The Birthday Budget

Posted May 8th, 2011 by Nanette Heffernan. Comment (0).

It’s Mother’s Day today—the day we recognize all that mothers do. We’re pampered and showered with various tokens of appreciation. Although I adore the homemade cards and gifts, I know the absolute best presents of all are the ones that won’t likely come today. As a mother of three I think the best gift my children can give me is some sort of confirmation that they finally understand one of the life lessons I attempt to teach them throughout their youth. Two months ago my middle son gave me that gift.

The year my eldest son turned 7 he came to me with a list of the 35 friends he intended to invite to his party as well as the various activities he expected to be available on his special day. He wanted a Star Wars party with a huge bounce house, authentic Jedi Warrior training, myriad games, and a Las Vegas style buffet. “How did we get here?” I wondered to myself. How did we get to the point that a seven year old ‘NEEDED’ so much stuff to have a good Birthday? I decided to take the opportunity to teach my son the lifelong lesson of superfluity.

The next day I told him about the Birthday budget. From now on he was completely in charge of planning his own Birthday and he had $250 to do it. Whatever he didn’t spend I would give him back in cash. His eyes were sparkling with the anticipation of his upcoming extravaganza. He was eager to get to work, convinced he was going to party like a rock star and have enough money left over to buy his first car. We spent two hours calling all over town confirming the pricing and availably of every last wish on his list.

Finally, the moment had come that I had been waiting for. I hit total on the calculator and waited for it to sink in. $989.00. “Mom I’m going to need more money,” he said confused. “No buddy, you’re going to have to decide what’s really important to you and cut out the rest,” I replied gently. He cried at first but when the drama was over we got to work prioritizing his friends and details. The bounce house transformed into various homemade games, the Jedi actor became his father dressed in a $30 Jedi costume, and the buffet consisted of PB&J sandwiches, apple slices and tap water. Total: $175.00.

Two years have passed since we started the Birthday Budget and it’s finally paid off. I received my Mother’s Day present in March this year when my middle son came to me and said, “Mom, it’s time to start planning my Birthday. How much does it cost to play football in the park with your friends and BBQ?” “Not very much, buddy,” I said with a peaceful sigh, “Not very much at all.” Bonus. Not only had the older one gotten it, but the little one was listening too. “Happy Mother’s Day,” I thought to myself.


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