I have had a lot of readers commenting and emailing lately about unemployment and other financial difficulties. I know many of you are struggling to make ends meet.
Everyday money challenges are difficult enough, but then a child has a birthday, and you’re left wondering what you can do to make their day special, when you don’t have a penny to spare.
Our own budget is very tight right now. For my five-year-old’s birthday, I planned food, decorations, and presents using what I already had on hand.
My daughter is named Elsa, and I wasn’t surprised when she wanted to have a Frozen-themed birthday party.
I put down a white table runner on the table. I used two mason jars with epsom salt and little trees in them that I made at Christmas. I found some ribbon in my stash that was just the perfect colors that I tied around the tops of the jars.
I repurposed some Christmas boxes that were given to my husband years ago with candy in them that were perfect for the theme, and I put her gifts in these.
I trimmed some branches that I have had indoors for forcing and put them in two blue mason jars that I have.
I had some pinecones left from Christmas (we gathered these for free before Christmas) that I used on the runner as well.
I hung a white doily banner that I made a few years ago for my older daughter’s birthday.
Winter, my 13-year-old daughter, made Elsa a castle using supplies (paper, paint, scraps of foam board, and glue) that we had on hand folowing this tutorial.
Winter also printed and enlarged (on our copier) an Olaf picture for the children to play “Pin the nose on Olaf.”
She also made her cake, which was actually brownies topped with powdered sugar. (Warning: we have had cake with powdered sugar sifted on top before, but I won’t do it again on top of a birthday cake; when the child blows out the candles, they also blow off a lot of the sugar!) Elsa requested brownies and I wanted something super simple, but if not, I could have made her a myriad of cakes using a large number of Frozen cake tutorials on Pinterest.
Winter styled Elsa’s hair for the day like Elsa’s coronation hairstyle in Frozen, using this tutorial.
I made some lollipops. Lollipops are Elsa’s favorite candy. I had sticks that I had gotten for free last year using a $10 off $10 purchase coupon (plus the sticks were on clearance). I used this recipe to make the lollipops. I added blue food coloring at the very end. The sugar turns golden when cooked, so the color turned out perfect with just a few drops of blue. I sprinkled some sugar sprinkles on top before they hardened. If you don’t have lollipop sticks, you can make hard candy in a sheet pan instead, and crack it for “ice.”
A couple of things that I didn’t have time for but thought about doing (and could have done with supplies on hand) were making and hanging paper snowflakes, and making snowflake sugar cookies.
Elsa got to pick the meals for the day. She picked chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast, and pizza for dinner. I made both of these from scratch.
My parents took her out for lunch. They have recently started taking each child out, individually, for their birthday, as part of their gift to each child, though usually they do this later and put a note in their card about the birthday date (where they are going, which sometimes includes a movie). My mom picked a place for lunch that had a deal going right now that included ice cream for $6. My parents gave her their gifts there; an Elsa nightgown (bought on sale), a Frozen coloring book, a puzzle, a Highlights Hidden picture activity with stickers (this came in an advertisement in the mail) and a necklace.
I made her presents using fabric that I had on hand.
I made a skirt for her. Elsa loves skirts and has been asking me for more of them. Watching her open this one was so fun; her eyes lit up, she gasped, and just like Olaf, she said with excitement, “I love it!”
I made a doll dress for her baby doll, using a pattern, fabric, and thread that I had on hand.
Elsa requested that I made a pink dress for her. We talked about what she wanted. I had almost enough fabric for the entire dress, and was just short the front bodice piece lining. I used a piece of white cotton for the that piece, since it is inside.
I drew a tree on the front and embroidered it in bloom, just like our plum tree is in the garden right now.
Because I sew, I buy fabric on sale and have some on hand to use later, but even if you don’t have fabric on hand, you can repurpose something (on old sheet of shirt) to turn into a birthday gift. A doll dress takes a tiny amount of fabric, and could easily be cut from another item of clothing.
Even if you don’t have any money to spend, you can still make a wonderful birthday for your children using items you have on hand and a little creativity!
Need a good idea for a birthday gift? Read What Your Children Really Want for Their Birthdays.
Other gifts you can make for a little girl using what you have on hand include printing paper dolls, making homemade play dough, and cutting hair ribbons from ribbons you have on hand. Check Pinterest for a myriad of links for free printable paper dolls and play dough recipes.
Also check out my other Birthday posts and my Gift a Day series for ideas on inexpensive gifts to make.
