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Monday, January 10, 2011

"Happy Frugal Birthday to You"

Flower Power Birthday Party
Last week, I discussed with my daughter the idea of reducing spending on my granddaughter's party this year. We were talking about all the ways she has cut spending, plus ways she can further reduce spending. She is facing financial problems. Well, still having financial problems is more like it. But, she is learning what is essential and what is not. Since her daughter may have broken the growth plate in her knee/leg, she was not really into discussing a May party. Plus, she is still worried about her own severe nosebleed and the things she cannot do now because the same thing might occur.

Last year, she invited 20 or so children. Parents and siblings came, also, and stayed. My daughter felt compelled to feed the whole crew pizza and spend an outrageous (for her) amount of money. Usually it is in her small apt, but last year she hoped for no rain and had it in the park with all the attendees not traipsing into her apartment.

She did not mind their being there except she would have felt compelled to clean

My Ideas--all eco-friendly and cheap!

Last year? She bought matching paper tablecloth, napkins, cups, loot bags, and a centerpiece. She bought cake, ice cream, candles, gifts for her daughter, pizzas for 30 people, and spent much of her valuable time. This year, the party should be simpler and less costly. With little to buy and less going to a landfill, the party can still be pretty and happy for the birthday girl.

Guests? My daughter quit giving large parties for her older son at about this age. She thinks this is the year that her daughter will not have a huge party. Good!

Tablecloth and napkins? I am willing to buy fabric if I cannot find anything in my stash or elsewhere and make a cloth tablecloth to reuse for her party each year. I might be induced to make reusable napkins!

Decorations? In my dumpster diving past, some days I just looked in a dumpster and found a treasure trove. Balloons for helium were in a neat, clean box behind the store, just waiting to be picked up by me. She can make a balloon flower like the one at the top of this page. This is on a Martha Stewart site, but the balloon flower I originally saw on the Internet had the balloon in the middle just a bit smaller. And, the center balloon will only be on one side of the flower since it will probably be hung on the wall. I think I have paper streamers, too.

Paper plates and cups? What to eat from other than paper? How about free paper that will not be reordered? While working online surveys about six years ago, I was given heavy, decorated paper plates to try that have pink and lavender flowers. Naturally, I did not use them all. After all, there is only one of me. So, I have offered to send them to her. Okay, it will be paper again! Yes, I will have to mail them, but I will mail gifts. The box can be planned so that the plates will fit! I even found the cups to match at a clearance place that is full of broken boxes of merchandise. I can stick them in a flat rate box with presents.

Candles? I have some clearance birthday candles!

Food? How about cake or cupcake and ice cream? She can go retro! (No serving a meal of pizzas.) Since there is always abundant food at children's parties in NYC, she can make it clear to the guests (maybe one or two) that she is only having cake and ice cream. I do get coupons for free food items, so I can always supply coupons to cut down on costs on cake mix or frosting. She works, so she does not have time to mix cakes from scratch anymore. She can use one of my Coke coupons from to supply something to drink. Now, I just need plenty of Coke codes. I find cake mixes and frosting for free with sales and coupons. Ooooh, I have some cherry Kool Aid, not my first choice for a drink, but it will be free. Oh, my, I just remembered I have a stash of cupcake papers. My mother gave them to me prior to 1980.

Loot bags? Whhhhhyyyy? If I have to bribe you to come to my party and stay, why bother? I probably have enough things for favors for her and her little neighbor IF it is really necessary.

Invitations--no need.

I think we can make a $200 party cost less than $10.

Gifts? Since I stock up on sale or thrift clothing in the fall for $1-$3 for spring, in March she gets most of what I have bought for her. Each year, I hold  back one outfit to send to be wrapped for her birthday. I can hold back one for daughter to wrap from her. I am sure my daughter will want to buy other gifts, but she can claim one of my outfits.

Now, daughter has said "no big party," so let's see how my alternate, green, money-saving plans work for her. "No big party" was not my idea! Okay, I just don't want you to think I was pressuring her. Okay, so I was nudging a little after she said, "No big party." What else is a mother to do but nudge when the daughter leans a bit?

I know it is a little too early to plan for a May birthday, but the sooner we start, the more frugal we can be. Besides, she is in NYC and I am in Alabama. Coordination is the key.

