1. Shop end of season and after holiday sales. With every season and holiday stores load up on decorations, toys, home decor, candy and other food that are specific to that time of the year. As time goes by they have to clear out and make room for the current or upcoming season or holiday and that is when you can really find deals. Often you can get products marked down 50-90% off the regular price. Things like huge boxes of sidewalk chalk sell for only a dollar or two and you can divide them up into several party favors by putting a few pieces of chalk into small bags or putting basket wrap around them and tying them with curling ribbon. Most toys and favors will last indefinitely and can be purchased months or years before they are needed. Surprisingly there are many products that are on clearance after a holiday but are generic enough that your guests will never know they are getting something that the manufacturer intended to be for a specific holiday. Candy and chips can also be purchased ahead of time but obviously treats are perishable. Personally I only feel comfortable saving candy for 5 or 6 months at the most. However, Anna Lingeris, global brand manager for The Hershey Company, was quoted on TODAY.com as saying that if you want to save items like Hershey's Kisses, you are in luck.
"They generally have a shelf life of up to 11 months,” Lingeris said. “Chocolate products will maintain their quality if stored in a cool, dry place (55-60 degrees F)."
"Things like candy canes or ribbon candy are good for well over a year, up to five years possibly. The sugar creates a matrix that holds it all together," said Michael Allured, publisher of candy trade magazine The Manufacturing Confectioner. This is as long as you store it in a cool, dry place: "Humidity is the enemy."
Candyfavorites.com has a pretty comprehensive list of the shelf life of various candy on their website at http://www.candyfavorites.com/shop/shelf-life.php
Individual serving size chip bags are often on clearance after Halloween as well but their shelf life is considerably shorter than the candy so you should look at the expiration dates to determine if they will work for your party.
Here is a list of end of season and post holiday party favor possibilities:
- End of Summer: summer and water toys, bubbles, sidewalk chalk, kites, squirt guns, balls, flip flops, fun sunglasses, freezies, ice pops and sometimes candy
- After Halloween: candy and chips, costume accessories, stuffed animals, play dough and small toys, patterned pencils and erasers
- End of Fall: school supplies
- After Christmas: toys, gift sets (beauty gift sets can be divided up for spa parties and lip glosses or nail polish sets are great for little girl parties), stuffed animals, decorations and ornaments, candy
- After Valentines: stuffed animals, small toys, patterned pencils, patterned erasers, candy
- End of Winter: toys, gloves and mittens
- After St. Patricks Day: silly green toys and sometimes candy
- After Easter: toys, stuffed animals, plastic eggs, patterned pencils and erasers, candy
- After July 4 (or July 1 in Canada) flags, Bang snaps (also known as Throwdowns, snap-its, poppers, pop-its, snappers, whip'n pops, whipper snappers, fun snaps, party snaps, or snap'n pops and are a type of small novelty firework and are great fun for kids of all ages)
2. Shop sales and clearances. Bargains are not only after holidays or at the end of a season, sometimes they are actually at the beginning of seasons. Right now, for example, there are back to school savings. Crayons, felt markers, colorful pencils and fun school supplies are all really inexpensive in August and the beginning of September. You can break crayon, marker, or pencil sets up like I did with the sidewalk chalk putting a few in a bag or basket wrap and tying them up with curling ribbon. Other sales come from overstock or pushes from the manufacturer. I remember one year seeing cute Hello Kitty puppets marked down to a quarter each for reasons I couldn't explain. I encouraged my daughter to have a puppet party that ended up being a huge success.
3. Buy in bulk. Stores like Costco and online stores like the Oriental Trading Company are excellent resources for party favors. You can get large quantities of items for low prices and use them for multiple parties.
4. Visit your local dollar store. Years ago when I was hosting kids parties we didn't have dollar stores here in Canada but today they are everywhere and the quality and selection of products they offer has greatly improved over the years.
5. Believe it or not, clean, new party favors can often be found at garage sales. My mother-in-law is the queen of garage sales. She loves to go out and see what treasures she can find and I am always amazed at what she is able to acquire. It seems that many people purchase Happy Meals from McDonalds but never open the toys. My mother-in-law often finds small stuffed animals with the tags still on or other small trinkets and toys that are still in their original packaging. And the cost for such items? Usually a nickle, dime or quarter, often several for that price.
6. Be creative! Party favors don't have to be the typical toys, balloons, candy and noise makers that everyone usually thinks of. Your guests will be impressed if you give the unexpected. Seeds and a pot that they decorated, baking ingredients with a cookie cutter and recipe, kitchen gadgets, cups and mugs, magnets, art supplies or crafts, books, live goldfish, fuzzy socks, cool toothbrushes, cans of soda or juice boxes, fruit or berries, gift cards from the local doughnut shop with just enough money loaded on them to purchase a doughnut of their choosing, and the list goes on. Use your imagination and be open to anything.
Have you ever given or received a unique party favor? I'd love to hear some of your ideas!