I grew up in a family that didn’t celebrate birthdays much. Mom would make us a cake, sometimes a few friends came over to play. But there was never a rented pony, or elaborate decorations or store-bought cards. My mom just didn’t spend money that way.
When my kids were little and invited to birthday parties at Skateland or Chuck E Cheese, they had a great time and wanted to have birthday parties like that themselves. For a working mom, it seemed a good trade off. For a little more money, a lot of work and mess was someone else’s responsibility. And the kids had a great time. A small present from mom, a cake and the day was complete. Each birthday, with party and gift combined cost about $100, and I soon learned to budget that amount.
As the kids got bigger, they wanted more elaborate parties and more expensive gifts. A few years back, I told them about the $100 per birthday budget. They could spend the whole thing on the party, they could do without the party and spend the whole amount on a gift, or some combination. One year, my daughter spent the entire amount on the party. This year, on her bike. Youngest son, this year, spent about $40 on the party (in the park, with a pinata and water ballons) and the rest on a recording device for his guitar.
I like that they get to choose how the money is spent, and I like that I don’t have budget-breaking birthdays.