May 29, 2014

How-To: Car-Themed Birthday Party on a Budget

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We threw our son a car-themed birthday party this past Memorial Day weekend and he, along with our wallets, appreciated it!

We wanted our son to have an awesome 2nd birthday party, but since we are currently in the middle of our $15,000 Debt Pay-Off Plan in 18-Months, we had to get creative on how we could do more with less!

Therefore, Pinterest became my co-party planner! You can view my car-themed Pinterest board here: Liam's 2nd Birthday Party. I was able to find other mom's party ideas and they inspired me come up with a few ideas of my own! You can find more information under the captions of each photo!

In the end, we were able to budget all the decor, invitations, cake, goodie bags, activities, drinks, AND food for only $125 out of pocket, which isn't bad considering in previous parties, I used to spend $120 on just the cake and catering alone!

I probably could have spent even less, but some things I had to pay someone to make for me (like the car photo booth and banners). It's not that they were hard to make, but since I had finals for school and was busy at work, I needed the extra help to make sure everything was ready in time!


Here's a cute photo idea for invitations: Our handsome boy posed with toy cars (many of which I borrowed since I didn't have enough) shaped in the number 2 for his birthday invitations! I took the photo myself and e-mailed the invitations out to save on printing and photography costs! - OUT OF POCKET COST: $0

Car Photo Booth: This was an idea that I found on the site: See Suzy Spin. She created a car shaped photo booth that I loved! I wanted to incorporate it in our son's party as a fun way to keep record of every guest that came and for them to have a fun memento! We even threw in some props to make it a little more silly! I had my sister take the photos for us as a "gift" to our son rather than spend money and rent an actual photo booth or photographer! - OUT OF POCKET COST: $17 - $15 to have the car made (you can save even more by doing it yourself out of cardboard) and $2 for the props (bought at the dollar store).

Photo Booth Backdrop: As a backdrop for the photos, I decorated the wall with road signs that I printed and a banner that I custom ordered! - OUT OF POCKET COST: $5 for the banner - You can easily make it yourself with cardstock and ribbon!

Here are some samples of the fun photos our guests took in our photo booth! We placed the photobooth at the entrance so it would be the first thing everyone did!

It was a big hit! I plan on printing each picture and making an album as a keepsake for our son!

Racetrack Cupcake Cake: I am a HORRIBLE baker, so rather than risk getting everyone sick (lol), a friend of mine volunteered to help me with my son's birthday cake! (Thank you Heather!) She made vanilla and chocolate flavored cupcakes from scratch and organized them into a 2! She also made extra cupcakes since the "racetrack" only consisted of 15 cupcakes. Then the next night we went to her house and had a Frosting Party where we worked together with my sister-in-law to frost all of the cupcakes! She added food coloring to the frosting to create the road and piped the frosting to create the green shrubbery and white road lines. Right before the party, I added the cars , made a "start" and "finish" sign for the track, and put checkered flags on the cupcakes to give it a more uniformed look. The cake turned out yummy and everyone thought it was super cute! - OUT OF POCKET COST: $5 - $4 for the frosting and $1 for the toothpicks. I already had the cars, my friend already had all the cupcake ingredients, and the flags I made myself so I saved a lot that way! I printed the checkered flags on paper and taped them onto the toothpicks! I used an old baking sheet covered with tinfoil as the cake base.


The Snack Bar: This was our table display of all the food. Note: The paper plates in the colors of a stoplight was a fun extra detail! - OUT OF POCKET COST: $65 - This includes the cost of not only food but also for plates, napkins, utensils, and the table cloth (which was bought at the dollar store to save money). Since we made many of the food ourselves, we were able to create a menu within our budget. Howerver, 2 of the dishes were catered but I saved money on them because I asked my mother to pay for them as a "gift" for Liam. It helped our costs greatly and ensured that we had enough food for our 60+ guests!


"Veggie Vehicles" - Made of celery, carrots, and peanut butter!

"Veggie Vehicles" - The celery was covered in peanut butter and the toothpicks held the carrots to create "wheels". A small carrot was placed on top for the "seat."

"Wagon Wheels" - Mac & cheese, but rather than using traditional macaroni, I used wheel-shaped pasta to stay within the theme!

"Saucy Signals" - We wanted the dips to remind people of streetlight signal colors, so we used salsa (red), queso dip (yellow), and guacamole (green) to create the illusion of a streetlight!
"Mater's Taters" - Potato chips for the saucy signals!

"Rubber Tires" - Chocolate covered donuts!

"Streetlights" - We put strawberry, pineapple, and green grapes on a skewer to match the color scheme of a stoplight!

"Steering Wheels" - Tortilla pinwheels made with ham, turkey, Swiss cheese, and romaine lettuce with a cream cheese and bell pepper spread. They were the first things gone! I will be sharing the recipe on my blog soon! Cheap and very easy to make!

"Gasoline" and "Antifreeze" - For the gasoline we made lemonade and for the antifreeze I bought Hawaiian Punch Blue Polar Blast juice!


Food labels: I found a blog that created awesome Car themed printables. You can download the labels for free here: Yvonne Byatt's Family Fun. I just downloaded them and modified them in Paint to match my specific menu! Then I printed them out on cardstock and they turned out great! OUT OF POCKET COST: $0

Here is a cute checkered banner that I custom ordered for my son's birthday party! I used it as decor above the Snack Bar and Photo booth. OUT OF POCKET COST: $5 You can easily make it yourself with cardstock and ribbon!

