Childrearing

I Refuse To Spend A Bunch Of Money On My Kids’ Birthday Parties

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For my first child’s first birthday, I went hog wild for her party. I won’t embarrass myself by publicly announcing how much I spent but suffice it to say, it was way too much for a child not old enough to remember any of it. Yes, I know, the first birthday is more for the parents than the baby, but if I’d really thought about it, I would have realized that a dinner out with my husband would have been a far better way to spend that money.

I was almost just as bad for my son’s first birthday but that was when it hit me- when I noticed that no one seemed to care about the elaborate 3-tier fondant Sesame Street birthday cake tower I had ordered from the fancy independent baker. When no one cared that I had done up the most beautiful Sesame-themed party favors you could ever imagine. No one cared that I had strung personalized balloons with my son’s name on them all over the park pavillion where we had his party. Everyone was just happy to eat a cheeseburger and see my son to wish him a happy birthday. I was doing it for me….and that was when I realized, I really didn’t care all that much and that it was more the pressure I felt to make it amazing than anything else.

Needless to say, as the years have passed, I’ve scaled back. A lot. I’ve come to realize that my kids only hope for and appreciate a few select things for their birthdays- cake, junk food and some presents. They don’t even need to be expensive presents– they just like to open stuff. An $8 Spider-Man figure is met with the same enthusiasm as the $79.99 Lego set so why torture myself?

I really think that parents now have gone a little nutty with the kiddie birthdays. I mean, don’t any of us remember birthday parties when we were kids? I couldn’t tell you a single detail about the parties I went to in regard to decor or special foods (other than the sweet box mix cakes my mom would make). But I do remember the time my friends dad walked in on us at 2am during a 3rd grade sleepover while we were having an egg fight and instead of punishing us, joined right in. I also remember the random Friday night where my friends mom took us to a local amusement park at 8pm totally by surprise, just me and my friend. It wasn’t part of some grand pre-planned soiree but it remains one if my fondest and most vivid childhood memories some 25 years later. It doesn’t need to be flashy to be remembered.

I think in a bid to impress other grown ups we’ve forgotten our audience a bit. My kids are happy with the garish Ninja Turtle cake picked from the catalogue at Wegmans and a few balloons. They have exactly zero shits to give about an elaborate photo birthday invitation and Pinterest-curated hors d’oeuvres table and decor. Kids just want to be kids and making ourselves happy and impressing our friends doesn’t need to be the focus. It may have taken four or five years but I’m finally at a place where I can throw out a text to our closest family and friends with party details and call it good. Order the cake and a few pizzas, blow up a dozen balloons and be done with it. Watching my kids I can see that they have just as much fun whether I’ve done all the special little touches or whether I honor what actually matters to them and call it a day.

(Image: Lapina/Shutterstock)

69 Comments

  1. Kelly

    June 6, 2014 at 2:21 pm

    I think I must just be cheap because I’m always shocked by how much people spend on parties. I’m throwing a birthday party for a friend and her husband said, “We could rent a hall.” and I was like, WTF? We have several houses to choose from for this party, why the hell would we drive up the price by renting a place?

    Now, I admit I’m a little craftier than the average person but this party is going to cost barely over $100 and be awesome. I’m like the queen of pinterest parties. We’re even having a photo booth. Guess how much that’s costing me? Less than $20, including the funny props.

    You so don’t have to blow a bunch of money to have a great time.

    • K.

      June 6, 2014 at 4:28 pm

      Okay, HOW are you doing this for $20?! (I’m not one to spend hundreds on a kid’s birthday party, but…$20?!)

      I must learn, sensei.

    • Kelly

      June 6, 2014 at 4:49 pm

      I have a go pro camera which has a setting to take a picture every 30 seconds or so. One of my regular cameras has the same setting so it’s not like you need a specific camera. You set up a staging area by unrolling a roll of wrapping paper partway and hanging it from the wall or ceiling. That’s your background. Set up the camera across from it and turn it on. Buy props from a thrift store or dollar store and set them near the background. You can usually find stuff around the house to go with the theme too.

