A Buy (Almost) Nothing Birthday Party

Editor's Note: If you're looking for tips on an eco-conscious birthday party that won't break the bank, Paige Wolf has tips for you! Choose a theme of your own, and see how little you can manage to buy while still throwing a great bash for your child.


I started writing this post pre-illness. And during my hospital stay, I had one goal: not cancel my daughter’s third birthday party. I already worked so hard on that damn piñata!

Thanks to help from family and friends, I was able to pull it off. And thank goodness it was a morning party because when the guests left at 1pm I passed out hard!

It wasn’t the perfect Buy Almost Nothing party I had planned, but I still managed to come pretty darn close!

Months prior, I reached out to my local Buy Nothing Group and quickly accumulated a brilliant Peter Rabbit/cabbage dish, a ceramic watering can, a few photo frames, some paper butterflies and nine assorted stuffed bunnies.

For a craft, I decided to let kids decorate their own mini planters. I had markers in abundance and just needed to purchase some mini terra cotta planters at 10 for $5.99

And for the piece de resistance: my piñata. I loved creating one for my son’s 5th birthday party a couple years back, especially because I detest traditional junky piñata. So I was excited to get to work on this one!

Making one is simple and not terribly time consuming – it’s just a matter of taking time to do the steps.

Start with a jumbo latex balloon (about $3) and do three coats of papier mache, careful to let it completely dry in between coats. When it is solid and hard, use a scissors to pop the balloon and create a small hole to fill with treats.

You know all those temporary tattoos, plastic figurines, and whistles that you put in your goody bags? Well, you are about to receive them all back via my piñata! I also filled it with YumEarth Organic Lollipops (50 for $6.39) and YumEarth Organic Fruit Snacks (40 snack packs for $19.88).

I had originally planned to bake a carrot cake. I even practiced! But I had to give in to the post-illness fatigue and allow a bit of help from Whole Foods, who did a killer Peter Rabbit cake. We’ll just pretend I didn’t pay a fortune for it.

In the end it was a wonderful party filled with family and friends. It didn’t have to be “Pinterest perfect,” but having a silly goal of getting those carrots into a vase and filling planters with broccoli motivated me to do a bit more every day. I also learned that being a crazy Type-A advance planner isn’t such a bad thing when life throws a wrench at you!

Using items found around my house and discarded or shared by others to create something beautiful makes me even happier than a birthday girl surrounded by presents. Thanks to everyone who lent me their stuffed bunnies – now I just have to figure out what to do with them all!

Paige Wolf is a Philadelphia mom, green-living expert and author of Spit That Out! The Overly Informed Parent’s Guide to Raising Children in the Age of Environmental Guilt. This post is adapted from her blog Spit That Out! Connect with her at www.paigewolf.com, on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Google+

Categories: MomSpeak