My Katie turned six last weekend, and for weeks prior I found myself obsessing over “perfect party” ideas. More than once, I’ve been asked by people what I’d recommend for a fabulous (yet frugal) kid’s party that packs a punch, and now was my chance to prove I had a blessed clue how to pull it off.

Considering she’s a new Kindergartner, loving school and having constantly talking about her classmates, I wanted to make it a really special occasion for all, but without breaking the bank. Easier said than done, especially when the guest count did a spectacular vertical climb within 24 hours of the invites going out! Katie’s teacher has a wonderful (understandable) rule that if we invite one classmate, we invite them all, and I couldn’t agree more. Besides, I wanted a chance to meet Katie’s classmates’ parents, and this party was the perfect opportunity. I was thrilled when the RSVP list revved into high gear, and within days of sending out the invites, we had a attendee list of 37 kids and parents! Helpful friends and family chimed in immediately recommending we take the crew to a local pizza parlor for one of their party packages. I’m not naming restaurant names, but with the price of a two hour party at those places averaging $15 per kid, the price would have run into the hundreds with little to show for it but pizza-crashed kids and parents walking out with possibly permanent eardrum damage.

I had my reasons for wanting to pull off a great event at the house. Not only am I almost (miraculously) done with the fixer upper I call home, but also with so many parents attending, I wanted them to get a sense for where we lived for future play dates! It was also a no-brainer that costs would be much more easily contained with a shindig at Casa-de-Katie, not to mention a lot more comfortable. When all was said and done, with a touch of planning, the party was a fabulous, fun, ultra-over-the-top Princess affair for 37 people, for $99 total, including Katie’s gift! Here’s the breakdown…

Decorate your own cookie project: $7.
I purchased gorgeous ready-baked sugar cookies from the discount grocery (24 cookies for $2), along with the little squeeze bottles of decorators icing, the perfect size for little fingers. The decorators icing was in boxes of four colors for $1/box, so I loaded up on 5 boxes (20 squeeze tubes total) for $5. Great stuff, and the culinary geniuses whipped up adorable designs on their cookies for a half hour!

Decorate your own door hanger project: $6
I love seeing kids in action when they’re drawing, so it was a blast to get them into a doorhanger project. With adorable doorhangers purchased in packs of 4/$1 at the dollar store, colored in with a set of 20 markers for $1 at the dollar store, it kept the mini-Monets busy for another half hour!

Food! $45
The menu was very kid friendly, not to mention wallet-friendly, all purchased at the gourmet discount grocery. All name brands, suitable for guests. 40 hotdogs and buns, gourmet chips purchased for .35/bag instead of the usual $4 retail, name brand sodas, juices, all fabulous, yummy, and purchased for $20, (along with $20 in pizzas purchased from the nearby pizzeria) came to a total of $40. (note, I didn’t count the cost of extra leftover pizza that I froze for future easy meals!) Dollar store princess plates, napkins, silverware tacked on an additional $5.

Katie’s cake, 48 servings: $12
I saw some gorgeous bakery cakes with princess themes, but not only did my ego demand I try something on my own, cakes big enough for a group our size were pricing at $50 and up. Besides, Katie is my big helper in the kitchen and she adores making cakes. So, again, it’s a no brainer we do something on our own. What it lacks in professionalism it makes up for in fun! The best part is that her cake couldn’t have been easier. Two batches of batter for the bottom cake, topped with cupcakes (all frosted by me, then topped with sprinkles by the birthday girl). To achieve the princess theme, we cut out stickers from one of her (many) princess activity books, then taped them to toothpicks and stuck one in each cupcake! We then stood her favorite princess books on each side of the cake, and put two Princess Barbies on either side, each of them holding a little dish of candy. Hysterical, and Katie loved it.

Balloons: $0
We lucked out huge with these. Katie’s Nana (my Mom) made two dozen balloons one of her gifts. Days before the party, she handed me 24 balloons and a helium tank with just enough helium left in it to do the job – Katie loved helping! If you don’t have balloon-laden relatives at the ready, you can get yours at the dollar store for $1 each.

Playtime fun – behold, a decent size yard with a swing set! Cost: $0
I obsessed (as only I can) on the pros and cons of getting one of those inflatable bouncy thingies that everybody (and I mean everybody) recommended I get for this party. I was this close, but decided against it. They’re often $100 or more to rent, and with the party more than half over by the time the projects were thru, it didn’t seem quite the right fit for this get together. Instead, we headed outside! The weather gods were spectacularly kind (giving us 80 degree weather in the middle of October), and the kids loved tearing around the yard. Those who weren’t playing hide & seek were on the swing set, the rest were tossing around various balls from the playroom, playing soccer, baseball, and an adorable form of Kindergarten-esque football (where you can run wherever you want to, so long as you’re holding the football under an arm and holding the other one out in front of you as if you were posing for a Heisman trophy as you tear on by…) The kids had a blast, and blew off some sugar-infused steam in the process.

Posterboard card: $1
In addition to all of the fabulous pictures, I wanted something special to remember this wonderful little birthday. So I purchased a huge piece of posterboard and had all of the guests sign it in their adorable Kindergarten handwriting with different color magic markers! I dated the back of it, will add party photos shortly, and it will hang in a special place of honor in her room!

Katie’s gift! $15
Working again with a princess theme, I wanted something really fabulous that she’d love. I came across an adorable Princess-theme table & chairs, regularly priced around $70, at the local Goodwill for $15 instead – see the pic! Katie LOVED it, and it was the perfect place for her classmates to place their wonderful gifts of princess-theme books, toys, dolls, jewelry kits, you name it. Such wonderful little friends!

Goody take home bags for 17 kids: $13.
Dollar store to the rescue again, baby! Little party bags run 3/$1, so grabbing six packs took care of our little guests. I filled them with candy pops (4/$1), chocolate candy ($3 total), an additional cupcake (with princess sticker!) and tied a balloon to each. As our soon-to-sugar-crash little guests departed, they looked delighted with their parting gifts.

So there you have it, a fun, fabulous, frugal party fit for a princess, complete with 17 sugar-crashed kids, wonderful conversations (and future playdates planned) with parents, and all done for $99. If you’re thinking of doing a party for your little one and don’t want to break the bank, have NO fear. It can be easily done. Above all else, have a great time!