      When the party’s over, you have tons of pictures so you have to spend some time to go through them but I always end up with some really great ones. 🙂

    • Kelly

      June 6, 2014 at 4:50 pm

      You can even hang curtains to give it more a “photo booth” feel. I’ve done that in the past a few times.

    • KarenMS

      June 6, 2014 at 9:47 pm

      Upvoted out of jealousy of your craftiness.

  2. Kendra

    June 6, 2014 at 2:22 pm

    Definitely true. In this day and age, it is way more to impress other parents than it is for the kids. My daughter’s parties are pretty “big”, I guess. I do decorations by hand and we cook all the food ourselves so there is no huge cake or catering expense. It’s all pretty cheap, but still a nice big party. We just want everyone to be able to relax and enjoy their time out, since they’ve chosen to spend an afternoon with us. I don’t want them to “feel” like they’re at a kiddie party…because I find kiddie parties to be UNBEARABLE.

    • Valerie

      June 6, 2014 at 2:26 pm

      That’s how we do it too! We order pizza or grill and everyone is happy!

    • whiteroses

      June 7, 2014 at 9:20 am

      And this, right here, is why I invite my childfree friends to my son’s parties but make it very clear that they don’t have to come, and it won’t be a reflection on them if they don’t. I mean, a two year old’s birthday party is some people’s idea of hell.

      They come anyway, because I provide awesome food, pretty decent music, and beer.

    • Fluffy_1

      June 7, 2014 at 3:19 pm

      Speaking as a childfree, I will say that I absolutely love child’s birthday parties. XD I get to play on fun kid things like bouncy castles, trampolines and jungle jims (the parents are generally too knackered to do this or too inhibited, so the kids are thrilled when I do so!) eat delicious cake and party nibbles, and just generally revert to kiddishness. XD

  3. joanne

    June 6, 2014 at 2:29 pm

    I find the birthday party for every year to be such an odd thing. Maybe it was because we didn’t have a lot of disposable income or maybe it was because I was a weird kind of nerdy child who loathed being in the spotlight (still do), but I had one “true” birthday party – the year I turned 12 (I think, it may have been 13). Otherwise we went as a family to Tucson to the zoo or to the desert museum. I could usually invite one friend along (which was good since I only had 1 best friend). We had a picnic lunch and a cake made and decorated by my mom and that was plenty.

    • CanLeigh

      June 6, 2014 at 3:10 pm

      I know the “hate being in the spotlight” feeling. To this day, I’d rather hide out with a good book, rather than have a big celebration for anything that involves me. I’m having a baby in Nov, and I keep suggesting to my boyfriend that we throw a baby shower for him I stead of me. I don’t think he understands that I’d honestly be happier if he were the center of attention for the day.

  4. Ashley Austrew

    June 6, 2014 at 2:33 pm

    I kept my daughter’s first birthday pretty laid back, but I definitely understand the temptation to go all out. It’s your first kid and your first time doing the birthday thing for them and everything is so damn cute. In the end, though, I’m glad I didn’t blow a whole bunch of money. We had family over, I hung balloons and streamers all over the living room so she could stare at them in wonder, and then we ate an abnormally delicious grocery store cake. Perfect.

  5. Katherine Handcock

    June 6, 2014 at 2:34 pm

    I am so with you! This year was the first year I had a party for my son’s birthday (he’s five and had actual friends from preschool he wanted to invite.) Theoretically the theme was Justice League, but in reality the theme was “let’s run around the house playing like a regular play date, then eat pizza, chips, and cake.” If I hit $100 for the party, including enough pizza to feed the moms who stayed, I’d be shocked.

    When they’re older, I guess I can see how a big theme party would be pretty exciting. But it’s definitely not necessary for kids to have fun. If you enjoy throwing a big party, fill your boots, but I’ll just keep chucking chips in a bowl and putting on a movie.

