How Much To Spend on Kid’s Birthday Parties

by iam1percent on March 5, 2012 · 30 comments

My older son is turning 3 years old at the end of this month and we’re in the process of planning out his birthday party…themed of course.  It seems that nowadays, it is the norm to have a theme, matching plates/cups/napkins, hire entertainment, mail invitations, invest in goodie bags, and hold it at a commercial venue.  Planning our son’s birthday party is almost as stressful and expensive as planning for a wedding!  Okay, maybe not as expensive, but you get my point.

For his first birthday, we invited our immediate and extended families. My mother-in-law is 1 of 9 children and my mother is 1 of 6, so need-less-to-say, we have large families. Including our friends, we had about 60-70 people in the house. We ordered about $600 worth of food, and also had a small petting zoo for the kids. With decorations, cake, goodie bags, invitations, and balloons, we were in over $1000 for his first birthday (not including his birthday gift).

His second birthday was a little less extravagant. It was a smaller crowd, and we had a Thomas the Train theme party.  Total was approximately $500 (not including his $800 birthday gift).

For his third birthday, we were going with a Cars theme party and possibly hiring a magician.  When all is said and done, we will be in over $750

Did I mention we also have a 9 month old son?  He’s turning 1-year-old in May and it looks like we will be doing a similar size party as our older son’s first birthday.  Between the two of them, we’ll probably spend $2k on birthdays a year

I’m sure we are not the only ones holding birthday parties of this magnitude, so I wanted to offer some practical tips to help save some money for those who may not be able to afford it in the long-run:

  • Stop caring what other people think:  I could care less what other people think, but my wife and I invest in these parties mainly because we can afford it.  I know that many families feel the pressure to have extravagant parties  because their neighbors just threw a similar party for their child, but your child will not care.  If they do care, then they’ve already developed a “keep up with the Jones” mentality that will ruin them financially as adults. 
  • Remember your childhood:  How many of you had themed parties growing up?  I know I didn’t, but I was happy none-the-less.  What matters most and what makes children feel special is knowing that they are surrounded by people they know and love. 
  • Ditch the invitations:  Mailing invitations are for you, not for the child.  In today’s world, send an evite or Facebook invitation.
  • Who doesn’t like Pizza:  Pizza and soda can go a long way in terms of cost and happiness.  Forget about more expensive catered options and go with what is tried and true….delicious pizza.
  • Don’t invite the world:  Is it really necessary to invite the entire 1st grade? 
  • Forget the commercial venue:  Instead of shelling out hundreds of dollars in rent, consider renting a moon bounce or rent a pavilion at a park.

You don’t have to take the fun out of the birthday party to save money. With these money-saving tips and with careful planning well you will realize that less can really be more and your child’s birthday party will be successful and affordable.

 

Thanks for visiting I Am 1 Percent. Please subscribe so that you will receive all the latest posts directly to your email!

{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

Noah March 5, 2012 at 6:01 pm

Firstly, the sentence “my wife and I invest in these parties mainly because we can afford it” doesn’t make sense. Spending $1K on a birthday party is not an investment, it’s an expenditure and if we are being honest, the 1 year old won’t really care how much is spent as long as it’s fun.

Secondly, your advice is great, but it doesn’t sound like you are taking it ($600 on food; $800 gift for a 2 year old?), which makes this post sound like a bit like “I’m rich, so I can afford to waste lots of money on birthday parties, but if you aren’t rich like me, here’s what you can do instead”.

I will still continue to read your posts however, because your perspective is unique :)

Reply

iam1percent March 5, 2012 at 6:26 pm

Noted. To give you a different perspective, if I had my way, it would be pizza and soda, but I’m married so I can’t have it my way.

Reply

Noah March 5, 2012 at 7:01 pm

Ah, that makes sense now. Your wife planned these parties.

I’m curious what gift a 2 year old could receive that would be $800?

Reply

iam1percent March 5, 2012 at 7:16 pm

Noah, you hit the nail on the head…
We got one of those wooden outdoor playsets. The kind with a couple of swings, a slide, etc. At the time, we knew we were having another boy, so we figured they could both use it for years to come.

Reply

Noah March 5, 2012 at 7:26 pm

Oh, those are awesome!

I thought it was something that would be exclusively for a single child. I remember my parents buying a swingset, but it was more of a family gift instead of just being for a single child.

I’m longing for the day when I have a backyard for my young son to play in. They are a blast and unfortunately most houses in my area skimp on that nowadays.

Jonathan March 5, 2012 at 6:02 pm

I am definitely not down with birthday parties every year for the kids (disclaimer: we don’t have any yet, but expect to start a family soon). My parents threw me a birthday party when I turned 10 and when I turned 15, that I recall. They were not catered, huge, extravagant, etc. I would guess that each cost less than $200. They were a lot of fun.

