When Hubby and I first started having kids we felt the need to decide what kind of birthdays we would do for our family. We started out very poor, and since we always wanted a big family, I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, and Hubby wanted to work in education, we knew we’d never have a lot of money. And with a lot of kids, who has time for elaborate celebrations of birth 4, ,5, 6 or more times every year?
We heard a lot of people say they didn’t do traditional parties for each and every one of their kids each year. Some only celebrated the big milestone birthdays. Some did one big family birthday every year. Some didn’t do parties, just simple family dinners. Then there’s the flip side where people do massive birthday extravaganzas that involve bounce houses, pony rides, professional cakes, and every friend, relative and classmate they ever knew. There are Pinterest-researched parties with elaborate themes and creative homemade decor. And there are presents. Lots and lots of presents.
I’ve always known we’d have to find a middle ground. I knew we wouldn’t be able to afford anything big, especially not 5 times a year. But with 5 kids vying for attention, it is really nice for them to have that one special day that celebrates just them.
This is how we decided our family would do birthdays.
After a lot of trial and error throughout the years, we decided to give each of our kids a $100 birthday budget that they can spend on whatever kind of party they want. Sometimes it’s a simple party at home with lots of friends over and sometimes it’s a fun (more pricey) outing with just one special friend. One year my daughter chose a sleepover where she invited a bunch of friends and her birthday budget went toward pizza, soda, chips and a few spa supplies. Another year she really wanted to go to build-a-bear so she invited one friend and they both got to make a stuffed animal.
When we do a party at home we keep it simple.
Balloons and streamers and a few inexpensive treats in a goodie bag. We used to do pinatas, because dude, they’re fun. But we swapped those for goodie bags once we got tired of the mess and the fighting. It just wasn’t worth it to us anymore.
I always make the cake myself.
Unless I’m super stressed out. For Princess’ first birthday when Preemie was in the NICU after being born 3 months early, I just didn’t have the time or energy to bake a cake. So I bought a small one at the grocery store. In hindsight this makes perfect sense. But at the time it seemed like a huge expense that I had to shell out because I’d failed at my daughter’s first birthday. Side note: why so much mom guilt? It’s not like she cared. And the store-bought cake was way prettier anyway. Again, not that she cared.
As for presents, our kids know they always get one thing from us.
They get a book. That’s it. We don’t prevent guests from bringing gifts, but we only buy one gift, and it’s a book. Lest you think we’re total Scrooges, we do buy our kids several toys for Christmas. They also get an allowance with which they can buy whatever the heck they want every month. But for birthdays, it’s just the book.
So far our kids haven’t complained about this arrangement.
If they want more presents, they do a party at home and buy pizza and soda and goodies for all their friends. If they don’t care about presents and just want to do a special fun thing, they can take one or a few friends to a special activity. I think they appreciate the freedom to choose and the power to plan it themselves. And yes, we have to budget $500 for birthdays every year, but I think that’s actually pretty low for 5 birthday celebrations.
And as for Hubby and I, we don’t really do anything much at all. He likes homemade eggplant parmigiana for his birthday and I usually like a date with Hubby for mine.
There’s really no one “right” way to do birthdays and we’re always up for new ideas. How does YOUR family do them?