This article on 18th birthday ideas on a budget contains affiliate links that help us grow Clever Girl Finance! Please see our disclosures for more information.
An 18th birthday is a special occasion. It's actually one of the big birthday milestones in adulthood. So you are probably trying to brainstorm 18th birthday ideas for yourself, or maybe even a child or friend.
If it is your big day everything will soon change. Whether you plan to go to a university, begin a career, or take off to travel the world. Since it’s a milestone, you’ll want to celebrate with family and friends in style.
We rounded up some great ideas of what to do for your 18th birthday to make your party the event of the year!
But before we dive into what to do for an 18th birthday, let's discuss some interesting birthday world traditions first!
18th Birthday traditions around the world
So birthdays have evolved a lot over the years, and there are many traditions observed around the world. For example, according to Aimee Hansen of Gifter, “fairy bread” is the traditional birthday food for children in Australia.
However, in Jamaica, you’ll get flour thrown at you for your birthday. While birthday traditions vary across the world, you can be sure that there’s always a way to celebrate.
For an 18th birthday in the Philippines, there are special traditions. For instance, there is an 18th birthday celebration for girls called a debut. It's an extremely fancy party featuring food, presents, toasts, and more.
In the USA, an 18th birthday is thought of as a milestone and many choose to celebrate in style with a big party. In the UK, you are legally an adult when you turn 18.
So whatever culture or tradition you decide to embrace, there are many unique 18th birthday party ideas you can do. That being said, let's dive into our epic list of what to do for your 18th birthday.
18th Birthday ideas: What to do for your 18th birthday!
So the big question is, what are the best 18th birthday celebration ideas? Where should you go and what type of activities should you do? Whether you enjoy the great outdoors or need some pampering, this list will help you decide what to do on your big day.
Here is the list of our favorite 18th birthday celebration ideas!
1. Have a spa day
This is a traditional way to celebrate with a group of friends on your birthday. So get everyone together and head to the spa for manicures, massages, and facials.
Or, if you’re on a budget, opt to stay in for an at-home spa day. For example, you could paint each other’s nails, apply face masks, and watch some good movies! Even if you are on a budget, there are plenty of fantastic ways to pamper yourself on your big day.
2. Go hiking
So are you wondering what to do for an 18th birthday that's outdoorsy? If you enjoy being out in nature, try going hiking for the day.
This is a great way to get out in nature while spending quality time with friends without the distraction of phones or technology. Choose a setting like a lake or a mountain, and have fun!
3. Enjoy a luxury picnic
This is one of the more unique 18th birthday party ideas and an excellent way to celebrate your day while also being outdoors.
Luxury picnic companies will usually set up beautiful decor in an outdoor setting and bring food. So all you have to do is just show up with your friends and family, ready to make some memories and enjoy a meal.
A luxury picnic is one of our favorite 18th birthday celebration ideas because you get to enjoy good food and relax with friends and family.
4. Head to the bowling alley
So how long has it been since you hit the ole' bowling alley? This is a great activity if you’re wondering what to do for your 18th birthday. There’s food, music, and fun.
You can even let them know it’s your birthday while at the bowling alley to see if they do anything special for birthday visitors, like song dedications.
5. Have a movie night marathon
So there are a few ways to do this. For instance, you could pick out a few favorite films and watch them at home or at a friend’s house.
If you want to do something retro, head over to a drive-in theater. Don’t forget the popcorn!
6. Take an 18th birthday celebration weekend trip
You should consider taking a weekend trip because it could be a fun and unforgettable experience. However, it’s one of the more extravagant 18th birthday celebration ideas. so you will need to plan ahead.
If there’s a big city nearby, you can plan to drive out and enjoy all the city activities for a couple of days. Or you can even hop on a plane and visit a destination you’ve been wanting to check out.
7. Treat yourself to old fashioned cake and ice cream at home
There’s something nice about getting together with family and friends in a simple way and just enjoying the day. So grab your go-to ice cream, bake a cake, and invite your favorite people to join you.