Beautiful! It is all just so beautiful! Thank you for sharing.
Brandy, you always have such creative ideas! I just love the embroidered pink dress that you made. I wish my mother had made me doll clothes when I was a girl. Elsa and all your children are very lucky to have such a creative mom. Thank you so much for posting your daughter’s birthday surprises.
Very inspiring post. It made me think of all the things we already have to decorate for our upcoming 3 person birthday bash and New Year’s party in 2 weeks! I showed the post to my girls and they are ready to make some more home made decorations out of the beautiful paper that we already have! We have cake mixes, frozen stocked up freezer full of food, a pantry that is loaded to use for all of the people we have invited. I’m so excited to get started.
Everything is wonderful.
The picture of Elsa in her beautiful pink dress took my breath away.
Keep doing what you are doing, Brandy. You are raising lovely children with the right standards.
Thank you for sharing another moment in your life.
What a wonderful Birthday, she looks so happy!:)
What a wonderfully creative, yet frugal, birthday celebration! Happy birthday to little Elsa. She looks so happy in her pretty pink dress.
How beautiful! In a time where it seems so many children’s parties and gifts have become storebought it is nice to see homemade decorations and gifts. This is how my Mama did birthdays and the memories are so sweet!
Fantastic! I love this so much. I wish even people who weren’t on a super tight budget would do more birthdays like this. Good for the environment and so very meaningful. and pretty! look how much prettier those decorations are than disposable junky bday decorations.
Beautiful!!! Love all of your ideas. We try to have “big” birthdays at our house and keep the commercial holidays at a minimum. One thing I am coping from a friend. A special table cloth that is just used for birthday parties. Everyone at the party signs it in sharpie. It’s pulled out and reused every party. It’s fun to see how the kids grow with their signatures. I recently found a beautiful white table cloth for $4 at goodwill that I will be using for this. With four kids it will get plenty use. I have a 5 year old party in June and she wants a Frozen one as well!!
The tree that you embroidered on Elsa’s dress is stunning. I loved all of the beautiful details of her party and the lovely photos that accompany each of your posts.
So inspiring. What a great birthday for your daughter! I love your resourcefulness and creativity.
You are so creative! Thank you for sharing your wonderful ideas.
Just beautiful. As always. I know she is thrilled with her gifts and the party. You always amaze me with what you can do. 😀
Posts like this are why I love your blog – they are so encouraging to people who don’t have much money. Even if people do have money, I wish more would try to do homemade things like yours – they are so elegant and special.
I so enjoy your blog Brandy and this post was no exception. You are so inspiring! Thank you, thank you. What are beautiful Elsa!
This is so wonderful and exactly why I follow your blog! I hope elsa had a wonderful time! I want one of those skirts!
Everything sounds and looks pretty and magical. We received FROZEN as a present and have watched it several times already. I saw a comic in the paper a couple weeks ago and the first frame was the snowman seeing a beauty shop with “get your makeover” on a sign and he goes in. Next frame he bounds out the door as Olaf!! I don’t remember what strip it was or you could look it up and show her. MotherGoose and Grimm maybe?
Lovely birthday! Elsa is a very pretty little girl! LOVE that pink dress you made..you are so very crafty. Me? not so much :/
I love finding ways to spoil my kids on the cheap! Whether it’s making them little gifts (my talents don’t stretch to big things like clothes, but I can do soft toys, printables, etc.) or finding things on deep discount (either new or second hand – I can often find new or as-new books for 25 to 50 cents, for instance) it’s nice to be able to give them what I call ‘the illusion of plenty’ without actually having to spend a lot of money.
Ditto to what everyone else said!
What a pretty girl. Her birthday party was the way they are supposed to be …..to celebrate the day, not to try to outdo the last party.
Such a happy smile!! Worth any amount of time to get a smile like that afterwards. I’ve had the fun of both knitting and sewing clothes for my two daughters and one granddaughter–and doll clothes too. One year my Dad made cradles from particle board for what at the time were his four granddaughters, and I sewed sheets, pillows and blankets for them. The sewing was minimal–straight pieces for most. He put decals on each cradle to tell them apart, and four little girls were thrilled at Christmas! That was about 40+ years ago now–my younger daughter just turned 51 a couple weeks ago!
I look forward to your blog each week, and am in awe of your beautiful gardens, beautiful photographs, and your beautiful children!! I love reading how you come up with gifts and ideas, seemingly out of thin air. It’s all so refreshing.
