My daughter attended a birthday party last night. The kids gathered at the birthday girl’s house where they had pizza and cake, They wore their Halloween costumes and after singing Happy Birthday, the family took all 12 kids and 8 adults to Disney’s California Adventure theme park, where they did some trick or treating (it’s all set up for Halloween) and then got to ride the rides until 11pm. Most of the kids spent the night afterward. My daughter doesn’t do sleepovers so she called us, exhausted, at 12:30 wanting to be picked up. Having gotten up at 6:45am for school, it was an awfully long day for her!

So, doing some quick mental math- $25 admission to California Adventure (a special rate for Trick or Treating) x 20 people = $500, plus the cost of pizza, cake, decorations (there were tons), breakfast on Saturday, and whatever else, all for a 9 year old’s birthday. That is way too freakin’ rich for my blood!!

In these difficult and scary financial times, with Wall Street having it’s biggest one week dump in history, I’m looking for ways to lower costs and cut corners. I’m walking around behind my family turning off lights, using fans instead of A/C, clipping coupons. We’re driving cars that are 5 and 6 years old (paid for!), taking our lunches to work and school, going out to eat far less. I’m paying cash instead of using credit. I’m certainly not going hog-wild on the birthday parties this year. And Christmas will be a scaled-back affair.

Are you doing anything differently to save money? Or, more accurately, to not spend so much? I’d love to hear your frugal ideas.

23 Responses

  1. When my son “graduated” from the 6th grade, some parents hired a limo to take their child to a restaurant for lunch. My problem with lavish displays like this and the party you described is that you’ve set the bar awfully high – where do the kids go from there? It’s all just too much.

  2. We did an ice cream party… it was VERY cheap and the adults joined in. Because it was between meals, we didn’t have to provide any food other than the ice cream. 🙂

    Also, I found this site last year and love it. http://birthdayswithoutpressure.org/

  3. Way too freakin’ rich!! Holy cow! And my question is how do they top that, and do they have more than one child?

  4. For me, there is always Wayne S, a kid who grew up in my neighborhood. Wayne S had everything—a treehouse, a go-cart, his own room, amazing toys—everything a kid could think of. He grew up to marry five times—yes, really, five times—and he went from job to job. I’m not sure he’s ever managed to be happy.

    So don’t forget Wayne S….a cautionary tale….

  5. Kathy, that is exactly it- the bar is too high-where do you go from there??

    Jenefur, thanks for the site! I look forward to checking it out. An ice cream party is a great idea!

    Holly- they have 2 girls, 9 and 5 years old.

    Debbie- Wayne S, wow! But when nothing is good enough, you’re always looking for something better.

  6. Wow, I wish I was invited to that birthday party! We didn’t even have a birthday party for our three year old and he only got one gift. Come on, he’s three!

  7. actually, and you may think I’m in denial, but I don’t think it’s as bad as the media’s making it sound. and I think people need to stop panicking because of what the media reports. and I think everyone should remember that Hershey chose to, basically, ignore the Great Depression and he spent more money and hired more people (he built his hotel in the ’30s) and he actually made money. so until my husband loses his job (which I don’t think is likely to happen), we’re not really changing our spending habits, because the only way to keep an economy going is to actually spend money.

    that said, never in a million would I spend that much on my kid’s birthday (unless he was dying–maybe). I bet even JK Rowling wouldn’t spend that much on her kid’s birthday.

  8. Natasha- well he won’t remember that you didn’t throw him a big party, like you said, he’s 3!!

    Jena, I hear ya but the thing is, the value of our investments has plummeted. The value of our biggest asset (our home) has fallen about 40% in two years. Our income varies, because my husband and I are both self employed, so it’s all a bit frightening. We can’t spend the same way we have in the past when our net worth is like half what it was.

  9. Jena– unless he was dying–maybe– LMAO!!! Where we live, parents do ‘competitive party throwing’. One is more fabulous than the next. Kids think they deserve these big parties because everyone does them.

    My kid will take two friends to play golf and then will come home and have (homemade) cake and ice cream. My other one wants to go to a laser tag place- 6 kids, $12 each for 2 hours plus the cost of pizza and cake. That might seem elaborate to some people in other parts of the country, but in Southern Cal, that’s a budget party.

  10. My kids’ birthdays are next month and they’ve been talking about “their parties” (note the plural) since the summer. Boo is in a children’s theater production this fall, and with one of the performance dates falling on their birthday (my kids are twins), the party is 13 family and close friends coming to the performance (we’re paying for the tix because they are all coming from a distance) with dinner at our house (I’m talking pizza and cake) afterwards. That’s it. The budget barely allows for this – and somehow, I think all will survive.