  6. LadyClodia

    June 6, 2014 at 2:49 pm

    I went a bit overboard for my older son’s 1st birthday. I stressed myself out so much that it wasn’t really enjoyable. The subsequent years have been considerably scaled back too. And while it might not have looked that way this past year because we had his party at the kids’ gym, it was because I had enough member points that the party was free. I only had to pay for the cake, snacks, and goodie-bags. I didn’t have to have preschoolers running amok in my house! It was brilliant.
    We had a get together for my younger son’s 1st birthday, but it didn’t go quite as planned because trick-or-treating got delayed until that night, so there was a lot of rushing around with the older kids. Of course my younger son didn’t care, but I was disappointed. I feel sort of bad because even when trick-or-treating doesn’t interfere directly with his birthday it sort of seems anticlimactic after the excess of Halloween.

  7. journalgal2

    June 6, 2014 at 2:50 pm

    With a birthday two weeks before Christmas, my daughter definitely doesn’t have super fancy parties or expensive presents. Last year, though, I did hold it outside of my house and it was the best decision ever. Bowling alley, complete with meal for 6 kids = $75, two hours and then they were gone and I didn’t have to vacuum. It was great. Plus bowling alleys serve alcohol for the moms and dads 🙂

    • journalgal2

      June 6, 2014 at 2:51 pm

      And I hate loot bags. Can we get rid of those, please?

    • LadyClodia

      June 6, 2014 at 2:53 pm

      I loved doing up the goodie-bags for my son’s party. They were Minion themed and came out really cute.

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      June 7, 2014 at 3:37 am

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    • Shelly Lloyd

      June 6, 2014 at 3:14 pm

      The worse “loot bag” my daughter brought home from a birthday party, a freaking beta fish! The parent sent everyone home with a fish–no where on the invitation was that mentioned, even when we dropped her off there was no, “Hey were giving away live fish at the end of the party so if you don’t have a tank, go get one.” I hated that bitch.

    • Rachel Sea

      June 6, 2014 at 3:59 pm

      Isn’t in in the, like, top 20 rules of kids that you never give one a surprise pet unless it’s to punish their parents?

    • AP

      June 6, 2014 at 8:56 pm

      It’s because there are a lot of people who think bettas can live in a bowl of dirty water or a tiny vase. They were probably thinking, “oh they can leave the fish in the takeout cup and just dump the water out occasionally, it’s just a fish”, not “I bet these parents consider the fish’s welfare as a valid responsibility.”

    • Shelly Lloyd

      June 10, 2014 at 10:24 am

      That was exactly how they where. When I picked up my daughter I originally said no, we are not accepting a pet fish, we have no tank to keep it in. The other mom was like “Oh, they are no trouble, just put it in a glass vase or canister.” Then I felt torn because I didn’t want to go out and spend the money on getting a tank with a filter etc…but then again I didn’t want to leave the poor fish with the woman who was just going to plop it into a vase. So we ended up taking it home and buying a small beta set up. But at least the fish had more room than a vase or sugar jar. It lived for a few months.

    • Katherine Handcock

      June 7, 2014 at 6:54 am

      Oh, I HATE people who give animals as gifts/prizes/whatever. Grrr….

    • Katherine Handcock

      June 7, 2014 at 6:58 am

      I think it depends on the “loot bag” idea. Some loot bags seem to be a collection of stuff you’ll never use, so I tried to find some actual fun and longer-lasting stuff for the loot bags for my son’s part. Pack of stickers, glow-in-the-dark silly putty, and these awesome “finger lasers” I found at the dollar store (little colored LEDs with an elastic band to hold them on your finger.) All the parents asked me where I got all three things so they could get more, so I consider that a success 😉

      I also love the parties where the “loot bag” is actually a craft that you make during the party, but that doesn’t really work with younger kids.

