Almost every birthday child loves celebrating his/her birthday and we parents often put way too much time and energy into hosting just the the “right” birthday party for our birthday child. What we often forget in our one-up-man-ship parties that cost more than the stimulus package and breaks the budget is that our child doesn’t care about the cost, our birthday child just wants a fun birthday party with friends.
In this budget conscious climate it is time to re-evaluate the party we provide our child for his/her birthday. Before anything else we need to forget what other parents are doing for the celebration of their birthday child, stop thinking in terms of cost and start thinking budget. How many times has your younger child opened an expensive present only to discard the present and play with the box? Children are naturally creative, and fancy gifts that deep-six the budget don’t mean all that much to them.
To a birthday child, loving attention, fun, creative ideas and time to play are more important than clowns and ponies and fancy food or expensive gifts or entertainment that are way off the the normal budget. It is time as parents we think budget and plan a birthday party not for other parents, but for the birthday child. What does the birthday child enjoy?
I’ve gone beyond children to grandchildren. But a few years ago, when our oldest grandson was pre-school age, his parents had a birthday party for him, inviting not just his friends, but their parents as well. Their house was filled with people and children laughing and playing and having a wonderful time as was the birthday child. There were gifts, but nothing fancy planned. And their budget remained intact.
My oldest grandchild, like his parents is very gregarious, and loved having lots of people around and getting lots of attention. The birthday gifts were a bonus for this birthday child.
However, his younger brother, crawled under a side table and wouldn’t come out until most of the party guests were gone. His birthday parties are much different. He doesn’t do well in a confusion of too many people. For that birthday child, his mother plans birthday parties with a few special friends.
Hone in on what makes your birthday child truly happy (don’t give in to blackmail about so-and-so gets to do this or that for his/her birthday party). Instead, make and stick with a budget, building a birthday party around your birthday child’s real likes and dislikes.
Build traditions. In my family, my mother let us invite a few special guests to supper. The birthday child choose the menu, nothing fancy, but something everyone could enjoy. My party favorite was sloppy joes and chips.
My daughter-in-law brought another birthday party tradition into the family. The day of the party, she and the birthday child bake a cake together. Then the birthday child, along with the friends invited to the birthday party, help decorate the birthday cake. The result can be interesting, but the kids have fun and the cost is more in time spent and clean up than in actual money spent. (A nice budget saver.) The kids also get to eat their birthday party creations (sometimes cupcakes are better suited to this exercise depending on the age of the children and their willingness to cooperate).
For a birthday child (or guest) who may be gluten intolerant there are gluten free alternatives to cake. Even Betty Crocker has come out with several gluten free alternatives. (It doesn’t hurt to check with parents for a child’s allergies and sensitivities before the birthday party to make sure each child is able to eat what is provided without having a reaction.)
Instead of providing each child with a bag of goodies to take home, provide craft projects they can make with simple supplies. These can be fun projects for the birthday party guest to take home. Or you can give out little treats for prizes-such as for who finishes first or who has the most colorful or creative.
The birthday party guests can even make birthday cards for the birthday child. (If you plan to do this, make sure parents are notified so they do not send cards with the birthday gifts.)
Instead of buying birthday party hats, make them. Use the comic sections of the paper or left over wrapping paper. Depending on the age of the child (and size of their heads), wrap a paper square into a cone and tape or staple. Or, use plain paper and let the birthday party guests and the birthday child decorate their own hat, add a name, roll, fasten and wear.
Feeding the birthday child and party guests doesn’t need to break the budget. You do not need to take them out to eat, nor do you need to have the event catered. Who says you have to serve three, four or more course meals-or any meal at all? What is wrong with simply ice cream and cake?
I don’t know how many times at birthday parties we had for our children, the guests were way too excited to eat very much. Most of the food was simply wasted. Why break the budget when with a bit of planning the birthday child will be happy, the birthday party guests have enough to eat without overmuch waste and the budget stays intact?
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you have to invite half the neighborhood and half the school. Limit the number of children to what you have room for and can afford-and stick to this. It might mean having one party for friends and another (maybe a potluck meal to cut down on cost and increase the fun factor) for family such as grandparents and aunt/uncles/cousins. You can also invite more children to the birthday party if you have a backyard.
A backyard or the availability of a play area, such as a park does require more adult supervision, so ask other parents to help out at the birthday party. Outside you can plan any number of outdoor games. Winners don’t need prizes, just lots of congratulation and attention. If you cannot do without prizes, check out Oriental Trading Company for inexpensive budget saving prizes.
Allow the birthday child to assist in planning for the birthday party. Give a sense of ownership and use the birthday child’s creative ideas.
You can throw your birthday child a fun birthday party that doesn’t break the budget. It takes focusing on the child, the event, interactive games and activities, a sense of creativity and the determination to make and stick to a budget. Forget the Jones’s and throw a birthday party for your birthday child that gives good memories and that even you can feel good about.