Why An Un-Frugal First Birthday Was Just What We Needed

Let’s cut to the chase: we spent more than we needed to on our daughter’s first birthday. Way more.

But the other truth is that we spent exactly as much as we wanted.

Let me explain.

For years, I’ve focused on living frugally. (I even won an award for it back in the day!) Frugality matters to me, and it’s not something I ever intend to completely or fully stray from.

But since we’ve hit our biggest financial goal at least for the time being, we realized that maybe we can and should start to examine not just how we spend money, but how we think about it. Our daughter’s first birthday ended up being a perfect test of that.

What We Spent

This is a money blog, so I have to spill the numbers. And I will!

But before I dish on that, you should know that the money we spent came from my stipend for the extracurricular work that I do during the school year. We didn’t actually have to pull this from our monthly budget, a savings account, or a sinking fund (though that stipend basically serves as one). There were no budget goals harmed in the process of making this party.

Drumroll please.

All of the expenses clocked in at just over $1000. I know. Let me help you pick up your jaw a little bit by stating the obvious. We could have shaved a zero off that and had a lovely party.

But we didn’t want to.

What We Wanted

Some backstory: Our family has taken COVID incredibly seriously. Until very recently neither of our kids were able to be vaccinated. Our oldest already struggles with repeated respiratory infections and lingering complications. Our youngest had terrible bouts of croup and RSV. Watching both of them struggle with run-of-the-mill bugs meant that we weren’t willing to take chances with a novel one.

So that meant that there were people who love our daughter a lot…who never really got to spend much time with her at all. When I gave birth to her, I was lucky that my husband was even able to come to the hospital (he couldn’t come to any of her appointments with me, even the high risk ones). There was no line of visitors waiting to stop by the hospital or our house. It was so different than when we brought my son home.

To put it mildly, this party was making up for lost time. Not just for my daughter, but for my family and friends. In fact, I’ve been dreaming about this for a long time!

That meant that I wanted to throw a big party–and I wanted to do it as cautiously and comfortably as possible. I rented a 20 x 20 tent for our backyard and tables and seating for 40. I also rented a bounce house, though I’m no stranger to that expense. We wanted to keep our guests outdoors as much as possible, and that meant planning for the possibility of rain (it poured as soon as we set up all the catering!) and heat (the tent provided a ton of shade but it was a delightfully mild day anyway).

So we spent $1000, but we had over 40 people coming and going for the better part of a day and night.

How We Let Our Values Show

In addition to prioritizing the health and comfort of our guests, we tried to spend our money in ways that align with our values.

We Shopped Small

Remember when this was supposed to be A Thing? Me too! Shopping small, though, wasn’t just a passing trend for our family. It’s something that really matters to us. We support local small businesses as much as possible. That meant ordering from Etsy over Amazon and choosing an at-home bakery versus plastic trinkets for party favors.

We also catered several different meal options using several local businesses. None of it was fancy. All of it was delicious.

Pay People Their Worth

While I will always love a good bargain, I know that there’s a real cost to savings. While we didn’t go overboard with the decor, we did end up ordering a few balloon bouquets from a chain party shop (this still felt better than Amazon). They delivered our balloons in two separate cars, and we tipped each driver $5. The second driver told me she almost never gets tips.

We also hired a local woman to make watermelon-shaped cookies to give as party favors. She actually reached out to me in a local Facebook group and said she was trying to get going with a side hustle. I knew I had to support her! I asked her what she charges, and if she wanted me to order per cookie or by the dozen. Since she really was just getting started, she underpriced herself by at least $0.50 a cookie (I knew it, she didn’t).

When she dropped off the four dozen cookies I ordered, I paid her the going cookie rate and added a tip. She messaged me a really enthusiastic thanks later that night…and more importantly, she shared with me that she’s charging the higher amount that I suggested and booking clients out for the next few months based on my online referral!

Skip What Doesn’t Matter

Almost all of our party budget went to the rentals. Think $600 plus (and a generous tip of course!). And we also served alcohol. We could have cut out a lot of this, but then we wouldn’t have had the kind of party we wanted for our guests.

Instead, we skipped things that didn’t matter to us. Squish’s outfit was a clearance find from a local resale shop. We did some balloons to stick with the One In a Melon party theme, but skipped almost all the other decor (and there is a TON available online!). And we didn’t worry about making things fancy with a signature drink or any of the other adorable (and expensive!) Pinterest first birthday party ideas.

Un-Frugal First Birthday Final Thoughts

We spent a lot of money on our daughter’s first birthday, especially considering it was a single event for just one day (though they let us keep the bounce house for three!). No amount of mental gymnastics makes this party a need. It was absolutely positively a want, and an expensive one at that.

It was also a powerful reminder that there’s no prize for spending the least, not when you don’t have to. No one gets a trophy outside the pearly gates for being the most frugal for sport. So if a moment matters to us and we have the money, it’s time to spend it.

So Tell Me…Have your thoughts about money evolved? Have you ever felt good about spending (a lot) on a want, not a need?


  1. Nothing to say, except I’m so happy to see a blog post coming from my favorite blogger! Happy birthdays Squish and HP! Summer is always going to be a fun time in the PUP household 🙂

  2. Hi Penny!!

    Awesome post! I am so happy that Squish had an amazing 1st birthday party. I enjoyed reading about how and where you splurged and I’m sure your guests (and HP) had an amazing time!

    We recently dropped a ton of money on a 2nd e-bike. Bikes are our main mode of transportation and we were going to be without our primary e-bike for a long time while it got repaired so we decided to buy a second bike. It makes me so happy every time I ride it!!

  3. I missed your writing! So happy your party was enjoyable, aligned with your values, and full of love. This is exactly how money should be used.

  4. Jane H

    This party was for your daughter’s birthday, that it for sure. However, it was a party for so many, for so many reasons! A true celebration of having made it through the past two years of a pandemic, of your other children’s recovery from the virus, and so worth it to share with your important others! Well done!

  5. Yay, HB!!!

    We’ve never had a real party, thinking about doing a small one this year (4th). Even low key it’ll still be a bit spendy (I am definitely team convenience over slaving in the kitchen) and that’s fine by me.

  6. I’m with you Penny, we did the same thing for our child 11 years ago, and I don’t regret it in the least! My wife and I both work and your child only turns (One) once! I’m really intrigued by those watermelon shaped cookies, i’ll be they were a bit hit!

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