Big Families, Big Birthdays, Tiny Budgets!

It probably won’t surprise you to know that I use to be one of “those” moms (as they say) when it came to birthdays. When my oldest was younger, we threw parties that rivaled MTV’s “Sweet 16”. Okay, so I’m probably exaggerating a little, but it really was pretty ridiculous. Take his third birthday, for example. He wanted a medieval theme. Obviously we had to have a giant dragon AND a castle big enough for kids to climb into and through. We spent hours carefully crafting together and painting refrigerator boxes , and even got one of our friends who is a professional artist to come over and paint the dragon’s wings. (Clearly no three year old could have a dragon painted by his MOM. How embarrassing would THAT be!)

Keaton's 4th Birthday 077


Keaton's 4th Birthday 079

Keaton's 4th Birthday 119

Seven kids later, and I have realized that neither my budget nor my sanity can handle Pinterest worthy parties anymore. I’m over it, ya’ll. I *LOVE* a good theme party, but as a home school family trying to accommodate both a firefighter dad and work from home mom schedules, we are already busy enough. Plus, when you consider the average family spends $300-400 per kid, per birthday, my beautifully maintained Dave Ramsey budget would be screaming out in pain.

Regardless of the number of kids you’re celebrating each year, birthdays can quickly get out of hand and cost more than anticipated. When planning your next birthday party, keep these tips in mind to help you stay on track!

1. Set a Budget and Save in Advance

This seems like a common sense statement, but hear me out: It’s so easy to get off track. And what happens if, when it comes time to start buying for the party, you’ve had an emergency come up and don’t have the money you thought you would? The easiest way to avoid this is to set your budget for birthdays far in advance; plan a whole year ahead! What feels reasonable to spend on a party, including gifts? Multiply that amount by the number of kids you have, and divide it by twelve months. For example, if you have three kids, and you don’t want to spend more than $200 per birthday, your total would be $600. When divided by twelve months, you would need to save $50 a month. Obviously you may have to start with a larger lump sum in your birthday budget if you have birthdays at the beginning of the year, but you could always start saving now for next year!

2. Limit Your Guest List

I once heard that a good rule of thumb is to invite one friend for every year your child is turning, and I think it’s a pretty neat idea! Your three year old probably doesn’t care whether there’s three or fifteen other kids there to play with, but your budget sure does. We have started, in recent years, just inviting a few of our kiddos’ closest friends, and of course family members. This has not only helped keep us on budget, but has made party planning easier and the actual day of much less stressful!

3. Simple Snacks

I’m not sure when the traditional “cake and ice cream” stopped being good enough, but all of a sudden we feel like we’re expected to serve entire meals or have our six year old’s birthday party catered?! No way, Jose. Party food adds up, especially if you’re serving lunch/dinner. Plan your party during a time that is obviously between meals so that no one shows up expecting an entree. Serve cake, ice cream, and call it good! Kids don’t have nearly as high of expectations as we adults do when it comes to parties, and remember: your main goal is simply for your kiddo to have a good time!

4. Quit Buying Gifts for the Guests!

Goody bags, game prizes: they’re all pretty unnecessary. Goody bags take time to put together and are usually full of junk toys that moms are going to sneak into the trash two days after your party anyway, and they’re so expensive. As far as games, the fun and excitement of the game in itself is enough! And just to reiterate: the main goal is for your kiddo to have a good time and celebrate them! Put whatever expectations you think your guests have on the back burner and just focus on having fun!

Maybe you LIVE to throw a party and you’re thinking, “She’s crazy; I’m inviting fifty people and renting out a dance hall, baby!” If that’s the case, check out some of the links below to find birthday decor and the like at great prices to help you stay on target with your budget, whatever it may be!

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