Birthday on a Budget

They say motherhood changes you.  Damn right it changes you, from top to bottom and everywhere in between.  I can’t remember what I had for dinner last night, but I can remember details of my girls’ birth stories as if it were only moments ago.  My oldest daughter just turned double digits you guys, 1-0.  She has a whole decade of living under her belt, 10 is a big deal friend. And as we go down to the bottom of this page, you will see my few tips for doing a birthday on a budget.

Let me relive a few of the PG details of Jordan’s birth story that I remember so well.

It all started the day before her birthday, I was the soon to be new Mom that wanted the nursery READY for her arrival – it was curtain installing day in her lavender room with a hand painted diamond wall by her Daddy.  I woke up with the sensation that I had just wet myself and went to investigate further.  Didn’t seem like the big dramatic breaking of the water that I had been waiting for, nor did it appear that I had peed myself, so I gave a quick call to the doctor.  Their office on this fine Sunday morning advised me to go get checked out at the hospital, just in case.  I was determined to be back soon to hang the curtains – a check-up was all that was going to disrupt my day.

As you may have already guessed, the check-up at the hospital determined that I was leaking amniotic fluid and they were going to keep me; the curtains were going to have to wait for another day.  *&%^ My family arrived, anxious and excited – the first baby of the family was soon to arrive.  I was induced, and then…un-induced. By the afternoon I wasn’t making much progress on the induction drug and several other mommas had come into our small hospital actually ready to have their babies (apparently their curtains were already hung).  Some sort of nurse staffing shortage was present and I was put on pause.  Well, that was frustrating to say the least – and they weren’t going to let me go home to rest, put up those curtains and come back.

Fast forward to Monday!  Finally, back on the Pitocin and during a sweet moment of ‘The Blindside’ on TV, surrounded with what felt like a dozen members of my family coming for a quick visit having heard the news that baby girl VanHoose was soon to make her debut….my water really did break.  I whisper to my husband that it was time to clear the room. So, he turned around and whispered that to my mother – who cleared the room.

A few hours, or maybe minutes later I decided that the natural childbirth route was not for me after all.  Bring up the anesthesiologist!  Apparently, I deal with pain with my eyes tightly closed and didn’t see what all was happening, but I could hear it.  The anesthetist was chit chatting with my husband and Mom about my blood count being a little low, and an epidural being a bit riskier – although he was willing to do it.  They decided against it, risky with the blood count and all…and I didn’t have the energy to say anything – but I did open my eyes long enough to shoot them a wicked glare. 

Jordan’s arrival was full of drama, with the cord wrapped around her neck the doctor told me to stop screaming because she needed to get her out.  She reached in and pulled her out so that my baby girl could take her first breath amongst tears and triumph as I was whisked right into motherhood. 

Our babies on their birth day.

I bet you can remember those details from your babies’ births too, right?  Harper’s arrival was equally as dramatic and sealed the deal with us being a family of four.

Any weird neurotic ‘nesting’ activities that you just had to do like the curtains I was hell bent on getting hung in the nursery?  I’ve heard of Mommas staying up for hours making freezer meals and finishing painting.  I think my middle sister may have painted her own toe nails, and my youngest sister took a nap.

Now, as we just wrapped up celebrating our big 10-year-old, I always go back to that day and tell her a few tidbits about her arrival.  Kids love to hear their birth story, just like they enjoy a birthday celebration.  She gets a little grossed out, but loves to hear of her dramatic delivery.

I opted not to buy into too much birthday party hype early on.  We had a big gathering and rented out a space for Jordan’s first birthday where we had a passel of friends and family join us complete with decorations and gifts galore, but you know – she doesn’t remember a lick of that. For her second birthday we kept the invite list shorter with just family, but stuck with a theme that I went all out on; balloons, complete with one of my only Pinterest success stories – we have pulled it out for every birthday since. As her friends list grew, we changed up the activities and décor needs; often keeping it simple. 

Here are a few tips for doing a birthday on a budget.