Beautiful, just beautiful. Such a lovely party.
My girls always had their parties at home with homemade food. I made their party invitations by tracing images from Golden books and coloring them in. My girls are now 17 and 15 and still have their parties at home with bought pizza and a dvd to watch.
Your creativity and resourcefulness never cease to amaze me. Wonderful.
Brandy, You are an inspiration and a wonderful example of a dedicated wife and mom! Please keep writing. Your posts are resourceful and encouraging to many people.
Happy Birthday Elsa.. Your birthday was beautiful..
Love,love your skirt and your dress.. Just perfect!!!
Brandy, you did a wonderful job on this birthday.. Love all the decorations. and the special meals
all day.. so wonderful.. And Elsa is a beautiful little girl.. She looks so happy in her new beautiful dress.
Thank you for sharing.
Absolutely lovely! Elsa looks so happy in her new dress! Great job on everything Brandy!
Diana, you said it perfectly.
Congratulations on a simple and beautiful party. So many parents get carried away (mine did). We have simple family parties with just a few decorations to make it special. The birthday kid picks the meals and kind of dessert too. My older daughters (8 & 13) help decorate the dessert and dining room. My older sons (16 & 10) take photos. With 7 siblings and generous grandparents, our children never feel disappointed. And as a parent, my husband and I never feel pressured to go “bigger-better.”
What a creative family you are! Makes me wish my girls were still young enough for a Frozen party because I would totally use your ideas! I agree that expensive parties aren’t needed and it’s the special details that the children remember, not how much you spent.
Such a beautiful girl and such a happy smile! I loved everything, your party is the best, the gifts are amazing, congratulations!
GORGEOUS! It looked like you spent so much money on the party but it just took ingenuity and creativity. Props to you Brandy. Elsa looks lovely and just glows with joy. 🙂 And I might add, you choose the most beautiful and creative names for your children. Where does your inspiration come from??
Wondering if you have seen this? It is frozen related and I believe your children play piano.
This is just wonderful!
Oh, Brandy, what a beautiful party you planned for sweet Elsa! The dress you made is just stunning, and the decorations are too! Thank you for inspiring us!
You could make a living selling your services to set up stuff like this. The castle caught my eye first. Very good job big sister. Awesome magician you are to pull off the most beautiful stuff.
You are so inspiring. Even though I don’t have little ones at home now, I see the method you use and it can be applied to so many things. Your creativity is limitless! Thank you for your wonderful blog. You make life beautiful on zero dollars!
Just lovely! Your children are so fortunate to have a mom that puts so much thought into making their day special.
We have two traditional birthday decorations. The birthday child wakes up to a special chair back covering (made one, does for all of the kids) made of felt with a felt birthday cake on it. They also wake up to ribbons of felt stars hanging in their doorway from a tension rod. Felt is cheap, tradition is priceless.
You, sweet lady are the woman of Proverbs. God bless you!
Your love and creativity are obvious in these wonderful birthday ideas. What a sweetheart Elsa is!
This was great! We did a Rudolph party for my three year old last week and found a tutorial on making a giant reindeer head for the wall out of card bard and construction paper. It looked fantastic. We also did reindeer chow ( that chex cereal with 10x and peanut butter and chocolate chips and red and green mnms), and played Christmas music and had meatballs( because they are red and round) and used Hello My Name Is tags for everyone to pull out of a jar and be a different reindeer. I made cake pops( they were the most costly thing in terms of time and money but you could just do them in red and it would have been hours faster and much cheaper). It was really very nice.
So lovely. Winters help was great. She is a lovely sister. The dress you made is beautiful. No amount of money could have bought a day like this.
Very inspiring Brandy.xx
So beautiful,Elsa and her party. You are so talented thank you for sharing .
From San Diego
Wow! Everything looks absolutely beautiful and very classy!
I always read your posts but don’t always comment, but had to say I love the embroidery on the dress and what a sweet, special party!
Wonderful ideas! You often make me think about the real possibilities, and I thank you for that!
I always enjoy reading all your posts and the comments. I look forward to your blog every week. I love how Elsa’s dress and her dolls dress are similar. I love your creativity and the talents and values that you are helping to develop in your children. I’ve always thought of myself as frugal, however I aspire to be more like you! You are so inspiring with all you do and accomplish. Thank you for sharing your life with us.
What an absolutely beautiful birthday. Your daughter will never forget it. Great job, Brandy.