From under $50 to $7k: 17 women share how much they spent on their child's first birthday party.

Our idea of what makes a kids' first birthday party special has sure changed over the years. 

From sharing plates of sandwiches and cake with close family, to Kardashian-level theme parks and festivals - we've really seen it all.

But in 2023 and after years of lockdowns and pandemic life, what does a first birthday party mean to us now? Are we still embracing pared-back simplicity, or going for 'more is more' after years at home? 

We spoke to our Mamamia community to find out. Here's what they had to say.

1. Karina.

When was your child's birthday(s)? November 2022.

How much did you spend? $700.

Why did you spend that amount?

"Our total spend included alcohol for the adults which was probably $200 of the cost. We used a private function area at the in-laws complex with pool access and a BBQ. It was great for the kids as it was free to use and very convenient with great facilities. We also hired a soft play setup for the under fours to play safely, which was the best money we could have spent. The kids loved it and the adults could relax while supervising them. This was around $300 from memory. The food cost was on meat, salad, and bread rolls."

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2. Tanya.

When was your child's birthday(s)? May 2021.

How much did you spend? $7,000.

Why did you spend that amount? "We had 80 people come along to celebrate and so I spread the budget across many small businesses and with our utmost pleasure!"

3. Jessica.

When was your child's birthday(s)? February 2021, just after a lockdown.

How much did you spend? Less than $100.

Why did you spend that amount?

"I wasn’t willing to risk a big event being cancelled, so we just invited close family, maybe 10 guests in total. I made all the food at home to be appropriate for a one-year-old. We’ve repeated the same for her second and third birthdays and her little sister will get the same in May 2023. I still can’t deal with having to cancel a big affair because of COVID. Scarred, much?"

4. Elizabeth.

When was your child's birthday(s)? My son turned one in 2019. 

How much did you spend? Roughly $300 to $350.

Why did you spend that amount? "We had a party at home and spent around $300 to $350 all up for a cake, food, and decorations. We had around 50 guests so we needed a lot of food!"


5. Asten.

When was your child's birthday(s)? 2021.

How much did you spend? $100.

Why did you spend that amount? 

"I invited about 50 people and we had morning tea in a local park by the river. I got decorations from my local 'buy nothing' group and re-gifted them afterwards as I made a commitment to never buy a balloon about 10 years ago. I made all the food: sausage rolls, fairy bread, sugar cookies, etc. We had drink canisters that had elderflower cordial and water. A few family members bought a plate of food and boom, it was done!"

6. Hanna.

When was your child's birthday(s)? July 2020.

How much did you spend? $500.

Why did you spend that amount? 

"We held a small 'family only' gathering as it was during COVID times in July 2020 and we didn’t know what restrictions would be like. I think we spent maybe $500 on helium balloons, food, and cupcakes I made myself. We had free room hire as it was at a footy club that my partner volunteers at."

7. Claire.

When was your child's birthday(s)? January 2022.

How much did you spend? $600.

Why did you spend that amount?

"We spent about $600 on a combined celebration for her first birthday and christening. She had spent half her life in lockdown and hadn't met most of our extended family so we had a huge celebration with 70 people. This included cake, lunch for everyone, balloons, a lolly bar, and hire fees for a hall."


8. Bobbie.

When was your child's birthday(s)? March 2021.

How much did you spend? Less than $50.

Why did you spend that amount?

"With borders closed we couldn’t have all grandparents in person. (We had our New Zealand grandparents in town and we had our Aussie grandparents on a video call.) All up I think I spent under $50 which was just on decorations and anything extra I needed to make the birthday cake."

9. Abby.

When was your child's birthday(s)? 2022.

How much did you spend? Just under $800.

Why did you spend that amount?

"We held the party for 20 people in our friend's backyard. Food for the kids cost about $30. We bought a few individual packets of kids' snacks and the cake was only $25 as I assembled some store-bought ones and added icing and floral decorations.

"The adult food was around $200 as we created a DIY salad bar for people to make their own salads depending on their dietary requirements. The meat and protein ingredients were the most expensive part. There were also little bits and pieces (sauces, toppings, herbs) that added up. 

"Decorations were $150 and included photos, balloons, plates, napkins, etc. We had so much left over that I gave to other friends having birthday parties. My mum also made a fruit platter and little lolly bags which probably added up to around $60. As most of our friends don't have kids, we thought we should provide some alcohol as it was an afternoon event. We had margaritas, beers and seltzers, which probably cost around $300 in total."


