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How Much Money Should We Spend on Kid’s Birthday?


How much should we spend on kid's birthday?RB40Jr is turning 6 very soon. Wow, time really flies when you have a kid. I still remember jumping out of bed and rushing Mrs. RB40 to the hospital at 6 in the morning and being nervous all day until he finally arrived at 3:45 in the afternoon.  I’ll skip the graphic details here, but this was one of the most memorable days in both our lives. Things change so much when you have a kid. They grow and evolve quickly so you need to adjust, too. If we hadn’t had a kid, I could see myself staying mostly the same over these past 7 years.

Today, let’s take a quick look back at how much RB40Jr have grown. That’s a huge side benefit to blogging. I can read my old posts and see how things were going back then. If you don’t have a blog, you really should consider starting one. See – How to Start a Blog and Why You Should. After that, we’ll go on to the controversial topic of how much money should we spend on kid’s birthday. Please take the poll at the end so I can see what real people really spend.

RB40Jr Recap

This is one of my earliest blog post – Early Retirement’s Biggest Obstacles. I started Retire by 40 in 2010 when Mrs. RB40 was 6 months pregnant. Needless to say, early retirement is the last thing on any pregnant woman’s agenda and she wasn’t very supportive. Even I was having some trepidation about early retirement because I read that kids cost so much money to raise. I still put the ER plan in motion and hoped for the best.

Baby Expense in Full Swing

Kids really aren’t cheap. In Unexpected Baby Expense, I complained about having to buy a baby carrier, play mat, and a plethora of bottles and nipples. The daycare was the biggest expense, though. We paid a little over $1,000 per month for childcare. RB40Jr was super cute when he was 6 months old! I also took 3 months off during this time to try being a stay at home dad/blogger. I loved it, but had to reluctantly return to work to shore up our finances.

Best Baby Age

Here is Baby RB40 when he was a year and a half. I totally forgot we used to call him Baby RB40. We changed to RB40Jr when he got a bit older. I still think the best age for kids is from 18 months to 2 years old. They are still super cute and they argue! We still have fun together these days, but it’s a little too much back and forth sometimes. I also handed in my resignation in the summer of 2012. That was another one of the best days in my life!

Can Money Buy Happiness?

I traded my old cubicle

for this

can money buy happiness?

No regrets whatsoever. I make less money, but I’m a lot healthier and happier. Don’t miss our unforgettable story – Swarming Pigeons, Dog Poop, Happiness, and $60,000. Interestingly, our park don’t have many pigeons anymore. Now, there are a ton of crows instead. Strange…


We tried to send RB40Jr to preschool when he was 2 and a half and it didn’t work out so well. He cried all day and they kicked him out after 4 days. He just wasn’t ready yet. RB40Jr has tough time when he’s thrown into a new environment. We continue to see this in following years. Being a stay at home dad also became a little tougher. We had more conflicts and we needed a little time away from each other. (Why can’t kids just do what you tell them?) Luckily, we found another preschool about 4 months later. He had a hard time adjusting here, too, but they were willing to work with him and he got over it.

This preschool was really awesome and he spent almost 3 years there. There were trouble spots here and there, but he really enjoyed his time there. There was that hilarious crotch punching incident, though…


Woohoo! RB40Jr started kindergarten last fall. This means no more paying for preschool. Of course, he had a hard time adjusting to the new environment again. He hit a bunch of kids and was sent to the principal’s office twice in the first 2 weeks of school. He got in big trouble when he punched his new teacher (again?!), but that was the last time. Once he got used to his teachers and new friends, he’s been behaving himself.

Whew, that was a little longer than I planned. It’s fun to look over those old baby pictures, though. He was so adorable. I can’t believe he is so big now.

How much money should we spend on kid’s birthday?

I hope you don’t think I’m a terrible SAHD, but we haven’t thrown a big birthday bash for RB40Jr yet. A birthday party is not cheap and I figured he won’t remember them anyway. In previous years, we just got a cake, a few presents, and celebrated at home with the family.

Now that he’s older, we’re thinking about having a bigger party and invite his friends from school. I am ambivalent about this, though. I never had a big birthday party when I was a kid. We’d just go out to get ice cream, have a few friends over, or something simple like that. Mrs. RB40 had her birthday parties at home with homemade cake and ice cream. The house she grew up in had a lot of room for large gatherings. Back in those days, there was no requirement to host an entire class of kids.