    • Fluffy_1

      June 7, 2014 at 3:16 pm

      My mum’s idea of a loot bag was mainly a couple of cheap toys, ie water pistols from the corner shop (costing about 10p each), bubbles (I still love those even today! XD), a box of raisins, some “love heart” sweets or “parma violets”, a balloon and a piece of birthday cake wrapped in a party napkin.

      I was charmed when I attended a nephew’s party, and the loot bags were almost exactly the same, even down to the bubbles! : )

    • Alicia Kiner

      June 7, 2014 at 12:37 am

      My daughter’s birthday is the 21st. Hubby and I decided to splurge last year and do both kid’s parties at Monkey Joe’s, which is a building full of bounce houses and inflatable slides. It was about $200 for 10 kids, but they did all the cleanup and the kids got to play for the entire day. 10 tired kids in December when it was about 15 degrees outside… well worth the money! But, that’s my limit. This year, they’re stuck with parties at home.

  8. personal

    June 6, 2014 at 2:53 pm

    For my (summer) child’s birthday party, we’ll be doing the same thing we do every year. We blow up the inflatable pool (that only gets used for about a week a year, starting the day before her birthday. It’s big and our yard is small.) and I bake chocolate cupcakes and get fresh pretzels from the bakery around the corner. Throw in some cold fruit, ham and cheese, add ice cream and we’re good to go.
    We do, however, make it a big party by inviting all of the girls in her class. We are, apparently, the only parents to have ever done this at their kindergarten, according the the teacher there. I honestly can’t understand why. Even if someone doesn’t have much room at home, there are numerous parks and playgrounds within walking distance.
    I am wondering, though, how I’m going to handle 13 little boys when my son is this age. Unfortunately, his birthday is in the middle of winter.

  9. SA

    June 6, 2014 at 2:56 pm

    I loved throwing the 1st birthday party and I am already working on the 2nd, but while I put time into it and do a little theme, I can’t imagine spending tons of money on a party. I do like providing the food which is the bulk of the cost, but even a lot of that stressed me out last year, so it will most likely be pizza this year. I DIY decorations, I DIY cake and while it probably looks like my daughter was helping me, it is enough for me. And can I just say how MUCH I love the $ bin at Target!

    Birthday parties are supposed to be about fun and not stress and impressions, people should keep that in mind. Your kid isn’t going to enjoy as much either if they sense you are stressed as well.

  10. CanLeigh

    June 6, 2014 at 3:04 pm

    My son had a first birthday party and a second birthday party. Nothing elaborate, close friends and family, a few balloons and a cute cake. After that I asked every year if he wanted a party or wanted to bake a cake and just have some fun to celebrate. He chose a cake and a fun day until his seventh birthday, when he got a chuck e cheese party that cost less than $100.

  11. Gina

    June 6, 2014 at 3:05 pm

    I don’t love the birthday party thing. When I was a kid an invitation to a kid party was a rarity. It seemed like among my group of friends you got to have 1 official birthday party. Most of the time, birthdays were a family affair. I had one for my 8th birthday. My oldest son had one when he was 7 and my youngest who just turned 7 hasn’t ever asked for one. They seem to be less popular now than they were with my oldest. It seems like 5 years ago (the age difference between my kids), birthday parties were like a competition among parents. Now days they’re just simple little events at a park or at someone’s house. My 7 yr old is Mr Social at school, so he’s got tons of friends but most of them don’t have parties. Unlike with my oldest who went to parties for the same kids every year. I don’t mind that being a dying trend.

  12. Libby Clawson Durkee

    June 6, 2014 at 3:17 pm

    I didn’t do anything but dinner and cupcakes with immediate family for my first’s first or second birthday. For his third I asked him what he wanted to do, and he wanted a bounce house. We rented one for the afternoon, invited all our friends with kids, and they all had a blast. He still frequently talks about it and asks for one for his next birthday.

