1. Make it amazing. As in an Amazing Race. A couple of years ago we planned an Amazing Race for my son’s 13th birthday party and ever since, our daughter, Abby, has been waiting for the day we’d have one for her 13th birthday. Click here to read more about how to plan one. 13-year-olds love this. In fact, I think it’d be great for almost any age.

2. Don’t overdo it on the decorations. Rather than decorate the whole house or several areas, concentrate your efforts on one area, like the serving table, to make your decorating dollars go farther.

3. Start at the top. Banners and buntings are a great way to add drama and fill the empty space from the table to the ceiling. If you can sew a straight line, you can make one. I make mine by cutting out triangles from fabrics and sewing them onto cotton clothesline.

4. Canvas is King. By now I could write a book on all the ways to decorate with a canvas drop cloth. What can I say? I love them! I’ve got a piece of canvas in my craft supplies at any given time, and I pulled some out for the party to make a table runner. Sewing on a little ribbon and trim makes it a great layer for your table.

5. Forego the fancy. Rather than spend the time and money on a fancy cake, I usually opt for the simple and familiar: basic cupcakes made from a box. How dare I? Well, honestly, it’s what my kids prefer. And 24 yummy cupcakes for $1 sounds delicious to me, too. Thank you, Betty Crocker!

6. Depending on your budget, you may or may not decide to serve lunch or dinner at your party. Choose a time in between meal times if your budget won’t allow for providing food for everyone. And if you do choose to serve more than just cupcakes and ice cream, go for kids’ favorites like hot dogs or pizza and chips. These are easy to serve, easy to clean up, and exactly what most kids would choose anyway.

7. Let the food be your table decor. Since I went with the plain cupcakes for Abby’s party, I added a little flair to the table with some long pennant picks made from another of my party stand-by’s: scrapbook papers. These little pennants are just little triangles hot-glued onto bamboo skewers. The 13’s were just printed out and punched with a start burst punch.

8. Use what you have for serve ware. Before you decide on how to serve your cupcakes, take a look around your kitchen. There’s no need to go out and buy a fancy tiered server or expensive serving platter. Use what you already have. I collect cake stands, so I went with white ones in different heights. If you have a set of cute plates, line them across the table in a pattern and go with that. Or, line the bottom of a plain baking sheet with colored scrapbook papers to make a pretty serving tray.

9. Add color with candy. The fact is, candy in a jar is just as appealing to the eye as it is to the tastebuds. Just ask my four-year-old. After the last guest left the party, I came into the room to find Lola lying across the table, head back, shoveling a scoop-full of skittles into her mouth. She was loving this party. I only wish I’d gotten the picture.

10. More scrapbook papers and punches can add even more flair to your jars of candy or gum balls.

11. Hang a big sign for the birthday girl to distract the guests from noticing the dirty windows that you didn’t have time to clean because you were too busy making a big sign for the birthday girl. (Seriously–my house is never perfect, but I invite people over anyway. And so can you!)

12. Allow time for unscheduled fun at the party. The biggest part of Abby’s party was the Amazing Race, which was very planned and scheduled, but I made sure the kids would have a little time at the party for just chatting or playing unscheduled games like ping pong or air hockey. I’ve learned this from past experiences when I’ve tried to plan a game or activity for every minute of the party and realized the kids really like it better when they have a little time to just hang out. This take the pressure off of the parents as well and gives you time to be a better host or hostess.

13. The one point I hope to inspire you with is this: You can throw a nice party for your kids even if you aren’t a professional event planner or don’t have a lot of money to spend. When you see ideas you like that you know you can do, bookmark them or pin them to Pinterest, then make them your own. If you don’t feel like you have a lot of creativity, borrow it from someone else. That’s what the blog world is about. And chances are, when you make the attempt, you’ll end up coming up with some great ideas of your own added in.

Above all, have a great time with it and make it a special day for your child. They’ll appreciate and remember your efforts for years to come.