Monday, June 29, 2009

The Self-Budgeted Birthday Party

The birthday budget: By letting her kids plan their own parties, this mom helps them learn the value of a dollar, by Pauline Childs:

[Emma] really wanted a store-bought Barbie cake (with a real doll in the middle!). It would cost $40 and serve just eight people. I tried to explain how extravagant this was when you really thought about it, especially since we'd need to buy another cake to have enough for everyone. She looked at me and said, "But it's my birthday. How come I don't get to decide what to spend money on?"

She had a point. Suddenly, an idea occurred to me: why not just set a party budget and let the birthday boy or girl decide how to use it?

Thanks to Lisa Kothari of Peppers and Pollywogs for the link.

So far, we've not had many issues with keeping Lucia's birthday parties small and simple. She's certainly had ideas for larger parties after attending other people's more elaborate shin-digs, but for the most part, has been fine with our simple affairs.

I haven't had a birthday party gig in quite awhile. While that's not great for my business, I do hope that it means families are discovering creative ways to celebrate birthdays that are both enjoyable and inexpensive.


Vivian said...

Most of my children's friends throw elaborate birthday parties at some big party place and it sometimes makes me sad we can't do the same, but only for a moment. My girls have a great time organizing their own birthday event, all the way to fantastic party favors. And we stay within a budget!

The children and parents are always impressed with our goody packages (wrapped in gift paper and pretty ribbons)--no cheap throw-away toys and bulk candy. My kids love giving these packages to their friends and feel a sense of pride for the party they created.

tanita davis said...

The phrase, "but it's my birthday," would have resulted in my never having another one, or at the very least in not having a birthday party. We were not allowed to have a sense of entitlement, that we were owed a party the way we wanted it, just because it was our birthday. I kind of don't know what a person would grow up like who had that sense of "but it's for me." Probably okay, as long as there were other realities explained to them fairly early...

The budgeting idea is a great one, as it would give the kids a sense of ownership and make them part of the process -- and definitely serve them well when they were older and planning gigs and shopping wisely. Kudos to the mom. Wonder if the budget will shift upwards as they age?

Complicated...suddenly makes me glad to be childless.

Lone Star Ma said...

That is a good idea. It can be so hard to strike a balance where it's fun but not overboard. This year was the first year we had a party that was not just family for the LSB, and we kept it at home with crafts and outside games and cupcake decorating - very laid back, but it still cost a lot to us, if not in comparison to the sorts of big-time parties her friends throw. The only sorts of party planning input she's wanted so far is what kind of theme and cake (rainbows and butterflies for this year's party).

Jules at 7-Imp said...

Ooh, Vivian, now I want to know what is in your goody packages. I get tired of what you called those cheap, throw-away toys.

Childs has a great idea here. Neven even occurred to me.

Saints and Spinners said...

Vivian: I'd really like to know what your kids' party favors are, too! Seed packets are what we got with around here.

Tanita: "But it's my birthday" would have gotten me the smack-down, too. As I think about my childhood, I realize that after first grade, I only went to a smattering of birthday parties, and they were usually small affairs that involved videos and sleep-overs. My mom made clues for treasure hunts for a couple of my birthdays, and the prizes were (drumroll) plants!

LSM: That party sounds delightful, but I can still see how a relatively simple birthday party ends up costing more than what one would have for a regular party. It just hit me: regular parties tend to be potlucks, at least around here. I wonder how birthday parties would start to change if the potluck mentality took hold.

Jules: No kidding, eh? I do like little party bags, but it's more the idea of giving a little gift to the person who attended, as opposed to receiving the gift, that appeals to my hobbit nature.

Speaking of gifts, the last party Lucia had, I bent my usual policy of "no opening gifts in front of the guests" (and even meaner, no gifts at all, which Lucia didn't even notice for a couple of years!) to allow for gift-opening as part of the party. It worked out just fine and the guests enjoyed watching Lucia unwrap the little treasures they'd found for her. The last party she went to, though, the birthday girl obsessed about the presents from the beginning and just couldn't wind down enough to enjoy the rest of the party. It's hard not to do that, especially when one is only 6years old, but I do wish that opening gifts, if there are any gifts, would take place after the guests have gone home.

Anamaria (bookstogether) said...

We've always had the kids' birthday parties at home--I love planning them with/for the kids, budget concerns aside. Most of what we do takes more time than money anyway--something that's also in short supply! I'll admit that I love making and giving favors, though.

mamakopp said...

I love this. This year we are using the money we would spend on food and cake to take both boys to do something fun. They loved the idea!