Birthdays on a College Budget

Birthdays on a College Budget

You know the story: it’s your roommate’s/best friend’s/significant other’s birthday, and you’ve been charged – explicitly or not – with throwing them a party. So now, not only do you need to get them a present, but you have to find a cake, food, and decorations for a party. What is a broke college kid to do?

There are several options for throwing a birthday party on a budget, luckily for you!

Birthday Presents

When it comes to buying someone a birthday present, there are plenty of ways to ensure the cost doesn’t get out of hand. For one thing, you can always set a price limit, which will allow everyone to be on the same page and eliminate ambiguities or hard feelings when it comes down to who spent how much.

If it’s something you’ve been planning and thinking about for a while (or if you’ve still got a bit of time left), shop around for deals. Look online and in stores, and cover all your bases to make sure you’re getting the best deal. There are many apps and websites that do stuff like this for you nowadays, just make sure to get one that’s not affiliated with a store or brand, which could be biased to their own product.

Find sales! You can get things for half off, or more, and the person never has to know that you didn’t pay full price for it. Honestly, it shouldn’t matter either way how much money your spent, but it is what it is and we all know this isn’t always the case.

If you really want to save money, make something for the person by hand. Thanks to Pinterest, there’s now an entire world of DIY crafts and projects available at your fingertips. Besides, homemade gifts are the best kind anyways.

Party Supplies

I’m going to offer up my go to advice for nearly every occasion: go check the dollar store! Seriously, often there are tons of party decorations and necessities for, well, one dollar! Everything from streamers to tablecloths to plastic cutlery, the list goes on. This way, you don’t have to go completely broke decorating for the party. You can often even purchase things like soda and chips there as well, which helps cut down on the food costs too.

Again, you can go the DIY route for the party decorations. There are tons of tutorials online for making things such as garlands, centerpieces, hanging decorations, and more. Plus, if you like the end result, you can use them as every day decor in your dorm or apartment after the party’s over.

Otherwise, places like Walmart and Target usually have party supplies for rather inexpensive prices. If you don’t go crazy overboard with decorations and supplies, you can potentially get away with spending about $30 or so.


This is a big one – your guests are going to be hungry, and you have to feed them! Not to mention the most important part of all, the birthday cake! Bakery cakes can get really expensive in a hurry – but do you really need to get a fancy, over the top cake with fondant flowers and butterflies? Save that for graduation open houses and wedding receptions, and try something a bit more budget friendly. Often you can buy pre-made cakes in the bakery section of supermarkets for much less than a custom made one. And of course, you could always make one! Boxes of cake mix will only cost you about three dollars and a couple of eggs.

Cooking other food from scratch is another way to save money, depending on the ingredients you buy. If you cook something simple, and don’t go overboard on premium ingredients, then you could potentially save a lot of money. Another alternative is to just provide light snacks, like most parties do. Chips, soda, finger foods, that sort of thing. Most people don’t expect a big meal at a birthday party anyways.

So, most of all, just have fun! You don’t have to spend a ton of money to have a good time, remember that. Enjoy your friends/family and the party, that’s what’s important.