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Do We Have to Have a Birthday Party?


simple birthday partyI have a confession that I’m sure it’s hard for any parent to admit. I hate kids’ birthday parties. I don’t like hosting or attending them.

One-Parents go nuts for their kid’s birthday, often spending way more than they have or should for one day that will likely not be remembered down the road.

 Two– Feeding small children large amounts of sugar almost never turns out well.

 Three– People feel they have to buy some sort of cheap gift so the birthday boy or girl can have a huge stack of presents that likely will get played with once or twice then get lost in the shuffle. Plus, the hosting family has to dole out take home gifts that really will break or get lost almost immediately.

 Four– Most parties we attend these days have a pinata. Whoever decided that blindfolding the child hopped up on sugar and giving them a bat to swing was a good idea needs to be shot.

Who Likes Birthday Parties?

I can only remember having two birthday parties when I was a kid. My birthday is in January, and my Mom always said we coudn’t really plan anything because the weather might be bad. I think I know the real reason behind the lack of parties. They are not fun for the parent.

I do realize that kid birthday parties are not meant to be fun for the parents, and I need to suck it up and get something planned for our daughter’s birthday next month. Our last three birthday parties have looked something like this.

Last year– Bowling and pizza. You might remember this one if you are a long time reader, but I scheduled well in advance, ordered the kid’s package, which included bowling and pizza, and showed up to find that the bowling alley has never served pizza and the person who I spoke with on the phone must have been high. Worst customer service experience of my life.

Year before that– Had a few friends over to the house along with several parents. It went OK, but I really hate cleaning the house, having kids over, then cleaning it again. We also served dinner, so it was probably as expensive as the bowling alley fiasco.

Year before that-Had several friends over to the house. We bought our daughter a trampoline for her birthday, which literally blew away two days later and took out a section of our neighbors fence about a half  mile away. That one was really expensive! Plus, someone peed all over my bathroom floor, which in hindsight was probably better than peeing on the carpet.

Keeping Birthdays Simple

So, after the past few years, my goals this time are to keep it simple, very simple. I think we might have 2 or 3 friends at the most  for games and cake only.

We plan on taking a trip to San Diego right after her birthday, which falls on spring break. I’ve already explained that this is her big birthday present, and she is really excited because we will likely go to Sea World.

My best frugal trick this year is kind of a fluke. I admit that I am lame. I am the kind of person who calls the radio station when they are giving something away. I haven’t won anything since college, but last week, I was caller number 7 and won an ice cream cake from Cold Stone Creamery. It’s a gift certificate to use when we want. The daugher was super happy to use this for her birthday cake. Free cake and ice cream all in one!

I think all kids deserve to feel special on their birthday, but in reality, they don’t require a huge party or lots of presents. I’ve learned this the hard way over the years. I often wonder how many parents go over the top because they have to work so much, spend free time on Facebook, then feel like they owe their kids a blow out party.

As I get older, I am more and more against commercialism, especially on holidays like Christmas ,Valentine’s, and birthdays. Let’s all try to challenge ourselves to spend more time withour loved ones instead of spending more money to replace our failures or insecurities. Although, don’t hate me if I cave and end up with at pinata!

Do you remember birthday parties from when you were a kid? Should I require safety glasses to swat at the pinata?

About Kim Parr

Kim Parr is a private practice optometrist, freelance writer, and personal financial blogger. You can follow her journey to 20/20 financial vision at Eyes on the Dollar.


  1. LOL, totally agree about piñatas. 🙂 I don’t remember having bday parties when we were kids either, except for small ones with the fam. We have aunts, uncles and grandparents over every year for our kids bdays, but it only ends up being two parties since we have 2 March kids and 2 September kids. Then for their “friend” parties, it’s just a bunch of kids playing in the backyard and us serving homemade cake. I’m a huge softie when it comes to bday parties, but we do them frugally (although we didn’t in the past), so that helps. BTW, that cake is adorable! Great job on the barter!

