A combination of marketing, peer pressure and parents’ inclination to surrender to children’s wishes has turned children’s birthday parties into a big expense. I am as guilty as anyone else. My son at age four – and shortly after joining a daycare center – had his heart set on a particular venue for his next birthday party. Fortunately, it was a convenient and reasonably priced option.
Since then, I’ve found that birthday venues aren’t only hot discussion topics for children, but in fact many parents obviously are involved in some sort of a race for offering their child the “best” party. Whether it is their sincere desire to treat their child and friends to something special, or it is an attempt to impress other parents and show off, many children’s parties today go overboard. From high-end venues to elaborate, themed decorations and extended entertainment, the showoff can cost several hundreds – if not thousands – of dirhams.
Although there is no one may seem to be hurt by this kind of spending, constantly raising the bar may have a negative impact not only on your own finances, but also on shaping your child’s perception of spending priorities.
With that in mind, it is important to make sure that your decision of how much you spend on a child’s birthday is moderated with your own financial abilities and with an awareness that you don’t need to get into a race with other parents over providing the biggest, best or most expensive party.
Here are a view points to keep in mind when you’re selecting the venue and making decisions about other spending items related to the party.
Your venue selection determines many of the costs that will follow. For example, a party at Chuck E Cheese’s may be well below another at a large resort hotel. The first step on the slippery slop of overspending is to begin shopping for venues without having a budget in mind. With various options out there – many of them are pretty nice – you may inadvertently negotiate yourself into a higher cost option that is far from where you started.
Part of your venue-selection process also should include checking the cost of other related services like catering. Would the place allow you to bring snacks or would you be tied up to take their offering? Obviously, you will have more flexibility and ability to reduce the cost if you’re allowed to get snacks and drinks compared to being forced to pay a lump sum per child. The same goes for goodie or treat bags which you can easily make yourself often at a fraction of what you’d pay for them in many party venues.
Not to say that your child is unpopular, but if you don’t expect a large number — 10 children or so — to show up, perhaps it make more financial sense to avoid a large party setting. Most places offer different packages with certain numbers of invitations. So try to get people to RSVP as early as possible to make sure that you’re not overpaying for the party. This is particularly important if the party is falling during holidays, in the summer or at the end of the school year.
Taking a birthday package at any of the many venues may be the easiest option. But if you put some thinking into it, you may come up with creative ideas – that are fun for children and well within your budget. How about a birthday party in the park or on the beach -- whether permitting? You can bring snacks and arrange for games for children and adults. Homes still can offer a good option as long as you become creative in offering some activities and entertainment. Of course you will need to have the space and ability to ensure the children’s safety. Even the cake can turn into a parent-child fun time if you decide to bake it at home ahead of the party. The bottom line is: you don’t have to break the bank to make your child feel special.
Rania Oteify is a former Gulf News Business Features Editor.
- Fit the party within a set budget
- Consider a party at home or in the park