Feature Photo


Dear Diary,


My dad always teases me by saying I have champagne dreams on a beer budget.  This year, I lived up to his comment by throwing my daughter a posh party on a $200 budget. I celebrated her second birthday in style and didn’t break the bank like last year. I’m not a DIY mama, however I learned that you don’t have to use a glue gun and glitter to design decorations. With a combination of networking, dollar store shopping and raiding my mother’s house, I threw an election day themed party President Obama’s daughters would envy.


Here’s what I got all under ten dollars.




My sister and my nephews recently launched a baking business called The Cupcake Crew. She donated 2 ½ delicious dozens of red, white and blue cupcakes with stars and stripes cupcake liners. The vanilla cupcakes had a birthday surprise baked in the bottom—a cookie! After the party, someone asked Caitlynn when she did, and she replied, “Ate cake!”


Election Posters



Using a graphic design website called Pic Monkey, I created customized election posters to decorate the walls of the play center. I played off of President Obama’s Change posters and used the Andy Warhol effect on a photo I took of Caitlynn outside of a local diner.  I printed and framed the Evite sent to guests, inviting them to Caitlynn’s red, white and two birthday bash.



My mother’s nickname is Martha Stewart.  She is the queen of the backyard BBQ. I raided her storage closet for Fourth of July decorations. She supplied me with lots of flags, a tablecloth, metal tubs, stars and stripes platters, signs and more! I also had red and blue items from last year’s Very Hungry Caterpillar party.


Coloring Pages


Place Mats:

For a buck, I bought a pack of crayons at the Dollar Tree and printed off election themed coloring pages from Apples 4 the Teachers. The website offers different designs, featuring holidays, seasons, animals and more.  While we passed out pizza, the kids colored.  No whining, no getting out of their seats and no messes!


Voter Ballots:

I used Pic Monkey to make these personalized ballots.  Caitlynn’s cousins were her opponents; however they wanted their names off the ticket. They said they weren’t competing in a race they knew they would lose!  I bought candy dots at the Dollar Tree and applied them to the ballots.




Helium Balloons:

Once again, I headed to the Dollar Tree.  The store offers both latex and mylar balloons.


Head Gear:

The boys received a skimmer hat, and the girls got a ponytail headband. Everyone got red, white or blue beads.


Snack Bar


Cutlery Containers:

Stick a handkerchief inside a mason jar to create a festive cutlery container.  I borrowed a box of jars from my aunt, but if you have to buy this, each item is only one dollar.


Snack Bar:

Last year, I created a candy bar.  We still have candy left over!  This year, I decided to do a half-candy/half-snack bar instead.  That way, we won’t waste money or food. I went to a discount grocery store and purchased animal crackers, pretzel rods and fruit snacks. I also layered red, white and blue cereal. I know, I actually picked out the colors, and Caitlynn and I ate the orange, green and purple ones while I filled the jar! I picked up a couple pinwheels at a party store to stick inside the jars.



Instead of going to an expensive bake shop, ask your local grocery store to make your cookies instead. For $2.99, I ordered a dozen themed thumbprints.




Rubber Duck Pond:

I purchased rubber ducks and filled a stars and stripes tub (borrowed from my mom) and made a patriotic pond.  The kids could pick out a prize to put in their favor boxes.  They also raided the snack and candy bar.


Personalized Water Bottles:

On the front label read, Quench your thirst for a better tot town! Vote Caitlynn for Mayor! The back read, Paid for by my Campaign Momager. You can also personalize I Voted stickers.


Favors Collage


Personalized Favor Boxes:

Need a political favor? Just ask Mayor Caitlynn!  These personalized boxes were only $9.80. I filled them with goodies from the candy and snack bar, blue bubbles and patriotic yo-yo’s.



Since it was after the Fourth of July, I picked up this $36 dress at Macy’s for only ten bucks and some change!


Hey DFTM Fam–What frugal party tips have you used to throw a birthday bash?

About The Author

Vlog Mom/DFTM Creator

Not long ago, Heather Hopson hosted a television show in the Cayman Islands. Today, she's back home writing a different kind of story as a new mom. In her 15 years working as a professional journalist, this by far is her best assignment! Growing up, she dreamed of becoming Oprah Winfrey. She was the features editor for her school’s newspaper and a teen talk show host for her city’s most popular radio station. She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Michigan State University. After graduation, she worked as a television producer and reporter at CBS, NBC and Fox affiliates throughout the U.S. Instead of heading to Chicago to join Ms. Winfrey on her set, she bought a plane ticket to the Cayman Islands instead. She arrived five days before a category five hurricane! She lived in paradise for seven years, hosted an award-winning television show and traveled the globe with a government delegation. She also served on the board of directors for Big Brothers Big Sisters and spearheaded a Send a Kid to Camp campaign. Then, she relocated to Washington, D.C. to obtain a teaching certification and instruct 8th grade reading at a high needs middle school. She later returned to her hometown of Pittsburgh, PA to raise her daughter Caitlynn, now 4-years-old. During her 10-month-stint as a stay-at-home mom, Caitlynn inspired her to create this blog, and Diary of a First Time Mom was born on Mother’s Day 2012. Two years later, she expanded the family to include 20+ writers. Currently, Heather serves as the communications director at Allies for Children. In addition, she is the owner of Motor Mouth Multimedia, which ranked #49 in Startup Nation’s Home-Based 100 Competition sponsored by Discover Card and Sam’s Club. Recently, The Pittsburgh Foundation and The Heinz Endowments selected Heather to receive an Emerging Black Artist award to develop Diary of a First Time Mom.

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