Birthday Extravagance or Frugality?

There are two sides of every coin — even a birthday one. In going through birthday themed news articles recently, I noticed one emphasizing frugality and another explaining birthday excess.

Since Carlie Faulk’s column for USA today is called Frugal Family, we can’t be surprised her message is to “make birthdays special, not expensive.”

She encourages a focus on experiences, noting “after years of planning in-depth activities for birthday parties, I finally realized that my kids were perfectly happy with free time to play with their friends. They didn’t need a lot of fancy, expensive activities to have fun….Give them a few resources, such as water balloons, basketballs, footballs or even chalk. Then step back and watch their imaginations work.”

Birthday Party Pressure

But what if you kid imagines a lavish birthday party? No wonder 58 percent of parents say cost is their primary worry in the run-up to a child’s growing a year older.

“Parents feel pressured to not only impress their children but other parents too,” parenting expert Juanita Cleare said about the statistical findings.

Yet two Moms interviewed in Scotland about throwing parties for kids said they want to be extravagant to celebrate their children.

Dundee Mom Nichola Queen treats her trio of little ones to birthday parties with clowns, face painters, and or bouncy castle because she didn’t get to have her own parties.

“My birthday is three days from my older sister’s. I never had a party when I was younger and I hated the feeling, and I didn’t want my kids to have that,” she told the Daily Record. “So I spend that little bit more giving them something I never had.”


Lisa Soyusinmez, a mom near Glasgown, even gives her kids’ bedrooms a makeover to match her party theme. They’ve done Sleeping Beauty and Superheroes and spent as much as $1000 USD for the events.

Lisa has lost her own parents and brother and said she wants to go all out to let her children know they are her world. “I really go crazy in a good way. In the month building up to the birthday, I get them excited and make them feel special – because they are special.”

Seven Parties a Year?

For another perspective on the parent overseeing a birthday consider the plight of a mother of seven children. Four celebrate a birthday in the same three-week period, and two even on the same day (but they are not twins, there are 12 years between them). Her big challenge has been trying to do something different for each one. She noted, “Irrespective of the fact that they have enough siblings for a ready-made birthday party already, each child still looks forward to celebrating their respective birthdays with friends and classmates.”

Honestly, planning seven distinct children’s birthday parties a year would probably be the end of my love of bdays.

Tips for Handling Tandem Birthdays Tips

Brits Christine and David Lilley, turned 75 in 2016 within three days of one another. To celebrate, they did a tandem jump from an airplane. What an impressive way to shuck off the “getting old” blues!

The news of their brave leap, though, put me in mind of another aspect of planning a special birthday — handling the tandem birthday. Perhaps this is spouse’s having birthdays within days of one another (as with the Lilley’s). Or, the more likely fraught (unless you are the spouse of someone as obsessed with birthdays as me) shared birthday day or week of young siblings.

In my neighborhood there is a family of five with four birthdays all in December. Another neighbor’s two kids are both January born. So, what’s to be done to be sure each birthday gets the ba-ba-boom it deserves?

One Mom’s group considered the question for its community suggested separate parties will help each child feel special. Yet, they did caution that it was a good idea to weigh the financial considerations and gauge the ages of the celebrants in making the choice. Other advice was to ask the children what they want — maybe sharing sounds good to them. But definitely let them each make their own guest list.


In a forum on the topic, people suggested that the kids share their birthday parties until they are old enough to complain. Others added that giving each child a separate cake and avoiding joint gifts help. One respondent posted a pic of a 25-year-old and a 1-year-old both getting their own smash cakes!

Another post in a different parenting discussion thread on the issue offered great advice: “Long story short: be open to any/all ideas, including your children’s.”

By the way, while searching the web for shared birthday tidbits, I came across this jaw-dropping world record. According to Guinness, “the only verified example of a family producing five single children with coincident birthdays is that of Catherine (1952), Carol (1953), Charles (1956), Claudia (1961) and Cecilia (1966), born to Carolyn and Ralph Cummins (USA) all on 20 February. The random odds against five single siblings sharing a birthdate are one in 17,797,577,730 – almost 4 times the world’s population.”

Tweet: The random odds
against five single siblings sharing a birthdate are one in
17,797,577,730 – almost 4 times the world’s population.

8 Birthday Essentials for Every 80’s Kid

If you were a kid celebrating your birthday in the 1980s, there were certain things that made the party truly rad. As a flashback, I offer these suggestions from my own memories of birthday parties back in the day.


