5 Easy and Affordable DIY Birthday Surprise Ideas

Article by Aimee Julia Pua

When you have really good friends who you want to thank for being in your life, a really great way to show them how much you love them is with a birthday *surprise*. Let’s go past the generic cake-and-balloons combo, but still keep it affordable (as long as expenses are divided among a group of friends) and easy (as long as you don’t cram).

Here are a few of the surprises my squad (shoutout to the B-Fam!) has conducted for its members in the past few years, complete with needed materials and estimated expenses:

5 Easy and Affordable DIY Birthday Surprise Ideas

5. Ms./Mr. Universe

Birthday - Beauty Queen

You might have a female friend who you believe might be the next Filipina to place in the Ms. Universe pageant, or a male friend who you would like to lovingly embarrass via this super cute surprise. It’s fairly easy to accomplish the Ms./Mr. Universe Surprise–all you need to do is gather your materials, find an Instagram-worthy spot to set up, and make your friend feel like the beautiful person s/he is, inside and out.

Our expenses: Php2,500 – Php3,500

Materials needed:

  1. Ribbon(s) for sashes (available at bookstores)
  2. Glitter glue/colorful markers to write on the sashes (available at bookstores)
  3. Bouquet (available at Dangwa; tawad lang kayo, friends!)
  4. Crown (cheaper, but realistic-looking ones are available in Greenhills or SM department stores)
  5. Framed, printed certificate (frames available at bookstores)

4. Treasure Hunt (or Other Games)

Birthday - Game

If you want to make your surprise enjoyable for both the birthday celebrant and the surprise planners, why not play a game? You can create your own versions of popular games such as 4 Pics 1 Word or Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.

What we did: Personally, we went with the Amazing Race route, where we tasked our friend to collect his gifts (bags of chips and cookies because food is life) through a series of clues (birthday messages and memories from 17 close friends), which led him to the gift-givers.

Our expenses: Around Php500 (this will depend on the game you choose to play)

Materials needed:

  1. Print-out/handwritten instruction card/map for your friend
  2. Gifts (we went with 17 gifts because our friend turned 17 then)

3. 13 Reasons Why-inspired pre-surprise teaser

Birthday - Tape

The TV adaptation for 13 Reasons Why was extremely popular when it came out and our friend was a huge fan.

The process: We sent her voice recordings via Messenger (an alternative would be to put the MP3 files into a USB, more like the end of the series!) similar to the structure of the show, but instead of the depressing topic, ours contained some of her favorite things to hype her up for part 2 of the surprise. You can do other variations of this, too, like 13 teasers to a surprise 2.0 like we did, or 13 birthday wishes, or 13 clues to gifts, etc. You can switch up the number 13 with the celebrant’s age, as well.

Our expenses: No expenses

Materials needed:

  1. A means of voice recording (phone application, etc.)
  2. A means of sending the voice recording (Messenger, USB, CD, etc.)

*Buying a legit cassette tape recorder + cassettes would cost Php10,000 to Php20,000, so I wouldn’t recommend that.

2. Rainbow Care Packages

Birthday - Rainbow

If your friend is the kind who appreciates efforts and material gifts, you can shower them with care packages–rainbow style! A “care package” is generally a box full of little trinkets or things that are generally comforting to the recipient. You can buy 7 boxes of different shapes and sizes, wrap them in colors of the rainbow, and fill them up with little things related to those colors. For example, if the box is red, then the things inside should be red, as well. Fill each box up with little things like chips and biscuits, small stuffed toys, DVDs or albums, hygiene products, etc.

Estimated expenses: Each box depends on the preferences of the friend who curated it; I probably spent around Php600-Php800

Suggested trinkets (female friend):

  1. Box (available at bookstores–or you can look for spare boxes in your house)
  2. Wrapper/colored paper (available at bookstores)
  3. Crepe paper to fill up the inside of your boxes (available at bookstores)
  4. Trinkets (you can buy them, or use things you already have at home)

1. Wake up, sunshine!

Birthday - Wake

When our friends celebrate their birthdays, let’s admit it: we’re actually more excited about it than they are. What better time to celebrate than as early as possible? Take a surprise trip to your friend’s house at 8 in the morning and wake them up with a fully decorated room (I highly suggest wallet-sized photos of your favorite memories/embarrassing moments around the walls) plus breakfast in bed?

*Bonus: Come in your pyjamas. That would be adorable!

Our expenses: Around Php1,000

Materials needed:

  1. Wallet-sized photos (you can have these printed professionally or just at home)
  2. Breakfast!
  3. Optional: Rope/string + clothesline clips to hang your photos
  4. Optional: Balloons

Would you like to see more birthday surprise ideas in another post? How about a how-to on surprise debut event planning? Let us know in the comments below!






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