Many people will try to make their 21st a day they’ll never forget (or a night they most likely will). So when we think of 21st birthdays, almost everyone will think of one thing, alcohol. Obviously, with the legal drinking age being 21 in the USA, it’s an obvious choice for 21st birthday ideas.
However, just because you want to party and get to work on your first hangover doesn’t mean you’ll need to break the bank. Luckily for you, drinking responsibly can be fit into most activities these days.
So when thinking of 21st birthday ideas, why not think frugally? Plenty-a-good times can be had while partaking in the traditional 21st birthday activity of drinking while still staying financially responsible.
Below are some frugal 21st birthday ideas for those looking to do just that.
First up on the frugal 21st birthday ideas list is a cooking class. Learn how to make your favorite dish or something you have always wanted to make.
Related: Cheap vs Frugal: Are You Being Cheap? Find Out Now!
Okay, obviously, there will be a few frugal 21st-birthday ideas directly linked to having a drink or two. Now that you are legally allowed to drink, find out what kinds of wine you like or don’t with a wine tasting.
Maybe wine isn’t your thing. No worries, there are plenty of breweries and distilleries out there that will let you sample their creations as well. Find one near you!
Creating a new drink isn’t as easy as pouring some random alcohol and mixers together. There is a science to it. Learn how to make the best drinks and be the one that gets the party going in the future by taking a mixology class.
Do you want to learn the cool bartending moves you see in movies and person? Then, take a bartending class and impress all your friends at the next party.
Are you looking for something to do besides drinking? How about eating? Go around to your favorite places to eat during your special day.
If you’re not looking to travel around town, make one stop to get your belly full at a lovely brunch.
You don’t have to go out to a fancy dinner. As a frugal 21st birthday idea, have dinner in with friends but have everyone get all dressed up for the occasion.
21 Favorite Foods Party
It might be challenging to think of your 21 favorite foods, but give it a try and have guests bring one for a fun night.
Alright, this likely won’t be the most frugal of your 21st birthday ideas, at least not for your friends. But no 21st birthday list is complete without at least mentioning a bar crawl. So go during happy hour or find special deals to reduce the cost to all the friends buying you drinks and shots.
Going to a professional sporting event isn’t cheap. Still, there are many minor league games or other more affordable alternatives. They all serve the same beer! Find a local team to cheer for.
Depending on you and your friends, you can play for fun or keeps with a casino night.
Like the outdoors? A very frugal entry on the 21st birthday ideas list could be to have an adventure day. Find a good hike, bike trail, or whatever you like to do. Take a path you’ve never been on before to see where it goes!
Maybe you’re more of the laid back and relaxed on your birthday type. If that’s the case, head out to the closest beach that allows drinks and have a few while soaking up some rays.
Want another frugal 21st birthday idea that will get your heart pumping? Try your hand at some ax throwing. Many of them are surprisingly BYOB establishments.
Mud runs have become increasingly popular over the past several years. So find a reasonably priced one near you, and get ready to get muddy!
On the opposite side of the 21st birthday ideas spectrum, an art class can be a much more relaxing way to spend your big day. There are even classes primarily geared for wine and painting.
A spa day out can be expensive, but a spa day in doesn’t have to be. Rest up before going out at night with a spa day in your own home. Draw a hot bath, light some nice candles, and relax before your nightcap.
There are all sorts of fitness classes. Some are more traditional, like spinning, yoga, or a general workout. Some can be more adult-themed, like a pole dancing class. Either way, you choose, work up a good sweat and get energized.
Having a pajama party can be anything you want it to be. So have a handful of your closest friends over, have a few drinks, and enjoy the night as it unfolds.
Keeping the party in-house is always less expensive than going out. If all you want to do is party, have one at your home or a friend’s. If everyone brings something to drink, there should be plenty to go around.
You can add to the house party and make it a themed party. Friends and family can dress up, bring a type of alcohol or do whatever based on the theme you set.
Go to a Concert
Like sporting events, going to a famous mainstream artist’s concert can get expensive. More than likely, there is plenty of good music locally as well. Search for a genre that works for you and enjoy the show.
The classic road trip is next on the frugal 21st birthday ideas list. If there is somewhere, you’ve always wanted to go but haven’t, what better day than your 21st birthday?
Camping is an excellent addition to your frugal 21st birthday ideas. All you need is a tent, some friends, and of course a few drinks. You can camp at a site nearby or even in someone’s backyard!