  13. Rachel Sea

    June 6, 2014 at 4:05 pm

    When I was a kid the only important thing was whether the cake had good frosting. If it was a really good party then everyone who wanted one got a big fat frosting rose or balloon or whatever, and all we got a goody bag with stickers and a superbounce ball. I cannot tell you the theme of a single party I ever attended – except one terrible party where someone’s mom decided to throw a sock-hop and we we’re all expected to be in costume and no one wanted to be wearing turtlenecks and big felt skirts in the middle of summer.

  14. Warren Pacholzuk

    June 6, 2014 at 4:22 pm

    The huge overly done parties are nothing more than parents one uping the other parents. Feeding their own egos. Get over yourself.

  15. noodlestein

    June 6, 2014 at 4:49 pm

    I don’t know – I’m kind of on the fence with this one. I can see the appeal of both sides. My best friend and her husband throw hugely elaborate parties for my goddaughter and her sister, and the kids always have a complete blast. They always let the girls choose their themes, and then go all out to make it happen. For example, one year the party was Nightmare Before Christmas themed with a face painter, one year pirate themed, and they had a treasure map and a sand box at the end with “buried treasure,” plenty of party favors, that kind of stuff. They really get into it, and have the money to spare, so I think it’s fine. I mean, obviously you have to take it on a case by case basis, but I know they don’t do it to lord it over the other parents or anything like that, they just want the girls to have a really special day. Plus they always supply booze for the adults, which is pretty sweet. To me it’s harmless, and either way you choose – elaborate or super chill – it needs to fit you and what your kid would enjoy most.

    • Katherine Handcock

      June 7, 2014 at 6:53 am

      I think that’s the thing, though – has to be enjoyable for you AND the kid. If it is, and you have the money to spend and want to, great! But I must admit, birthday parties seem to be becoming a competitive thing now (“Well, *I* handmade 3,000 themed cake pops!”) I blame it on Pinterest.

  16. Ro

    June 6, 2014 at 5:52 pm

    Maybe I’m cheap and lazy, but all we ever do is buy a cake, a few balloons, veggie and fruit plates and stuff to grill. My husband occasionally mentions renting a pony or an entertainer, but I feel like it would set a precedent that I don’t want to deal with. Also, we only invite people that we and our kids are close to and comfortable with.

  17. Armchair Observer

    June 6, 2014 at 7:23 pm

    My mom did her best, but my birthday parties always blew. More adults than kids because my birthday came one week before school restarted for Fall–prime vacation time where I lived and a stupid theme that never really gelled because it was completely diy (in a not-so-great way). I desperately wanted a party like my friends had: bowling alley or Chuck-E-Cheese or pool party, with a thorough Party City-esque theme. But, nope, never. I still have trouble getting into my own birthday. But, I love planning parties for others. My kids will likely get incredibly over-the-top parties. They can then hate them and grow up to do more like what my mom did. And the cycle will continue 🙂

    • gammachris

      June 6, 2014 at 7:40 pm

      My birthday is on the 4th of July. My parties were made up of anybody who was in town (in other words-small.) It sucked.

    • chill

      June 6, 2014 at 7:56 pm

      My birthday is Dec 26. Everyone is either out of town or exhausted on my birthday. My mom always had my party in April, except for one year when I insisted on having it on my birthday. 2 kids came… I was crushed.

      Now I love it because I use it as an excuse not to do any cleaning, cooking or make any effort on my birthday and everyone is (hopefully) trying to do things for me (rather than vice versa).

    • Katherine Handcock

      June 7, 2014 at 6:52 am

      I feel like my daughter’s birthday will be the same way – she’s a January 3 baby. When she’s old enough to care about parties in any serious way (right now it’s a party if there is 1. a balloon and 2. a cake), I’ll probably have her party with friends in mid-January.

    • M.

