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Tapping Into Your Savings for a Kid's Birthday Party: Wrong or Right?

We’re having a party for Anders’ fifth birthday this weekend and for the first time ever I am scrambling to pull it together at the last minute. I’m almost done with the planning. I just need to order a cake, purchase decorations, and settle on a location. Okay, so I have nothing done other than sending a quick email to our family letting them know to block off a couple of hours on Sunday.

In the past we have kept these parties small. We host them in our home and invite only immediate family. The total number of children in attendance has never exceeded five. This year Anders has declared that he wants to have a bigger celebration. He would like to have his party at one of those chains with a room filled with inflatable bounce houses and slides and a man dressed in a monkey suit walking around terrifying and delighting children all at once.

At first, this sounded like a great idea to me. Anders gets to have his birthday wish and I don’t have to stay up all night on Saturday scrubbing the dog hair from our baseboards to ready our house for the critical eyes of the women in my family. (When it comes to home-making, I am the black sheep.) Then I called to make a reservation.

I was so relieved to hear that they still had rooms available for birthday parties on such short notice that I misunderstood the girl on the phone when she read me my total. Only, when she repeated the number, it remained the same. To simply rent a room for two hours where we must provide our own cake, plates and silverware was several hundred dollars.

I canceled the reservation and spent the better part of an afternoon feeling guilty about it. Could we afford it? Technically, but isn’t spending hundreds of dollars on a five-year-old’s birthday party a little out of hand?

I think so, but then I do a mental tally of how many birthday parties we have attended in that same location and I begin to doubt myself. As a compromise, we’ve decided to have cake and ice cream at our house and then drive over to this place. Paying for admission for my son and his three cousins is a fraction of the cost of hosting the party there and in the end the practical side of me won out.

How does your family celebrate children’s birthdays? Do you go all out or stick to a small celebration at home?

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