Back when I was a kid, birthday parties were mostly ho-hum consisting of a few rounds of Pin the Tail on the Donkey and Clothespins in a Bottle followed by Betty Crocker cake baked in a nine-by-thirteen with buttercream frosting. Back then going “all out” meant splurging on a pre-made cake from the local bakery.
These days going all out for a child’s birthday party means something a bit different. Some of the stories are mind-boggling.
Recently, I read about parents in one Minnesota town who rented a bar for a princess-themed party. Children and their parents were invited and instructed to come dressed in tuxedos and formal attire. Guests were picked up in limos. The party included live music and champagne for the adults. The birthday girl was turning 4.
Sure that was an extreme party, but there is no denying that birthday parties for kids are becoming more and more extravagant. You know what I’m talking about. And I get it.
Birthday parties have become part of our culture. The pressure to keep up can be intense! We don’t want to disappoint the child but more than that we want to send the message that our child is as important as other children. We’re driven to go all out to provide the experience of a lifetime—and to do it again every year.
It doesn’t have to be this way. There are great ways to have parties that children know how special they are; that the day they were born changed the world forever. You can do that without breaking the bank.
IT’S NOT A COMPETITION. Write those words on your frontal lobe. Repeat it often. Just because the neighbors hired a carload of clowns complete with ponies and bouncy house doesn’t mean they love their kids more than you love yours. You are not competing for an award. You have permission to do your own thing.
LIMIT THE GUEST LIST. You should not feel obligated to invite every kid that the birthday child has come in contact with over the past year. Nor should you feel like you need to invite the parents of every child. Limit the guest list to include your child’s real friends and you’ll create a more intimate and child-friendly experience.
FIND WAYS TO DO IT YOURSELF. Never in the history of the world have there been as many ideas and instructions for how to do birthday party stuff. Go to Pinterest.com and any number of blogs devoted to creative parenting. Go online. Learn how to make the cake yourself. Create invitations, games and decorations yourself. Find the closest 99 Cents Only or other dollar store. Load up on cheap paper goods and decorations. The more you do yourself, the less you’ll be compelled to spend to get others to do the work for you. And the kids will love it!
FORGET THE GOODY BAGS. Whoever came up with the idea of goody bags should have gone back to the drawing board. The tradition that every child goes home with a bag of plastic things that kids don’t want, don’t need and they’ll lose by the next day, needs to be re-evaluated. And you are the perfect person to start that ball rolling. Forget the goody bags and you will be applauded by every party giver that follows.
There. Four solid ways to rein in the crazy high cost of birthday parties. Add some of your own and you’ll be on your way to making great memories for your child—for a whole lot less!