According to National Day Calendar, some of the most loved cake flavors are chocolate and cheesecake. You might also consider cupcakes or ice cream cake.
8. Host a video game party
If you’re into video games, why not host a marathon? Be sure to also include snacks and a birthday cake along with your favorite game. You can pick a new one or try a game that’s really old school just for fun.
9. Try an escape room
So these are very fun and great for large or small groups. Take a few people with you and try out an escape room. Solve the mystery before time runs out! Then be sure to get some ice cream and cake afterward.
10. Take a creative class
Are you the creative type? If so then grab a couple of close friends and try out an art class. Maybe make a coffee mug in a pottery class or even some jewelry.
It’s a unique way to celebrate, and you’ll create something to help you remember the moment. You can also get together at home and find classes on sites such as YouTube or Yaymaker. Who knows, maybe you will turn it into a new hobby!
11. Ride ATV’s
Looking for adventure? Why not ride ATVs with friends or family? You get to be outdoors and enjoy some fresh air while also doing something fun.
They’ll love it, and it’s a cool idea that most people won’t think of for celebrating a birthday. So it's definitely one of the more unique 18th birthday party ideas!
12. Play a game of paintball
If you love a great game, try paintball. It’s one of the best 18th birthday ideas because not only is it unique, but you get to have a fun and memorable experience.
Side note: You can sometimes rent out a whole place if you have a large enough group. So grab your friends and family and have some fun.
13. Have an old fashioned game night
Want to try out a throwback party? Enjoy an old-fashioned game night. Break out the board games like Uno, Clue, and Monopoly, or try poker. Be sure to also include prizes for the winners.
14. Tour the town for tasty treats
If you can’t decide on just one place to celebrate, why not have your party in more than one location? For example, dinner at one restaurant, and dessert at another. It's a great way to fill up the night while experiencing your favorite treats.
15. Try an 18th birthday theme party
There are many ways to have a themed party, and yours could be one of the most unique 18th birthday party ideas. You could do a costume party, a beach party, a disco-themed event, a mystery dinner, or whatever 18th birthday party theme you want. All great ideas for Instagram photos too!
So put on your thinking cap birthday girl and get creative for a fun and festive event!
16. Go on a scavenger hunt
There are tons of fun ideas for indoor and outdoor scavenger hunts. For instance, there are nature scavenger hunts or even neighborhood scavenger hunts. So embrace your adventurous side and make a go of it!
17. Invite your friends to a fancy restaurant
Heading out to a fancy restaurant is one of the simplest yet fun 18th birthday ideas. Just a good night of delicious food, and great conversation with your closest friends. Sometimes it's the simple things that are the most pleasurable!
18. Have a sleepover
Remember how much fun it was to have your friends sleepover when you were a kid? So why not get in touch with your childish side and have a pajama party!
You could really make it fun and find some vintage board games or movies to watch or even have a fun photoshoot. This is one of the best 18th birthday celebration ideas to enjoy with your friends because it makes you feel like a kid again!
Gift ideas to ask for on your 18th birthday
Have you been given the opportunity to get a gift for your 18th birthday? Not sure what gift to ask for? We've got some great 18th birthday present ideas. These suggestions are perfect for anyone because they range from jewelry to cash!
This is always a winner because let's face it most of us love jewelry. For an 18th birthday, try something meaningful. A beautiful, high-quality watch, for example. A nice necklace set, or maybe a bracelet with an engraving. Think of something classic and pretty that can be worn for many years.
Money is always a good idea if you don’t know what to do for an 18th birthday gift. You know it’s useful, and you can buy whatever you want. You can save or invest this money as you head into your 20s!
So if you'd like to fund your savings account instead of getting stuff, ask for cold hard cash!
3. Gift card
A gift card is an awesome 18th birthday gift idea because you can have a shopping spree and buy what you want. Think about your favorite shops or things you enjoy. Then choose a gift card to a coffee shop, restaurant, towards a trip, or even to buy stock!