Personally, I think a birthday party at home with games is perfect. However, our place is too small. We can’t host more than just a few kids. Even then, it’d be pretty crazy. I’d love to hold a birthday party in the park with a pinata, but we can’t do that because it’s winter. This leaves us with no other option (besides postponing until summer), but to have a birthday party at a venue. Let’s see what the local options are.

  • The Children’s museum – $250 for 15-19 guests. I like this option because there are a lot of things to do at the Children’s museum and you can bring your own food and cake. Museum admission is free for the day, so the kids can enjoy the exhibits when they are done with cake.
  • Indoor playground – $180 for 10 kids. Kids can have cake and then go play. You have to buy the food from the kitchen here, though.
  • Lasertag and arcade – $170 for 2 games of laser tag, 10 kids. One pizza included, but no outside food allowed. Unlimited soda, though. Yikes, can you imagine a group of 6 years old with unlimited soda? This is probably RB40 Jr’s preferred option.
  • Rent a gym – $130. We could rent a gym at the community center. They have a bunch of toys and games the kids could play. This is a great option for a big group of kids. They could accommodate 25+ kids, no problem. Bring your own pizza, cake, and pinata.
  • Ice skating party – $225 for 10 kids. Cake included.
  • Etc

Oh man, I don’t know. It looks like it’d be at least $150 and possibly quite a bit more once we order food. When the heck did a kid’s birthday party became so expensive? Maybe we should just go with a cake and buy a very nice gift instead. I know he would absolutely love the First Order Tie Fighter LEGO set. He’s a huge Star Wars fan. What do you think?

Okay, here is the poll.

How much would you spend on a birthday party for your 6 year old?

View Results

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Do you think kid birthday parties these days are out of control?

See, isn’t writing a blog sounding like a lot of fun? You might make some extra money while you’re at it, too. A bunch of mommy bloggers are making a killing. See my tutorial and start a blog today! (Actually, it’s a lot of work, but it’s been worth it for me.)


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Joe started Retire by 40 in 2010 to figure out how to retire early. He spent 16 years working in computer design and enjoyed the technical work immensely. However, the job became too stressful and Joe retired from his engineering career to become a stay-at-home dad/blogger at 38. Today, he blogs about financial independence, early retirement, investing, and living a frugal lifestyle.

Passive income is the key to early retirement. This year, Joe is increasing his investment in real estate with CrowdStreet. He can invest in projects across the U.S. and diversify his real estate portfolio. There are many interesting projects available so sign up and check them out.

Joe also highly recommends Personal Capital for DIY investors. He logs on to Personal Capital almost daily to check his cash flow and net worth. They have many useful tools that will help DIY investors analyze their portfolio and plan for retirement.

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{ 71 comments… add one }
  • bellbang October 23, 2018, 6:13 am

    We celebrated birthday recently. We purchased cake for $8 from store, candles, for $2, accessories for $4. Birthday dress around $28. Total cost had been less than $50. One week before birthday we took kid to disneyland and that is core enjoyment I have seen there
    If your kid likes outdoor plan your vacation on the birthday date or much closer depending on your schedule. This will be win win for all in family

  • Alex Coleman February 1, 2017, 7:09 pm

    I think if you can plan a birthday for your kid that’ll leave him some great memories but not cost you a fortune, that’s the way to go. I’ve seen too many wild parties for 5 year olds that quite honestly are more for the parents to show off. But I tend to do a lot myself (like baking the cake, re-using decorations, etc.) to save some money here and there.

  • Roseanne February 1, 2017, 7:47 am

    Joe – those pictures are SO cute. I love the one where he is running with his fingers in the air – that just speaks volumes to me. It has been fun to watch him grow up. I think parties are out of control, and kids can’t entertain themselves any longer. That being said, why not a party with a Star Wars theme. Ask everyone to come in costume – who said you can only dress up for Halloween? Figure out some Star Wars themed games, a cake, and prizes for all and that’s it. Done. He’ll love it and so will his friends. (I hope!)

    • retirebyforty February 1, 2017, 8:31 pm

      I agree. Kids used to play with anything and they can still do it now. Adults just spoil them too much. Great idea about the Star Wars theme.