Going to Chuck E. Cheese. I never got to go otherwise, so I was super excited when someone had a party there. Thanks Todd A. for inviting me as the only girl to your Chuck E. Cheese party!


Renting a movie from the movie store. I remember a girl’s sleepover when we watched DC Cab with Mr. T. Why did I think that was a good idea? And, watching the trailer now, I wonder why I was allowed a rated R movie?


Neon glasses, wristbands, hairbands…just about anything for neon for a parting gift.

Still available from Oriental Trading by the way.

Still available from Oriental Trading by the way.


Dancing to Madonna, Duran Duran and Culture Club — all at the same party!

80s birthday search-1 search





Playing Donkey Kong or Ms. PacMan on your friend’s new Nintendo all night at a sleepover.


Giving or receiving the new U2 album.


Playing that new game out where you had to remember all kinds of trivial details about sports and history and arts & entertainment and stuff like that?

80's birthday

Photo credit: Leo Reynolds via / CC BY-NC-SA


Dressing up as a member of the G-Force for a costume party. My mother made my costume. This was back in the days before VCRs remember. So she had to run to the TV at the same time every day to see the girl in the opening credits. After all, she didn’t get much screen time in the show. Of course, by the way, her name is Princess.

What else would have made a typically 80s experience at a birthday party back in that decade? Please share in the comments. I’m all for nostalgia.

This post is inspired by a fun (if excessively titled) blog on Buzzfeed recently: 12 Thoughts Every 90s Kid Had on Their Birthday Because Our Childhood Celebrations Were Epic.



Pet Birthday Bash Fun


Birthdays are for everyone — even pets. I discussed this a little previously and ended up asking how people celebrate their pets’ birthdays. Apparently all my followers are cricket pet owners, because that is all I heard from the likes of you!

Yet an infographic a friend forwarded got me thinking about this trend once more. After all, according to this fun facts list: an average of $50 billion is spent annually on gifts for pets. That’s in the U.S. alone. That’s a whole lot of squeaky toys or interactive toys hiding treats for dogs and noisy or feathered mice and scratchy boxes for cats!

Evite must recognize an opportunity. It offers several pet birthday invites in its gallery and offers several suggestions in its pet birthday guide. These include:

  • Decorating with paw prints leading to your door and dressing the pet up (that would not be a present at all for my dog who HATES wearing costumes).
  • Invite other pet friends, but keep the guest list small and the party time short so that animals don’t get too stressed out.
  • If kids are attending, have them woof, meow or otherwise “sing” “Happy Birthday” to your pet in his or her own language.

According to an American Pet Association Poll dog owners celebrate their dogs’ birthdays in the following ways:

  • A special treat
  • A new toy
  • Singing or wishing dog happy birthday
  • Giving dog a party with other dogs or pets
  • Taking dog to favorite place
  • Taking photographs

An ASPCA blogger suggests a pet birthday party is fun for the whole family. Letting the kids plan the party and shop for the gift is a good way to give them something fun to do.

The birthday party also lets you lavish some attention on your pet, the ASPCA points out. Although, considering 70% of animal owners sign their pets’ names on greeting cards we might not need to be too worried about pets being overlooked.

For more animal birthday fun, I encourage you to check out the funny images taken from around the Internet of animals of all kinds celebrating their big day. Here’s just one sample for you (and the image starting this post came from the same list):

Pet Birthday Fun





Winter Birthday Party Blues

We all know, scheduled c-sections aside, we can’t usually choose when our baby’s born. Few of us are able to actually schedule conception after all.

This leaves many a parent struggling to plan a winter birthday party for a child. Sure, we pride ourselves on the fact that our child is still in school and can be feted appropriately (at the schools that still allow birthday celebrations in class, that is). But, we envy those who can invite everyone to the house to play in the backyard or who can host a neighborhood pool party with lifeguards providing watchful eyes while the parents enjoy some relaxation in the sun.

As proof, I point you to my son’s second birthday. Ridiculously (hindsight is 20/20) I planned a beach-themed event. I live in the southern United States, so it didn’t seem that crazy. Yet the day of the party arrived and there was an actual snow storm. Not even what my Canadian self would describe as a “Charlotte-snow-storm” where the snow is barely on the ground long enough for us to witness it. No, a real one. We spent the morning sledding, then came home to a number of party guest cancellations because people couldn’t get out of their driveways. Fortunately, I’d learned from the first-year-old Charlie Brown party to invite many people, and we still ended up with a crowd. They were greeted outside our door by this snowman

Winter Birthday Party

Since then, we’ve enjoyed most of our parties somewhere else where the kids can run around like crazy inside, and I needn’t clean up.