In the past few years I have been to more 1-year-old birthday parties than I care to admit. I generally think they’re a fat waste of time (though part of that is that they’ve all been for the babies of old friends of my wife, who she doesn’t spend much time with anymore and we have don’t know many people at the parties)

Reply

JT March 5, 2012 at 11:29 pm

I’m curious about another side of birthday parties – I’m not in the 1%, but fairly close to it, and we have decent disposable income as we don’t have children. My brother and sister in law often look at the gifts I give their children with disdain and I’ve heard them talk behind my back about my being “stingy”. I give name brand toys (Barbies, Cabbage Patches) along with clothing (not baby Gap or anything like that since kids grow so fast, but stuff from Macy’s, Kohl’s, JC Penney, etc.). And we’re talking about 6 and 7 full outfits plus toys. I don’t feel that makes me stingy, but does it? I generally spend at least $50 to $100 on birthdays. The one time I tried to go all out for Christmas with a toy kitchen for the kids, I heard them complaining I was a show off and had gone overboard – I can’t win! I realize I shouldn’t care but I do.

(Side note, this family is massively in debt and we’ve declined bailing them out, so I’m sure that is factored into their attitude on our gifts).

Reply

PB March 5, 2012 at 11:50 pm

JT I don’t think the problem is with you, but with your brother and sister in law. You are under no obligation to buy anything for their children, and they should be appreciative of whatever they recieve.
I thik that what you have been giving them is extremely generous, and I fail to see why a gift may be considered any less generous simply because someone thinks you can “afford” more.

Reply

Noah March 6, 2012 at 12:01 am

I agree with PB, your brother and sister in law are being ungrateful. However, I would continue with the $50 birthday gifts and understand that one day, the children will realize how their parents and how gracious you were to them. If the children turn into ungrateful brats, then I would simply send a nice card.

Also good move on not bailing them out. You would only be enabling their problems.

Reply

JT March 6, 2012 at 12:18 am

Thanks so much, I feel like I’m not crazy! I often wonder if other people that do well (like Iamtheonepercent) are treated the same way or have different (higher?) expectations than friends that are perceived as having more of an average income. And I’ve never even told people what I make or how well we’re doing, I think it’s the combo of not having kids and never complaining about money troubles.

Reply

iam1percent March 6, 2012 at 4:39 pm

Sorry I joined into the conversation late, but I agree with PB & Noah. Something is wrong with your brother and sister-in-law. Seems like a lose-lose situation. Though I know there are people that expect the gift to be directly proportional to the income of the giver. I’ve had this discussion with a friend who was getting married who expected his poor, single, college friend to give a small amount of money, but a richer, single, friend to give significantly more.

Reply

Poor to Rich a Day at a Time March 7, 2012 at 12:56 am

JT that definatly sounds like their issues and not your problem, they should never expect you to be giving anything and it is a tremendously sweet gesture as uncle that you do! There is a reason you are nearing the 1 percent while they struggle with debt…………keep on truckin the way you are!
Poor to Rich a Day at a Time recently posted..A Basic Budget Is Not EverythingMy Profile

Reply

funancials March 6, 2012 at 3:51 am

I was lost once I read “1 of 9″ and “1 of 6.” That’s incredibly large (assuming most had children). I’m not married or have kids but I’m starting to notice that most kids’ parties are really for the adults, no?
funancials recently posted..February Blog Earnings and UpdateMy Profile

Reply

iam1percent March 6, 2012 at 4:40 pm

I agree…its a chance for families to get together as opposed to a focus on the child.

Reply

Money Infant March 6, 2012 at 10:05 am

Yeah most kids parties are certainly more for the adults. If the parents and grandparents are the only ones there for the first dew birthdays the kids wouldn’t mind one bit (or even notice). My daughter turned one last June and the total outlay for her “party” was probably $20. It included me, my wife, my sister, my parents and her two step brothers. At that age who else could she possibly have a close connection with? This year the “party” will likely include me, my wife and my daughter. We might splurge and take her to one of those Gymboree type places, she’s been there once before and loved it. And she will likely get a tricycle as well. The reason the party will be just the 3 of us is that we moved to Thailand and even though my wife has family here they live 8 hours away. I’ll bet when she’s grown my daughter won’t be able to tell you one single thing about her 2nd birthday even if we rented out the Grand Palace (I don’t think you actually can) and had a cadre of elephants, magicians and clowns.

I’m glad you can afford these types of parties for your son, but they are really just shows of wealth and meant for the adults. And anything you might say otherwise is just rationalization, there’s no way a 1 year old needs a $1000 birthday party.
Money Infant recently posted..Rich People Doesn’t Mean Happy PeopleMy Profile

Reply

iam1percent March 6, 2012 at 4:42 pm

I agree…no 1 year old needs a $1000 birthday party, but we would’ve spent in the hundreds either way just for food. First birthdays are a big milestone in our family and our families like to share in that experience. Food alone for 60-70 people will run at least $500.