If you like the fire part of camping, but don’t like sleeping outdoors, no problem, just skip that part. Instead, have a bonfire to keep everyone warm and when you’re done, head inside for the night.
Booze Day Cruise
It might take some deal hunting to find a reasonably priced booze cruise, but it’s just another one of those 21st birthday ideas you can’t leave off the list!
Remember to keep this birthday party on the tamer side, as alcohol and water can be a dangerous combination. So keep it responsible while having a few drinks by the pool.
A scavenger hunt might take more coordination than other 21st birthday ideas, but it can also be the most fun. To make it more 21st birthday themed, have the birthday boy or birthday girl hunt around town for different alcoholic beverages around town.
Go to a Theme Park
More than likely, alcohol should remain on the sidelines for this one, but a theme park can be a great way to spend any birthday.
Everyone loves movies, right? So take a few of your favorite flicks, friends, and drinks, and have a movie marathon as a frugal 21st birthday idea.
One of the more basic 21st birthday ideas is a good old-fashioned picnic. Pack up your favorite lunch and head to a park. Bring a few friends, drinks, and maybe even a frisbee to have a good time.
Want to learn how to bust a move? Why not take a dance class to learn a few new dances on your big day?
Another one of your classic 21st birthday ideas is having a game night. Bust out your favorite board games or video games with a few friends, of course, while having a few drinks.
Everyone can sing with the best of them after a few drinks, at least that’s what we like to think, right? So get everyone in a good mood by busting out the karaoke machine.
Maybe you’re more of an intellectual type, don’t worry; our list of frugal 21st birthday ideas has you covered too. Head out to a museum you’ve never been to or even one of your favorites to celebrate.
It’s a very frugal, very sober way to spend your birthday, but it’s not all about you, right? Volunteering your time is an excellent way to spend any day.
Depending on your skating ability, alcohol may or may not be a welcome addition to a roller party. I’ll leave that up to you, but either way, spending a few hours at a local roller rink can be tons of fun!
An escape room can be an excellent way for the puzzle lover to spend their 21st birthday. If you like puzzles and being stuck in a room with your friends for 2 hours or so, this is for you.
Come on, who doesn’t love a good game of laser tag? I don’t care if it’s your 16th birthday, 21st birthday, 30th birthday, or 70th birthday, shooting friends with lasers is always fun!
Last on the frugal 21st birthday ideas list is taking something off your bucket list. If you don’t have a bucket list, your 21st birthday could be the perfect time to make one!
21st Birthday Ideas: Decorations
Not all frugal 21st birthday ideas are the activities. Some have to do with the decorations and details of those activities. Below are some of those kinds of 21st birthday ideas:
Beer Pong Cake
As far as birthday party ideas go, this one takes the cake, cupcake that is! Buy some cupcakes or make some on your own. Top it with mini solo cups with jello shots inside, and you have the perfect 21st birthday dessert!
Jello Shot Tower
Did somebody mention Jello shots? No list of 21st birthday ideas would be complete without this party staple. Simply make a bunch of shots and stack them up tower-style.
It shouldn’t come as any surprise that people have figured out ways to cook alcohol right into a birthday cake. A 21st birthday is a perfect time to use one of those many recipes.
Shot glasses shouldn’t need to be on a list of 21st birthday ideas, but you gotta cover all of your bases, right? So make sure to have plenty of shot glasses on hand.
There is a distinct possibility that certain parts of the night will be forgotten about. So make sure you have photo evidence of the ridiculous things that might happen by setting up a photo booth to capture the madness.
Hang Over Kit
As far as 21st birthday ideas go, this might be the most welcome the day after. Have a hangover kit ready to go for the birthday boy or girl. Fill it with water, food, some Tylenol, anything with electrolytes, and something to cover what will likely be some putrid breath the following day.
Related: 30 Frugal at Home Date Night Ideas for 2023
Frugal 21ST Birthday Ideas: Final Thoughts
Like our 18th birthday, our 21st birthday is certainly a milestone. One of the best 21st birthday ideas is to drink responsibly. Know your limits, and if you go out, make sure to have a designated driver.
Obviously, turning 21 is typically about having a good time while having a few drinks. However, there are plenty of ways to have fun both in and out of the house. Whatever you decide to do, make your 21st birthday a special day, happy birthday!