10. Maddie.

When was your child's birthday(s)? 2017 and 2019.

How much did you spend? $500+

Why did you spend that amount? 

"I did parties at home when my kids were that age. I couldn't tell you how much I spent, but myself and family members made the vast majority of the food. We probably still spent at least $500 on all the ingredients, meat for the BBQ, decorations, helium balloons, etc.  

"We didn't pay for any entertainment as the kids just played in the backyard. I figured that the party was more for my memories than anything else so I was pretty sensible with what I spent and I was super conscious of not wanting to set the bar too high for future parties."

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11. Pip.

When was your child's birthday(s)? 2016 and 2019.

How much did you spend? $500.

Why did you spend that amount? 

"My daughter's first birthday was in a park. I invited all my mates but only two 'baby mates' and we brought champagne. Mum and dad came over from interstate for the party and they took my daughter home after a few hours, so my mates and I stayed in the park and got rowdy. The first birthday is all about the parents! 


"My son had gastro on his first birthday in December 2019 so we made a pathetic-looking cake and stayed home. We didn't know how many tragic at-home celebrations were in our very near future!"

12. Hayley.

When was your child's birthday(s)? January 2023.

How much did you spend? $750.

Why did you spend that amount? 

"My daughter turned one at the end of January and being so close to Christmas, I didn't want to waste more money on presents she didn't need. We booked a two-night staycation at a Sydney hotel with a pool and spent the weekend in the water with the kids. They loved it and I felt so relieved once it was booked as there's so much pressure to 'do something'. Our party budget was spent on accommodation and food."

13. Carla.

When was your child's birthday(s)? 2020.

How much did you spend? $750.

Why did you spend that amount? 

"I did not spend anything for my son’s first birthday, because all our siblings and grandparents paid for it. It was a simple kids and family party for about 30 people. We then celebrated a year later in a beach resort, just the three of us, where we spent most of the time in the water.

"The total cost covered the hotel accommodation, food and drinks, fuel for transport, cake and balloon decorations. Since then, a birthday party for him is a holiday in a beach/pool resort with family." 


14. Rosie.

When was your child's birthday(s)? October 2018.

How much did you spend? N/A.

Why did you spend that amount? 

"We decided to turn our daughter's first birthday into our wedding. We knew we already had to invite everyone we were related to, or were friends with (because she had no friends yet!), so we turned it into a celebration of our little family and hosted it at our house. 

"As a result, her first birthday had a photographer, flowers from the market, and catering. My son (born in 2021) has had no birthday parties. He is born in February and for his first and second birthdays, I have re-wrapped gifts he was given at Christmas."

15. Melissa.

When was your child's birthday(s)? Between 2018 and 2022.

How much did you spend? Up to $4,000.

Why did you spend that amount? 

"With my first child, we spent around $3,000 all together. My second child was around $1,800 thanks to COVID and my third child was around $4,000. For our fourth child, we will have to see as she's only four months old!

"With the most recent first birthday party, we had around 40 people at our house. Most of the money was spent on catering and cake and then entertainment and decorations.

"We had a jumping castle with a ball pit attached, 'unicorn' rides for one hour, and a balloon garland and backdrop."


16. Katie.

When was your child's birthday(s)? June 2022.

How much did you spend? $200.

Why did you spend that amount? 

"We spent the budget on cake and nibbles and just had a few family members over to celebrate.

"We had all been sick constantly last winter, and I didn’t want to organise something big and risk it being cancelled. Funnily enough, he was out of COVID isolation the day before his birthday and came down with hand, foot and mouit disease three days after!"

17. Rach. 

When was your child's birthday(s)? June 2022.

How much did you spend? $500.

Why did you spend that amount? 

"Without realising, it adds up quickly! We spent $60 on soft drinks, $150 on finger food, $100 on nibbles (cheese, dips, etc) and cake ingredients, $100 on decorations from a small business on Etsy, $50 on new outfit to match the theme, $50 on balloons, and $30 on party bags."

How much did you spend on your child's first birthday? Tell us in the comments below.

Laura Jackel is Mamamia's Family Writer. For links to her articles and to see photos of her outfits and kids, follow her on Instagram and TikTok.

Feature Image: Getty.

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