From installing mini-ice rinks in the house to hiring limousines or ponies; kids’ birthday events can often end up feeling more like a tense social competition between parents than a party.
What the birthday girl or boy might really want can get lost in the one-upmanship and expensive party paraphernalia – when the reality is, most children are happy just to have all their friends together, a big cake and to run around laughing and screaming.
Which is just as well, because most parents simply can’t afford to spend thousands of euro on birthday extravaganzas.
"The cost of throwing a children’s party can come as a bit of a shock, especially when you consider the trend for ever-fancier food, party bags and prizes," says Mumsnet founder Justine Roberts.
"There’s nothing wrong with an elaborate shindig if that’s your thing, but the good news is, it’s perfectly possible to keep control of the budget without causing everlasting shame to your offspring."
Here are some nifty ways to cut party costs, according to Netmums and Mumsnet…
1. Hold a joint event
Netmums editor in chief Annie O’Leary, says: "My son turns seven this week, so I’m very much in the party zone. This year we’re sharing a party with one of his friends, whose birthday is in the same month, which has turned out to be a huge money saver."
2. Create your own theme
Mumsnetters suggest party ideas like a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, pirates, science or a seaside theme, which can all be created cheaply at home and would be just as much – if not more – fun than an elaborate and expensive themed event at a venue.
3. Try home entertainment
Netmums suggests not bothering with an entertainer – you can easily think up entertainment yourself, from singing competitions to dressing up – and do it in a communal outdoor space, weather permitting.
3. Traditional games always work
Mumsnet users recommend having twice as many as you think you’ll need. "A bog-standard pack of balloons will keep children occupied for several hours," they promise. Netmums suggests party games including old favourites like pass the parcel and musical bumps, as well as obstacle courses and treasure hunts.
4. Have a water fight party
Fill up cheap plant spray bottles with water, use bottles or water pistols, and invite everyone to the park for a water fight party. It’s always a winner, says O’Leary. "Essentially, kids just love running around screaming together – wherever and however you accommodate this is up to you. It doesn’t have to break the bank."
5. Go easy on buffets
The Mumsnet community says buffets almost always lead to over-catering. If you must do a buffet, "at least provide foods you’ll be happy to eat for the rest of the week, because an awful lot of it will be coming home with you," they warn, advising parents they’re not going to please every child and shouldn’t feel obliged to provide 50 types of sandwich.
6. Bite-size is best
The Netmums top tip when it comes to kids’ party food is to think small, bite-size morsels. This way children can have a handful of everything and not leave platefuls of leftover food with two bites taken out.
7. Say no to party bag madness
Mumsnetters stress: "It’s really not necessary to give each child a pony and an iPad, and most people already have quite enough plastic tat at home. There’s nothing wrong with the traditional napkin-wrapped cake and a party popper.
"If you want an element of glamour and risk, throw in a scratch card."