  • Fiscally Free January 31, 2017, 2:06 pm

    I think a lot of parties are out of control, but expenses add up fast. We just had our babies 1st birthday party and it cost more than I expected. We reserved a spot in the park (thank you Los Angeles for perfect weather) for a reasonable $25, but after buying all the food and supplies, we probably spent around $200. Not bad, but also not cheap.

    We will probably tone it down for the next couple birthdays since the kid won’t remember them and they won’t be as big a milestone as the first birthday.

  • Michelle January 31, 2017, 12:14 pm

    I have the same problem. My kid’s birthday is New Years Day. Middle of winter, rarely any snow yet so not a lot of outdoor options. In a sense I envy her classmate who lives in a single family home where his parents can cheaply accommodate a good-sized party. But we live in a little townhouse. Her first couple of years birthday parties were just with my extended family who live in the area. Past couple of years we simply invited her little BFF for a play date with cake and birthday song, as his parents are also good friends of ours and this particular friend she’ll play with swimmingly for hours.

    I’m also not keen on hiring out a place for a couple hundred bucks, partly from feeling cheap about it and partly cause DH and I are kinda anti-social introverts. We’ve gotten away with these anti-birthday parties so far but as she gets bigger might have to concede to something bigger and more expensive.

    I had the idea of taking adventurous little trips for her birthday in lieu of parties since that’s something I wouldn’t mind spending good money on, but New Years is tricky since that’s the end of school breaks and I’d rather have travel out of the way to be getting ready for work/school.

    Too bad her birthday’s not in the summer; we could take advantage of our community pool at no extra cost.

    All that said, the community center gym sounds like a decent option for you.

    • retirebyforty February 1, 2017, 8:20 pm

      I prefer to celebrate the birthdays quietly too. It’s exhausting to chat with so many parents…

  • Melissa Yuan-Innes January 31, 2017, 11:46 am

    Little kids just want to have fun and don’t care about the money.

    Birthdays should really be for the child. If he wants Lego and a quiet dinner with his family, that’s what he should have.

    I’ve always invited the whole class so as not to leave anyone out, because of bad memories from childhood. I make the cake and usually pinatas too (for his seventh birthday, my son asked for the solar system. Now that was a lot of work). I used to make it potluck, but now that my kids are a bit older, I try to provide the food. I figure they’ll be demanding pricey parties out of me when they’re older, but as little kids? Naaah. Keep it simple. Love the mom’s games, above.

    Adorable kid, BTW, although I don’t want him punching me in the crotch!

  • Mr. All Things Money January 29, 2017, 3:00 pm

    I don’t have any kids, but if I did, I would absolutely make sure to at least buy a birthday cake, candles, balloons and throw a small party to celebrate their birthdays. These are little things that make them feel special, loved, and be a center of focus for one day. Not to mention the life long memories they create. Happy Birthday to the Junior!

  • Amanda January 28, 2017, 6:01 pm

    I said between $100 and $199 but truthfully I have spent more over the years (my children are now 11 and 13.) The most basic party outside our home as at a park – the weather held out, the kids had a blast and all I bought was a cake and some juice boxes. Almost anything else outside of the home is going to be $15 or more per person and you have to buy the cake and/or meal on top of that. My best advice is to do what feels right for you. Disregard pressure to go big OR go small and do something that is going to make the little guy feel extra special on his special day.

  • Our Frugal Escapades January 27, 2017, 11:03 am

    My birthday is in December and when I was a kid my parties used to always get snowed out, so my mother used to round up the neighborhood kids in our small living room, serve homemade birthday cake, and then have a contest to see who could build the best snowman. We had a blast!

    It’s crazy how much people spend on their kids birthday parties these days. My sister-in-law just spent $600 on a cake for her 3-year old’s birthday party. I couldn’t help but think that her 3-year old isn’t even going to remember this cake. Ridiculous!

    Any venue will work as long as long as you have some space. I would keep it cheap because he’ll still have a blast!

  • Laura January 26, 2017, 8:45 pm

    Aaaah! My son had straight up hair as an infant too 🙂 So funny.

