Ben and I always joke that first birthday parties are just as much a celebration for the parents as the children. “We all made it!” We certainly felt that way when Nora Heather’s first birthday rolled around. As much as we have enjoyed our little light, she’s thrown us all sorts of new challenges! Just when we thought we were parenting experts – BAM! – we had another baby. But in the words of Ms. Clarkson, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger / stand a little taller.” Our family has become even closer this year, and we’re grateful.
(See Carson’s winter wonderland first birthday.}
Since Carson, our family life has majorly changed in terms of work work. A few months after Carson was born, I decided to leave my corporate job to have a more flexible schedule. When you leave your corporate job, the craziest thing happens – your corporate paycheck leaves too! Living on (mostly) one income with one child is doable. But throwing a second into the mix caused our family to reevaluate our financial plan. During Nora’s first year we found ourselves landing in a sweet spot of working hard and ‘living like no one else, so later we can live and give like no one else’. Since I didn’t want to throw a party that would make Dave Ramsey cry, I knew we would have to get creative.
Admittedly, I am not a fugal living or DIY blogger. And truthfully I’m not trying to be! My hopes for this post are three-fold: 1) I want to document Nora’s special day 2) I strive to always be honest when sharing my life and 3) If you’re also on a budget, I hope you’ll come away with inspiration and ideas.
We decided on our budget ($100) and stuck to it. I quickly sold a few items (like good condition but outgrown clothes) on Facebook Marketplace and made $50 in one week. I created a pinboard of ideas to visualize the feel of the party, then narrowed down the most important features.
Our guest list was small, and we decided to have the party in the afternoon so we wouldn’t have the pressure of providing lunch or dinner. I created the invitations myself on Canva.com, and printed them at Office Depot. I don’t remember the exact cost for the invitations and envelopes, but it was nominal.
After I knew the look and feel of the party, I picked a few essential decorations:
- Tassel Garland
- Gold Mason Jars
- Princess Crown Embellishments
I DIY’ed a good portion of the decorations. The tassel garland was the trickiest, though I did find a tutorial using vinyl tablecloths that was pretty inexpensive to make. (In retrospect, this could be the one decoration it may have been worth it to purchase outright.) A friend gifted me her mason jars after I put out a request on Facebook, and I purchased one can of gold spray paint. I also cut out the crown embellishments, glued them onto skewers we already had, and spray painted them gold. They were displayed in vases we already owned. The flowers were a last minute purchase from Dollar Tree, though if you were being truly budget friendly you could pick fresh flowers.
The cake was another big expense, but we were tickled to find a first birthday cake hack. Walmart’s bakery will give you a free smash cake with any first birthday cake purchase. The only catch is that the sheet cake needs to read ‘happy first birthday’. Fine by me! Rather than buying an entire sheet cake, we purchased a half-size which was substantially less expensive. It’s tempting to overbuy food when throwing a party, but we found that just enough was, well, enough! We had a few pieces leftover and our guests were satisfied. (We also served ice cream, which was another last minute addition and a gift from a family member. Again, we didn’t feel pressure to feed the masses. Just a simple dessert to celebrate our daughter’s first year. The end.)
I had purchased vinyl table cloths in three colors to make my tassel garland. As it turns out, we had enough of our two accent colors (a gold piece and a white overlay) to cover the table. Though this wasn’t my original plan, it TOTALLY pulled the table together. It was a really lovely surprise, that we had enough supplies for the garland and the table. The Lord cares for the sparrows, and sometimes first birthday tablescapes.
Since Carson had a no-sew tutu on her birthday, I felt it my motherly duty to make one for Nora. I looked quickly on Etsy for first birthday outfits, and there are several ADORABLE ones you can purchase. However, on a budget, the DIY route had to work. We did purchase a onesie, rather than an entire ensemble, for $13. That felt reasonable. And I purchased tulle in three colors to create the skirt, which we could also use for extra decorations.
There are so many cute cake smash photo sessions and I wanted to recreate that look for Nora. We used a little corner in our kitchen for the cake smash and I pulled in a few decorations to pretty up the space. I’d been eyeing those gold number balloons floating around Pinterest but, again, they weren’t budget friendly. So I decided to modify the idea and make a giant cutout of the number one from some cardstock paper we had laying around. A can of gold spray paint really goes far. (And the ‘1’ was able to cover up our outlet in the corner. Perfect!)
All in all I’m really pleasantly surprised at how Nora’s birthday turned out. I’m not a super crafty person, and the thought of being on a tight budget sort of bummed me out. Necessity is truly the mother of invention. It felt really satisfying to not break the bank over a little party! Also, the simpler affair made us really focus on our little girl and guests who’d come to celebrate with us. A total win 🙂
Happy birthday, sweet Nora!