9. Top Reader Tips
Birthday parties had become so expensive in New York City that when my son, Noah, turned 2, I decided to throw a big group bash with seven of my friends. We chose a local sports complex with enough activities to keep all the kids busy. In lieu of gifts, we asked guests to bring clothing and toy donations for a local children's charity.
Melissa Goldstein, Chappaqua, New York
Last July, I held an outdoor luau when my daughter, Chloe, turned 1. It was one of the least expensive parties I've ever thrown. We decorated with paper lanterns, leis, and grass skirts. Food was easy -- we ordered Hawaiian-inspired pizzas topped with pineapple.
Melissa Atkins, Luray, Virginia
To cut food costs down, I started having my children's birthday parties between lunch and dinner, at around 2 p.m. I keep it simple with a few snacks, cake, and ice cream, and everyone is always satisfied.
Annette Terrana, Buffalo, New York
For my triplets' third birthday, I rented out a large gym and filled it with toddler-friendly toys like slides, basketball hoops, and tons of assorted balls. The kids had a blast, and the parents thought it was the most practical party they'd been too.
Kim Whorton, Birmingham, Alabama
When my daughter, Meghan, turned 4 in January, we decided to bring the beach indoors. We filled her baby pool with uncooked rice and gave each guest a bucket of sand toys I had found on clearance. The kids played with their "sandbox" for hours.
Jeanne McCullough, Mattapoisett, Massachusetts