My daughter is too busy to engage in any crafts for decorating and is too tired to make crafts at the party, even for two children. I was thinking her 16-year-old son could make the flower or at least blow up the balloons.

Not green and frugal?
Considering I have most of the items, yes it is frugal. I rescued those balloons from a trip to the landfill. I will be buying new fabric only if I cannot find thrift fabric. Not using the paper products given to me--cupcake papers and paper plates--is my way of saving them for an occasion that really warrants paper products. This occasion warrants using my pretty paper plates.

Your turn
Have you cut back on children's parties in any way? Fewer guests? Less lavish food? No loot bags? How green and frugal have you been? Oh, I might even use some of the ideas you send my way.


  1. I think birthday parties have gotten way out of hand as well. She'll stress a lot less if she simplifies things.
    A former co-worker had the best party ever for his son, Will. He invited a bunch of kids over to their property (several acres, I believe, and much of it wooded), handed each a Super Soaker and said, "Go play." The kids ran around screaming and shooting one another, played commando in the woods (refill buckets were placed here and there) and just generally whooped it up. Then Dad would cook hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill and the famished, dripping kids would fall on the food like wolves.
    And they talked about that party all year long.
    Here's a goody-bag alternative that just came to me: Collect free-after-rebate, clearance-table and yard-sale items such as Pez dispensers, scrunchies and little toys. Wrap newspaper around them. Put them in a big grocery bag. Let each kid reach in and pull out ONE item. (The newspaper keeps them from "feeling" what they've got.)
    You might have them draw numbers from a hat to see in which order they get to pick, and allow trading afterwards lest the girl with the pixie cut wind up with unusable scrunchies.
    Another good source for goody-bag items: The clearance bins at Staples et al. I've found items for a quarter or 50 cents that kids might like, such as mini-staplers.
    And if you put out cupcakes, how about setting out sprinkles, M&Ms, chopped nuts (unless there are allergies), coconut and other items and letting the kids decorate their own plus one to take home with them?

  2. Before she had parties at her home, she held them at party places that were so expensive. Then, at her home, and last year in the park. She is exhausted with health and money problems. AND, she works a full and part time job just to survive.

    Those are all good ideas! I like the decorating the cupcake idea.

    When my son had overnight parties for his birthday, my whole point was to exhaust the boys. I forced his father to take them to the nearby track around the football field. His orders were to hold races, lots of racing, continually racing them. Then, they ate like they had never seen food, and were relatively calm during the evening. They had orders to go to sleep when we did...LOLOL. I knew they would stay up and be very quiet so I could sleep. They did stay up but were quiet and eventually fell asleep.

    If I just stop by yard sales that start early, I can probably find all these items in great shape and dirt cheap. Since I am known to haunt clearance bins, I can stop there and score goodies. Right now, UNO cards are $1. Since I suggested she just invite the one little girl she plays with and her mother, maybe I will not have to shop for much. I have a ton of dressup things to send. Maybe they can play with those. Oh, I have a whole card of scrunchies on the counter, bought new for 25 cents on clearance. I probably have a gillion things around here to use that I just have not given Kayla.

    Thanks! Linda

  3. pls forgive a side comment: Missed what caused your daughter the nosebleed, but when we first married, my hubby had nosebleeds all the time. Researched and found vitamin C would prevent them. Bought a couple of bottles of Vitamin C which he took and when those ran out he just eats fresh fruit daily. He's had NO problem with nosebleeds since upping his vitamin C intake.

  4. She blew her nose after sinus problem. Now, she cannot smoke, drink, bend, do anything strenuous, eat or drink anything hot. I will convey your message. I suffered the same thing in grad school from eating an aspirin each hour for horrid sore throat and ended up in the ER. My daughter works for doctors and had an IV inserted and they took her in the record snow to ENT...her and four or five people going along the sidewalk with IV and a doctor pinching her nose. I cannot have vitamin E, anything anti-inflammatory. But, now She and I both will be having our Vit E in bottle plus fruit. I do eat citrus fruit every day. Thanks for the info.

    1. Vitamin C is what I meant! I cannot take Vitamin E because it would cause bleeding.


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