      June 7, 2014 at 7:34 am

      My son was born over Memorial Day weekend, and we found that a lot of people were out of town that weekend, so we’ve started doing his parties a couple weeks after his birthday because more people come that way. No biggie to just wait a little while 🙂

  18. Marisa

    June 6, 2014 at 7:52 pm

    What irritates me about kids parties is how parents are expected to invite the entire class these days because god forbid someone feels left out if they do not get an invite. For my daughter’s 1st birthday party I’m probably going to invite both sides of the family to a picnic somewhere and that’d be it. I’m not inviting half a day care center.

    • AP

      June 6, 2014 at 8:59 pm

      My husband was homeschooled until middle school, which meant he mostly got to choose his own friends, and when I first told him about this rule, he was aghast:

      “But, what about the bullies? You have to invite the BULLIES to your birthday, too?” He was horrified when I said yes.

      IMHO, I’d just buck the rule and be like, yeah two kids only no party sorry.

    • Lackadaisical

      June 7, 2014 at 8:20 am

      That sounds awful. I am so glad that pressure for whole class parties wasn’t a thing where I grew up or where my kids go to school. A couple of people throw them but they always seem a bit overwhelming for younger kids. It’s fine if your kid loves big disco parties in community halls but none of mine do

    • Fluffy_1

      June 7, 2014 at 3:11 pm

      I only had parties up to about eight years old; after that, my parents organised birthday treats to places of the birthday child’s choice. The birthday child could choose one friend to take with them, and their siblings would come too. The first place I chose for my eighth birthday was London Zoo. My parents found parties far more stressful so after the seventh birthday party, they introduced the “birthday treat” which was far cheaper and less stress inducing.

    • arrow2010

      June 7, 2014 at 9:20 pm

      Are you saying bullies should be invited to a party?

    • Katherine Handcock

      June 7, 2014 at 6:51 am

      I just refuse to do that. I will get the invitations to the parents of the kids we’re inviting outside of school if I have to, but I won’t invite the whole class. I follow the same rule my parents did: you get to invite one child per year you are old. Turning five? Five kids. Makes totally sense to child logic and it keeps things sane (or as sane as they get during a child’s birthday party).

    • Lackadaisical

      June 7, 2014 at 8:15 am

      After the first kid’s first birthday when it was all new and shiny (picnic in the park with no costs other than ordinary picnic food) we decided that birthday parties start at 4 years old. We don’t have pressure to invite the class where we live, thankfully, and limit it to a maximum of 15 including birthday child and siblings. 1 year olds and 2 year olds don’t care and at 3 trying to get a list of best friends that stays the same from day to day is too hard. “There’s a boy I always play with but I don’t know his name” happens too much for me to figure out an invite list that won’t upset the kid when they find an important friend wasn’t invited because they forgot to mention them.

    • whiteroses

      June 7, 2014 at 9:04 am

      My son’s 2nd birthday is coming up. I have invited mainly family, though there are several friends of mine coming. I have no illusions about the fact that this party is also one for me. Plus- they give awesome presents that he loves, and he loves spending time with all of them.

    • Lackadaisical

      June 7, 2014 at 9:52 am

      That’s a different kettle of fish. Kids love seeing his family and if his family love seeing him and having a bit of a get together then it sounds like fun for all concerned. What two year olds don’t give a monkeys about is all the fuss and traditions of a birthday party or whether you spent £20 or £1000. Nothing wrong with a knees up for friends and family whenever a toddler has a birthday but inviting every kid at their day care and stressing over whether the party bags, decorations and cake are perfect on his behalf rather than yours seems a bit much hard work and missing the point of what kids enjoy whenever I see it done. I am sure your kid will love what you have planned, as will you and your family.

    • whiteroses

      June 7, 2014 at 10:04 am

      Oh, I agree completely. Having read what I previously wrote, I see that I didn’t make my tone very clear! I agree with you. Those huge blowout parties? They aren’t for your kid, they’re for you. In my experience, all most kids really want is their parents’ undivided attention. I knew from last year, when I was stressing out icing fifty cupcakes, that icing all those cupcakes again this year was not an experience I have any interest in repeating.

