Raising a child supposedly costs you a quarter of a million dollars, but it can honestly be more daunting to face the idea of spending $80 on bottle nipples in a single month. Expense Report gives us a look into the spending, scrimping, and wishing that defines parenthood, from what moms spend on birthdays, to childcare, to sleep, to self-care (we wish!), and beyond.
How much does it cost to throw a birthday party for a 6-year-old? For this Californian family of three, it adds up quickly.
One of the best things about being a mom is throwing my kid a birthday party.
I'm just kidding. It's not.
Over the years, I've learned that a child's birthday is important, not only to your kid, but also to show your friends and family just how great you are at throwing parties, at least for me.
Family: A mom and dad in their 30s
Annual family income: Approximately $70,000
Number of children: One, aged 6
I am an overachiever and want my now-6-year-old daughter to look back and think I was the best mom ever by throwing her amazing and memorable birthday parties.
But I also try to be a mom on a budget, and unfortunately, birthday parties can be ridiculously expensive. There are so many options and items to get — bounce house, piñata, food, and so on — and it all adds up.
I've thrown my daughter birthday parties since she turned 1. And I love themes. Her first birthday was Minnie Mouse-themed. Her fourth birthday was a Frozen Fever party, which was my favorite. We held that party at Chuck E. Cheese (a favorite for parents right?) but I made a lot of the decorations, like a Snowgie out of large cotton balls, and people loved it. I had to decorate myself; I couldn't stand the cheesy decor and scary mechanical animals.
Most of my inspiration for parties comes from Pinterest. I also enlist help from my mom, who also loves to do crafts. I like feeling involved with creating the party and I find that in some cases it's cheaper to make something than to go out and buy it at a retail store. Plus, you can add your own personal touch to decorations.
This year my daughter and I decided on a theme of yellow submarine (we love the Beatles and Beat Bugs), water play and rainbow/unicorn theme — a perfect theme for a soon-to-be 6-year-old.
I found a huge yellow submarine inflatable and small yellow submarine squirt toys to go in the gift buckets.
Large yellow submarine inflatable (Oriental Trading Co.): $10
Yellow submarine squirt toys (Oriental Trading Co.): $5
My mom and I made rainbow streamers for the kids, which I found on Pinterest. We went to a local craft store and found ribbon on sale along with cheap colorful bracelets to put the ribbon on. They ended up being a hit with the adults as well.
Ribbon (Michaels): $4
Bracelets (Michaels): $3
My mom and I also made coral reef out of pool noodles — I highly recommend people watch a YouTube video to see how it's done; otherwise, you're left with cut-up pieces of a pool noodle.
Blow-up unicorn (Michaels): $5
Table covers, streamers, sandcastle pails, palm tree centerpieces, other miscellaneous decoration: $47
Theming and decorations subtotal: $74
So, first things first. I needed to buy invitations. I went on Etsy and found someone who can add a photo of your child in the invite and send you the image to print out yourself, which I figured would save me money and let me get more invitations if needed.
Yellow submarine underwater invitation JPEG: $15 (Etsy)
Prints for invitations (Target): $5
Invitations subtotal: $20
My goal for this birthday party was to spend a lot less than I did for my daughter's fifth birthday party. Last year, she wanted a Shopkins-themed party, so I regretfully bought a lot of Shopkins items at stores. The party turned out great, but I definitely spent more than I should have so I learned my lesson.
And that is why the Dollar Tree and 99 cents stores were my second homes for a few weeks. I bought the majority of items at these stores. Since Memorial Day was approaching, they already had water play items, such as water guns, beach balls, and inflatable toys, which were perfect for the party.
I estimated that about 10 kids would actually show up, and knew at least one adult would show up with each kid, plus my family. In total, about 30 guests were expected.
Not only was I able to grab some cheap fun water play toys, I was also able to make gift buckets for guests and get enough water-themed decorations to make out guests feel like they were spending the day in paradise.
The biggest expense was a bounce house, which my daughter was adamant about having. But I knew kids and even adults would enjoy it as well. We booked it ahead of time to make sure it would be there.
Bounce house: $67
On the day of the party, I was a mess. I love planning the party but hate actually throwing it. Guests were strolling in as I was throwing trash away and deciding where to put the pizzas.
I am also not the greatest host. I guess because I have one kid, it's been a learning process. I love talking with my friends and family, but I have no clue what should happen during a kid's birthday party.
My sister had to tell me when was the right time to do the pinata. I handed out paper bags to the kids, lined them up and let them go at it.
Rainbow pinata: $4
Pinata stick: $1
Pink and purple paper bags: $2
Candy mix: $7
Water balloons, inflatable ring-toss game, sunglasses pack, water guns, other activities: $33
Activities subtotal: $114
I am fortunate to have friends who love my daughter almost as much as my husband and I do. And our friend also likes to cook and bake. She offered to make my daughter's birthday cake and I was happy to accept. And it came out perfect.
Other food (hot dogs, Little Caesar's pizza, margarita mix, soda, M&Ms, pita chips, hummus, Swedish fish, hot dog buns, ice): $101
Other food and supplies we already had (straws, plastic cups, paper plates, Honest kid drinks, plastic forks, spoons, knives, various food bowls/plates): $0
Food subtotal: $101
In total, I spent a little over $300 for my daughter's party. When I consider all the people who attended and the items I can actually reuse for future events/parties, it was money well spent.
Birthday party total: $309
Throwing my daughter a birthday party is what makes me feel like a mom. I feel like it's my duty to give my daughter a birthday party that is memorable, but not over the top. We both look forward to it. And I want my friends and family to have fun celebrating my daughter.
I sunk more hours and money into the party than I wanted to, but I would do it all again. My daughter and her friends were happy, and seeing them run around, laugh and have a good time was the best part for me. The mom of one of my daughter's friends told me after the party was over that her daughter wanted to have the same exact party for her birthday. And to know that a kid had that much fun that they want to recreate the fun on their special day makes it all worth it.