Kids Birthday Parties – Are They Out of Control?

Once thought of as fun get togethers for a few friends, kids’ birthday parties were a fun informal occurrence that took little money and even less planning.  In our times, however, kids birthday parties have become a phenomenon to behold: expensive, stressful and competitive.  Many parents think kids’ birthday parties now are out of control.  Although the social norms in the United States have changed with regard to kids’ birthday parties, it is possible to simplify your approach in order to keep the fun while eliminating the stress.

The “I Thought it Was Just Me!” Syndrome

Have you been fed up with the number of birthday parties your children are attending or overwhelmed with the work that goes into throwing a birthday party for your own child?  Chances are, you answered yes to that question.  Chances are even greater that although you feel the pressure, you haven’t done anything to alleviate it. 

You’re not alone!  If you haven’t done anything to change the situation, it may be because you’re suffering from the “I thought it was just me!” syndrome.  In our busy lives, it can be difficult to see that the stresses we deal with are the same issues affecting other people.  “Just dealing with” social stresses is a common method of handling them.  These pressures may be widespread, but that doesn’t mean they are necessary.  After all, birthday parties didn’t used to be such elaborate affairs. 

Kids Birthday Parties Circa 1984

Let’s rewind about a quarter of a century; what were birthday parties like in 1984?  Watch this video for a little trip down memory lane:

If you’re about my age (early 30s) you probably remember having a birthday party about like the one in the video above.  Parties are now thought of as “events” complete with themes, favors, goodie bags, staged games, costumes and coordinated activities.  Parties put unnecessary burdens (time, financial) on parents.  Does the following quote sound familiar?

“I do need to drag the crew to WalMart for yet another birthday present. Gosh I am sick of birthday parties. Did you ever go to so many parties when you were a kid? I know I didn’t. I have had to budget practically another utility-sized payment just for gifts. It does keep the kids occupied and happy for about 2 hours, so I guess that is a small price to pay.”

                                                                 -Lorie Kerns, mother  

Problems identified from the above quote:

  • Extra shopping trips to buy birthday presents
  • Tired of going to so many parties
  • Expensive to buy so many birthday presents

Simplifying kids birthday parties and focusing more on the fun and less on the “requirements” of throwing a “perfect party” are key!  Don’t get caught up in the hype and the parent guilt that if you don’t go all out and have matching napkins and plates it will mean you’re a bad parent! 

We love ways to frugalize and simplify.  Please tell us in the comments:  how do you keep your kids’ birthday parties simple?  Do you have family rules for party attendance or gift giving budgets?  Let us know!

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