Finance Your Budget Why we need to stop spending so much on kids’ birthdays
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Why we need to stop spending so much on kids’ birthdays

Is an expensive birthday party more enjoyable? Source: ShutterStock
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When music royalty Jay-Z and Beyonce Knowles threw their daughter Blue Ivy a princess-themed second birthday party, they didn’t hold back. The January party, which saw the couple rent out an entire Miami wildlife park called Jungle Island, is estimated to have cost in the tens of thousands of dollars.

Beyonce celebrating her daughter's second birthday. Photo: beyonce.tumblr.com
Beyonce celebrating her daughter’s lavish second birthday. Photo: beyonce.tumblr.com

Along with live exotic animals, balloon animals and face painting, Blue Ivy was gifted a mini Cadillac and Ferrari, emblazoned with her name, by her doting parents.

Too much? Maybe. But this phenomenon of extravagant children’s parties doesn’t appear to be limited to the spoiled offspring of Hollywood.

We’ve done parties for $6,000, $8,000 or up to $10,000

According to Alexandra Shaw, co-owner of events company The Inspired Occasion, an average at-home kids party has a budget of $2,000.

“We’ve done parties for $6,000, $8,000 or up to $10,000,” Ms Shaw says.

“People are always going to want the best for their children.”

The younger the child, the larger the party, with first birthdays the most extravagant event by far.

“No expense is spared,” explains Ms Shaw.

“A lot of people merge first birthdays with christenings and it’s an exclusive event for everyone they know.”

So what is the motivation for parents to splurge on near-infants who probably won’t remember any of their largesse a year or so later?

Why the excess?

Apparently, kids’ birthday parties are no longer the domain of the young and sugar-addicted.

In need of an excuse to celebrate and socialise, Ms Shaw says many events now feature expensive finger food and an open bar for mums and dads who like to linger on.

Money is also spent in an effort to satiate a growing need for differentiation.

They’re not just normal lollies anymore, they’re gifts like jewellery or toys

“The kids want new ideas that their friends haven’t done before,” says Ms Shaw, who adds that many parties are inspired by the latest hit movie, with a recent spike in demand for Frozen-themed soirees.

To top it all off, even lolly bags have taken on a unique, blinged-up personality.

“They’re not just normal lollies anymore, they’re gifts like jewellery or toys,” explains Ms Shaw.

Traditional party games like pass the parcel are making a come-back. Source: ShutterStock.
Traditional party games like pass the parcel are making a come-back. Source: ShutterStock.

How to save

It can all get overwhelming, especially for first-time parents. To ensure you don’t get carried away, here are some helpful hints for keeping the cost of your party within a reasonable budget.

Planning

If you have a friend with a child the same age, team up and hold a joint birthday. Just be wary of things getting competitive.

It’s also important to ensure that you keep guests to a manageable number.

Nicole Millard, co-owner of parenting website StayAtHomeMum.com.au, says that 10 to 15 guests is ideal.

“Sit down with your child and work out who their really close friends are and make sure they understand how many they can invite,” she says.

Venue

Having the party at home is “definitely the cheapest option”, according to Ms Millard.

That said, venues can be a stress-free alternative.

“Having it at a venue means you can leave all the mess behind you and focus on relaxing and celebrating,” says Ms Shaw.

If a venue is out of your price range, explore your local options.

“Many communities have playgrounds or parks with a covered area and BBQ facilities,” says Ms Millard.

Having a sausage sizzle and letting your kids play in the playground is relatively stress-free and often costs little to no money. Simply call up your local council to ensure the area is free, or arrive early on the day to set up.

Invitations

Forget paying for your invites – you can find plenty of printable templates online for free.

Alternatively, you can send out digital invitations to the parents of your child’s friends. A note of caution, though: e-vites can get lost in email inboxes and Facebook events must be set to private.

If you want to hand out physical invitations, don’t trust your child.

“I gave my son’s invitations to his teacher, who then gave them to the children,” Ms Millard suggests.

“That way, they all quietly get to the right people and kids don’t feel left out.”

A store-bought cake decorated at home can save you money. Source: ShutterStock.
A store-bought cake decorated at home can save you money. Source: ShutterStock.

Catering

Make your own cake. If you’re not a great cook, purchase a packet mix or buy a pre-made cake from the supermarket.

For snack foods, it can be cheaper to buy them in bulk from stores like Aldi or Costco.

Decorating

“Get your kids involved,” says Ms Millard, who suggests encouraging them to make paper chains prior to the party.

Games

In recent years, there has been a move back towards “traditional party games like musical chairs and pass the parcel”, says Ms Shaw.

Happily, these games are affordable and keep little ones occupied.

Lolly bags

Two-dollar stores provide great options for bag-fillers, as do pick-and-mix lolly stores that charge by the gram.

Don’t feel pressure to overdo it – other parents will thank you for cutting back on the sugary sweets.

The benefits

If you commit to cutting costs when celebrating your child’s birthday each year, you will save a substantial amount of money.

These savings can then be used to reward your child further down the track, when they are able to enjoy it.

How to splurge on your child productively:

Buy them a car

Encourage your child to save for their own car, but promise to match, or double, their savings when the time comes to start driving. A second-hand car can often cost less than $10,000, so start a fund from their first birthday with money you save. If your little ones stick out their bottom lip, tell them you’re saving up for a “really BIG toy”.

Throw them an 18th or 21st

Sure, they’re still parties, but your kids are now old enough to understand the concept of money and appreciate your splurging. Have it at home, but allocate more money to the catering or decorating to make your child feel suitably special.

Pay off their university tuition

A degree doesn’t come cheap these days and often the biggest burden on a young person is student debt. Help alleviate their money worries, and support them in getting a great education, by contributing to their fees.

Send them on an overseas trip

Whether as part of a family holiday or a graduation gift, a return flight to Europe usually costs in the vicinity of $3,000. Buy during off-peak periods and give your kids the gift of experience.

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