Your 18th birthday is a milestone birthday and typically a special day for most people. But, most importantly, turning 18 signifies officially being recognized as an adult, which comes with many new and exciting opportunities.
Full-fledged driving in many states, the right to vote, and serving your country are just a few examples. But, of course, you can also have a bit more fun with being able to get a tattoo (cover your eyes, mom and dad!), buy a lottery ticket, or even change your name.
So how should one spend their special birthday, especially if you are frugal-minded? Below are some 18th birthday ideas for those who are more on the frugal side of living.
Frugal 18th Birthday Ideas
There are plenty of unique 18th birthday party ideas out there; mine are geared toward those teens or parents looking to save money while still having a great time on their special day!
Have an at Home Spa Day
There’s no doubt that going to a Spa is a great way to spend part or all of your 18th birthday, but it can also be one of the most expensive. So why not bring the spa home to you? Draw a hot bath, add some bubbles, maybe some aromatherapy candles, plus any other spa staples you can think of at home for a fraction of the price.
After relaxing at home with your spa day, it could be time to get into the great outdoors. Grab a few friends and family and hit the hiking trails near you. Or better yet, work up a good sweat on a hike first, then relax with the at-home spa.
Go on a Camping Trip
For the outdoorsy teen, adding a camping trip to your hike could be the perfect compliment as an amazing 18th birthday idea. Bring all the makings for smores, tell campfire stories, and have a low-tech good time under the stars. You don’t even need a campsite. You can always set up the tents right in your backyard!
Have a Picnic
Staying with the outdoor theme, a nice relaxing picnic in the park is a fun and frugal way to spend part of your 18th birthday. So pack up your favorite lunch and snacks, a blanket, and a few of your favorite outdoor games, and have a great time!
This ain’t your mom and dad’s bowling. Okay, it could be if you wanted it to be, but there are many variations on this classic sport. Find a bowling alley where they offer Cosmic Bowling or anything along those lines to make your 18th birthday out of this world!
Have a Movie Marathon
Many of our favorite movies these days are part of a series. Take the MCU movies, for example. You could spend days watching these movies. Pick a few of your birthday boy or birthday girl’s favorite flicks and spend the night watching them.
Get Your Sing on with a Karaoke Night
Why not crank out a few tunes with a karaoke night if your frugal teen loves to sing? So fire up that karaoke machine and sing the night away.
Go On A Road Trip
Have a destination you love, but it is far away? No better time to go to a unique location than your 18th birthday. Now that you are a full-fledged driver grab a few friends and hit the road!
Take A Weekend Trip
Some destinations are too far away for a day trip. In that case, make it a weekend trip. Of course, staying overnight will up the price, but there are definite frugal ways to find good hotel deals or even use services like Airbnb to keep costs down.
Attend a Concert
Attending a concert is a great 18th birthday idea for the music-loving teen. Some tickets can go for a pretty penny. There are plenty of local shows that are more affordable (or free!), or you can get several people to chip in for the artist they like most.
Have a Scavenger Hunt
As far as 18th birthday celebration ideas go, this one might take the most planning, but it could also be the most fun. Send your teenager all around town searching for different items using clever clues for a day full of frugal fun.
Go to Top Golf
Top Golf is a birthday destination that has gained popularity over the past few years. If you’ve never been, it takes golf and adds a bunch of fun spins (you see what I did there?) to it. It’s a great 18th birthday idea for the golf or sport-loving teen.
For you more adventurous teenage, maybe the most exciting 18th birthday idea could be to go skydiving. Nothing screams adulthood like jumping out of a plane a mile above the earth. For as crazy as it sounds, it will undoubtedly be an experience that you won’t forget and an unforgettable 18th birthday .
Have a Pool Party
If your birthday happens to be during the warmer months, an excellent frugal 18th birthday idea is to have a pool party. Order a couple of pizzas, and simply keep cool poolside all day. Throw in some classic pool games like Marco Polo and others, and you’re set.
Cake and Ice Cream
Not that any of these other ideas can’t include cake and ice cream, but simple is better for some teens. Cake, ice cream, and a few good friends can be more than enough to make an 18th birthday memorable.
Video Game Party
Many teenagers love to play video games, so what better 18th birthday idea than having a video game party? You can go as old school as NES or new school as PS5, or anything in between. Online or in person, no matter how you do it, you can spend hours battling it out with your besties on your favorite titles.
Go to an Old School Arcade
Another fun 18th birthday idea for the video game lover is to go to an old-school arcade. Many establishments have popped up in recent years to revive the roots of all gamers. You can have unlimited plays on tons of arcade classics like pinball, Pacman, donkey kong, and tons of others for a few bucks an hour.
What better way to spend a special birthday that locked in a room with your favorite people? If that sounds like fun to you, you might want to try an Escape Room. They have become more popular over the past few years, and it should be easy to find one near you.
Take a Class
Whatever you’re interested in, there’s likely a class out there for it. Find something you’ve always wanted to try but never have as an 18th birthday idea.
Retro Roller Skating
No matter what kind of roller skating you do, it’s bound to be fun. Much like bowling, you can add different twists to it. Many rinks will have a “cosmic” theme or even “retro” nights where you can dress up like you are from decades past.
