Memorable 1st birthday ideas on a budget

A baby’s first birthday doesn’t have to be an elaborate affair. Let’s face it, they won’t remember it and it’s more for the parents than the child. Of course, it’s only natural you’d want to mark the special milestone. If it’s your first baby, you might feel like you should celebrate making it to the end of what can be a long, exhausting, challenging, but amazing 12 months of motherhood.

So, if you want to plan something fun for all the guests (yourself included) that doesn’t require too much effort on your part, and even better if you can keep the costs down, we know you’ll discover some great 1st birthday ideas here.

Memorable and budget-friendly 1st birthday ideas


Digital invitations are more than acceptable these days in an effort to save paper. Canva is a good tool to allow you to whip something up quickly, and is free. Otherwise, use a photo of your little one and your phone’s editing tools to add text with the party details, and text it to your guests.


Have the party at home, in the backyard, the beach, or in a park (with or without a playground). There’s no need to hire a venue or book a space in a playcentre. If you’d rather leave the work and the clean-up to someone else but you’re on a tight budget, you could consider reducing the number of guests. Alternatively, ask a family member or friend if they could offer their home for the party, or help you with food preparation, cleaning the house, taking photos, or the decorations. People are usually only too happy to help.


Help to reduce landfill and keep the decorations to a minimum. Use a reusable Happy Birthday banner that can be used over and over again. A few balloons beside it will add a festive touch.

Another great idea is to print off some photos of your little one (finally!) and put them in a frame or peg them onto a length of string, like bunting, and hang them on the wall. Easy!


You can skip the theme altogether if you want to. It will take a lot of pressure off you not to have the cake, the decorations, and everything else all matching. Often, first birthdays have more grownup guests than children, and they won’t be too bothered if the party is theme-less (they’ll probably be happiest with a slice of cake and a glass of bubbly or a cup of tea!).


You could just use a plain white washable tablecloth, or anything you already have, so that the colours of the food and any table decorations pop. You might have colourful serving dishes, or fresh flowers from your garden to make it interesting. There’s no need to overthink it.


Play some of your favourite music, or if there’s going to be other babies there, put on some nursery rhymes and songs that your baby loves. An inflatable paddling pool filled with balls is cheap entertainment, and have a look at our easy play ideas using things you already have at home. Don’t feel pressured to have games or activities at a first birthday, it’s just not necessary.

Food and drinks

It’s often best to put most of the budget into what everyone will be eating and drinking. It can still be low-key but delicious. Schedule the party to start at a time when you won’t have to offer a full meal. Afternoon tea is perfect (for instance 2-4pm), because in addition to the cake, you won’t need to go to too much trouble. A few platters of food that require minimal preparation is ideal.  Some ideas include:

  • Dips with sliced up breadsticks, crackers, and vegetable sticks
  • A fruit platter along with our Easy and Yummy Mini Muffins
  • Sandwich triangles, such as cheese and ham, or cucumber and cream cheese
  • Antipasto board with cold meats, olives, cheeses, marinated capsicum etc

For the drinks, you might like to just offer tea and coffee, or glasses of sparkling water with lemon or berries added to make it fun. If the budget stretches, some sparkling wine to toast the birthday boy or girl is lovely, but definitely not mandatory.

Birthday cake

Customised cakes can be incredibly expensive. If you like baking, you could make it yourself, or if you know someone else who bakes, you could ask them. Alternatively, get one (or two and layer them) from the supermarket and add your own touches with a few decorations. It could be some berries, whipped cream, and grated chocolate, or add a cake topper, or pile it up with sprinkles and lollies if there are older children attending. You could always have a mini homemade cupcake or muffin set aside for your baby if you’re not keen on giving them cake just yet, so keep in mind the other guests when you decide on your cake.

Loot bags

You really don’t have to feel obliged on this one if you’ve got kids coming. There will be plenty of parties in the future to think about the take-home goodie bags. Give the kids some bubble wands and/or sidewalk chalk if they can get outdoors at the party, and they’ll be thrilled. If you’re indoors, some crayons, stickers, and paper will keep them amused.