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4th Birthday Extravaganza!!!

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This weekend we celebrated the girls’ 4th birthday! This was the first “real” birthday party we’ve ever had for them. In the past, we’ve only ever done small at-home things with our family. It’s been very small (as in, me, hubs, and the girls with a 4-pack of grocery store cupcakes; no decorations and minimal gifts). But this past year changed things. They started attending other kids’ birthdays at all these fancy places (gymnastics world, indoor trampoline place, etc.) and now that they totally “get” the concept of a birthday party, they really wanted one of their own.

We started off wanting to go low key – a simple backyard birthday party. But things kept getting bigger and bigger. As they do. It’s hard to keep things in check!

Things can be tricky with a twin birthday, too. The party is basically “shared”, but I wanted a couple little touches that made them feel special as an individual, too. So, for example, we got 2 cakes:  one for each girl. One was chocolate and one was vanilla, so it was kind of nice to have those different flavor options, too. We ended up ordering the cakes from a local bakery so it was a bit more costly than our typical go-to (a homemade cake or a Costco half sheet cake), but still under $80, tasted incredible, and with gorgeous decorations so not too bad.

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Because of the terrible Tucson heat, we knew we needed to incorporate WATER into the party. Our theme was actually an “Under the Sea” theme (side-note: it worked out really well that Finding Dory just came out in theaters because decorations were super easy to find in mainstream stores like Target and Walmart without having to order more $$$ Etsy options). I bought this inflatable pool from Amazon for $30 and it was a HUGE hit! It was much larger than you’d think and had 2 little water features (not pictured below because it was just being filled up at the time). Plus, it was still shallow enough that I wasn’t nervous about kiddos drowning.

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But probably the star of the party was our backyard inflatable. It ended up taking up WAY more space than we’d thought. So much so, that we ended up having to push the seating area (we borrowed some folding tables and chairs from a friend) to the side of the house. Kind of unconventional, but it was literally the only space! The kids freaked out (in a good way) over the bounce house! It also had water attached to it – it was designed to drip down the slide, so it became a water slide.  We did have one child slide down too fast and hit her nose, causing a nose bleed (no good party is immune to drama, right?), but it wasn’t bad and she recovered quickly.

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Overall, we (obviously) spent more than any other birthday, being that we’ve never done a party before. But it wasn’t too bad, either. I still did a lot of homemade things to try to cut costs where I could.

I made a “seashell” pasta salad and a homemade fruit salad instead of buying a more costly fruit tray; I purchased a 5′ party sub for party guests, but I also home-made a ton of PB&J sandwiches for the kids that I used a cookie-cutter to cut into fish shapes (the homemade sign said “peanut butter and jellyfish sandwiches”).

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In that empty space I put out little jello cups I’d made for the kids. It was super cute – blue jello, one gummy Swedish fish (sunk in the “water”), and a gummy lifesaver ring (on top of the “water”). I can’t steal the credit – it was a Pinterest idea.

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I also stole a few other ideas from Pinterest for super cheap homemade decorations made from crepe paper and blue scrapbook paper.

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I haven’t calculated final costs of everything, but there were really only two “big” costs:

  • Bounce house rental, $150
  • Cakes, $75

Everything else was pretty inexpensive (at least on a per-item cost basis). However, we sure did have water running for a solid 2 hours, so it will be interesting to get our next water bill.

Once I reconcile the budget I’ll update on overall costs (in my next budget update post). I’d guesstimate that everything together was in the $600ish range, but I know those last minute grocery trips all add up, so we’ll see.

What do you usually do for kids’ birthday parties? How do you keep costs down for kids’ parties?


Birthday Update – Hope

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Boy, it seems like kids’ birthdays are a hot topic around here. I think at least 3 of us have written about them. If you will remember, I asked for some frugal birthday ideas back in April and then I subsequently decided to cancel birthday parties this year due to budget and stress. I have not regretted that decision AND my two little ones took the news surprisingly well!

So what did we do…

Princess turned 10 in May, and it was the day of her choir concert, so other than lunch out it was a pretty low key. She did get a new dress and her first “high heels” as surprise and a few little things.