    • Fluffy_1

      June 7, 2014 at 3:08 pm

      Yeah, in my experience re nieces and nephews parties, from about age 1 – 3, it’s mostly family and perhaps a few kids from playschool.

    • JJ

      June 7, 2014 at 11:00 am

      See I don’t get that maybe its because I was an 80’s and early 90’s child but we did not invite the entire class to our birthdays nor did we get invited to every kid in the class birthday party. That was life and we got over it. As long as people were tactful and didn’t hand invitations out in the middle of class no one cared. I would go nuts if I was expected to invite 25 or more kids to every single birthday party till the kid was in there teens. Kids need to learn that they won’t be invited to everything in life and everyone is not their best friend or even necessarily their school friend. Seems to me it would be awkward to have to invite kids you don’t associate with or who don’t like you to your party.

    • Elizabeth Licata

      June 7, 2014 at 1:41 pm

      I was born in 1980, and my school had a rule that if you invited more than half the students in the class, you had to invite all of them. If it were just 4 or 5 kids, that was fine. But it made sense to me to put the smack down on the habit of inviting 35 kids and leaving 3 out, which was a thing otherwise.

    • 2Well

      June 7, 2014 at 2:18 pm

      Exactly. Imagine being the only kid in the class to not get invited to a single birthday party because of a bullying campaign or something.

    • Justme

      June 8, 2014 at 9:06 am

      I’m already dreading that going into pre-school with my daughter next year. For her second and third birthday parties, we invited her friends from her sitter, my nephews and our friends with kids as well…numbers ended up being around 17 kids BUT the parties were never at our house and we sent home every child completely exhausted. I’m pretty sure we’re going to scale down for her next birthday just because inviting her pre-school friends could get it SUPER out of control.

    • Justme

      June 8, 2014 at 9:07 am

      Another comment – at many schools, if you join the PTA you receive the school address/phone book and then you could use that to mail out invites only to the kids that your child wants to invite to their party.

  19. Grace

    June 7, 2014 at 1:50 am

    My first birthday party was when I was turning… 7 I think? I’m not too sure. All I remember is that it sucked but I loved it.
    My mom never liked to throw parties because she, plain and simple, hated having other people’s kids at our house. I begged her for a party that year and she eventually said yes and told me I could invite 10 people and that was it. To put it simply, the party sucked. No decorations, no cake, no food, only two people showed up and one left half way through, and I started crying when I couldn’t find my goodie bag (why did I get a goodie bag at my own party?) during the scavenger hunt. The one kid who stayed left after like two hours. We had like 8 goodie bags left over because nobody else came.
    The only party I had after that was when I was 13, and my mom said I could only have one if I did the entire thing myself (I love my mom, but I think it’s because she just hated throwing parties). Turned out amazingly (got a chocolate fountain from my aunt, made a cake myself filled with candy, planned tons of games bought around 100 balloons and blew them all up myself) and everyone who I invited came, we had a great time but it still didn’t cost more than $30 for food and dollar store decorations. This goes to prove that fun parties don’t need to be expensive, and I sure as hell won’t be paying more than $100 on birthday parties for my kids.

  20. ChickenKira

    June 7, 2014 at 4:48 am

    My daughter’s 1st birthday is coming up in a month and I am getting the pressure to spend big from all around me. I don’t have the money to spend big so that’s just not an option or me.

    Besides, there are things I want to do myself anyway, sure, I could fork out $100 for a fancy pants cake, but I like baking and I am damn sick of making boring grown up cakes and I want to make a fun cake with chocolate freckles and yummy, bright, colourful things on it.

