This year I asked my daughter if she wanted a party for her birthday or to take one friend to Sea World. She opted for Sea World. Fine by me! We figured it was actually less expensive when you calculate all the costs associated with a party and the work involved.

However, as her birthday was approaching, and invitations to her classmates’ parties started to appear, I felt I had to do something more to acknowledge her birthday. Her actual birthday was on a “minimum day” at school, meaning they get out an hour earlier than the usual 3 o’clock bell.

I figured the teacher did not want to take more time out to celebrate a birthday, and half of her good friends are in the other classroom. With only two days notice, I sent home a flyer to the kids in both classes inviting them to join Blaire for her birthday at a city park–a city park close to school, no parking or entrance fee.

I bought the flyer paper on clearance at Target for $2.50 a pack of 25 sheets. I posted an hour and a half timeframe and served Popsicles and cookies. I brought regular napkins from home, had a case of bottled water in an ice chest, and splurged on five helium balloons and one mylar (a special package around $7.00 at the local party store) just so you knew you were in the right place.

Favors or goody bags seem to be the place I easily overspend until it is way out of hand and I am giving a $5-$10 bag of carefully selected, and appropriately-themed, junk and candy that doesn’t make it out of the minivan that drove each child home. Over the years of putting together these cornucopias of piñata filling, I have saved the extras in a large bin safely hidden among cleaning supplies in the laundry room, out of sight of my children. You know, you need 15 bubbles and they come in batches of six, so you have three leftover. This bin holds the extra three of about twenty different bags of stuff.

Occasionally I get something out of this inventory of treasures to give to my kids, but mostly it just takes up space. When I thought about goody bags for this impromptu party, I thought of the bin and how I could put those things to good use.

I took that bin from my cupboard to the party and let each guest choose just one thing. They thought it was the coolest thing EVER! They were all happy with their one little item.

Since it was such short notice, I put on the flyer, “No gifts, please.” Some moms called and asked if they could bring one anyway—fine. I really did not want anyone to feel obligated to shop when I only gave two-days notice, and I was not offering anything that I had offered in the past: no train ride through the park, no swimming, no gymnastics games, no bouncer, not even a cake. Just park equipment and a Popsicle.

Her close friends were very generous and a lot of kids got to come who might not have been able to if they felt they had to buy a $10-$20 gift. My daughter never complained. She had a blast and so appreciated the gifts she got (we still have to do those thank you notes—yikes!).

Wow! They really had a good time and I didn’t drive myself crazy planning it. The moms were in heaven! Look what I got away with. They could all do it! The kids are perfectly happy just to be together and didn’t miss the usual glitz and glamour we usually make so important.

It was an E-Z party and was not more than $60.00 with a handful of bottled waters and two dozen cookies leftover. Cheers to simplicity!

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