Thrifty tips for planning an awesome all ages costume party


Birthdays come but once a year. And children grow so fast. We’ve only got one shot at this each year. However, as soon as you have children, you realize you entered a realm of endless needs, expense, and purchases. We work so hard as parents to do our best. So why not host a costume party that kids AND adults will love, without breaking the bank?

Our daughter is just turning three. She is in the age of imagination and fantasy, of fairies and princesses. We decided that in addition to having a party, we’d have a dress up costume party. Plus we decided to include the adults in dressing up too. Why wait till Halloween? Having kids is a perfect reason to join in on the fun with them.

Planning a costume party

Planning ahead really helps focus and streamline ideas. Plus, buying supplies over time helps the process all go smoothly.

  • Write a list of ideas.
  • Write a list of supplies with three columns to check mark with HAVE or BUY. The third column is for writing down the best store in which to buy the supply.
  • If you are a visual person, draw a sketch.
  • Pick a day a week that you plan to swing into a thrift store and start gathering supplies.
  • Consider starting supply shopping at least 2 months before the party. This gives you time to research and see new stuff show up. Plus you’ll have time to go back to some things you saw but didn’t yet buy.
  • Store your supplies somewhere hidden so not to spoil the surprise. However, keep everything easily accessible for review as you continue to acquire more items.

Be Thrifty

Making use of thrift shops helps the budget and provides unique decorating ideas. With this fairy garden costume party, I went to Value Village or Goodwill weekly to check out party supplies and decorations. These are also fabulous places to find odds and ends to pull together for costumes.

Over time I was able to find sheets and scarves to use for table covers and table runners. Party supplies like cups, glasses, pitchers and even a cupcake tower showed up just in time. We all know kids love little things to collect, so flower shaped candles from a thrift store, plus rocks collected from shoreline walks, also became party favor decorations.

I was also able to pick up two children’s picnic tables for free through Buy Nothing and Offer Up. Doing a “free” search in Offer Up or Craigslist can sometimes surprise you with some real cool free stuff. I also found some fairy toys and dolls that I was able to use in the decorations. Moreover, all of these goodies were not only “gently used” items utilized for the party, but they continue to be played with afterwards. Reuse and recycle!

Michaels Crafts was a great resource for the bird houses I picked up for $1 each for the kids to paint. I bought small paint sets from Dollar Tree. Kids were covered in garbage bags so to avoid painting their costumes. Children ages 3-8 were there to enjoy painting. All of them became very quiet and focused with the project. It was a hit for both the girls and boys.

Thrifty Resources

Be open to doing some running around to different stores. If this sounds like a nightmare to you, and you are not the shopping and gathering type, consider hiring someone who does. It may cost for the service and talent, but there are people out there like me who love the creativity of such projects.

  • Value Village – A great resource for serving needs, decorations, table covers, costumes, furniture and more!
  • Goodwill – Same as Value Village.
  • Dollar Store/ Tree – Good for napkins, plates, party favors, balloons!
  • IKEA – A place you can get into trouble, but great for napkins, decorations, and gifts.
  • Offer Up – Supplies and gifts.
  • Craigslist – Supplies and gifts.
  • Ebay – Supplies and gifts.
  • Facebook Marketplace – Supplies and gifts.
  • Michaels Crafts – Always shop here using a coupon or buy items on sale. You can internet search coupons. They always have sales, so it’s crazy to pay the marked up full price.
  • Hobby Lobby – Seems to be a bit pricier than other stores, but has great selections.
  • Buy Nothing – Join your local Buy Nothing group through Facebook. You can give and receive free stuff from your local neighborhood.
  • Pinterest – Use Pinterest to search and discover great ideas and recipes other people have shared.
  • Costco – My goal is to provide as much organic and healthy food as possible. Costco is great for bulk buying drinks and food. In our area, we fortunately have a wide selection on Non-GMO and Organic produce.
  • Trader Joes – Affordable, especially for wine!
  • DIY – If you have the time and talent, doing it yourself, and making decorations is a creative and unique way to go.

Work with what you’ve got

We were fortunate enough to have friends give us their six year old trampoline. And my husband got it leveled and safe before the party. Also, a friend of ours brought over his bubble machine which offered a consistent flow of bubbles. I also had our own bubble wands if needed. In addition, we had music playing. And finally, we asked parents to bring their kids’ bikes and helmets if we needed another activity for them.

The costume party unfolded smoothly with the kids playing at the fair garden picnic table, moving to the painting project, and eating throughout the day. They also took turns on the trampoline and plenty of adults we always nearby to support and supervise an activity. Present opening was a group activity. And of course the cupcakes were devoured by almost all everyone after candles and singing.

Most adults did dress up for the costume party. Princess Elsa visited, plus many winged woodland fairies, an elf, and more. And when day became night, those who were left got to enjoy both our fire pit and the glowing mini LED orbs my husband and our friend hung throughout our back yard garden.

Costume Party Food Creativity

Using healthy, fresh and organic food as much as possible is the way I role. Thanks to browsing Pinterest and creating a board of Party Ideas, I found a bounty of idea for making fruit and veggie treats fun for the kids. I also keep a board of Recipe Ideas. My mother was in town and helped with party prep. She made the fresh fruit fairy wands and the fruit and veggie bugs.

Fruit Fairy Wands

We also offered healthy chips and dip. And for those wanting animal protein, we did provide turkey burgers with melted cheese, sans the buns.

In addition to Pinterest ideas, taking in ideas from attended parties gives first hand feedback on what people like. I went to a friend’s (thank you Jessica) vegan baby shower party with all fresh fruit and vegetables with some amazing complimentary vegan dips. I now have made the vegan chocolate hummus a number of times and people love it, even the kids. Plus it’s healthy, high in protein, and low in sugar.

Chocolate Hummus, Fruit and Vegetable Bugs

Caprese Skewer Salad

And of course I have some of my favorites through the years that I know people love and devour. The caprese salad skewers are right up there at the top.

Layered Spring Garden Salad

A new favorite that is easy to make is a layered spring garden salad. I picked this idea up at another party and love it! (Thank you Beth.) This salad is different from tossing salad vegetables with dressing and having the problem of dressing making the salad wilt. Instead you layer ingredients, and apply seasoning on the way. Yet you save the oil and vinegar or dressing for the top. This keeps the greens fresh on the bottom.

Birthday Cake of course!

Although I would have loved to make gluten free cupcakes, to be honest, my gluten free baking skills are still in infancy. Using mostly organic ingredients, I did however make some delicious buttermilk vanilla/cardamom and chocolate cupcakes topped with chocolate cream cheese frosting.

The cupcakes were the only sweet treats provided, aside from the natural sweets like pineapple, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and watermelon. Also available for the kids was raspberry tea sweetened with juice from the cut up pineapple and flavored with fresh crushed mint from the back yard.

Costume Party Ideas for Boys

For boys, the costume party could focus on super heros. That way kids and even the adults could easily come up with a variety of costume options. Another option could be a season or location, like tropical or beach party. If it’s really hot, you can integrate your pool or get a blow up one and have fun. Similarly, you can still utilize all the thrift stores for any theme you choose.

And if you’re looking to have a fun party in between the birthdays, consider something on a smaller scale, like a Spring Tea Party.