Banner and Road Signs: I printed a bunch of road signs that I googled on the internet and used them as decor all over the house! As for the banner, I printed it on cardstock and used it as decor in our backyard. OUT OF POCKET COST: $0

"Road" Walkway: As soon as you enter our house, there is a long hallway you walk through, so we decided to make it look like a road! Another reason we did it this way was since most of our house is carpet and the party was both inside and outside, we didn't want people to have to keep putting on and taking off their shoes! With this "road", they were able to keep their shoes on the whole time without making my carpets dirty! We made a road from the entrance that led into the main area of the snack bar and also a road that led to the bathroom. It added to the ambiance of the theme and also gave a functional use! - OUT OF POCKET COST: $13 - We bought black plastic sheeting (found in the paint section of Walmart) for $10 and bought yellow painters tape for $3. Then we just cut the plastic to fit into our areas and used the tape to separate the roads. It was super easy and I loved how it turned out!

Since it was a "road" I made street signs at the intersection telling people the direction to the Snack Bar and "Pit Stop" (aka Bathroom). OUT OF POCKET COST: $0


Goodie Bags: For guests leaving, we had goodie bags placed at the "Finish Line". We made the goodie bags out of brown paper lunch bags and used red, yellow, and green construction paper to create the look of a stoplight. - OUT OF POCKET COST: $15 - I already had the construction paper, so I just bought the brown paper bags and goodie bag treats at the dollar store. For just $15 I was able to buy tire yoyo's, bubbles, plastic bugs, and candy to make 18 goodie bags! It was a cute and simple "thank you for coming" gift for the kids.


Since we were on a budget, I only planned games that required no actual money. Two games I came up with were Red Light, Green Light and Relay Race (to stick with the car theme). However, when it came down to it, the kids preferred to just play in our backyard! We had a swing set, jungle gym, playhouse, and mini trampoline, along with a sand table and a few tricycles, so thankfully all of those things kept the kids occupied the whole 3 hours!

The wooden swing set was our gift to our son for his 2nd birthday. It cost about $420, so to help balance the cost, we asked guests if they wanted to contribute towards it, prior to the party. After all the monies were collected, we only had to chip in an extra $50! A huge thank you again to Hugo, Christine, Angelina, Mario, Maui, Papa&Lala, Grandma&Grandpa Hoop, and The McDonald Family for chipping in so we could get him this awesome swing set! All their generosity helped us get our son a gift he loves without having to charge it to credit!

And even though we had a lot of people contribute towards the swing set, he still made out like a bandit in the gift department!


Our son about to blow his candle!

His favorite part of the whole party - lol.

All in all, we were able to throw our son an awesome party without hurting our wallets! Thank you to everyone that came and to those who helped us make our son's birthday a little more special!

  • Don't hesitate to ask for help!
  • Rather than people buying a gift, ask if they can volunteer their TIME towards the party. (Especially if they have a specific talent like baking or photography or face painting!)
  • For expensive gifts, see if you can have guests chip in.
  • Make the decorations yourself.
  • Don't cater your food. Make most or all of it yourself.
  • Bake your own birthday cake.
  • When buying materials for the party, look at the dollar store or 99 Cent Store first! (Especially for goodie bag treats!)
  • And lastly, kids aren't very difficult to please, so think of cheap or free games that can entertain the kids to avoid breaking the bank! You don't always need fancy bounce houses or clowns for the kids to have a great time!
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If you liked any of our ideas, please make sure to "pin it" to your Pinterest board or "share it" on your Facebook wall for future reference! If you have any ideas you've done for a car-themed party and want to share with others, don't hesitate to voice them in our "comments section"! Thank you for reading!


  1. Those are all awesome ideas! The food was very creative with such a variety. Great job.

  2. Looks like a great party! You did a good job!

  3. What a creative party!! Thanks for the ideas. Where did you get the car photo booth cutout?

    1. Thank you! I actually had a neighborhood mom make it for me. She is very artistic and did it for only $15! I know I could've saved money by doing it myself, but for me time is money, and I didn't have the time nor the talent, so she did it for me in a pinch with just a cardboard box and some paint! :]

    2. Thank you so much for your wonderful blog. Our sons second birthday is on Saturday but thanks to you we started planning and preparing two weeks ago. I thought you may like to see this. I will post another after the party!!

  4. Where did you get the swing set from? :)

  5. Hi, lovely ideas! Will be using some, since we are throwing a party on a budget for my son Liam who is also turning 2 (what are the odds?!). However we live in an apartment hence not much space indoors neither outdoors...can you let me know what party games I could throw relating to the cars theme? Thanks a bunch.

  6. How did u make the photo booth stand?

  7. This is so amazing !! Thankyou for sharing

  8. Such great ideas, what a wonderful party! And so impressive it was on such a budget. Nice job!!

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  10. This is going to be a perfect party for my nephew who loves car just like this kid. Thanks for sharing such a pocket friendly and an amazing idea here. It is his birthday next month and I am planning a surprise party for him at an amazing venue NYC and this is a perfect plan.

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