4. Dorm room decor
If you'll be heading off to college soon, some dorm room decor might be a great gift to get. Things like a memo board, string lights, or wall art will brighten up the space. It’s easy to buy and will get you excited about going to college.
5. Great book
A great book is always a great idea. Since this is for your 18th birthday celebration, choose something that fits the occasion. Maybe an inspiring memoir, a career guide, or a financial book. Reading is enjoyable and beneficial!
6. A musical instrument
So if you love music and are musically included, you could ask for a musical instrument as a gift. Maybe you want to learn the piano, guitar, or even the drums. Now might be a great time to get started!
Games are something that everyone likes to have around. Try a fancy chess set, a great deck of cards, or even a fun group board game you can play with many people. It’s a nice way to connect with friends and family, and it will provide tons of entertainment.
If you are the adventurous type, luggage is a great gift. You can use it when you travel, head off to college, or take a weekend trip. It’s a super practical present that’s also fun.
9. Gel nail kit
So if you love manicures, you can ask for your own gel nail set. There are a lot of great nail kits available, and many come with nail colors, too. Plus, it saves money over time.
10. Coffee maker or espresso machine
This is especially useful if you are going to be spending a lot of time studying or working in the future. You'll appreciate having a way to make your own coffee or espresso from the comfort of your home, and it can save you money.
In fact, let's say you spend an average of $15 a week on grabbing coffee out. That's $780 in just a year you could save! So ask for a coffee maker and some delicious gourmet coffee and save some serious cash.
11. Laptop or tablet
This is a great group gift, especially if you will be going off to college soon. A laptop or tablet can be super helpful and make it easy to take notes and get assignments done.
Since it's a higher-priced item, you can tell your friends they can all chip in on one gift instead of getting you separate gifts.
12. A Fitbit
A fitbit is a fun way to stay in shape, and they’re a great present if you are turning 18. You can use it to count steps and stay fit while at college or when working. It's also a great way to hold yourself accountable to achieve your step goal for the day!
13. Photo album
A great place to keep memories! Go the extra mile by adding photos from the party or pictures of you and your friends and family. That way, you can look back on all the good times you had.
If you love taking pictures, a camera can be one of the best 18th birthday ideas. A high-quality camera to record your adventures is the perfect thing, especially if you'll be going somewhere new. You could also use it to take pictures and start your very own blog if you wanted to!
15. A designer handbag (The ultimate 18th birthday idea for a gift!)
A good-quality designer handbag is a staple for every woman’s closet and the perfect thing to buy for an 18th birthday party. Find something with a classic design and a neutral color that goes with everything in your wardrobe.
You could also let your friends know you don't mind getting a pre-owned designer bag. This will help save them money while you still get a fabulous gift. Plus, shopping second-hand is also good for the environment!
Fast and fabulous 18th birthday ideas for decor
Are you struggling with ideas for decorations? No problem! Check out these fast and simple solutions for 18th birthday ideas.
These are easy to find, and you can use them to decorate easily because they make a big statement. Find one that matches the birthday party colors. You can choose from signs that say things like “Happy 18th!” or “Party” or anything else you like.
Of course, we have to include balloons in our list of 18th birthday decorations! Balloons are easy and inexpensive, and you can decorate a room with them quickly.
There are all types of balloons, from fancy ones to arches to dollar store ones. So choose something that fits your budget.
3. Table centerpieces
You can do anything here, from making your own to finding something with the number “18” on it. A table centerpiece should be visible, large enough to be the central part of a table and go with the colors for the party.
4. Online invitations or paper ones
There’s something about getting an old-fashioned invitation in the mail that is really fun. But if you want to be environmentally conscious, you can buy Evites to send via email. This is also great for getting fast R.S.V.P.s from people.
5. Party favors
You’ll need some great party favors to celebrate in style and thank guests for being part of the day. Try candles, gift cards, or something that is part of the event theme. For example, sand in bottles for a day at the beach or a favorite DVD from a movie day.
