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.”

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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.

6 Tips to Control Birthday Party Costs

birthdays on a budgetPhoto credit: Kid’s Birthday Parties via Foter.com/ CC BY

Birthdays are often an excuse for extravagance. Celebrities might spend $5,000 on a cake or buying an $187,000 playhouse for their six-year-old. Or maybe you know families that hire a yacht for their 10-year-old’s party or host 50 kids at Disneyland for the day — 50!

Yet there are those of us who want to try and keep the birthday spending on a tight budget. After all, it’s the thought that counts, right? Plus, paying off credit card debt or keeping up with the mortgage payments is probably more important than a big, blowout bash for a nine-year-old.

Pop that Birthday Budget Balloon

Here, then, are six strategies to help you keep birthday party costs under control:

Accept Assistance.

No, there is no federal assistance program for party planners. But, you likely have friends and family who would be willing to help:

  • Instead of paying $70 to a bakery, ask a friend to contribute a freshly baked cake.
  • Ask grandma and grandpa to suggest some old school games that will save you from paying for a roving arcade truck or a big bouncy house out back. Kids like to play, after all. Maybe offering them some options they haven’t encountered before will win points for novelty while also giving family members a chance to prove they’re still pretty awesome.
  • Invite young cousins and neighborhood friends to be crafty and draw or paint decorations for the party. It will look homemade, sure, but the birthday honoree will also feel the love of their family and friends whenever they look about them.

Party Outdoors.

If you’re looking at a warm weather birthday, you might host a movie night on screen in a backyard, a field day at a neighborhood park, or an obstacle course in the cul de sac (having warned the neighbors first). These options are more affordable and again will encourage creativity that can make your party distinct.

budget birthday

Photo credit: ND Strupler via Foter.com / CC BY

Think Strategically about Timing.

Planning a party over lunch or dinner might suggest you will be offering a meal. Inviting folks between 2 and 5 saves you from this expectation — snacks will likely do the trick.
If you are going to serve food, keep the menu simple and find a friend who can let you borrow their membership to a bulk store such as Costco or Sam’s Club.

Price Package Deals.

If celebrating the big day is happening at a party venue, shop around to see who offers the best deal. Sometimes a party sticker price seems more expensive than a competitor. But compare it line by line to see what’s included in each offer.

Plan Ahead.

By keeping an eye on sales you can often find party items at reduced costs. This is a good way to keep control of party decoration costs, paper supplies and plastic cutlery, and anything that goes in the loot bags (if you decide your guests can’t go without swag).

Go Digital.

Spending money on paper invitations and envelopes, plus postage (if necessary) is an unnecessary expense for the budget conscious. It’s easy to set up an electronic invitation online at a site such as Evite or Punchbowl.

Budget Birthdays Special Too

Of course, the easiest way to cut party costs is to cut out the party. But, if that simply isn’t going to fly with the birthday boy or girl you are feting, take another take and keep the guest list small.

Yes, I believe I everyone deserves a big day on their birthday — but that doesn’t mean anyone should have to break the bank to make it happen.

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 WhatToExpect.com 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.

Birthday Courtesy…heck, any day courtesy.

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Sarah Parrott via Foter.com/CC BY-NC-ND

Basic Birthday Courtesy

This is me blogging angry. ANGRY. I just read an article about a 9-year-old who started this year in public school and was excited to celebrate his first birthday party with classmates. After being homeschooled for years, he and his mother planned a Diary of A Wimpy Kid party to enjoy his big day. Invitations were sent. Party favors purchased. Cake bought or made. Games set up. NO ONE CAME.

The child’s Charlie Brown party is sad. What makes me so angry? NO ONE RSVPed. Simply responding to the invitation with a “can’t make it” text or call would have avoided this upset.

In a post related to this birthday disaster, the mother pointed out that although she hadn’t heard from anyone, she assumed some kids would still attend. After all, several of the children that attended her daughter’s birthday hadn’t responded in advance. But this time, not a soul came to the party, and the parents were totally unprepared.

AWFUL. Let’s consider again just how easy it is to send a text. I probably could have sent six in the time it took you to read that last sentence alone.

It’s So Easy to RSVP

Personally, I don’t understand how any parent who has hosted a birthday party can’t respond. You know the cost that goes into hosting a birthday party. You know the child’s emotional investment. You know how much easier it is to plan when you have some idea of numbers of people to expect.

This is about courtesy and a basic level of respect for the people around us who are inviting us to share in an important moment in their lives. Argh. It makes me so angry to think of that poor boy’s disappointment. And how easily it could have been avoided if we weren’t becoming this society of people who are letting basic etiquette slide in favor of swiping to the right and adding a thumbs up or thumbs down to a social post.

RSVP! Whatever the occasion — birthday, wedding, retirement party…even pet playdate! Say yes. Say no. But say something. It’s a small thing you can do to make someone’s big day that much better.

Celebrating a birthday over and over legitimately

 

birthday blog

Photo credit: clevercupcakes via Foter.com / CC BY

A clerical error for the win: This woman has three birthdays.

Bristol woman Sandra Blackwell made the press this past week for celebrating her birthday on the wrong date for the decades. She thought it was Nov. 10. Then her birth certificate arrived and it said Nov. 11. Just when she was getting used to that confusion, she unearthed a letter from her primary school listing her birthday as Nov. 12.

“I have only just got used to having two birthdays so I was stunned to find out I actually have three,” Blackwell told the Bristol Post.

It’s the birthday that just keeps on giving!

Admittedly, she does not look as enthusiastic about these three birthdays I would be.

Admittedly, she does not look as enthusiastic about these three birthdays as I would be.

“I think it is something that runs in the family,” Blackwell said. “My mum celebrated her birthday on the wrong day for 16 years. My nan had a lot of kids and just got confused with the date. It turned out that her real birthday was almost a week later.”