Fancy Dinner Party
Don’t let the word fancy fool you here; we’re still talking frugal. Have your friends over in their formal wear, but make whatever you like for dinner. Pizza bagels, tacos, burgers, whatever you want. The food doesn’t have to be fancy, just you!
If you don’t mind shooting some of your friends or being shot by them, try out some paintball! It can be an insanely fun 18th birthday party.
Bust out some of your favorite board games for another frugal night of fun.
Get a Tattoo
Okay, mom and dad, look away for this one. Now that you’re an adult, you can get a tattoo. I’m not saying this should be tops on your list and if you do get one, be sure it’s something you want on you for the rest of your life.
Themed Bday Party
Birthday parties are fun, but themed birthday parties can be epic. Create a theme around your favorite show, sport, hobby, whatever. Everyone that comes should be dressed to match the theme. Plus, you can have the food, drinks, and any games go with the party’s theme.
Frugal 18th Birthday Ideas for Gifts
You may think many gift ideas on the list below don’t fall into the frugal category, but that just means you need to find the right deals. Many gifts can be bought on sale, used, or simply be hand-me-downs.
Jewelry might sound expensive, but there are plenty of reasonably priced items out there if you know where to look. An 18th birthday is a perfect time to pass any heirlooms from mother to daughter or father to son.
The best part of giving money as a gift is controlling exactly how much you give. Keep it reasonable and let the birthday boy or girl decide what they want to use it toward.
Like cash, we can typically keep our gift card purchases reasonable and let the recipient get something they want or need.
Dorm Room Decor
Many of our newly crowned adults will be heading off to college soon, so what better gift than some swag for their dorm room. This can be anything from posters, to fun lights, to some to help them study (yeah, right!)
Many teenagers love curling up at home with a good book. If this sounds like your teen, why not give them exactly what they love and buy some books. As an 18th birthday idea, you can get some by their favorite author or the next part of their favorite series.
Notice the word “used” there? Brand new instruments can be expensive, but finding a good deal on craigslist or similar sites should bear fruit when looking for a used instrument your teen might want to try their hand at.
Everyone loves games! Board games, video games, card games, you name it, people love it. So, as an 18th birthday idea, find a game that suits the birthday teen and let the good times roll.
Many teens don’t get enough sleep, and with the aforementioned college on the horizon, it’s not getting any better. So help them keep the pep in their step with an excellent coffee maker they can use at home or in the dorm.
Laptop or Tablet
This is a hard sell on the frugal aspect, but many teens need these. Get a few people to chip in to make the price more reasonable for everyone.
Many teens love tech and fitness, so a Fitbit or other fitness tracker would be perfect for them. Many can be reasonably priced, but this is likely another birthday gift idea you’ll need a few people to go in on.
Most teens have the cameras right on their phones, but a good camera is always a welcome gift for the shutterbug in your life. Again, if you can find a good deal or, again, get several people to chip in, you can keep this in the frugal state of mind.
Hangbag or Wallet
Bags and wallets are another super helpful item for any teen. We typically think of these items as a luxury, but they don’t have to be. There are plenty of solid bags and wallets out there at frugal prices.
Best 18th Birthday Party Ideas: Party Games
Below are some easy and frugal 18th birthday ideas for a party game.
Minute to Win it Games
You might need to be a bit older to remember the game show Minute to Win it, but the games are still fun. Featuring quick and straightforward games that take, you guessed it, only a minute to do, they can supply much longer amounts of fun. So see who can win the most!
Would Your Rather
Almost everyone has played a version of this game during their lifetime. Find two equally disgusting, evil, gross, nerve-wracking, whatever options that people need to decide which one they’d rather do and explain their reasoning. You’ll have fun coming up with the scenarios and watching your friends squirm!
Cards Against Humanity
Cards Against Humanity has gained in popularity for its totally ridiculous cards. You may have played the more family friend Apples to Apples, but CAH is definitely a game that should wait until all players are 18. As far as 18th birthday ideas go, this may be one of the most fun to play.
How to Budget for 18th Birthday Ideas
Part of being frugally minded is being financially responsible. Knowing you have your 18th birthday to pay for or someones require some forethought. Below are 18th birthday ideas for budgeting.
Number one rule of budgeting? Plan ahead. By simply looking forward and accounting for the 18th birthday, you’re already ahead of the game when it comes to being ready to pay for it.
Open a Separate Bank Account
Suppose the gift is expensive, like a trip or laptop. In that case, you might want to consider opening a separate bank account for the funds you’ll be using towards it.
Get A Part-Time Job or Side Hustle
You might not have enough money for the 18th birthday idea you have. If that’s the case, you can pick up a part-time job or start working a side hustle to earn the money you need.
Save Your Money
Obviously, with the above already said, you’ll need to save your money to fully prepare for the special 18th birthday.
Frugal 18th Birthday Ideas: Final Thoughts
Your 18th birthday is no doubt a milestone in all our lives. Officially entering into adulthood and likely soon after leaving home for the first time is a big deal. But, no matter who you are, there are tons of frugal 18th birthday ideas on how to spend your day, what to get, games to play, and how to prepare. Take a few ideas from above to make it the best day ever!
Jeff is a fan of all things finance. When he’s not out there changing the world with his blog, you can find him on a run, a Mets game, playing video games, or just playing around with his kids.