    It is a bit harder w/ a winter birthday. We’ve done a pool party at the community center (can rent a room for party before going into pool) but at their age, parents need to be willing to swim as well. You could also try Wunderland (nickel arcade). Have Jr choose maybe 3-4 friends and take them all there – can even have a mini party there as well (cake, etc). The amount you spend in nickels will probably come in under $100…or can just restrict them each to two bags of nickels.

  • Smart Provisions January 26, 2017, 6:29 pm

    I think when I have a kid, the birthday parties definitely wouldn’t go over $250, but that depends, I guess…

    When I was a kid, I didn’t have many birthday parties. The parties that I did have usually involved my parents making lots of sushi for my friends and I. We would just eat and play games for the whole day and it was an enjoyable experience.

    I’d definitely try to spend the minimum if you could, RB40! Good luck!

  • Cynthia January 26, 2017, 5:31 pm

    First, I don’t think you need any party unless the child asks for it! It’s a great lesson early for kids to know some porople have money to burn! My daughter went to several elaborate parties. Lucky to be invited!
    The park would be a consideration with good weather! I had all girls so we had slot of fun doing something as a group! One year we made a crazy video & everyone took him a VHS! One year we had a fake beauty pageant!
    Everyone always had a good time! Get creative!! We’ve had pool parties, game parties, singalongs, traditional pin the tail on the donkey which is still a favoraite. If your traching?You might as well start now! Also you could pick two ideas & let him choose which one! After you know the cost!
    Good luck!

    • retirebyforty January 27, 2017, 10:02 am

      Thank you for your great suggestions. Mrs. RB40 is actually the creative one here, but she’s way too busy most of the time. Hopefully, she can make a little time to plan the birthday. If not this year, then next year. 🙂

  • Smart Money MD January 26, 2017, 4:52 pm

    How much would RB40 Jr remember? For this age, I’d definitely spend the minimum to keep everyone happy. If you feel inclined, invest the difference. RB40 Jr will thank you in [hopefully] 20 years!

    • retirebyforty January 27, 2017, 10:01 am

      I’d bet that he won’t remember anything. He seems to have terrible memory like me. Mrs. RB40 has an amazing memory, though. She is still in touch with her kindergarten teacher. She remember a lot more than I ever did.

  • [email protected] January 26, 2017, 4:19 pm

    I’d definitely keep it simple for the younger years. A few friends and something fun for a couple of hours (a movie, an arcade) and then some special family time. Parents try to “one up” each other for parties. When he’s older, maybe he can help decide on a bigger party every few years if that’s something you decide together. I like the museum idea if you would choose a bigger event.

  • Chad Burkholder January 26, 2017, 4:18 pm

    Great read as I sit in the terminal heading home with my newly adopted son. I am always looking to the future and how much things will cost and whether I should do them.

    • retirebyforty January 27, 2017, 9:59 am

      Congratulations! I wouldn’t worry too much about birthdays at this point. You’ll have many changes to deal with. How old is your son?

  • Vinay POS January 26, 2017, 4:09 pm

    For less than 6, we did just that – get a cake and perhaps a gift. Up till 3 years we just did the cake, no gift. Last year on the 6th birthday, we did a party at a children’s museum and it costed ~300 but he enjoyed the gifts and the party. But it was too much for us parents.
    This year on his 7th, we did cake and just went for Snow Tubing for $80 for 4. It was lot of fun.

    • retirebyforty January 27, 2017, 9:56 am

      Snow tubing sounds great! We had a ton of fun with the snow this year already so maybe next time. 🙂

  • Dave in Sunny FL January 26, 2017, 3:57 pm

    I saw the photo of your Intel cubicle for the first time today. It made me think about the tech settlement, and that what you lost through the anti-poaching collusion of the technology firms was not just a little bit of extra salary, but the opportunity to be wooed by another firm with the promise of a better working environment and work life balance. Such an offer might have kept you interested in engineering, and the world could ultimately be the poorer for your decision to hang up your protractor. ?

    • retirebyforty January 27, 2017, 9:56 am

      That cubicle was a nightmare. The real problem was the location. Portland didn’t have a lot of engineering job back then. I should have moved to Silicon Valley when I was young. We loved Portland so it was tough to consider moving.

