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How To Decorate a Birthday Party for Under $100

PartyBenny Joy SmithComment

So last Saturday was my 20th birthday (cue cheering and celebratory gunfire) and I decided to celebrate with a vintage carnival themed party. The twist? I had to decorate the whole thing with $100 (NZD). Was it a challenge? Yes. Did I relish the challenge? You bet I did. Did it work out the way I had hoped? Just see for yourself:


For under $100 I had a marquee, sound system, festoon lights, professional photo booth, apple crates and hay bale seating. I was one happy camper. 

So how did I do it? Isn't that the golden question. I can probably put the answer to that into three parts: shopping around, asking around and using what I already had.  


1. Shopping Around

And by that I mean, making a plan of exactly what you want, researching to find the best deal for what you want and then driving around places to find it. I'm not gonna lie to you, it takes time and effort, but if you want to save money you have to be willing to spend hours trolling the shops in search of what you want.

I bought most of my decorations from cheap $2 stores. From these stores I purchased: 12 packs of tissue paper/crepe paper in red, white, polka dot and green (to make paper tassels), 5 packs of napkins in red polka dot and green, 2x 12 piece red striped paper bag packs (to serve popcorn in), 1x 3 pack of brown twine and 1x 36 piece tealight candle set. I also purchased 100 paper straws from AliExpress for a measly $5.05. The grand total for these decorative items came to: $48.05. 

Here is a selection of what I purchased:


That left me with $51.95 to work with. $34.50 of that was spent on hiring a string of festoon lights, leaving $17.45 leftover. 


2. Asking Around

Quite often it is a case of who you know and who you're willing to ask. I spent a bit of time ringing around and enquiring about items, seeing if people were able to donate or allow me to borrow items. Lucky for me, I know some amazing people who were willing to help out! My Aunty, who just so happens to be an event planner, let me borrow tea boxes (to rest drink dispensers on), red tablecloths and a tarp (to hide the junk in my garage!). A friend let me borrow a drink dispenser, another friend provided all of the equipment for the photo booth (including the lighting and his time) for free, and, my personal favourite, a lovely old couple gave me 8 wooden apple crates from their orchard for nothing. You can imagine how chuffed I was about that one! Wooden apple crates are worth around $10 each if you can even find them. 

If you want to save money, don't be afraid to ask. You never know what will happen. 



3. Using what I already had

The ability to re-use or recycle items you already own is a super helpful way to save serious moo-lah in your party planning. A helpful site for finding inspiration and ways of transforming ordinary household items is, wait for it... Pinterest. No surprises there, right? I spent hours searching through Pinterest gaining tonnes of new ideas for the party, and it really is as easy as typing in the theme for your party into the search bar and watching as post after post of gorgeousness flies before your eyes!

I was able to make 'Happy Birthday' bunting using old manila folders for the flags and scrapbooking paper for the letters. To create your own, cut 13 (or 14 if you want an exclamation mark) flags measuring 7 inches along the top and 8 inches on the sides. Print and trace the letters onto the scrapbooking paper. Cut and stick onto flags with double sided tape. Lastly, punch holes in the top using a hole punch and thread onto string. This is how they should turn out:

The other examples of using what I already had are:

  • The lanterns I used to line the driveway. For these I just used large preserving jars and tealight candles. Boom! Free and stunning - check them out in the pictures above. 
  • Props for the photo booth. It took a bit of time searching the internet for templates, but once I collected the images I just printed them, stuck the page onto old manila folders and cut around with sharp scissors. I then used bamboo skewers and masking tape to attach them.
  • The bamboo screen for the photo booth background. This was discovered during a recent garage clean out, given a lick of white paint and ta-dah! Perfect photo booth background.
  • Old jam jars as drinking glasses. Forget buying cheap and nasty plastic cups, re-use old jam jars for a gorgeous vintage way of consuming beverages.

In regards to your possible questions regarding the marquee, sound system and DJ equipment, I can say I was fortunate enough to already have these in my possession. And no, I did not obtain them through thievery. I'm not that kinda girl, thank you very much. 

So there you go, a Vintage Carnival 20th Birthday decorated for under $82.55. Didn't I tell you it was possible? Decorations and money aside, it was a super fantastic night, filled with dancing, food, friends, photos and fun! No amount of money can top that. 

Photo Credit: Gingerflip Studios and Benny Joy Smith