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RevUp loves birthdays! Here’s how to make your budget love them too.

Who doesn’t love birthdays?! Not us 🙌

Whether you go for broke (literally) with a whole month or prefer a blink-and-miss-it ‘celebration’ (don’t be this person), we’re here with an important PSA:

Birthdays. are. for. celebrating. 👏👏

And no matter your budget—or your age—you CAN celebrate too.

They only come around once a year, after all.

Count the candles, count the ways

We’ve broken down all our best party ideas for you by age, and yes, even yours is covered!

  1. The little kids: 0-3 years old (so cute)
  2. The not-so-little kids: 4-12 years old (they grow up so fast 🥹)
  3. The teen kids: 13-18 years old (okay they’re starting to get a lil scary now)
  4. The big kids: 19-100+ years old (more candles = more cake. Right? 🎂)

1. 0-3 years old

Let’s be real, these little tackers don’t totally know what’s going on here. They pick up on all the excitement and fuss (they’re just soo cute when they try to rip that delicious crunchy paper off!) but they certainly aren’t counting presents.

So, let’s focus more on that wholesome birthday magic that’s created by our family and friends, gift or gift-free:

  • Any theme decorations or Insta-perfect cake are only going to be for the benefit of the adults. So, we suggest you save your pennies and keep things simple. Balloons, a DIY cake, paper party hats… the 90s are back, have you noticed?
  • For the real littlies, the excitement is really in the wrapping paper, not what’s inside. Buy and wrap things you need to spend on anyway, like new clothes, shoes, teething toys, blankets, etc. Babies are expensive.

You’ll probably find some of the gifts they’re given are a bit too old for them right now. Pop them away to whip out at a later date. They’ll never know.

2. 4-12 years old

So, they’re starting to clue into the whole birthday hoo-ha a little more now.

Don’t fall into the trap of buying bigger and bigger gifts and spending more and more money each year, you don’t need too.

The excitement of a gift wears off pretty quick (like, as soon as it’s opened) but there’s a whole lot of other ways to create a birthday they’ll look forward to every year. At this age, it’s all about the fun.

  • Fill the house with balloons while they sleep—extra points if you can get them into their bedroom without waking them.
  • Place a tinsel door curtain over their door.
  • Place a party hat on their head while you make them whatever they want for breakfast. Salt and vinegar chip pancakes? Banana and vegemite waffles? Hey, it’s their choice.
  • Create a treasure hunt to help them find their gifts (more excitement out of less presents).
  • Let them choose a cake that you DIY for them (or another family member… SOS Nana). The crazier the request the better!
  • Like the littlies, there’s nothing wrong with using this time to buy them things they need too. New clothes, lunch boxes, socks and jocks, etc. More presents without necessarily spending more money.
  • When it comes to parties, the kids are more interested in the fun than the aesthetics. Keep your decorations and gift bag goodies to a minimum and focus on the good vibes. Pinatas, musical chairs, musical statues, egg and spoon races, three-legged races, duck duck goose, pass the parcel… wait this does sound really fun, can we come?

I also like to use birthdays as an opportunity to remind my kids about the value of their things, especially gifts. We go through everything they were given the previous year and if they’ve outgrown it or don’t play with it and it’s still in good condition, we’ll sell it on Marketplace. I find this is a great way to get them involved in the process and they can keep the profits which introduces the discussion on what they are going to do with these funds. (If you want to know more about how to talk to kids about money, read this.

3. 13-18 years old

Okay, things are starting to get really tricky to navigate now.

On the plus side, our kids have usually formed a smaller group of close friends by now, so you don’t need to throw a party for the entire class.

But on the other side, the things they want tend to get exxier. iPhones, iPads, surfboards, curling irons, make-up, Harry Styles tickets… ooof, we’re sweating just thinking about it. 😮‍💨

But the other plus? Our kids are old enough to handle a conversation about it.

  • If you know a big-ticket item is on their wish list, sit down and talk about it. If you can’t or don’t want to make it happen yourselves, suggest buying it together. If they’re old enough to work, perhaps you’ll meet them halfway if they save $X for it? If they can’t work, perhaps they can set aside some of their allowance for it, or empty their piggy bank? For more kid-friendly conversation starters, read this.

If they want to do an exxy activity like laser tag with their friends instead of having a party, it doesn’t mean you need to fork out for every kid in their class. Set a friend limit that aligns with your budget and ask them to invite that many.  

4. 19-100+ years old

These kids are our favourite. 😉

As we get older, birthdays become less and less about presents and more and more about the people we celebrate them with.

And the best bit? Quality time is free! Here’s our pick of the best ways to find it:

  • Host a birthday picnic. Everyone brings a plate and whatever they want to drink while you while away an afternoon in each other’s company. Gold. (Just like the sunset you’ll catch if you lounge around long enough).
  • Something of a foodie? Focus on the food then. In lieu of presents, ask everyone to meet at a restaurant you or the birthdayee in question have been wanting to try, and book a delicious night out.
  • Host a games night at home. Scrabble, Pictionary, Charades, Twister if you’re brave… you’ll be laughing until the sun comes up.
  • Indulge your inner child on Pinterest. All those party favours we loved so much as a kid? Bring them back! DIY party hats, cakes, cupcakes, glitter-engraved glasses, you name it.
  • Truthfully, big kids don’t care about Insta-aesthetics either. You won’t remember the perfectly curated decorations you spent a bomb on, but you will remember who was with you. Forget the grid and better yet, put your phones in a drawer and capture the night with Polaroids. Now that’s quality time.

Bonnie’s wrap

NEVER think you can’t celebrate a birthday—yours or another’s—because of your budget.

We’d argue that a birthday on a budget is actually better. Yes, really.

Because on our favourite day of the year, we all just want to feel a little extra special.

When you focus on that feeling and all the little ways you can give it to someone, we think you’ll find a balloon, cupcake, nice word or two in a card, or just an extra big hug make us feel 100x more special than a handbag or watch could ever.

No matter how old we are.

Related to: Happy Habits
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