I’ve been a bit busy lately. Instead of blogging, I’ve been spending a fair amount of time pricing out bounce house rentals for our son’s first birthday. I know. I KNOW.
My son can’t walk. He can’t even crawl properly. He looks more like a dog scratching its butt on carpet than a graceful cherub inching his way through a perfectly-choreographed Pampers commercial. Why in the world am I renting a bounce house? Because this first birthday isn’t just about my son, of course.
Now seems like as good of a time as any to tell you a little bit about my wedding. Not just the fact that I spent a grand hanging fabric from the ceiling of our venue or that I paid a $4 per person upcharge to get the linens I wanted (ain’t nobody got time to lint roll their pants after using white napkins). But the real money truth: we paid a boatload of money to make sure that our guests were wined, dined, and entertained to their hearts’ content. Top-shelf liquor at an open bar. Your choice of vegan, vegetarian, chicken, steak, sea bass, or an entree tailored to accommodate a specific food allergy. Song requests. Late night snacks. A venue with a private patio so guests could escape the commotion. Passed hors-d’oeuvres and a stationary fruit and cheese tray because there is nothing worse than feeling like the featured creature on a Shark Week show as you try to hunt down a white-gloved waiter (oh, that’s just me?). The list goes on.
I regret none of it. And not just because it didn’t push us too far past the minimum spend we had to fulfill in order to have the venue.
Some might interpret my shortage of regret as a lack of personal growth in the five years since we said our vows, but I would actually hold it up as one of my greatest character traits. For me, celebrations have been less about Pinterest-worthy pictures and more about using each event as an opportunity to love on our guests.
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Don’t get me wrong. It’s still possible to get carried away. In fact, carried away is practically my maternal family name. Someone is having a baby? Better rent a hall. Someone is having a bridal shower? Better rent a hall. Someone is having a first birthday, a third birthday, a ninetieth birthday? You guessed it. Rent a hall. Then, once you rent a hall, invite everyone you know.
Right now, your mind is probably trying to reconcile this post with the concept of stealth wealth. You’re struggling, right? I would argue that the cognitive dissonance comes not from the amount of money I’m spending, but the fact that the wrong criteria are being applied. Not everything that is purchased should be evaluated solely in terms of dollars and cents. Renting out a big hall isn’t about showing off an ice sculpture or a dessert table; it’s about buying time and space to gather together as many friends and family in one place as possible.
Before you think I’ve lost my frugal mind, let me stop you. There will be no hall rental. We bucked that tradition at his baptism and plan to do the same this summer. But I am not out-frugaling the Frugalwoods or any other money blogger when it comes to this first birthday.
We’ll have snacks and then we’ll have a meal, likely involving a combination of grilling and catering. We will also serve refreshments, including alcohol. And no party is complete without cake. Italians show their love with saturated fat. I promise it’s not a stereotype so much as a Truth with a capital T that has been coded into my DNA.
All of these things can be done affordably. I will shop at Aldi, use coupons, consult Ibotta for rebates, buy Dollar Tree decor, and skip aspects of the party that don’t mean much to anyone other than the fine folks at Pinterest. We might even churn a credit card or two to scoop up cash back deals or points.
Despite these tactics, I know this party will come with a hefty price tag. The real expense is the fact that our guest list is long. Instead of agonizing over this cost, I’m savoring it. Over the course of the past year, there have been more ups and downs keeping this baby happy and healthy than I ever would have guessed. I had heard the well-worn cliche an eye-roll-including amount of times before becoming a mom, and now I can say with absolute certainty that the greatest truth in the world when it comes to child-rearing is this:
It takes a village.
This party is a chance to thank my village. One party could never make up for all of the love. It will be impossible to repay everyone who dropped by with meals and advice, gifted baby gear and clothes, some new and tons used. People offered help when I didn’t know I needed it and answered questions that I was embarrassed to think, let alone ask my doctor. Family and friends rushed over to share in our joy and stood back when we were too overwhelmed to shower, let alone have anyone drop by.
So yes, we’ll have a long guest list. We’ll have a bounce house, too. More than a dozen families with young kids will be invited to this party. Could I find a way to entertain them for less? Sure. But after spending an entire school year
maintaining order herding cats during unsupervised periods of time with young people, I can say with absolute certainty that my husband and I both consider this money well spent.
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Am I going to win any prizes in the personal finance world when it comes to this party? Probably not. Unless, of course, there’s an award for the money blogger who spent the most on a birthday party. But it doesn’t bother me a bit. When it comes to planning this party, I am going to do what I have always done when it comes to planning celebrations. I am prioritizing our spending based on what matters most to us. In this case, it’s thanking our guests.
So Tell Me…Care to share any first birthday stories? What’s your strategy for event planning?