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Affording those all-important gifts and children’s birthday parties

Every household income has stresses and strain on it but, every now and then, something comes along that can place the household budget teetering precariously on the edge. It can be anything from repairing the car, to the buying if birthday presents, Christmas gifts or affording your daughter’s or son’s birthday party to end all birthday parties.

Reality check

However, it has to be said that a lot of this pressure and stress we place on ourselves as parents comes from us. To a certain extent, we lose sight of what makes us feel great as kids; we have forgotten what it is like to get the gift we have always wanted… or is it getting any surprise gift. Sure, there may be a few items you remember as a kid hankering after, from the Barbie doll with pool to the bike with bright pink tassels flying in the wind as we raced downhill.

But, you probably can’t remember every gift, can you? There may also be times that your initial disappointment with an item soon turned to excitement and ‘actually, it is better than I thought’.

There may be times when you kids do ask for something specific – and the price may be astronomical, just take a look at gaming consoles – but take a reality check too. In all honesty, where is this pressure coming from? You? Them? Or from consumerism?

The truth is simpler than we think…

Presents and parties are expensive and, you are not the only set of parents in the position of not being able to afford everything on the birthday list. So, what is the truth…?

  • The L-O-N-G list of presents – you know what? No child ever faced serious psychological or physical harm from not getting everything on the list. Whilst you do not need a sit down chat about the precarious nature of your finances, they do need to understand that sometimes, some things are out of reach at that particular point.
  • The party does not need to be bigger and better than everyone else’s – unfortunately, sometimes parties and birthdays can become the source of competition between parents. Whilst the billing of a young no-show guest at a party at the start of 2015 made headline, there are other stories that parents view with silent horror. The expense of some parties has reached ridiculous proportions. No child will not like any party that you throw for their party; the thrill of having a bunch of mates round to play is still as exciting and thrilling as it was for your own birthday party, all those moons ago.

Everyone is in the same boat

If you need evidence on this, simply ask the question on Twitter and see the replies flood in, “do you buy new or second hand birthday presents?’

One person did and the replies pointed to one thing: everyone is doing the same thing and that is, taking to EBay, and other sites, looking for bargains on all kinds of different toys and the like. Some sell them in great condition and in the originally packaging. It makes sense for them – they get money back on their goods to put towards something else – and you get a bargain in the process.

The magic formula

When it comes to present buying on a budget or otherwise, it pays to bear the following formula in mind. It is a paraphrase of an old-fashioned quite but it can still work for many families across the country…

  • Something they want,
  • Something the need,
  • Something to wear,
  • Something to read.

And so, bear the following tips in mind to keep you sane and stress free when it comes to birthdays and Christmas;

  1. Don’t go broke – no one will thank you for missing a mortgage or rent payment simply to have the latest gaming console. If you don’t pay the energy bill for the month, there will be no electricity to power the games. Simple. Have a budget and stick to it.
  2. Spread the cost over the year – if you have more than one child, Christmas comes all at once and you may also have a heap of birthdays all around the same time too. Having a ‘kid’s pot’ that you pay into each month is one way of spreading the cost. You may not save the whole amount but you will certainly have a lump sum towards it. Some people keep it in cash but, if you can’t avoid the temptation, open a savings account and pay in to that.
  • Consider a family present – many parents have realised that Christmas is the main pressure zone, with 2 or 3 competing voices all wanting an expensive gift each. Thus, many a family have a family present, one big thing that everyone shares. Smaller, individual gifts can then be used to make sure everyone feels that little tingle of delight.
  1. There is nothing wrong with second-hand – at one time, buying something second hand was a way of showing that your wealth was compromised but luckily, in the 21st century, it now means you are living well, looking after the environment saving landfill from something that does not need to be there.

Material gifts last only a short time, in comparison to the memories that children collect from each birthday and present. And the real gift, is time…