  2. Just say no to pinatas! I’m mean honestly – how can anyone think this is a good idea? Sugar, clubs and kids are not a good combination! Without a doubt, there is a lot of competition where we live to throw parties that rival the Oscars. Okay, may not that extreme but birthday parties do sometimes seem like an excuse to show off more than celebrate your child’s birthday. We try to balance it the best we can. We set a budget and I’ve actually let Lauren plan her birthday parties for the past two years. It was interesting because the first time she thought it was so much money. So when she put together her dream party, of course, it was waaaaayyyy over budget, which secretly made me happy because lesson time! We talked a lot about priorities and focusing what she really wanted and making compromises. And she did it. She weeded out the stuff that didn’t mean so much and focused on the the one thing she really wanted and spent time trying to find the best deal possible. You’ll daughter will love Sea World and the cake you bartered for is beautiful.

  3. My mom would set up some of the most fun parties when I was a kid- but all frugal activities. She would invite kids over and then we’d do a peanut hunt in the backyard followed by a puzzle hunt where the pieces were hidden everywhere and whichever team found them all first and put them together fastest won. We admittedly capped it off with a pinata which was my favorite (though not blindfolded).

    ps. Check out the documentary “Blackfish” on Netflix before deciding on Sea World.

  4. Haha safety glasses would certainly help with the liability risk! I do remember having Birthday parties, but they were kind of a big deal to my family (and still are). I’m sure our kids will have birthday parties, but I haven’t had to deal with that quite yet! I think keeping it simple is always good.

  5. So true…this has been on my mind recently too! My son is about 8 months and we had a lot of friends have babies around the same time. We’ve started attended birthday parties and the parties are pretty extravagant…one party will be in a catering hall that I’ve been to…FOR A LAVISH WEDDING! Seriously? A one year old will not remember this day, so why is it parents need to spend so much on it? To show off?

  6. I remember when I was a kid McDonalds parties were always big. Do people still do that? We had Farrell’s Ice Cream which was also popular. I think they were completely gone but a quick google search shows they are still around. http://www.farrellsusa.com/

  7. I don’t really remember having a lot of birthday parties, I do have a picture on my mantle of my 4th birthday party. It was in Japan and I vaguely remember it. My mom had a Raggedy Ann doll made for me..she was as big as me and cultural correct (she’s brown). My mom still has her and I will take her back when I have a daughter. I think that you just have to do something simple and nice that won’t make mama crazy. The previous party experiences you describe sound like nightmares!

  8. MomofTwoPreciousGirls

    I’m with you on going too far with parties for littles these days!

    We did a big family celebration for each of their first birthdays (but we cooked for the winter baby party and barbecued for the summer baby). We don’t have much family around so other birthdays have just been pizza in cake. We did the first friend party for my oldest’s 5th and we will do the same for the younger one. I think some birthdays are more milestone worthy! (1, 5, 10, 13, 16, 18, 21!)

    But we chose to do the parties at a pottery painting place. They serve chick fil a, I bring a cake and the kids sit nice and calm painting. Their pottery doubles as a “goody”. It was a total of $250 (which I know is still a lot, but it was wonderful and NO cleanup before or after!). All the parents thought it was great.

    As they get older we will probably just do a few friends to the movies or sleepovers. I do really prefer keeping it simple and having someone else handling setup and clean up!

  9. I love that you’re thinking about safety glasses for the pinata! Maybe for the other guests, but the bat-swinger probably isn’t going to hit herself, right? 🙂

    We had my son’s 4th birthday party over the weekend, and yeah, it was a little nuts to have 7 kids all hopped up on sugar in our apartment. But my son had a blast. He probably will never remember it, but I’ll remember that he had a good time.

    That Tangled cake is amazing!

  10. I had forgotten about that bowling alley pizza problem. That was terrible!
    Here’s to this year turning out better. Your daughter will remember the trip to San Diego way more than a birthday party, I think you’re golden. Plus, free cake, yum!

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