  • Jax January 26, 2017, 3:04 pm

    I don’t have any kids but I don’t think I would try to throw an elaborate party-even if they were old enough to remember it. My mom hosted all of my birthday parties at our house. One year she made “slime” out of sour cream (maybe shaving cream?) and food coloring and we had a slime fight then water balloon fight and hose down in our backyard. Another year she mapped out the backyard as a board game and at each stop we had to do an action-I remember being SO EMBARRASSED having to yell “I love Peter Gambino!” as one of my actions.

    At the time I so desperately wanted a McDonalds party or something along those lines, but looking back I remember all the games my mom made up for me and my friends and don’t really remember any of my friend’s birthday parties.

    You said you don’t have a ton of space, so I would go with the Children’s Museum. You can bring your own food and there is relatively little else for you to take care of. The kids will have a good time, and maybe some of RB40Jrs friend’s might not otherwise get the opportunity to go, so you can feel good about that.

    • retirebyforty January 27, 2017, 9:54 am

      Your mom is awesome! She sounds really creative. Personal attention is much more memorable than the commercial experience.

  • Ty January 26, 2017, 1:18 pm

    What a cute kid, Joe. He looks like a little stud!

    For birthday parties I say spend whatever you feel comfy with and don’t try to justify your decision to others. There will always be those that think you spent too much or too little.

    I’ve got four kids and we’ve spent very little (just ice cream, cake, pizza) and also spent a lot (indoor sky diving).

    Loved the post.

    • retirebyforty January 27, 2017, 9:48 am

      He is a handful. 🙂
      Wow, indoor sky diving. Sounds like a lot of fun. I’m sure you guys make it a family outing.

  • DivGuy January 26, 2017, 12:38 pm

    Birthday parties for kids are just way too much! Along the years, I realised what my kids like the best is spending some time with their 2-3 best friends. We went playing soccer, skiing, cinema, waterparks, etc. but only with a few friends. And then we also have a supper with a cake and some presents with the family.

    He’s only 6, keep it simple while you can! 😉



    • retirebyforty January 27, 2017, 9:39 am

      Great suggestion. I’ll try to do that this year. Let’s see what the missus and Jr think.

  • [email protected] January 26, 2017, 11:51 am

    We only did a party for the first birthday. The rental fee for location isn’t bad (our apartment is way too small) but providing food is expensive if you have a lot of people. And my Asian parents are all about food…you can’t leave your guests hungry. Whereas the non-Asian folks have a couple of pies of pizza…which is much easier and cost effective. Anyways, now with baby #2, we’ll probably have a b-day for his first in keeping with tradition. Since the 2 kids have their birthday in the same month…I wonder if I can just do a joint party!

    • retirebyforty January 27, 2017, 9:38 am

      I think we’ll skip food this year. It’ll save a lot of money. I never like the food provided anyway. It’s usually pizza or something like that. Oh yeah, you should double up on the birthday party. 2 for 1! 🙂

  • Jennifer Blume January 26, 2017, 11:19 am

    My daughter is 19 now, but I do remember the pressure to have birthday parties when all the other kids did. Our home was on the small side so when we did give a party, I preferred to do it somewhere else. The money you’re saving on the smaller home, allow you to spend a little more on celebrations if you want to. We once had a party at the Children’s Museum which was a great location because the kids could just entertain themselves there with so many activities. We also sometimes did short day trips with fun activities with just our family. One way we avoided all the gifts was to have my daughter choose a place to collect donations for and then ask people to bring donations in lieu of gifts if they wanted to. May daughter loves animals so she usually chose the Oregon Humane Society. We would send out a list of items OHS needs with the invite. Later, we would visit OHS, drop off the donations and visit the animals. My daughter was so proud of bringing those supplies for all the animals. Of course, that’s where both our dogs came from. It was a great experience for her and there are so many great places to choose from that need help.

    • retirebyforty January 27, 2017, 9:34 am

      We went to a birthday party at the Children’s museum once and it was a good experience. I think all of Jr’s friends are privileged kids so they have been to the museum before.
      Great idea with collecting donations. I’ll run that by the missus and Jr.

  • Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life January 26, 2017, 10:50 am

    I said $100-200 but I’m not sure. The first one we accidentally spent $400 because it was for the adults: we hosted a group of our close friends for a nice lunch and JuggerBaby was the only kid there. Ze didn’t care. Ze also didn’t care about the cake.
    We thought we’d do a weekend at the aquarium for number two but that’s also a getaway for the adults and we canceled it in favor of pizza at home: $35.
    I remember my parents used to host a few of the neighborhood kids and some relatives for cake when I was around RB40Jr’s age, and I hated it because I wasn’t really into other kids at that point. I preferred to take my cake and my book and hide in a corner. We were in a tiny apartment, too, which reminds me you don’t need a big place to host if you’re good friends and not worried about appearances. Other friends are throwing those bigger hosted parties that are fun to drop in on but too much $$$ for us.

    I’m thinking that family and a few friends for a nice meal and cake will be our usual tradition and maybe occasionally we’ll do something special. We’ll see, PiC and I come from very different party traditions: we had them until I was 9, and then stopped. His family still does parties or celebrations for adults so we may have to compromise.

    • retirebyforty January 27, 2017, 9:32 am

      Interesting, thanks for sharing!
      I wonder how you’ll compromise on future birthdays. 🙂

  • Ms. Montana January 26, 2017, 9:10 am

    We didn’t really do big parties till the kids were a bit older. But even now, they get to invite one or two friends. So even if we go out to do something like laser tag or an indoor trampoline place, it’s still reasonable. We host 2 bigger parties each year for all our friends. A gingerbread house building party in the winter and camping party in the summer. That way we get to have all our friends over at once, but it’s not birthday related.

    • retirebyforty January 26, 2017, 1:39 pm

      I like inviting just a few friends. I prefer to do that and take them out to an arcade or something fun like that.

      • Ms. Montana January 26, 2017, 5:04 pm

        It’s also less crazy and horrible. I love kids, mine especially, but corralling 15 6 years olds hopped up on cake sounds like the worst possible way to spend an afternoon.

  • David Michael January 26, 2017, 8:52 am

    Great topic again. But, at my age I am coming from the point of view as a grandfather, and especially holidays like Christmas which is a bit like a birthday on steroids.

    Overall, I think most middle class kids receive way too many gifts on any big celebration. Since we have 11 grandkids and there are gifts coming from three sets of grandparents and the parents on any major gift giving day (birthday or Christmas), it’s really not much fun to watch the free-for-all that occurs from the many gifts. Open one, then move on to another, etc. As a grandparent we limit each person to $20 value. Often, we will send Amazon gift cards, or cash, or somethng we know they really, really want.

    Our preferred way of gift giving is to give educational toys, books, or a day trip to the
    zoo or fishing trip with a new rod and reel. Of course, that is a bit of delayed pleasure.
    In general, we stop giving birthday or Christmas gifts at age 18 or graduation from high school. Then only for huge celebrations like college graduations or marriage.

    OK…I strayed from your topic, but in general it’s not all that much fun to attend birthdays any more since there are so many gifts. In my time, I was limited to three gifts and my wife only received one gift period (birthdays). That gift therefore was highly appreciated and loved.

    • retirebyforty January 26, 2017, 10:44 am

      Thank you for sharing your perspective. Christmas is a bit out of control and I don’t want birthdays to be like that too. The kid will get a ton of gifts if we have a big birthday party. I think a few gifts are already plenty for birthdays. I think I only got one birthday gift when I was a kid. Parents just have too much disposable income these days.

  • Jim @ Route To Retire January 26, 2017, 8:41 am

    Our daughter is just a year older than RB40Jr and she’s in the first grade. We haven’t done a party for her with friends so far either. Of course we invite the immediate family over for a small get together but that’s it.

    Her birthday is in the summer and we’ve always gone away around that time for a small trip instead. Last year we took her to an amusement park a few hours away and stayed in a hotel overnight. Another year we took a trip to the Columbus Zoo and COSI (a science museum) for the weekend .

    We probably spend a little more money doing that than having a party, but I think it’s worth it and she loves spending the time with us doing that instead. Will she start to want to have parties with her friends instead at some point? Probably, but I don’t think it’s time yet for us.

    — Jim

    • retirebyforty January 26, 2017, 10:42 am

      I like the mini vacation idea. I’d rather do something fun as a family too. Thanks for sharing your great idea.