But I might have thought differently if I’d read beforehand this great advice (edited below) for winter birthdays from a Philly Parenting blogger:

  1. When in-house, always have a plan. Chunk the party into 15 to 30 minute segments (younger ages need smaller chunks), and allow some time to play freely, but not enough time where things can reach dangerous levels of chaos.
  2. When inside, consider rotating. For bigger crowds, use “stations” where kids rotate in small groups through three or four activities.
  3. Make preparing food or materials part of the party. Decorating cupcakes, designing their party bags, making slime or playdough can help focus the madness and keep kids occupied.
  4. Watch a movie. Or host a BYOD (bring-your-own-device) party — Minecraft marathons work similarly well.
  5. Set up a photobooth. This is super easy, cheap, and especially fun for the school age/tween crowd. Share the photos with parents and kids electronically after the party.
  6. Brave a slumber party

She suggests that’s the last resort. Having now hosted two of them for birthdays, I know why.

In the meantime, indulge me in this other memory from our snowy/beachy party — my son had no problem enjoying the beach-themed cake I made.

Winter Brithday Party

Seeking a Trendy Party? Try Retro!

When I think Retro, I think 80’s. I google searched “retro party ideas” and was treated to soda shop props and other ideas from the 50’s and 60’s. This too fits with my idea of retro.

Yet, it turns out Retro can also mean going back to the basics of birthdays. Canadian Family offers a slideshow for its “Perfectly Retro Birthday Party” involving “Old-school games like Pin the Tail on the Donkey and Pass the Parcel” and a cake made with love for a “relaxed homemade vibe.” They also suggest using colorful plates and cups to “dress up simple party foods.”

This was when I started laughing. Yes, I’m all in favor of lowering expectations on parents for the birthday party bash. However, I find it funny that we have to label a low-key party “Retro” to make it socially acceptable.

Yippee! Now parents only need to say they’re going retro to play some familiar and low-budget games, take an easier route to decorating, and accept that the homemade cake may not be as glamorous as the fondant concoction from a bakery.

What else could one do to remain on theme:

  • Have a dance contest – I’d suggest freeze dance, the kiddos get a kick out of trying to stay still the longest. If you really must invest in the birthday you could get a phone docking station that looks like a vintage radio.
  • A piñata, of course, would be in keeping with how birthdays were celebrated “back in the day” before indoor trampoline parks were invented. Personally, I’d go for one that looks like Pacman.
  • Centerpiece_pacman_1.jpg

    Image source:

  • There are many more “Old School” party games suggested by Red Tricycle. The ones I remember playing are the clothespin drop and bobbing for apples.
  • The Retro party also suggested loot bags with a few things in them and a nametag decorated by the birthday honoree. I’ve bought plain paper bags and lots of stickers and crayons and let the kids decorate their own. I’m a trendsetter. What can I say?

Excessive Extravagance Explained?

Have you heard yet about these birthday party and present extravagances?

  • Suri Cruise and her kid pals noshing on a $5000 birthday cake.
  • Jay-Z and Beyonce spent US$200,000 on the first birthday party of their daughter, Blue Ivy.
  • David and Victoria Beckham once had a playhouse custom-built for son Brooklyn’s birthday. They spent US$187,000 on a gift for a six year old!
  • P-Diddy’s $3 Million birthday apparently included $28K in orchids.

Other examples include:

  • Hiring a yacht for a 10-year-old’s party
  • Hosting 50 youngsters at Disneyland
  • Tiffany gift bags (for little girls!)


In “Confessions of a Party Pauper,” Kylie Knott interviewed a child psychologist about these kind of excesses. Lora Lee suggested, “Parents see lavish parties as a way to compensate for a lack of parenting time.”

Another family psychologist, Laurene Man, noted lavish parties have “no direct bearing on the children’s happiness.” In fact, she suggested that large parties overhelm a child. “They can’t relate to so many children at one time, not to mention so many adults. Kids enjoy small simple parties – playing with a few children on one or two simple games.”

Man recommended parents think back to their own birthday parties to gain insight about what’s truly memorable about birthdays. I remember:

  • My mother making really creative sheet cakes decorated with M&Ms or Smarties.
  • Getting to go to Baskin & Robbin’s every year for a free cone.
  • Loving the present game where you sit in a circle and get to unwrap one layer of paper from the prize gift it was in your lap when the music stopped.
  • Dressing up in a hand-made costume for a friend’s Superhero party.

What simple pleasures do you remember and wish we still embraced at birthday parties?