Of course, since she’s a Brit, the press there is comparing her to the Queen. She quite famously has two official birthdays. Now Sandra Blackwell has her beat. I think that demands a birthday crown at her next party!

Of course, the three birthdays are all in a row, which makes it somewhat less exciting. I already pretty much give myself a birthday week, so I don’t know that this would make a big dent in my birthday fun.

However, if I had three legitimate birthdays, think of all the great things I could do:

  • I could make one a party birthday where I celebrate with friends and family.
  • I could finally share one (since I have extra).
  • I could make another one all about me (wait, all three are about that…uhm…).

Well, I am confident I could have a raucous time with three birthdays annually. I would want them separated out more — say every four months. A welcome alternative to half birthdays as they come that much sooner!

Employee Birthday Benefits

As organizational development folks study employee engagement at great length, I suggest a simple tool to enhance morale — birthday benefits.

Just this month, my office job employer has treated two of our team to birthday cakes. We were even asked in advance what kind of cake we’d like best — so there was even an element of choice! Plus, even the person who wasn’t having a birthday could look forward to the break of enjoying a slice of cake together. It’s a win for everyone at work.birthday benefits

As I sat enjoying my second “small” slice of chocolate cake at the office in under two weeks (we’re not talking about all of the slices I ate at home for my own birthday), I wondered what other examples of birthday employee benefits I might find.

Birthday Holiday

Entrepreneur suggests the following in its 10 Benefits Employees Welcome and Every Company Can Afford:

“1. Birthdays off.
Everybody has one, so consider giving employees a paid day off to celebrate their birthday or perhaps a floating holiday instead.”

Of course this is #1. Why doesn’t want their birthday off? Or at least a day off of their own choosing?

On one HR site supporting the “paid birthday holiday” an employee relations-themed blog noted that the majority of departments celebrate with cake and singing, but the birthday holiday “sends a great message.” This shows the organization doesn’t view the birthday in terms of workers “getting older, benefit costs going up and efficiency going down.” The author even suggests the holiday might be given only to employees after three years of service to cut costs.

Piping up on this same Birthday Holiday idea, a separate HR voice added another perspective: “Some people may not work well on their birthday as this is when they would like to have a big party and celebrate throughout the whole day. By giving them that day off, they get to have that day of rest and relaxation that may prove quite beneficial.”

Birthday at Work Pitfalls

Really, where is the downfall to offering this one extra way to celebrate the employee?

Apparently there remain concerns. The Society for Human Resource Management featured consideration of whether or not to recognize employee benefits in a 2015 blog. The article began:

“Recognizing employee birthdays can be a low-cost yet personal and special way to recognize employees. It can also be a means to upset employees or lead to allegations of unlawful discrimination if not handled correctly.”

WHAT?

Apparently this “seemingly harmless act of celebration” could:

  • be seen as a violation of privacy, a misuse of HR files
  • pressure employees to pitch in for cakes and gifts they can’t afford
  • be at odds with employee religious or birthday beliefs

I didn’t know about the last one. Now I’m going to have to track down the religions prohibiting “the celebration of holidays and other events, including birthdays.” Another blog…Oh, it’s Jehovah’s Witnesses. The SHRM tells us in another blog they believe it is a sin. I guess I might know that if I ever answered the door when they called.

Great Birthday Benefit Ideas

One thing this article made me sure about is my complete disinterest in being in HR. I can embrace the advice to always ask first and respect the birthday celebrants wishes for privacy or not. Still, I’m much more behind the great ideas a SHRM LinkedIn post on the topic generated:

● Electronic birthday cards, especially at large organizations.
● Surprise decorations at the employee’s desk.
● Lunch with a manager.
● Gift cards to popular stores or restaurants.
● Cash gifts based on years of service.
● A company contribution to a charity of the celebrant’s choice.
Monthly celebrations, perhaps with a cake, that acknowledge all workers born in that month.

Except perhaps that last one. By now my loyal readers can be sure I don’t want to have to share my birthday with others — not even work colleagues…sorry (not sorry).

No Birthday Parties at the Gym for me.

 

There are already 1,068 reasons I couldn’t actually live in New York City. Now, while it may be fun to visit the Big Apple, I’ve come across reason 1,069.

Fitness birthday parties.

Yes, you read that correctly. There are gyms in NYC that are offering private birthday parties in their fitness centers. The guest invites friends for a group class, picks the playlist, and everyone sweats together for the birthday event.

One fitness birthday celebrant in NYC stated, “I can’t think of celebrating another year of life not working out, and I want to share that with the people I care about. There’s certainly a health component but there’s a gigantic fun component to it as well.”

Fitness Birthday Party

What me and my friends would look like at a Zumba fitness party. Photo credit: Edson Hong via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Well, don’t worry, dear reader, I will not be hosting a fitness group birthday party any time soon. Yes, I’ve learned I enjoy Zumba and Cardio Hip Hop classes for active exercise that sees me dancing and smiling (no matter that I am horribly uncoordinated). Yet, I would not go so far as to inflict fitness on others as a way to celebrate my special day.

Whether I even inflict fitness on myself on my birthday is something that I play by ear each year — and it typically loses out to another hour sleeping in or rolling over when I do wake up to read a book.

This said, I do think my athletic child would likely love taking over a gym with a climbing wall and ropes and loud dance music on his birthday. So, if Charlotte, NC, gyms want to open their doors for pre-teen parties, I’m in.

In the meantime, the only parts of the fitness birthday parties outlined in the NYC article that appeal are the customized T-shirts, custom playlists, and Champagne to drink afterwards. That knowing I could eat my cake guilt free after burning calories busting a birthday move.