6. Thank you notes
Thank you; notes are a nice touch and a great way to let your friends and family know you appreciate them. Just write something simple, thanking them for being part of your day and sharing a note about a fun memory.
If you’re having dinner or a dessert table, use a tablecloth. Try using a heavier cloth rather than a plastic one. It adds a touch of elegance. Pick one in a color that compliments the primary color for the party.
8. Photobooth or background
Another great idea is to create a space for people to take photos! You can make a background with streamers and balloons or make a photo booth if you feel creative.
Include props like hats or sunglasses for people to wear. It’s one of the most fun 18th birthday party ideas.
Crepe streamers are fun and inexpensive, and you can use them to decorate any space. Wrap them around porch posts or balconies, or use them to make a photo background.
Make sure the color matches the theme. Remember to check out stores like the Dollar Store or Big Lots for cheap decor.
Candles are great if the event will be in the evening or at night. Use candles to quickly decorate the space. However, if you’re concerned about fire hazards, you can use battery-operated ones for safety.
They are still beautiful, and you don't have to worry about accidents!
11. Hanging lights
These are nice to have for an outdoor celebration, especially in the late afternoon or evening. Use them to decorate trees, a backyard, a porch, etc. They look pretty, and they don’t require a lot of effort.
12. Flowers or plants
Any table or event space can benefit from greenery. So add a few plants or some beautiful flowers to the main table. It’s a sophisticated look that is perfect for a birthday party.
13. Canopies or tents for outdoors
Suppose you are celebrating your party in a backyard, at the beach, or anywhere outside. In that case, a pretty canopy or tent will make the decor come together. Include lights, lanterns, and balloons to make the look complete.
Plus, it's also a great idea just in case the weather switches on you.
Using dishware is a fancy way to celebrate. Use porcelain, glass, or china dishware when serving dinner. That way, you can prepare a meal for your guests in style. Paired with a tablecloth and some flowers, this is an elegant look.
15. Glass vases or table decorations
So if you are unsure how to decorate a table, you can’t go wrong with some glass vases. You can fill them with candles, pretty rocks, or flowers.
They always look nice and are inexpensive to buy. In addition, you can buy confetti or glitter to sprinkle on the table for a bit of glam.
How to budget for your 18th birthday ideas
All these 18th birthday ideas vary as far as cost. But any idea works better with a budget. If you don’t know where to start, check out these helpful tips.
1. Create a party budget
The very first thing you need to do is create a party budget. How much do you plan on spending? That's why it's good to choose what you want to do and research the estimated costs.
So, make a list of costs based on the activities, food, and decorations. Then figure out your total so you know how much you need to save for the event. For instance, let's say the total estimated amount for your party is $500. Now you know how much you need to save to stick with your party budget!
2. Open a dedicated savings account
When saving up for something important, it's a good idea to give your money a specific place to grow. You should open up an account specifically for birthday savings.
That way, you can add to it each month and see the amount grow larger with time. It's usually easy to name your account, too. Naming it something like "18th birthday celebration" will help keep you focused.
3. Save your pocket money
If you regularly get an allowance or have some money from other birthdays or holidays, save it up for the party. Even though pocket money may seem like a small amount, a bit of cash over time can add up to be quite a lot by the time you need it—especially if you save for several months or maybe even a whole year.
4. Earn extra money for your party
Getting a job is one of the fastest and most steady ways to save up some money. If you already have a part-time job, that's great. You can start saving your money for your 18th birthday.
If you don't have a part-time job, but you have some time before the event, such as several months, start applying. You may also consider a side hustle doing something like dog walking and save up that way.
We've also got some great ideas for high paying jobs for 18 year olds!
Make the most of these 18th birthday ideas for an amazing celebration!
So now you have great ideas for what to do for an 18th birthday! Your 18th birthday party is a time that will never come again. There are many ways to celebrate it, but the most important thing is to spend it with friends and family.
Since you may soon be heading off to a new town or state, enjoy this time with those you love. Remember to create your birthday budget, so you don't derail your financial goals too!