  11. I just spent a ton of money on my daughter’s bday party. I try to save. I really do but I am a “convenience” shopper. I have no trouble paying for convenience and if that means me shelling out clams so that I don’t have to prep or clean my house before a party…then so be it. However, I just got my property tax bill and it has given me a good jolt.

  12. B & B’s mommy, that sounds like a fun time! How old are the twins?

    Ti, I know- we got our property tax bill last week too. AHHHHHH- It’s like I forget from one year to the next that it’s going to arrive. It’s always such a shock.

  13. That is crazy! We drive older cars that are paid for too ha. I’m going to start doing more product reviews on my blog to get free things that will help us save money. I thought why not use my blog in that way too and it’s fun!

  14. I’ve been poor for most of my life so I know how to live on very little. Some of the things we’ve done to save a buck or two are: cut our own hair, avoid stores like Walmart and Target, buy clothes at Salvation Army, use the library liberally for books and movies, cook from scratch using in season fruits and vegetables, be a one car family, hang clothes to dry when the weather permits, plant a kitchen garden, make handmade gifts using whatever we have on hand, coupons, shop the clearance racks after Christmas for birthday gifts for the next year. In the summer we take cheap swimming lessons at the public pool and hang out all day to avoid using the AC. And, my number one best advice for saving money, get rid of the TV. You’d be surprised how much that little box influences your spending habits.

  15. One of my favorite sayings regarding frugality is “Fix it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” We started out our married and family life pretty humble and even though we are pretty comfortable now, I still go through this in my mind when I’m shopping or I think I need something. Spending is an important part of the economy, but a large part of the crisis now is a result of too many people spending money they just didn’t have and never would have. It sounds like you are pretty sensible with money–I hope things aren’t too rough for you.

  16. I have definitely been thinking about this too, especially since my friend/co-worker’s husband lost his job this past week. These things may seem kind of stupid but I am cancelling netflix, encouraging my husband to cancel hbo (heck the direct tv could go for all I care, but how would he watch sports!!), cancel other unnecessary/underused services….I’ve been thinking what a good thing it is that we’ve been eating less meat since that is a high cost item -last night it was rice and beans – you can’t been that for price and value! Mainly, just watch my spending so we have more to save at this point.

  17. Well, we are concerned about the economy, but we’re scaling back currently because we’re trying to get our car paid off two years early so we can go buy a house in a different school district. So right now we’re not eating out or buying anything unnecessary, the only people in our family who are getting gifts from us this year are the kids, we’re getting rid of our home phone (that we never use anyway) and when our contract with our satellite company ends in a few months, we’re getting rid of it and lowering our internet package. Trying to potty train our oldest to save money on diapers. ; )

  18. I’ve been practicing extreme frugality for a while now just because I moved and had to get a new job, etc. However with the economic yuck going on, I’ve been doing some extra things: consolodating errands into shorter trips (it’s all about strategy!), CFL bulbs to keep the bills lower, and I drive a hybrid (not paid for, unfortunately) and work from home, so gas bills are very low. Coupons, definitely, and I buy my everyday household stuff: shampoo, toothpaste, floss, generic meds, from a dollar store because the products are exactly the same in most cases, just cheaper and not name brand.

    I can’t imagine spending that much for a birthday party! I’m glad the kids had fun, though.

  19. Bookroomreviews- Good idea on the product reviews!

    Petunia- great ideas and many I never would have thought of!! I agree that the TV is a huge influence on our spending habits.

    Tara, great ideas! I recently cancelled netflix and the newspaper because we really weren’t using either one. We already downsized our cable to just the basic services (no premium channels like HBO).

    lyndsey, get that kid potty trained! Diapers are so expensive!! How old is he/she? In China kids are trained at 1 yr, if my neighbor is to be believed.

    Andi, good ideas! I need to check out the dollar store offerings in my area.

  20. Wow. I think I have only ever had one real birthday party like you describe; I actually haven’t had any parties since I was in elementary school. I know my parents took me and a couple friends to the movies and had cake occasionally on my birthday but that’s it. Most kids around me had sleepovers and cake, nothing special. I find it so hard to believe that anyone could justify $500 on a party.

    As far as expenses go, I think most people are feeling the crunch. Everything seems to cost more now. I’m lucky because for me there is a bright side – all economies are suffering, so the pound is going down in the UK and my dollars are suddenly worth more than I thought they would be and I actually have extra. Of course, food and such costs more here than it did last time I was here, but I have a little unexpected leeway.

  21. Wow, I thought birthdays at the movie theatre was rich! I’ve always been cheap so I’m not doing much different these days.

  22. I’m pretty frugal already, but I didn’t realize how much money I’d save by taking the bus! It’s not quite as practical for a mom with kids, though. 😀

  23. Have you read “The Tightwad Gazette”?

    I think kids should all get a big cardboard box and a set of crayons. 🙂

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