There are Sacrifices to be Made

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When we got married and started out on our own we were young, 21 and 22, but we didn’t care.

I had just graduated nursing school and passed the boards four months earlier, and Jeff was in the Marine Corps and working an entry level tech job.

So we had nothing. We bought a couch and a love seat for our tiny 650sqft apartment and everything else we had was a hand me down.

Eventually I replaced our black folding card table dinner set for a family antique after an elderly aunt and uncle went into a nursing home. I loved it. It has big claw feet and was old and wasn’t foldable. And that’s what we’ve been using for about 6 years.

Honestly, the love affair is over. The top wobbles and the veneer is starting to peel back again. And it’s just not my style.

I decided that since this year for Easter I’m having over all of my siblings, step siblings, spouses etc, that this would be a great time to replace the old table with something brand new to us. I picked out a really nice one after weeks of looking and comparing. I picked up extra shifts at the hospital and finally got all of the money together to buy my new table and a 3 person upholstered bench. That’s it up there in the photo from the Wayfair site.

Except I can’t do it. I can’t bring myself to spend the money knowing that we still have debts and things coming up that need paying for.

So I’ve sacrificed my new table for now. I took $360 of the 900 I’d saved up and used it to pay off a small student loan, and that helped ease the pain. I guess ole’ claw feet can survive another family gathering.

Maybe I’ll just get a nice tablecloth?

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Ben’s 1st Birthday; and How to Save on Kids’ Parties

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My baby turned one last month and I can’t believe it. It feels like last week we were bringing him home from the hospital in the middle of a blizzard. Now he’s walking, he has a few words and word sounds, and is sleeping through the night in his own crib! That last part is pretty much a miracle compared to when Sam and Abby were his same age.

His party was an adorable lumberjack theme that I stole from Pinterest. We kept it simple; home made treats and cake at our house with only our family on the guest list, though that still totals about 30-40 people. I made all of the decorations or used what we already had.

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Treats included chocolate dipped pretzel rods made to look like birch logs, marshmallows on sticks dipped in chocolate and rolled in crushed graham crackers like s’mores and chocolate birthday cake. I also had pancake shooters (mini pancakes in shot glasses with syrup and butter curls), but they really didn’t go how I planned and were kind of a flop. We actually ended up having even more food than planned because family members brought a couple of dips and baked treats and things. IMG_1283

As far as decorations, I made a ONE banner out of some scraps of fabric and twine. Jeff made a log cake stand out of a firewood log from the basement and a flat slice of natural edge wood I bought at Michael’s, AND the marshmallow stick stand by drilling holes in another firewood log. The tablecloth, lanterns and copper cups we already had, and we clipped some green branches off of last year’s Christmas tree in the yard.

He already had his shirt, boots and jeans, but I did sew buttons on to add suspenders.

All in all, his party was pretty consistent with all the kids parties I’ve thrown in my six years of birthdays.

I never understood the desire to throw these huge ridiculous parties for kids. We’ve been invited to parties for children of friend’s and family that were big elaborate affairs. Rented halls, hired performers, centerpieces and commercial decorations, catered food, dozens and dozens on the guest list.

IMG_1295And why? Kids have fun at parties whether there’s a magician or just cousins to play with.
Don’t feel obligated to spend your week’s paycheck (or worse, put it on a credit card) on a 2 year olds birthday because you think they’ll see other parties and feel bad. They won’t. They aren’t going to remember it in a month either so stop parent shamming yourself into debt. Realize that setting a budget and sticking by it is a small sacrifice that is going to pay off in the long run.

Setting realistic expectations to live by, and explaining to children how to use money responsibly makes you just as good of a parent as those that break the bank making sure there are enough mini horses for pony rides at a first birthday, but can’t pay the electric bill. 

That being said, here are my tips in how to have a great birthday party without going completely overboard:

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Set a budget and stick with it. Make sure it is realistic and do this with cash if you have to.  For Ben’s party it was about $150. I planned ahead and budgeted a month in advance for what I thought we would need so I wasn’t pulling from other resources when the day came.

Its very tempting to over spend and then justify to yourself that its “for the child” and “mothers make sacrifices for their children’s happiness” and blah blah blah. Thats a cop out to make yourself feel better. Real talk, stop making excuses for bad financial habits.

IMG_0131Tone it down. Themes and guest lists and decorations and entertainers make a birthday spiral out of control. My second tip is chill out your expectations.

If you have to rent a hall, its too much. If you can’t fit all the guests in your house, pare down the guest list or change venue. Lately we’ve reduced the number of people we invite to things because our house is just too small. And guess what? Every one has survived. Instead of inviting the whole class, have the honoree pick one or two best friends to invite. If your house or apartment is too tight, move the whole thing outside or to a local park. However, I did have a birthday for my brother’s 21st for about 20 people in our old 650 sqft apartment. So, it can be done.

You can execute an adorable theme without buying a cart full of commercial decorations at a big box party store. Let’s be honest, guests go home and immediately throw out the goody bags and party hats you spent your hard earned money on.

Also on the chopping block, entertainers like musicians, face painters and magicians. Instead: set up a kid’s area with puzzles and games and toys your child already has. I find that when you clean up and organize something, and lay it all out on a table top, an old toy or activity becomes brand new. What about a Coloring Station with free birthday coloring pages printed offline?

Skip the party aisle. Instead of hitting up the party aisle or store for paper goods, go to the  paper products lane. A pack of color coordinated paper cups at the party store is $8.99 (!!!!!!!!). I know because I was just there looking and almost had a cardiac event.

Solo cups from the paper towel aisle serve the exact same purpose for less than half the price, AND they have different colors and designs. The same thing applies for plates, cutlery and napkins. Do adults need a My Little Pony plate, cup and napkin? No. If you’re having a lot of kids, pick one paper item and get a small package just for the kids.

IMG_1270Bake your own cake. You can do it I promise. I’ve baked many a cake over the past 6 years of birthday throwing; some were hits and some not so much. I can say now, I’m pretty good at it. Do they look like store bought? Probably not. But the kids really enjoy picking out what style they want, helping to bake it and decorate. It’s a fun memory and activity for them.

Grocery stores are chock full of every type of cake mix, frosting, flavor, color and decorating item you could ever want. Even some stuff I’ve only seen on Cake Boss like fondant and gum paste and sugar sheets, and every type of decorating tool you could imagine.

Get creative. If you don’t have a Pinterest account, make one immediately. It’s full of tips and tricks and ideas and its FREE. YouTube can teach you anything you need to know.

Seriously a kitchen novice? Find a cake decorating class on the basics. They have them at IMG_0126most craft stores. They’re affordably priced, and I feel like they’re justifiable to pay to take because you’ll be learning a new skill that you can use over and over for yourself, or to help someone else out. You can even make yourself a small side business out of your new hobby.

If you’re not a group class type of person, go to craftsy.com. They have video tutorials on everything under the sun, and some mini classes are free.

 

 

 

So that’s how I keep my budget under control when I throw a birthday party. Even the new pared down guest list in our family is around 30 people, so it still takes some determination. I think my best tip though, is to know that your child loves you and you love your child. You’re amazing and doing a wonderful job. No house full of over priced decorations or catered food or rented venue is going to change that. ❤