The holiday season might be over, but for parents there’s no respite from the party season — kids’ birthday party season, that is. The gatherings are a milestone for kids and a delicate dance for adults, who must navigate sugar highs, gifting etiquette and probably most sensitive of all, the party budget.
Eunice Sibiya, head of Consumer Education at FNB says, “Experts agree that the costs of raising a child in South Africa are on the rise. Much of the kiddie inflation has to do with the increasing price of child care and housing. But there’s also the fact that there has been in increase among the middle class, and in the expectations of what good parents are expected to do—not to mention provide—for their children.
And then there are birthday parties.
“Once upon a time, back in our childhoods, your mom would bake your birthday cake and your friends would gather at your house. There would be a few balloons, sweets and maybe a few games. And that would be all that was expected from the average parent hosting a child’s birthday party. If a mom wanted to go all out, she skipped the cake, and splurged on a pre-made one from the local bakery instead,” says Sibiya.
Nowadays, it appears as though things get tricky after baby turns one. The first party is about the parents. Aunts, uncles and extended families are usually the party attendees, but as soon as your little one can socialise with other little ones, the list of invites appear to grow, and so does the budget.
“Before you decide on the theme, location and other party details, figure out a realistic budget. Remember that the birthday party is going to last for a few short hours, but the repercussions of spending more money than you can afford could last far longer. Once you have a handle on how much your family can stomach financially, then you can start brainstorming ideas for a fun-filled, creative party that your child will remember for years to come,” says Sibiya.
Research and shop around for theme ideas before deciding on a theme. It’s very difficult to find party paraphernalia for a “superhero Barbie butterfly” party vs. a princesses or fairies themed party. If you shop around first, you might come across sales and specials that you can take advantage of.
Most parents don’t want children to be left out and other parents to be offended, so if you feel you have to invite the whole class and not just close friends, then be financially prepared for it. And parents receiving invitations should try and instil in their child that it is not necessary to go to every party on every weekend. Why not choose two parties a month to attend. This way parents help other parents.
It is not necessary to hire a venue. If your house or garden is not big enough, then ask a family member if you can use their space. By doing this, you can avoid the venue hire charge that can sometimes be too exorbitant.
Cake and Food
The cake does not have to be store-bought. Ask grannies and aunts for their recipe books and bake a cake, or ask a family member who is a baking genius to help out. Catering for kids also does not have to be hard, as they are easy to please when there are other activities to keep them happy. A few snacks and sweets will suffice, and hot dogs as a main meal will go long way.
Entertainment costs can get out of hand if you’re going to have a jumping castle, face painter and a magician. Keep it simple. Instead of the expense of hiring an entertainer why not organise traditional party games? Or perhaps you know someone who can do face painting or simple magic tricks?
If you don't watch out party packs can really add to your budget. Either be brave and ditch them altogether or keep costs down with these simple tips. Have an activity at the party such as decorating a cupcake or biscuit and then give these as party gifts. Scour shops and sales throughout the year for little bits and pieces to pop in party bags.
“The reality is that you’re going to spend money when you celebrate your child’s birthday, but it is up to you on how much you spend. The most important thing is that your child’s birthday party is fun and memorable,” concludes Sibiya.