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Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Keep It Simple, Stupid

It's uncanny sometimes where a mother's priorities lie.

When Paul was laid off from his job in January, one of the first obstacles that popped into my head was the fact that we had a son turning five in March. And that he would require a birthday party of some sort. How would we pay for that??

Not . . . how will we feed and clothe ourselves or provide a roof under which our Things could safely live - no, this mama's stress level skyrocketed because of a birthday party.

Now, thankfully I have done a lot of research and have figured out a way to have this entire birthday celebration cost us very little money. We are not big "party" people and I am outspoken about not being a fan of the over-done, lavish, and ridiculously expensive children's birthday parties that are taking place on a regular basis around the globe. So this wasn't a stretch for us, although I did want to take extra measures to keep us within budget.

Here are some simple tips:

1. Make your own invitations. Better yet - send them online or use e-vite. Have your child help - you can use paint, crayons, chalk, sponges or any simple craft materials to create a simple, personal invitation in a few minutes. I made this very basic card out of stamps and cardstock that I already had on hand at home. Nothing too flashy or complicated, and a set of ten took me about 45 minutes. So far the response I've had from the parents who have received them has been fantastic. People always appreciate that extra personal touch.

2. Make your own cake. I rarely attempt this myself, but I found a cake for Thing 1's Indiana Jones' themed party that appears to be fool-proof. I think that even I can make this. I found a design at a local bakery, but it was going to cost close to $50. No thanks.

3. Plan party activities that don't cost money. It was easy to find Indiana Jones inspired games and activities online when I googled it. I got some great ideas and plan to do an obstacle course and have the children search for hidden "treasure". Some of the tips I came across were very indepth and totally overboard, but it is easy to take any idea and simplify it.

4. Keep food inexpensive. When asked what his choice was for lunch, Thing 1 insisted he wanted to order pizza from his very favourite pizza shop around the corner. If it were my other son, I'd make the pizza myself and he'd be happy, but since this tends to be the only pizza that Thing 1 enjoys, we will splurge on the pizza. A couple of pizzas are not going to run us into the poor house, and I assume all the children will be happy.

5. Don't go crazy on the loot bags. I'm dumbfounded by how much crap parents are sending home with kids in their birthday party lootbags. Remember when you were a kid and you got a pencil, a balloon and a stick of gum and you were elated? Not anymore, people. Loot bags are big business. And since I am anti-crap, I took the $5.00 per kid I would have spent on junk and bought each child a Lego fireman or policman, as pictured in the picture below. (They don't sell the Lego Indiana Jones characters separately, or I'd have been all over that like Raiders of the Lost Ark.)

My Things are obssessed with little "guys" and carry them around with them everywhere and play with them non-stop. I've noticed a few of their friends share this obssession, and I assume each little boy will be pretty excited to go home with a new little city employee of his own. And I can't take credit for this fabulous idea, my friend Julia did this at her son's party last fall, only she sent them home with Playmobil knights. Thing 1 and Thing 2 played with their knights for three months solid, every single day. And they still bring them out at least twice a week.

I didn't mention decorations, because we plan on just keeping it simple. A few balloons and a Happy Birthday sign that I already have will be perfect for a bunch of four and five year old boys.

So it appears we will celebrate Thing 1's birthday this Saturday, completely within our budget and with stress levels in check.

Stay tuned for results of the my temple making debut . . .


McMommy said...

This is so FABULOUS and exactly how a child's birthday is MEANT to be celebrated! The memories you are creating for him...having him help with the invites, the cool homemade cake, etc. are all things he will always remember forever! Great job, Shannon!

Wendy said...

Guessing it will be one of your best birthday parties.

My sister's best birthday party tip is Advil beforehand and Gin afterwards. Works for me.


Anonymous said...

I can't believe how simple that cake is to make!
LoL I think I'm going to do something like that for my son's birthday but instead of the Indiana Jones theme I'll turn it into a construction theme.. (he loves trucks).
MUCH easier than the Thomas the Train cake from last year.
I love him, and I'm proud of myself for doing it but it took ALL DAY. Literally.

Apparently I'm just brainstorming away in your comments.. so.. ya..

This is a fabulous post! Thanks for sharing!!

Donna M said...

Hope the birthday party is a huge success! Love to the birthday boy from the grandparents in Florida!

Jen said...

I love this post!! What great ideas!! I feel the exact same way about kids' birthday parties. Simple is always better!

