Simplifying Birthday Parties

We are in the birthday celebration season around here. The Boy and the Girl have birthdays less than a month apart. Before The Simple Year, birthday parties were EVENTS. And expensive. And exhausting. The time to plan, coordinate and execute was ridiculous. So were the parties themselves. And this was, believe it or not, not at the top end of extravagance as far as birthday parties go for my kids’ friends.

Examples of their previous birthday parties included:

  • Renting out a play gym/bounce house place and hosting 30 or more kids with pizza, cake and party bags (Approximate Cost: $750)
  • Having a party at home complete with a face painter and bounce house, again for about 30 kids, with snacks, party bags and cake (Approximate Cost: $650)
  • Renting two suites at Great Wolf Lodge for a night, one for the girls and one for the boys, with three friends each, along with grandparents and cousins. Included matching pajamas for all the kids, pizza, cake and food at the water park. (Approximate Cost: $1800)

Just writing that down makes me realize how ridiculous it all was. Not even counting the crazy amounts of money. But reinforcing an environment of materialism. When you host 30 kids for a birthday party, your kids get 30 gifts. Which is nuts and contributed to the the volume of toys we had to address. Do that four or five years in a row and you get insanity and chaos. And it also sets up unrealistic expectations. They see the world through this lens of privilege and they have absolutely no idea. And, during the chaos of such an event, the kids don’t have time to enjoy the company of their friends. There’s no time to play with each one.

This year? Totally different.

Invites were a simple email to the moms to ask if the girls were available for a slumber party. The Girl had 4 friends come over, they ate dinner, had cake (from the grocery store, not a bakery), watched movies, played dress up, colored and stayed up way too late talking and giggling before they FINALLY crashed a little after midnight. They really enjoyed each others’ company. And we got to know the girls better, too. It was lovely.

Total time to execute? About an hour. That included sending the email (Free), going to the grocery store for snacks and cake ($35) and Ulta, where the Girl chose lip gloss and hair accessories for her party favors ($57). Total cost, including the pizza we ordered for dinner and donuts for breakfast which fed the whole family and the girls (for more than one meal for the family), was about $175. If you don’t include the cost of the leftovers we ate the next day, we’re closer to $150.

Is it the least expensive birthday party ever? No. Is it significantly less expensive and less complicated than birthday parties of days past? Absolutely. It was a blip in my week. I didn’t stress about it. She had a great time. And we will do it the same way for the Boy.

The era of the enormous birthday parties is over in our family. Because really, it’s not necessary. Celebrating a birthday is important. But an enormous event every single year isn’t. When I think about all of the money we’ve spent on birthday parties before now, I cringe. When I think about what a child learns when they receive 30 birthday presents, I’m horrified.

For us, simplifying birthday celebrations was better all the way around. The Girl had a great time. She got to spend quality time with some of her closest friends. Her birthday was celebrated. It was simple. And it was perfect.