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Spend Less than $20 on Your Next Party

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Lucy Riles: Whatever happened to the good old days? When life was simple, cheap, and meals cost a nickel! With the economy caving and people losing their jobs, now is as good a time as any to go back in time and throw your child's next birthday party ... old-school style!

kids at a birthday party

One of my most favorite birthday parties ever was when my mom threw me a 1950s themed party. Growing up with 11 older siblings, my mom was always coming up with ways to throw a fun party on a tight budget!

Go With a 1950s Theme: Pink Ladies, T-Birds, Squares, and Jocks ... Be sure to dress the part! There is no need to buy a costume: use some old material found in your home, cut out a poodle design, and pin it on one of your daughter's skirts; tie a scarf around her neck; make a high ponytail in her hair -- and you have yourself a 1950s outfit. Pink Ladies should be in capris or rolled-up jeans, and of course, a pink jacket. For T-Birds, jeans, a white T-shirt, and slicked-back hair will do. For Jocks, letterman jackets or cheerleader outfits work well. Join in the fun and dress up too!

Penny Candy Store: As each child arrives, give them a paper bag of pennies (make sure their name is on the outside of the bag). With the pennies, they will shop at the Penny Candy Store. Have an older sibling or spouse work the store, collecting pennies in exchange for treats and toys. What the children buy at the Penny Candy Store will also act as their Goody Bag to take home. Need pennies? Gather them from couch cushions, piggy banks, sock drawers, your spouse's pockets, or any other place extra change might be hanging around.

Music, Games, and Cake
: The kids can dance along to 1950s greatest hits while they play Musical Chairs, Freeze Dance, and have Hula Hoop Contests. If you don't have 50s tunes in your music collection, check out, where you can create a station online of any type of music (in this case 50s music) for free, or see if your TV/cable has a 50s music channel. With the favors, games, and costumes taken care of, now it's time for the birthday cake. I suggest decorating it with a poodle, jukebox, poodle skirt, or an old-fashioned car. Chocolate Malts or Shakes also make great desserts and are very 1950s.

Budget: Treats and toys from your local dollar store: $10. Cake mix: $3.99. Giving your child a fun birthday bash without breaking the bank ... priceless!

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22 comments so far | Post a comment now
Lydia Ellison May 12, 2009, 4:09 PM

What a darling idea!My mom used to throw a “back to school” 1950’s style party at the end of August, my favorite part was the cokes in a bottle!

Kristin May 12, 2009, 5:16 PM

I love the Penny Candy Store idea! My mother always used to tell me about the penny candies she used to buy when she was a little girl. Plus, that way the kids can pick out there favorites for the goodie bag. Spending $20 bucks is a great deal, especially during these times!

Anonymous May 12, 2009, 5:38 PM


Kathryn May 12, 2009, 5:38 PM


Geri May 12, 2009, 8:43 PM

I love the idea of the Penny Candy store, dressing up and the games. How Clever!

susie May 12, 2009, 9:13 PM

I love this idea!!! What fun for kids?!?!

myra May 12, 2009, 10:50 PM

great idea! it sounds so fun!

Mike May 12, 2009, 10:56 PM

This was a great idea. I love it!

diane bansley May 12, 2009, 11:08 PM

since i grew up in the fifities and loved that time i can tell you it is a great idea! what goes around , comes around! lovew aunt diane

good luck with it lucy

Michelle May 12, 2009, 11:25 PM

I love the penny candy store idea, it sounds like so much fun! I’ll have to try it and hand out sour patch kids!!

chelsea May 12, 2009, 11:47 PM

$20 birthday party sounds good to me!

Ali May 13, 2009, 7:43 AM

Kids always enjoy dressing up and you found a cheap way for them to do it! Great suggestions!

Brandi May 13, 2009, 9:14 AM

I love this idea! My daughter will be 7 this summer and this sounds like something right up our alley! Great ideas, Lucy!!

Brandi May 13, 2009, 9:16 AM

What a fun party idea! My daughter will be 7 this summer and this sounds like it’s right up our alley! Great ideas, Lucy!!

Anonymous May 13, 2009, 10:44 AM

Great ideal, I know the kids will love the penny candy store.

Kase May 13, 2009, 1:51 PM

These are great ideas. Thanks! We like to get party supplies at They’re affordable too.

Annie May 13, 2009, 4:32 PM

In this terrible economy we do have to get back to the basics. There is no need to spend a lot of money for the party. The children will have a blast at an old fashion party.

Laura May 13, 2009, 8:37 PM

I love the penny candy store too. I am sure the kids would love it

Joe Bansley(nephew) May 15, 2009, 9:47 PM

Hey I remember that birthday party!!! I worked the candy store!!!

Joe Bansley May 15, 2009, 9:48 PM

Hey I remember that party. I worked the candy store. Great article!

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