Julia's Monster Birthday PartyLast year at this time I wrote about my daughter Julia turning six years old and how we had to tell her “no” on her birthday (even to cheese balls).  This year when my daughter turned seven there was another memorable moment surrounding her birthday.

When children become old enough to have friends, all of a sudden having a friend’s only birthday party is a must in any child’s life (and with our daughter there is no difference here).  So like any good parents we invited several of Julia’s closest friends and hosted a friend’s only birthday party.

The party started with doing some basic arts and crafts, which led to all of the kids playing in the living room (most of them drawing pictures).  While all of that was going on I kept thinking to myself, “There has to be a fun daddy moment in this somewhere.”

Then I uncovered a golden treasure.  I noticed that our roll of paper towels was empty and all that was left was the cardboard cylinder that held the roll together.  That led to some inspiration that only a dad could have.

AHH Monster!!

As the kids were playing in the living room, I snuck up on them and started to do some basic growling like a monster through this cardboard cylinder.  All of them instantly got up and started running away and screaming with joyous high pitch squeakiness (I am surprised that I still have some hearing left).Julia Monster Birthday Dogpile

They would go into a bedroom get some pillows and prepare to take on the dreaded birthday monster.  Now I am having fun…too much fun.  Dad is getting way into this monster stuff and I am chasing them all through the house and before we knew it, over twenty minutes had passed by.  We realized that we had to make the unfortunate decision to stop the fun because we still had birthday cake to eat and birthday presents to open.

What’s the lesson to be learned here?

Ask any of the kids what their favorite part of the party was and even the birthday girl will tell you, that being chased by a monster was their favorite part.

Do you know how much it cost to be a monster?  Nothing.  All I had to do is be creative and do what little kids love and they had a blast.  What does this have to do with personal finance?  I have seen too many times when little junior has a birthday coming up, parents feel the obligation to go “hog wild” and spend a whole bunch of money on the party itself and presents.  Yet at the same time, the parents are broke, deeply in debt, have saved very little for retirement and have next to nothing saved for college.

I am not saying that having a nice birthday party that requires spending money is wrong (In fact, next year our daughter’s birthday will be a HUGE celebration at Incredible Pizza – our tradition when any of our children turn eight).  However spending a bunch of money that you do not have to supposedly impress the little tike is not a good financial plan.  At the end of the day, the best birthday present you can give to your child is to be present and enjoy their special day with them.

Share your favorite birthday moments growing up or as a parent.

Justin Bennett

  1. I like to spend money on gifts for my children, but I agree, there is absolutely no reason to go crazy. I know a lot of people who think kids’ birthdays need to be a huge celebration, but they really don’t have to be. We had a blast with birthday parties when we were kids, and most of our parties consisted of inexpensive games run by my parents like candy hunts, musical chairs, pin the tail on the donkey, etc. To make life easier, my big kids’ last birthday party was at a pool, but they were only allowed two friends each. I made the cake myself and got $5 pizzas from LIttle Caesar’s. My three year-old was content with cake, presents, and a trip to the park last week. He doesn’t have any friends of his own, so what’s the point of a big party?

  2. I always enjoy the memories and videos of camp-outs in the back yard with my friends. All it took was a tent, a box of candy and a flashlight and ta-da, automatic fun! Nature didn’t care how late you stayed up, so it was always a competition between me and my friends to see who could stay up the longest! Thinking back on my birthdays, I have more memories of ones like that than the ones where a lot of money was spent. Interesting.

    As a parent….yeah, right. That won’t happen for a looooooooooooong time 🙂

  3. Elizabeth Craw April 30, 2013 at 4:30 pm

    I guess I neglected to mention a bear reference (your wife reminded me). One of our favorites at Chamberlain birthday parties was “Going on a Bear Hunt.” My Dad was and is the master of that one, he could keep a whole group of children mesmerized with it. “Going on a bear hunt…gonna catch a big one!”

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