Reply

Poor to Rich a Day at a Time March 6, 2012 at 12:37 pm

My 1rst child out of 4 when she was born 2 1/2 months early, had less than a 10 percent chance to live, they actually prepared me for her to be born dead so her 1rst birthday was a HUGE deal, it was a celebration of life and most definatly for the adults. Other than that we really do not do parties, we try to hold one for each child at a special age, such as 13 or 16 but other than that it is just a small family affair with the most extravagant thing being they can choose anything they want for their birthday meal, it’s the one meal I don’t calculate cost factor into :)
Poor to Rich a Day at a Time recently posted..Annual Credit Report ReviewMy Profile

Reply

iam1percent March 6, 2012 at 4:43 pm

Wow..awesome example of how special the first birthday was for you!

Reply

Poor to Rich a Day at a Time March 7, 2012 at 12:54 am

Yes and she is a beautiful 25 year old woman now……….now just got to get her over her shyness to find a boyfriend! LOL
Poor to Rich a Day at a Time recently posted..A Basic Budget Is Not EverythingMy Profile

Reply

Philly area March 6, 2012 at 2:45 pm

We’ve got a very large extended family – I remember for our wedding, just our brothers, sisters, their spouses and children was 83 people and that was two decades ago! Our family has grown quite a bit since then. We don’t include adults in kid birthday parties. Not that they would come – they lead busy lives and don’t really need to be celebrating all the minor milestones of children’s lives. Over the course of a typical year, we’re sure to see all the adults in the family at the usual celebrations of Christmas, Easter, Baptisms, First Communions, weddings, etc.

We don’t have birthday parties until our kids want them and even then we don’t have them every year. It’s not a cost issue, it’s a life is busy issue and we can’t be bothered. Our kids get enough attention showered on them all year long. And I detest all the presents that come with a party since our kids don’t really need or want anything – it all just seems like so much excess.

If we are having a party, under third or fourth grade, we do invite everyone in the class of that child’s gender as we don’t want hurt feelings. Younger kids get something along the lines of Bounce U, Chuck E. Cheese, or bowling.
Older kids just take a few friends and do something simple like laser tag and dinner or maybe just Dave and Busters.

Reply

Nick March 6, 2012 at 3:47 pm

My wife and I are “pretty much” on the same page with this. We live in NJ but our families are all in MA. We’ve spent about $500 per year on 2 parties for our 2yo (one in MA and one in NJ w/ friends). It’s more for my wife than for them for sure… she loves the parties. And it’s fortunately not a ton of money in our world so we go with it. I think we’re going to end up around $1000-200 on 4 parties eventually…

Whatever you do, don’t run the numbers through an investment calculator… I did that once and almost puked until I rememberd it’s an investment in the family and not EVERYTHING needs to be about math, haha
Nick recently posted..What’s love got to do with it?My Profile

Reply

iam1percent March 6, 2012 at 4:44 pm

LOL! Its hard not to put wasted money in an investment calculator to see what it could’ve been 20 years from now. I didn’t know you lived in NJ? North? South? Central?

Reply

Penny March 6, 2012 at 7:27 pm

I know it’s hard not to spend money on your children’s birthday parties. However, I doubt you or anyone else became a 1 percent-er by spending above your means. I think how much you spend should be in ratio of what you make. Whatever you decide, take lots of pictures since it’s memories that you are making!

Reply

iam1percent March 6, 2012 at 9:44 pm

Penny, that’s a good point…proper planning and analysis of your own financial situation should lead one to spend what is reasonable as a ratio of their income.

Reply

cld September 9, 2012 at 11:56 pm

I think kids parties should be about the kids and not what the rest of the parents will think about your gifts. If you have 3 kids chances are you are invited to attended a birthday party at least every couple of weekends. Yes you could go out and spend $20 on the latest Monster High or LPS set or just give yoru kid $10 and some markers & colored paper to make what they know their friends (not parents) will like. I think the worst part about birthday parties is the ignored RSVP.

Reply

Kim February 2, 2013 at 11:50 pm

Thanks. You have made me feel so much better about spending 800 for my sons 2nd birthday. We have gone with a cars theme. I wasnt happy with his first birthday as i had it at a playcentre and i was told that it be all theme. It wasnt and they had no idea what they were doing so i wanted his birthday this year to be special. I know how people say they wont know, but i will remember it!

Reply

iam1percent February 4, 2013 at 11:08 am

YOLO! Don’t apologize for throwing your own kid a really nice party….

Reply

Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge

{ 3 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post:

Hypersmash.com