Unknown said...

Good for you! I am SO over the extravagant parties myself. Ben's 5th is coming up on April 2nd too and he wants a "mouse" party and he doesn't mean Mickey. We're doin' a bounce house and a cake that looks like cheese and that's about it!

Enjoy it! : )

Amanda said...

Good for you! I'm planning L's birhtday party on Saturday. I just finished filling the "loot bags" and thinking how lame and piddly they looked compared to others we have gotten. Oh well! That's what they're getting!

I LOVE the cake! I can't wait to see yours. That should be really fun to make, actually. I mean, how can you mess it up? Great choice Shans!

Oh, and I'm so glad to hear Miss Leah is feeling better. Poor baby.

Anonymous said...

I echo McMommy's sentiments to the T. I'm sure this is going to be a birthday he won't forget! What you've got planned sounds brilliant!

P.S. have been keeping you guys in my thoughts and prayers. I haven't been able to pop out here a lot lately but wanted you to know just the same!

Mom24 said...

Very, very smart Mommy. I'll need to revisit this in July.

Loukia said...

Love the invites you made, you're so very crafty! :)Pizza a kid's birthday party - what could be better then that, I ask?! And the lego to give away for the loot bag is brilliant, and I think I might steal that idea when my son turns 4this year. Last year we just rented tables and little chairs (you know, the little Ikea ones) and had a big backyard BBQ. I always get my cake from this cake guy I know because his prices are great and I suck in the kitchen! Have a great birthday!

amanda said...

yay for you - i am sure the party will be a big hit :)

love the invites!!

tiarastantrums said...

great ideas!! Hope the party is fun!

Kristen said...

Sounds perfect to me! I too am revolting against the loot bags and doing a special chocolate treat from our local chocolate store. This way they eat it and it is gone!

Great ideas Shannon!!

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a perfect party to me!

And can I say that your Son and Mine could be twins. There is so much Indiana Jones around here that I often Wonder if Harrison Ford ever thought that five year olds would think of him as a hero of sorts.

Since J was young I try to do the loot bags with a toy to play with. This past year was his first big party and we did simple carnival games where each kid won a prize (dollar store bulk prizes. like 10 bouncy balls for a dollar) and the kids were able to fill up their loot bag with prizes they won. And of course I topped it up with candy and gum :).

Anonymous said...

This is going to be an outstanding party, and done in a fashion that does not go over-the-top crazy, such a good idea! It always struck us those parties weren't about doing something for the kids in many respects, it was about one-upping the neighbors, co-workers, etc.

The cake looks very cool, and we're betting it is a blast for all involved.

Good for you Miss Shannon!

Anti-Supermom said...

Shannon, you are doing a great job. (I'll email you back soon BTW). I love doing things like this on the 'cheap' because they really don't care. Henry and Wyatt don't know any better. They have such pure heart, pure happiness that they don't expect that stuff.

They know that we love them, more that any birthday party could ever show. (And you know how I feel about those gift bags...)

Thanks for sharing your ideas.

Cynthia said...

Yep, bake your own cake. If I can do it, anyone can. I can!

e.m. said...

I totally agree! My son is celebrating his birthday as well..and with five little ones we might as well set up another college fund just for the birhday parties...not. We are making the cake, pinata and games for his Star Wars, The Clone Wars party at the end of this month. My recipe will be tylenol(if needed) and margaritas during (why wait until after?)

Shan said...

Until very recently my husband and I owned a business that dealt with rentals for kids parties. Oh my word the things I have seen. Extravagant over the top parties that you had to see to believe. As for my girls, they have small low key parties at home. A few friends to run around the back yard with. I'm not doing loot bags this year, but sugar cookie "suckers". My older daughter this year is going to request canned goods (to donate to a local shelter) instead of birthday gifts and a cake made by me. We're definitely homegrown here.

Liz {Learning To Juggle} said...

Very nice!! I am planning my Littlest Guy's first birthday this weekend and taking a similar approach. I found a hall free of charge (too many people, too small a home), we are making the cakes, and having it from 2 - 5 to avoid having to do big meals or a lot of food. The only "big" decorations are the goodie bags that I made. (can you tell I'm excited) Good luck with the cake!!

Jenn said...

Great ideas. Your blog is fantastic. Great colors and lots of wonderful posts.

Thanks a bunch,

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