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I don’t know how it works in your circle of friends, but in ours? We are heading full-throttle into what we affectionately call Birthday Season. From now until the end of April, we will likely be attending anywhere from one to four birthday parties every.single.weekend. And my kids LOVE it. But my budget? Yeah, it doesn’t.
So how do I tackle all of those Big Birthday Bashes on a Budget? There’s a few tricks I use to celebrate all of our favorite little people without breaking the bank.
1. Buy Gifts At A Bargain.
Instead of budgeting for gifts based on the number of parties I have that month, I try to budget a flat rate of $30 per month, and make a game of seeing how many birthday gifts I can accumulate using that $30. I troll the clearance sections at Target, use Kmart FreeCash and Points, and keep an eye on the bargains displayed by Jennifer in the Kidz Stealz and Dealz Facebook group (for real, if you’re not a part of the group and you buy for children EVER, you need to join, like, yesterday).
2. Create a Birthday Gift Stash
I have a corner of my hall closet that I dedicate to storing the accumulated birthday gifts mentioned above. When a birthday party rolls around, I send my daughter to the closet to pick out the gift she thinks her friend would like the best (or I just choose it myself if I ain’t got time for that). She still feels like she’s shopping for her friend, but just in a different way.
3. Make Your Own Birthday Cards
I realized a long time ago that birthday cards can add up to big money over time. For a while, I would stock up on cards at the Dollar Tree, where I can get 2 for $1. But when my stash ran out one day, I had Lila create a birthday card for her friend. It was just as thoughtful (and just as easy for our guests to throw away), and it was a way for her to give back to her friend. So to “earn” the party, she has to make the card. I give her construction paper, print some images that match the party theme (or a sheet of stickers if we’re in a hurry), and away she goes.
4. Save Your Gift Bags and Tissue Paper
I am this lady, y’all. After my kids’ birthday parties, you will see me folding up tissue paper and gift bags and correcting you if you try to throw them away. This habit of mine reminds me most of my Depression-Era Great-Grandmother, but it also saves me a lot of money. I like to neatly fold the tissue paper and store it in the bag it came with, and I store them in an underbed storage container in my son’s room. When it’s time to wrap a gift, I just grab a bag and can easily wrap a gift with the coordinating tissue paper. If my supplies start to run low, I’ll use some of my Birthday Budget for the month and buy some all at once from the Dollar Tree.
5. Buy Cheaper Gifts
If your friends are going to be angry with you for NOT buying their kid a big, expensive gift, I recommend you find new friends. Seriously. The gifts my kids get at their parties are the LEAST of my concerns when planning for their big day (in fact, I usually ask that people skip the gifts altogether), and I’d bet 99% of your friends feel the same way. For most birthday parties, I try to stay on a budget of around $10 a child (although using tip #1 usually means that the gifts have a higher value than $10). Your amount may be higher or lower than that, but the idea is to have a number in mind and then stick to it. I’ve compiled a list of unconventional and affordable gifts in this post (I particularly like to give Alex Craft Kits -usually $10 or under- since it looks the most like a complete gift and is easy to store), but a lot of the time I’ll also just give a book that my kids love (think Rosie Revere, Engineer or Vegetables in Underwear) or a $10 Cold Stone gift card (because who doesn’t love ice cream?!?). We love our friends, and I know they love us, and I don’t need to prove it with money.
Following these tips can help you to save big money during birthday season, whenever it happens to fall for you. When is your “busy birthday” time of the year? And what’s your favorite gift to give?