Birthday on a Budget

Last year’s thrift goals and this year’s budget crack down got me thinking… especially about birthdays … on a budget.  I began to ask a few questions: How much should we spend on the kids’ birthdays? What does this budget include?  The party? The celebration? The fun food or just the gifts? Do we let the kids in on our budget parameters or do we keep them in the dark? Do we give the kids some choice in how the birthday budget is spent? After some thought and discussion Chad and I answered our questions. And then after some trial and error we revised our game plan. Last year we gave the two older kids a budget.  (We figured the younger ones didn’t understand money well enough to benefit from a budget.) Elle choose to use her entire budget on an expensive, but unique party.  She took 10 friends to the Lion House for a pioneer party.  It was the easiest birthday ever for me because the party package included the invitations, cake, activities, lunch and a beautiful doll.  Because the entire budget went to the party she got NO additional presents from us.  The party was her present and she got presents from all the friends, plus the doll from the Lion House. Crew’s birthday was a month later and we gave him a similar budget.  He chose to blow the whole amount on a basketball standard for outside.  He and Chad researched options on line and went shopping together. He had no party and no friends over ( and no pictures either). They both seemed happy with the arrangement and I was too for the most part.  I did feel a little bad that Elle didn’t “open” anything from us and that Crew didn’t have much of a celebration. So this year we tweaked the birthday budget idea a bit.  First, we allotted much less money (that is the downfall of starting your own business), but second of all, I gave  them two separate budgets: a gift budget and a celebration budget. So let’s say the birthday budget was $100.  We divided the total and allotted $50 for the gifts and $50 for the celebration.  I found that you need to account for the celebration part because it can add up fast.  A celebration budget help keeps the party planner in me in check and also curbs the kids elaborate plans.  Dividing the birthday budget also assured me that they get presents but that we also get to celebrate the day. Elle’s birthday was last weekend and I chose to let her in on the new budget idea.  I wanted to give her choice on how this money was spent because she is old enough and wise enough. First we discussed the $50 gift budget. She opted to take it as straight up cash.  She didn’t want me to buy any gifts because she was saving for a new bike and wanted all the money she could get.   So cash it was. Next we discussed the celebration budget.  We asked,  “Do you want a birthday party at home with lots of friends or a nice night out with a few friends?”  $50 only goes so far.  Elle decided she wanted to take a few friends out to a fun dinner at Tepanyaki (a Japanese restaurant where they cook in front of you).  We called the restaurant and priced checked kids meals and determined she could bring 3 friends and stay within the budget. We had a great time!  (Elle is the little red head.) Crew’s birthday is in May.  Right now we are in talks and we have presented the birthday budget to him.  He is thinking he wants to go with a friend party (since he didn’t do one last year).  The celebration budget will cover the invitations, games, decorations, supplies, food and goodie bags.  If there is any money left over, he can put it towards his gift money. I will be buying him gifts with the gift money this year.  I am thinking some new t-shirts, new shoes and a tennis racket for starters.  Plus he will get presents from his friends and relatives. I am feeling good about our birthday on a budget tweaks because we’ve accounted for all the expenses of a birthday.  There are no hidden costs and it keeps spending fair between kids.  I also like that the kids will have a choice each year on how their birthday budget is spent.  We can respond to the growth and needs of that particular year.  Some years they have lots of friends, some years they don’t. Some times they want one big thing and other times they need a bunch of small items.  We can adapt accordingly. I was worried that putting a budget to their birthdays and involving them would take some of the fun or suprise away or make them grow up too fast.  I didn’t want the kids to get fixated on the numbers or worry about the money too much, but I did want them to understand there are limits and choices to be made in life.  I want them to understand we can do lots, but we can’t do it all.  And giving them choice puts them in charge of their happiness. We will see how the rest of the year goes and if I will be making any tweaks for next year. How do you handle birthdays on a budget?

2 thoughts on “Birthday on a Budget”

  1. I think you hit the nail on the head – life is about choices, and you can’t everything. And I think you’ve picked the right age to introduce it.

    It’s funny trying to recollect gifts of my childhood, so few standout. Memories are so much richer when they were people/activities/parties I think. So it’s about making the most memorable occasion each year – no matter what the balance between the two is.

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