Princess in her new dress and "high heels"

Princess in her new dress and “high heels”

I was so glad that right after her choir concert she chose to take off here “heels” because they were hurting her feet. I knew she was old enough to make the decision to get them and had prayed she was wise enough to let the experience teach her. Sometimes us parents just need to get out of their way!

Little Gymnast turned 9 recently. He is such a car freak that I knew the best thing I could do for him was car centered…so I borrowed a really cool car! We had the car for the day and he was so surprised and thrilled. (I’ve got a video of him walking up to the car and then another bonus, I’m going to post them on my personal site. I’ll link here in case you want to see them, they will crack you up.)

Gymnast and History Buff in our car for the day!

Gymnast and History Buff in our car for the day!

Of course, he thinks he's going to drive.

Of course, he thinks he’s going to drive.

Their birthdays were really economical but very memorable as well and while they have both said “Mom, can we please have a party next year?” I am patting myself on the back for a job well done both stress, budget and experience wise!


Birthday Expenses

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Saturday was my little man’s birthday party.  And let me tell you, these things wear me out!  Cleaning the whole entire house, cooking all the food, decorating the house according to the party’s theme.  All of this does such a toll.  Almost four days non stop if you count in Easter.

But all in all, it was a huge success!  Probably the most people we had in our house at any given time.  To top it all off, it was such a beautiful day.  I had an idea that I would be grilling in the rain or something.  Which turned out to be a faulty gut feeling, what a relief.

Everyone knows that birthday parties can be such a financial burden but I am happy with what we paid for everything.  Here is a breakdown of all the costs…

$23.96 – All the decorations (Paid back in March)

$49.82 – Gift Basket (Got all from Oriental Trading, which helped save lots of money for 16 kids)

$95.39 – Our Son’s Gift (Had on Layaway since January, so also didn’t spend much this month)

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$169.27 – Total Spent

Now this amount would have added to an even bigger amount, since as you can see that no where in here did I give a price on food and cake.  I got all of my food for free.  For the last two weeks I have been waking up at 2:30 in the morning, to help my best friend do a newspaper route of his.  His truck broke down and the vehicle was deemed totaled.  He paid me about $125 for gas, which was all I asked him to do.  Well he took it upon himself to demand I give him a way he could help me out.  He knows that I did this because I love him, and wasn’t expecting anything in return.  

He kept bugging me and bugging me on how he could repay me back.  I know he doesn’t have much money and I really didn’t have anything in mind, when all of a sudden a thought got put in my head.  He owns a restaurant, so I told him that he could get all the food for my son’s birthday party.  I needed 10 lbs of hamburger meat, 8 lb Pork Butt, Hot Dogs, Buns, and Potato Salad.  This was about $70-$90 dollars of value.  It wouldn’t cost him any extra out of pocket, since all these he had at the restaurant.  So we were both satisfied.  Back in the day I used to do wedding cakes and I was pretty good at it.  Even though I hate baking, I made my son’s cake, so it cost a total of about $6 for the products I used, but I had everything on hand, so no out of pocket.  


Jim’s Weekly Update 4/19

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First I wanted to apologize to everyone for this weeks worth of posts from me.  I am so used to writing those kinds of posts on all of my blogs that it seemed right.  One thing I am not used to is writing about myself personally.  I did tidbits here and there, but nothing on a regular basis.  Hopefully you will accept my apologies and we will go from there.

Today is my son’s actual birthday party.  What we do is on their actual birthday, we have the grandparents come over and we just have cake and ice cream.  Then a few weeks later we have a birthday party for the child, on a weekend that we have both.  We are going to be changing this up starting next year though, and on their actual birthday, it will just be the four of us doing something special.  For both of my son’s birthday parties, my in-laws decided that camping was more important then their grandson’s birthday party.  Last year was forgivable, because they had the trip planned for a few months.  This year however they decided on either Monday or Tuesday that they were going.  This totally gets me rattled up.  Besides knowing the fact it was also Easter and on Monday my mother-in-law was supposed to take my wife to a doctor’s appointment.  I had to switch around my schedule to be able to take my wife now, which isn’t that much of a problem.  But when we went there two weeks ago, the doctor’s kicked both my son and I out of the office, because my son was being “too loud.”

Ok sorry rant over, I will be posting an update on my son’s birthday party on Tuesday.  I have some juicy frugal details, plus some not so frugal moments, that deserve a whole post to itself.

