Here are a few tips on throwing a party on a tight budget...
1. Candy. It pleases everyone in every age group and is cheap.
2. Be open to the party being a little ghetto-fabulous. Balloons are tacky and I love them.
3. The dollar store often has fun and unique candies... or candies that are mildly nostalgic. Get them.
4. See step 1.
5. Mardi gras beads and glow sticks. LOTS of glow sticks. And when the surprise aspect of the surprise party is about to commence, plan ahead so you know how to hide the glow sticks. Otherwise, you'll get in a predicament like Sara and I here. We stuffed them down our shirts.
6. Hug lots. Afterall, she won't be home for a year.