  • SillyLily January 26, 2017, 8:24 am

    Haha, we are having the same dilemma here… originally we were just going to invite my bro’s family (cousin Angelica), my mom and my dad. But my bro’s family is going to Yosemite on that weekend so Koya wasn’t too thrilled with just us ‘old folks’. Now we are going to invite Koya’s 4 BFFs and their families to our house. They will make their own pizza for lunch, we will have a chocolate cake, and then everyone go play a round of miniature golf. That still going to cost us about $150. But I talked to Koya and she understands that she doesn’t get to have a birthday party every year. I told her the next birthday party is when she’s 10 (we’ll see).

    • retirebyforty January 26, 2017, 10:41 am

      That sounds great! Sorry, we’re not nearby.

  • K. McGarrett January 26, 2017, 8:07 am

    Children’s birthday parties have followed the same trajectory of costs as weddings. The power (and effectiveness) of marketing.

  • zolar January 26, 2017, 7:28 am

    I don’t spend much on my kids birthday.. It is not important.
    THe important is how we spend time together..
    Just bring them to McDonald/KFC also enough

  • Brittany January 26, 2017, 6:48 am

    My daughter just turned 7 and this year was cheapest “friends” birthday party. She had 4 friends spend the night and we did some fun crafts, mani/pedi’s etc. Last year I did end up going all out for her. My husband had to travel for work the entire month of January, so to make up for Dad missing her birthday we had an ice skating party. The kids had a blast, I think it accomodated 20-25 people (I had several parents there to help me manage it and would recommend at least 1 adult per 3 kids if the kids don’t know how to skate). Then we also met our family at a local restaurant on her actual birthday (I paid for 90% of them). I would say we spent probably $300-400. My birthday is in the summer so I NEVER had any friends over for my birthday, so I’m willing to shell out a little bit more money.

    • retirebyforty January 26, 2017, 10:39 am

      Thank you for sharing! I think it’s great to have some varieties. I’m still undecided, but I’ll let Mrs. RB40 deal with this one. She can plan it however she wants. 🙂

  • Money Beagle January 26, 2017, 6:44 am

    Last year for my daughter’s fifth birthday we did a Frozen themed party and actually paid to have Elsa come visit. It wasn’t cheap but I think she’ll remember it and it was the right age for her to have that given that it seemed ‘peak princess love’ (which has since proven correct). I think you really have to look at each birthday on its own and decide what you want to do.

    • retirebyforty January 26, 2017, 10:38 am

      That’s pretty awesome. You should ask her when she’s grown up if she remembers it. 🙂

  • Mrs. Picky Pincher January 26, 2017, 6:13 am

    I don’t think the “nice kids’ birthday parties” thing is a new phenomenon. My parents spent probably hundreds of dollars throwing parties at arcades, McDonald’s, etc.

    However, many of my birthdays were also thrown at home and were just as fun. If anything it made me appreciate the special parties so much more. For my kids I think it’s fine to have parties outside the home, but to keep them under $100. For little kiddos that won’t remember the experience, I think it’s best to throw it at home.

    • retirebyforty January 26, 2017, 10:37 am

      Really? You should check with them and see if they remember how much they spent. Once we move into a bigger house, we’d definitely have more parties at home.

    • Nicoleandmaggie January 26, 2017, 1:50 pm

      I remember how happy my mom was when McDonald’s started doing birthday parties. For not very much money they would just take care of everything. She never went back to hosting them at our house.

  • The Green Swan January 26, 2017, 4:53 am

    I share a lot of the same sentiments. It seems like the big parties are just as much for the parents as for the kids, they don’t know or care how much is spent. Simple is better if you ask me. I’d try keeping it to a small group and try avoid renting a venue.

    Our boy is turning 3 in April, right around when my wife is due with the second too. We will be getting to the age of birthdays soon (he’s already received a few invites to 3 year old parties from his daycare classmates!).

    • TPOHappiness January 26, 2017, 6:38 am

      “It seems like the big parties are just as much for the parents as for the kids, ” And for the pictures! Those Facebook bragging rights can be pretty powerful. . .

    • retirebyforty January 26, 2017, 10:36 am

      Great! You can celebrate double birthdays in the future. 2 for 1, that’s a good deal. 🙂

    • millennialmoneycouple.com January 26, 2017, 12:22 pm

      We don’t have kids, but quite a few nieces and nephews. The last birthday party we went to for our nieces was very elaborate and a lot of fun. I am almost certain the girls (5 and 3) don’t even remember the party! The adults, however, have been talking about the catered food, desert trucks, pinatas, etc. for the last six months!