  1. Have a budget for this birthday bash!  How could I not start here!? Decide how much you want to spend, before you get started.  Work it into your budget for that month, or sometimes the month prior – or maybe both.
  2. Talk to your kiddo well in advance, and get their ideas for the birthday party. Give them a few options that you’ve scouted or you think they’ll be interested in too, that fit into your budget. Consider having the party at an inexpensive location; local park, your backyard, your own home if the space and the weather can accommodate your guests.
    • Backyard BBQ fun?
    • Slumber party sleepover?
    • Gymnastics shenanigans?
    • Outdoor pool party?
  3. Once you’ve decided on the location, check with the birthday boy or girl on theme of the moment.  Kids are fickle and the changing of the minds can happen quickly – let them know that once you’ve decided…we aren’t changing our minds.
  4. Next up you figure out all of those pesky details; date and time, is it a drop off party, or parents stick around party, what kind of food, décor, and more.
  5. We cap the number of kids, mostly for our own sanity. We’ve never invited the entire class.  First of all, that sounds like a nightmare.  Secondly, if your kid doesn’t actually interact and play with those kids, then what’s the point?  They aren’t going to all of a sudden be better friends or have more time to play with those kiddos in the midst of his/her special day.  Keep it a reasonable number, we usually cap it at 10.  Also – have you been to these parties?  Save some other parents the hassle of feeling obligated to going to yet another kids’ birthday party.  BONUS Tip: If you get a birthday invite sent home and haven’t ever heard your kid mention that kiddos’ name – proceed with caution.  “I see you got an invitation to Susie’s birthday party.  Do you play with her at school?” If the answer is no, politely decline and treasure your weekend, friend.  Do not go to birthday parties out of obligation. 
  6. Plan your party during a snack time, not a meal time.  Snacks are cheaper than entire meals to host.  Consider your time investment too.  Do you want to make moose munch on your own by hand the night before the party, or do you want to buy the individual goldfish packs?  No judgement.  Those little packs have an individual serving size of faux cheddar deliciousness’ that your child has loved since their first birthday.  Add a fruit tray and juice boxes and call it a day.
  7. Have a friend or family member skilled in decorating bake the cake or cupcake as a gift to your child, or for a discounted price.  My sister has mad skills in this arena, and my daughters always call her and discuss details several weeks in advance – aunty/niece bonding over birthday dessert.
  8. Keep it simple.  Here’s the deal, often times the décor is for us grown-ups, let’s be real.  The kids care very little about the fact that the hats match the cups, the cups match the napkins, and the game you organized has the same theme as the party invitations.  Much like those curtains that NEEDED to be hung before my baby girl’s arrival – those were for me, not for her.
  9. Get a couple of decorative items that are in theme; the napkins, invitations and a few decorate wall/ceiling things are usually staples for us.  The rest is color complimentary; the tablecloth and plates match, along with the streamers but they aren’t the three times more expensive Disney character.  Amazon is your friend.  The big party store down the road is not – you’re going to get lost in there and forget to focus….especially if you bring the birthday girl/boy with you.  Not to mention the prices are much higher. Balloons from the local dollar store are a perfect addition. When it comes down to it, kids care very little about the décor and games, but all about the time hanging with their friends where the focus is all about them.
  10. Skip buying your kiddo a gift. A few years ago, when we adopted annual Calendar Adventures for Christmas, we dropped birthday gift giving too.  If we host a party for your friends (who inevitably bring gifts) that IS your birthday gift from us as we certainly do spend a fair amount of money.  Our kids have been totally okay with that, and honestly get lost in all of the fun – they hardly notice who got them what!
  11. Similar to number one, have a budget.  Birthdays come around every year, just like Christmas.  Don’t let them surprise you.  As you’re making out an annual budget, (something I really recommend) map out the birthdays for not only your family – the ones you’re planning party dates for, but also the ones you’re buying gifts for.  Gifts should be a part of your monthly budget, and that line item should be larger for your offspring’s big days, or your spouse, or heck – even your own.

Cheers, to birthdays and motherhood! May your birth story be enough of a deterrent to keep your kids from procreating too soon, and the birthday party planning on a budget be as painless as possible.

Sarah is a Ramsey Preferred Coach
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