‘How much should you spend on your child’s birthday?’ is the exact question I found myself asking google in the lead up to my son’s 4th birthday. And to be honest, google was not a whole lot of help on the matter, spewing forth the conflicting answers of parents representing both sides of the ongoing argument in my brain, like I had a tiny Scrooge on one shoulder and a mini Viv Nicholson on the other. Because of course, there is no right answer or wrong answer. I hate when that happens.
And I’m sure some people will read this and think ‘why on earth would you ask google that, spend what you want to spend’ but I am a worrier and an overthinker and I like to hear lots of different people’s opinions* of things so THAT’S WHY, OK?!?
*I wrote opinionions there first time which I think could be a fun new word actually.
It’s not the first time I’ve found myself fretting that spending too much risks turning my boy into a spoilt, demanding, materialistic nightmare who always expects to get what he wants and feels that the most important thing in life is having the latest shiny thing being unboxed on Youtube by some American child called Ryan.
On the other hand, I don’t want him to feel that his wishes aren’t important enough to be listened to and brought to life, at least on a few special days each year. If there’s something he really has his heart set on, I want to make him happy if I can manage it.
So how to find a good balance?
I think the one rule that does apply in all cases is – do not spend more than you can afford. It sounds obvious but when you want to make your child happy it’s so tempting and too easy to keep on buying and adding things because ‘they’ll just love it’. Yeah, maybe they will, and maybe they’ll have forgotten about it months before you’ve finished paying off the credit card bill. I saved up a bit, set a budget I could afford and was happy with and that was that.
If your kids are under three, they’ll barely know what’s going on anyway. Finances are often tightest in these early years, so don’t feel bad if a few small things is what you can afford. They’ll love it anyway!
I expect I’ll have more thoughts on older kids in a few years time but it seems that those older ages are when it becomes more about getting a certain item. If they want something pricey and you can afford it and want them to have it, why not. When this day comes for me, I think the most important thing will be to try and make sure he values it and understands it’s been bought for a special occasion and needs looking after.
Right now, at this in between-y age, it seems that experiences may be the most important thing. We certainly heard all about the party he was planning in his mind for months – almost year actually, from when he did the rounds of 3rd birthday parties (we did a casual at-home thing that year). The venue, the guest list (adults and children), the cake, that boy sure knew what he wanted!
What did I spend?
The first three birthdays had been fairly low key and low spend. This one was different as he now understood what birthdays were all about and had a lot of hopes for it, and with a bit of planning and saving around £200 was put aside for it. Obviously I knew most of that would be needed to pay for a soft play party, like he kept talking about, and we also got a lovely custom made Thomas the Tank Engine cake, also much discussed, all together that was about £150. If you have the time and/or skill, an amazing party and cake could cost a lot less of course. But I do not.
That left £50 for presents. A new bike was needed, due to an unfortunate bit of thievery, and I was worried this was going to blow most of the budget, so I turned to eBay, as so often in life, and found this little beauty for £15. Isn’t it gorgeous?
This meant I could still afford to get him a track of some sort. He’d mentioned that he wanted one for trains AND Hotwheel cars so I had a little chat and explained he could pick one or the other. As he already had plenty of train track he went for Hotwheels – Santa can bring the train track, apparently.
I found this one on Amazon for £16.99 and a friend got him another set which it can connect with so that has gone down very well, it’s really good fun actually and also can be arranged neatly for storage in a pretty nifty manner.
Books are something I always include (and if you know me, I’ve probably given you a book as part of a gift at some point even if maybe you’re not really that into books, because I manage to convince myself that everyone needs books in their life and I should be the one to provide them, a bit like an old great auntie who sends half a dozen embroidered handkerchiefs every Christmas, so oops, sorry about that).
He’d seen this Peppa Pig set on the Book People stand at nursery and asked for it, I’d gotten the first set of 10 they did for a bargain £3 at Christmas so this was a bit pricier at £10 but still good value compared to buying them individually. I added in the Acorn Wood Sticker & Activity books for £2.99, as these books are fond favourites. I ordered online as otherwise wouldn’t have got them in time, and I had a free delivery code. There’s usually plenty of discount vouchers going for them if you google, or you can get 15% using this link.
Still not sure if I had enough books I headed to The Works and picked up this Lion King book with accompanying CD for £1 which was a great price. Though actually, the blurb says ‘songs’ and there is only one song on the CD, I Just Can’t Wait To Be King’. Which is a really good song but can you imagine how many times we’ve listened to it? Can you even imagine?
Can’t say I didn’t get plenty of use out of it!
I also grabbed the little felt picture set because I so loved these when I was little girl. This has been put away for a quiet, rainy day which I’m looking forward to!
To round it off I got one of these cute little robots from Lush. My son always loves my Lush bath bombs and calls them ‘specials’ so I thought it would be nice to get him a little special of his own. At £1.95, this was perfect, and took the total present spend up to £50.
So there we have it, and I’m sure there’ll be some people who think ‘how ridiculous to spend that much’ and others thinking ‘that’s not a lot, poor child’. In conclusion, my thoughts are spend whatever the hell you want (as long as it doesn’t put you into debt), just make sure you’re spending wisely on things that genuinely bring joy.
I’d love to hear people’s thoughts on this…