  • Nicoleandmaggie January 26, 2017, 4:48 am

    My revealed preference is to pay the $200 and let them take care of it. Those kid of parties also have the benefit of being exactly two hours and everyone goes home and you don’t have to do the cleanup.

    DC2 hasn’t had a party outside of preschool yet and we’ve stopped having them for DC1, so at least it’s only a few years of the birthday party circuit.

    • retirebyforty January 26, 2017, 10:35 am

      Nice. 🙂 Thanks for sharing.

    • Amy K February 3, 2017, 10:59 am

      We went that route this year (age 6) and last year (age 5). $240 for a 2 hour party at the play place, $32 for a cake, another $25 for party favors, hats, and a birthday crown. Plus tip to the party coordinator.

      Worth it? I’m not certain, but it’s definitely easier. The downside is that the party gets bigger because we have the space (Hey, they said we could invite up to 15 kids!) whereas if it was at home I’d limit it to 4 or 5 guests. Also: I hate crowds and that play place was an absolute zoo.

  • Full Time Finance January 26, 2017, 4:01 am

    I don’t get how they have gotten so out of control. As a kid I never remembered a party larger then 3-4 friends and maybe some grand parents at my house for cake. I suspect our kids will get the same. My wife likes baking so the cakes also cheap.

    • retirebyforty January 26, 2017, 10:34 am

      It’s pretty crazy. We live in a nicer area so maybe that has something to do with it. The kids in Jr’s class have very nice birthday parties. Mrs. RB40 likes baking too.

  • Go Finance Yourself! January 26, 2017, 3:43 am

    Yes, I think kids birthday parties are out of control. I don’t have kids myself but have two nephews who are completely spoiled. When I was a kid we went somewhere that was fun but not all that costly like an arcade or go carts. Kids will make a fun time out of just about anything. I think it’s more the parents who are trying to compete against each other and throw their kids the biggest party. The kids won’t care or know how much you spend. As long as their friends are there, they will find a way to entertain themselves.

    • Michael January 26, 2017, 6:17 am

      While we also did those things when I was a kid (along with the ever popular roller skating rink), I do wonder if the inflation adjusted amount has changed all that much since we were kids in the 80s/90s? I am thinking of the things that we did — roller (or ice) skating, bleacher tickets for a baseball game, magician (when younger), movie, arcade, etc — and if I were to price those items out today they would easily be roughly $10-15 a person, especially if food is involved. Of course, I didnt pay for any of that so I have no idea what it cost, nor did I really care.

      That isnt to say that some parties have not gotten out of control because they have. However, if you are trying to do something outside the house, those prices do not seem to be too bad to me. For example, I looked at renting a party room a few years ago for an event and it was $200+ just to rent the room for a few hours in the afternoon; food, alcohol, etc. were all extra.

    • retirebyforty January 26, 2017, 10:33 am

      That’s what I suspected also. Kids won’t remember this stuff. I don’t remember anything from when I was little. 🙂
      Going to an arcade or Go cart sounds great. We’ll probably do that.

  • Erik @ Hippies de Land Rover January 26, 2017, 3:37 am

    Definitely bellow $100, We make the cake and we do it as an activity all together so that Mini. HdLR gets some fun (while cooking) and we all spend some time together. Then we invite over other kids and play some music. Kids don’t need big fancy party, just a great time together 🙂

    • retirebyforty January 26, 2017, 10:32 am

      That’s what I prefer too. Now, I wish our place is a bit bigger.

  • Mr. Tako @ Mr. Tako Escapes January 26, 2017, 1:26 am

    Yeah, kids birthday parties are crazy these days. Back when I was a kid, I either didn’t have a party OR a couple of my friends came over and we had cake.

    The idea of spending more than $100 on a birthday party seems silly to me, but one of my best friends spent nearly $1000 on his daughter’s birthday party.

    My kids are still a little young, but I really don’t want to be spending lots of money on a bunch of other kids. I’d rather spend it on my boys and buy them a nice gift.

    • retirebyforty January 26, 2017, 9:58 am

      Wow, $1,000?! That’s a lot of money. I’d prefer to sock that away in a college fund.
      Maybe we’ll just go to the arcade and invite a few friends.

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