As everyone knows Sunday is Easter, and I am a little sad this holiday.  We didn’t get my children anything, besides a few pieces of candy.  This is a first for us.  Here is what their baskets looked like last year.

Easter 2013

I feel bad about this, but know that they really don’t need anything this year, and it seems that they both are becoming a little ungrateful.  The daughter, she is always like is this it?  Then she doesn’t even play with anything.  The son will play with everything he gets which is a good thing, and he is too young to really understand gratefulness.  But what makes me really sad, is that we didn’t get them new easter outfits and they didn’t sit a get their pictures taken with the easter bunny.  We have a picture of every season with either Santa or the Easter Bunny.  But the wife and I made the decision that no pictures till the family picture in November.

A few people asked how the Amazon business is going, I am happy to say that I am in the black.  I sold six of my multipacks for a gross profit of almost $99.  Now it did cost me $85 to buy the product and ship it off to three different Amazon Fulfillment Centers.  So I technically only netted about $14 so far.  But there is still tons of product at Amazon and it is nothing but profit from here on out.  This tells me this is a viable option to make money, so I might throw more business income at this and see where it goes.

Some other people don’t feel like I am that committed to getting out of debt enough.  Haters are going to hate, and I am used to that.  Every time I posted something about my debt this happened, and well I am not going to let it get me down.  I will do my budget the way I want to and what works for me.  I am always open for discussion on everything, but to tell someone they are doing it wrong and become a little nasty about it, well is there a right or wrong way to get out of debt?  In my mind there isn’t.  Yes, I am not looking to picking up a full time job, for I rather spend time with my family.  Yes, I am not going to tell my wife she has to quit smoking, for that is up to her to make.  But is it the wrong way to get out of debt?  Not at all, it might take longer, but I will still make headway.

With that said, I have taken on somethings.  I actually applied to two long term contracts, that will contract me out for two days for about a month and a half.  One would start in two weeks and contract me out Friday and Saturday.  Then the other would start right after that and contract me out for a Saturday and Sunday.  I don’t see a reason for me not to get these positions, for I contracted myself with this company a few times in the past.  But what I am really excited about is that a big time internet marketer posted that he is looking to hire some people under him for about 12-20 hours a weeks.  The pay is average for this kind of entry level position, but to be honest I would have done this for free, to be able to study under him.

I also realize that I have a S#!t ton of stuff again, so I will probably be hosting another yard sale again.  Someone here asked me to give a link to one of my current blogs, as I don’t feel comfortable doing this, I want to point everyone to a blog that I no longer do, but had somethings that deal with what I currently do to save money, and sometimes even make money.  I will be linking to the kind of money I made in 2012 from a yard sale.  Maybe read it and come back here and comment if you have some tips.

Well I think that is about it.


Party Spending

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My son’s birthday party was a huge success!  Not only did the boys have an absolute blast but my budget had a blast too!  I spent a total of $122.  That’s $3 under budget and I’m pretty darn proud. 

How did I do it?  I carefully planned food and ended up with very little leftover.  That’s progress for this Mom as I always way over-estimated in years past.  I made his birthday cake.  I shopped the Dollar Store for the very limited party decorations and plastic cups with lids to avoid spills in the gaming area.  With the help of a gaming friend, I rented an extra copy of a video game that we needed for the tournament for free during the 30-day trial period of an online game rental service.  As I already shared, I borrowed everything else for the game stuff.  And then I just relaxed and let the boys have their fun and oh did they!  I don’t think they went to sleep until 5 am and every single kid told me they had the best time. 

This morning I caught a blog post hating on dollar stores.  The writer was comparing the cost of items found at dollar stores to buying things in bulk at Costco or Sam’s.  The comments were not supportive and I have to agree with most of them.  I believe the dollar store is GREAT for party stuff that you know you only need once or maybe twice.  You shouldn’t be going in a dollar store seeking high quality products anyway.  And, another valid point is there are many, many people who don’t have the money to buy in bulk and in fact barely have the money to shop at the dollar store.   Anyway, it was a timely post given my excitement about finding the spillproof drinking cups and decorations. 

So, here’s to my success with a budget friendly birthday party!  Let’s see what I come up with to save on DD’s birthday in June!