Your kid’s birthday party shouldn’t be a stressful and complicated event. A little bit of planning and knowing that things don’t have to be perfect will go a long way.
As a dad, every time I hear the words “birthday party” I freak out a little bit. As our family’s primary budget manager, I know that these little shindigs can quickly snowball into time-consuming, stressful, and pricey events. In other words, a parent’s worst enemy.
Navigating through what I call “birthday season” isn’t easy. For us, it kicks off with Josephine’s birthday in late-September, followed by Nevaeh’s five days later, my mother in-law’s the next day, my own four days later, and my father’s four days after that. In other words, four of our family’s six birthdays happen in a two-week timeframe, and the remaining two happen on the very same freakin’ day in December!
This year our little one turned six and our teenager 14. Our celebrations included a trip to the bowling alley and a pizza party for the “baby,” and a fancy steakhouse dinner and spa-day for the teen. Not to show off, but we didn’t even break a sweat, and we spent less than $250 bucks…total.
While no word of advice will take away the sense of responsibility that engulfs a parent when it comes to giving their child a lovely birthday party, I can give you a few tips that will save you time and money. More importantly — they can help you enjoy your kid’s birthday party. After all, what’s the point going all out if you can’t enjoy it with your birthday boy/girl?
Plan Ahead, Way Ahead
Are you booking a clown, magician, bouncy house, petting zoo, Jay Z and Beyonce for your kid’s birthday? Don’t leave it until the last minute!
I know that kids can be indecisive when it comes to their birthday plans, but I highly recommend booking your venue/entertainer at least 30-60 days in advance. When making this arrangement ask if there’s a discount for paying in full ahead of time. You’ll be surprised how many will say, “Yes.”
Remember, kids don’t want a fancy party, they want a FUN party!
Budget, Budget, Budget
Don’t reenact an episode of MTV’s “My Sweet 16.” If you keep your priorities straight you won’t have to rack up the credit cards or work late hours at the office to afford this.
Whether you’ve saved a few bucks every month, used credit card rewards, or you’ve simply cut back on expenses — creating (and sticking to) a budget is crucial. Please, don’t rack up debt which you’ll have to pay for until next year’s party.
Set a budget for food, decorations, gifts, and/or transportation. Most parents feel obliged to invite every kid in their son’s or daughter’s classroom, but that’s nuts!
Even if your little bundle of joy is popular at school, chances are not everyone is going to show up. Having a smaller guest list will lower overall costs, and will create a more intimate and enjoyable party.
We always ask our kids to choose their top three friends, and those are the ones who get an invite. It’s not rude, it’s choosing quality over quantity.
Where will everyone meet up? Will parents be dropping kids off, or will they stick around? How many family members are coming? These are all crucial details!
In order to save cash we kick-off our birthday parties with a meal at home. Instead of buying pricey food and drinks somewhere else, we serve pizza on disposable plates. Once we eat cake and sing happy birthday we board our birthday-mobile and hit the town.
This year our kind friends from Honda hooked us up with the 2017 Odyssey for the girls’ birthdays. The Magic Slide seats and room for eight allowed us to customize our seating configuration and haul everyone in comfort and style. The rear entertainment system dazzled young minds (and kept them quiet), and the HondaVac made the post-party cleanup session a breeze! Learn more about it here.
Gifts or Experiences?
If you’re celebrating a little one between one and nine years old, chances are they will want the newest gadget. If they’re older than that, we highly encourage you to offer an experience instead of a material gift.
Our 10- and 14-year-old are quite used to this by now. They know that we’ll give them a cooler weekend trip, concert/sporting event tickets, or another kind of “experience” than we will any consumer good. Our goal is to broaden their horizons and allow them to appreciate what the world has to offer.
Remember, toys and devices will eventually end up in a closet — but the memories of a weekend trip will stick around forever.
All of your hard work has paid off and the party is about to start, so don’t screw up now!
How? You can overreact! Take a deep breath, and know that not everything has to be perfect. If only three out of five guests show up, that’s fine — their loss! Remember that a birthday is about never-ending smiles.
Do you have any party-planning tips you’d like to share with us? Let us know in the comments!