A birthday is a milestone in a child’s life. Typically birthdays involve gifts and a party. A birthday can be very costly. Years ago when we began celebrating our young children’s birthdays, we set no limit on how much we spent. We usually had enough food to feed an army and the money spent on gifts and decorations was astronomical. These birthdays were costing us several hundred dollars. We were a one income family and celebrating birthdays was becoming a strain on our already tight budget.
When we made the choice to become debt free it involved a major overhaul on where we spent money, including birthdays. We have changed our ways over the last thirteen years on how we do birthdays. We now keep birthday’s simple and centered around the celebrating the child. Below are some of the ways and ideas that we celebrate birthdays in our family, maybe you can find some tips or get inspired to save money, too.
- Sleepover: Allow your child to have a friend or two over for a sleepover. Choose a new dvd at the Redbox and some great snacks. Let the children play and have fun. Then have a root beer floats or ice cream sundae’s to finish off the night. We rarely do sleepovers, but when we do it becomes a much anticipated event in the eyes of our child, especially when they know it is in honor of their own birthday.
- Free local activities: Choose a local free outing such as hiking, going to the beach, or playing at the park. Maybe find a local museum or zoo that offers a steeply discounted day. Pack a picnic, bring your favorite snacks, and invite family or friends. The kids have fun and adults can hang out and talk. For two of my favorite children this is one of their favorite ways to celebrate birthdays. They choose this every year, even though we play at the park on a fairly regular basis. An added bonus, it is simple and clean-up is made easy.
- Campfire: We hold regular campfires at our house, but to do one in honor of our child’s birthday makes it special. In lieu of cake and ice cream, we do a s’more extravaganza with all our favorite toppings. The mess is outside making clean-up easy and who does not love a good campfire? The kids often get out the sprinkler, jump on the trampoline, or run through the woods playing. There is no need to decorate or have anything fancy. Guests bring their own chairs and a s’more topping to share, thus helping the costs down.
- At home celebration: We have a few children who are less social than others and are happier at home; and would rather stay home to celebrate a birthday. For them the birthday begins with choosing a favorite meal and the sweet treat they want to have for their birthday. Because they want their own birthday to be low-key, they typically choose a family favorite game or DVD for us to watch as a family. Because it is their choice, they feel special and honored.
- Only buy the necessities. Keep it simple: Call and invite others instead of sending invitations. Skip the decorations. Don’t worry about party favors. We often will provide the main dish and ask invited guests to provide an appetizer. We try to keep it outside as much as possible. We have gone to McDonald’s, brought a cake and ice cream, and typically McDonald’s will provide the punch for us. The kids can play in the play land while the adults hang out. Remember, that the essentials for a good party (if you must have a party) include food, family, and laughter.
- Mani/pedi party: For preteens and teens host a mani/pedi party. Supply with simply household ingredients or have guests bring a few needed items. Soak your tootsies and patties, paint up all pretty, and maybe finish up with makeovers. Take some silly selfies to remember for later. Then have some good old fashioned cake and ice cream.
- Gifts: Our children do receive cash from family members and that money becomes their own to spend as they wish. While we use to buy them the big gifts and small gifts, just so they would have something to open, the gifts were often quickly cast aside in the excitement of the party. In fact, we have quit buying the big gifts and often get them a small gift. Or we will chip in and give them money to use in conjunction with their birthday cash so they can buy what they want. Because the choice is their own in buying what they want, they tend to take a while to decide what they want and do the research before making an educated choice.
Start instilling within your child at an early age an appreciation of simple things. Have picnics and parties. Keep the menu simple. Make it a potluck, it will help keep the costs down. Take it outside, no decorations needed. Clean up is made easy.
Birthdays are fun. It is about celebrating the life of a child. You can show your love to a child without breaking the bank. Our family motto is keep is to keep it frugal and simple. Our children are your average children with their wants and desires, however, they also appreciate everything because we chosen to keep life simple. And it must work because our children love their birthdays and how we choose to celebrate them year after year.
Of course, this is what works for my family. When you have a large family on one income, watching how you spend your money and staying within the budget is vital for financial success. What can you do, even with less children than I do to save money and still have a fantastic birthday for your child? I would love to see your suggestions and tips.