The 16th birthday is an important marker along life's road, signaling that the world takes a teenager more seriously and more responsibility is allowed. It's good to celebrate the event with a party, but many families struggling financially can't afford to be lavish. Inexpensive parties are fine with most teens, who see the primary reason for a party as enjoying the company of their friends.
Supplying popcorn, pretzels, other snacks and drinks is all that is needed to make a DVD party a success. Grab a dozen or so of the latest movies from the $1 rental box and borrow several DVD players and TVs from friends. Set up all the machines in the designated party room and have multiple movies playing at once. Give each partygoer a list of phrases, objects or people in the various movies and make a scavenger game of it. The person who first spots the listed item gets credit, and the winner gets a token prize.
Sweet 16 Scavenger Hunt
Send the partygoers out into the community on a "Sweet 16" scavenger hunt. Have all the items revolve around "16." For instance, have one of the scavenger items be something from the supermarket with "sixteen" or "16" on the label. Other ideas would be 16 discarded movie tickets, a birthday card signed by 16 strangers, and 16 coins dated with the birthday's child's birth year.
Make arrangements in advance with a local fast-food restaurant that has a semi-private section. Have friends and family agree to keep it a secret, and spring a surprise birthday party on your 16-year-old, who will think you're just taking him for a hamburger. Have balloons and banners hung up with everyone shouting "happy birthday" as you escort him into the restaurant. With everyone ordering on their own from the menu, the cost for decorations will be your only expense.
An old-fashioned picnic party in a local park with the guests bringing baskets of food spreads the costs out for everyone. Blankets to sit on and lemonade and soda to drink round out the party. Frisbees to chase and catch, a football to toss around and a even a beanbag toss works off excessive teenage energy. If the birthday falls during the winter then a creative approach to the location pays off. A church gym is ideal and if you're a church member it is often available for free.