    • Fluffy_1

      June 7, 2014 at 3:06 pm

      Yes! Home made cakes are always best! At one of my niece’s first birthday, my mum made an absolutely delicious cake. My niece, who was falling asleep, was photographed with the cake, then she was put to bed and we all scoffed the cake in her honour. XD

  21. Kande

    June 7, 2014 at 7:07 am

    I threw expensive parties for my first who for awhile thought would be an only. Then I felt my eldest had her share and could have her parties toned down, as it all seemed a bit much. However I also didn’t want to go from “PARTY!!!” to “here’s a cupcake for breakfast, happy bday, the end”. So instead I said “I can throw you a party. OR I can pay you x amount to NOT have a party – your choice”. She chose the money. I saved half of what was normally spent + the headache of organzing a party – priceless! (or more accurately, price = 50% discount) 😉

  22. M.

    June 7, 2014 at 7:37 am

    I throw semi-big parties for my son (his 3rd birthday party is today, actually!)…we invite all our adult friends and it’s just kind of an excuse for us to have a party. I’ll probably start making it more kid-oriented next year when he’s 4. But I love to DIY decorations and stuff and I love planning a party around a theme with little activities for the kids and stuff. Last year we did a Lorax party and this year it’s all vehicles. I’m a graphic designer and I just find it fun to express myself this way and it’s silly to have a party for adults only with a silly theme. So yeah, it’s more for me, but my son has fun in the process 🙂

  23. whiteroses

    June 7, 2014 at 9:15 am

    My parents have a beach house that my grandfather built. They put in a pool three years ago. So last year, my July-born son had a pool party. Simple, free, and all the kids love it. Plus, I don’t have to plan a bunch of games. We grill out, do some very basic treat bags (temp tattoos for the older kids, pool toys for the younger ones), have beer for the adults, and call it a day. This year, I’m having someone else make the cake, because quite frankly I don’t have the desire to do it myself (plus it gives me an excuse to get something from my favorite bakery).

  24. Fluffy_1

    June 7, 2014 at 3:04 pm

    Agree, so much. One of my most treasured birthdays ever was the time my parents took me, my friend and my brothers to the Natural History Museum. I still love that place, even today. XD One of the things I learned as an adult was that it’s free so my parents probably remember that day fondly as well. XD

    One of my nephew’s birthday parties was held at a petting zoo. We all got to stroke the goats, ponies etc and then later there was a three story jungle jim. Yes, I went on it. My nephews were both thrilled and I got a real work out. XD The whole day was cheap as chips and every one of the kids went home happy.

  25. Jax Beckett

    June 7, 2014 at 4:16 pm

    We are a torn family on this issue. My wife would spend hundreds and my kids have more fun during the cheaper parties then the ones that people go all out on.

  26. Jezebeelzebub

    June 8, 2014 at 3:10 pm

    WORD.

  27. A-M

    June 9, 2014 at 9:41 am

    My mum always threw us brilliant parties but I don’t think they cost the earth. She’d ask what theme we wanted (teenage turtles or alice in wonderland or whatever) and bake a cake based on that. Then we’d have 10-15 friends over our house (we are 4 kids so we’re used to crowds) and they could come in costume if they wanted but it wasn’t a must. We had a load of crap food in bowls and on cocktail sticks, which automatically makes it taste BETTER and we’d play musical statues and pin the tail etc. and the prizes would always be some daft thing like bubble mix or a colouring book. I LOVED them.
    We had sleepovers as we got older with just 4-5 friends over. Then was I was 18 we regressed and actually hired a hall and a bouncy castle which I think is the most we ever spent although my bff and I did share the occasion so it wasn’t super expensive. My mum did all the old birthday food staples of yore (before we got too cool for it) and we maintain we had far more fun than all the teenagers doing the standard hire a limo and wear a ridiculously expensive dress type parties. Simple kids’ parties ftw!

  28. sharmistha

    November 4, 2014 at 2:01 pm

    Thank you so much for this wonderful post. I am planning a birthday for my 3 yr old, and although whatever you said is nothing new, it just is a basic reminder to wake up to my child’s needs and think less about what others will think. and off course not go wild spending on her birthday. Once again thank you Valerie for this wake up call.

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