Our traditions surrounding birthdays and celebrations have been handed down from one generation to the next. Those traditions are getting bigger with every generation. I don’t think that our great-grandparents could have ever imagined what a birthday celebration today looks like. Think about the parties, the presents, the food, the gift bags–when did we decide that bigger and more expensive is better?

Most of us end up putting it on our credit cards to pay off in the next several months (with interest). I think that in the near future we are going to have to rethink how we celebrate birthdays. We need to find creative and inexpensive ways of honoring our loved ones and friends without having to take out a loan to celebrate their special day.

A large party for many younger children can be overwhelming. If we are honest with ourselves, it is much more about us, the parents. Why not have a family get together, maybe a BBQ to celebrate. One gift from everyone, including Mom & Dad and this child, has had a wonderful Birthday. We all know that the younger children usually end up enjoying the boxes more than the gifts.

Once the children are in school, it becomes more about their friends. We don’t have to fill the house with children that they wouldn’t normally play with or don’t know well. Have a small party with their close friends and family and keep them busy with activities. I knew someone years ago, when my boys were very young, that invited as many children as possible because it meant more gifts for her children. That’s crazy!!

When children are older, they want to spend more time with their friends–all night. We have the slumber parties, but no one “slumbers”. Why do we put ourselves through that! A birthday party is long enough, and then we decide to make it last all night? The next day is a blur with everyone napping the entire day just to recoup from a night of celebration. They will have plenty of time for that when they are in college. If they want a slumber party, make it small with children they are comfortable with, and know well. Again, keep them busy with themed activities. Try a movie night, with popcorn, drinks (no caffeine), and a few age-appropriate movies. Then try to get some sleep!


A gift does not have to be expensive. Nor does any child need an abundance of gifts to feel special and loved. I have always set a budget on both my children for their birthdays. I did not stray from that budget. It was, however, adjusted for lean years, and we have had a few of those. Our budget included their gift, any party, a family dinner out (with a coupon), and a movie (matinee). There are endless activities to enjoy as a family without spending a lot. Now that my boys are adults, we still look forward to our birthday dinner and movie together.

What a gift to our children it would be to have a CHARITY party. All the wrapped gifts brought by the children would be given to a charity that benefited children in need. Maybe take it a step further and take the party to a hospital and pass out those gifts to the sick children. I wish I had given that opportunity to my children when they were younger. I would love to hear from anyone who has actually participated in a Charity Party. This would be an example of rethinking our birthday celebrations.

Let’s all challenge ourselves to simplify our lives by rethinking our birthday celebrations. Please share your ideas with us.