when it’s time for an activity, let the kids pick one and have fun. Then, send it home with them as their favor.

7. Experiences Over Gifts

One area that can cause parents stress is how many gifts kids receive. Sometimes it might feel like you’re constantly being inundated with stuff. This is especially true for families whose kids have birthdays close to Christmas. The thought of hauling lots of stuff home can be overwhelming.

You can ask party guests to refrain from giving a gift. Instead, ask if they would like to give to your child’s education fund. You could also ask for movie tickets or other experience gift cards for the kids. Maybe their gift is the cost of joining you at the trampoline park. Some kids even ask for donations to be made to their favorite charities.

Planning your child’s birthday party can be stressful, from finding a location to the costs associated with it. But it doesn’t have to be a comparison game. Instead, do what works best for your family and invite who you want. Set your own traditions.

Following the tips and tricks above can save you time and money. Simplifying a little bit in certain areas can let you enjoy what the day is really about. Make memories and watch your child grow and experience the happiest of birthdays.

Featured Image Credit: Photo by Kampus Production; Pexels; Thank you!