Note: This is a post by Courtney Baker, chief seller and long-time running wo-man of MvD.
Every year come April, we brainstorm new themes for Milli’s birthday party. But unlike most parties, our themes don’t involve princesses, Spiderman or Spongebob. Instead we have balloon parades, pinatas and zoo trips.
We also don’t have presents.
Several years ago, we started thinking of birthdays in a new way. We were participating in the 100-Thing Challenge, and a single birthday party could easily add an additional 10-15 little toy bits and pieces.
We implemented a “No Presents” rule that year, and we’ve never gone back.
Everything worked out very nicely until we realized that guests feel uncomfortable coming to the party without something. So, we started thinking of ways for our guests to participate in the party without bringing mounds of unwanted toys or spending unnecessary money.
We have received rave reviews from other parents about our alternative birthday parties, because they know exactly what to bring, it’s usually low-cost, and their kids really get involved in the gifting process.
In fact, we’ve started seeing some of guests hosting their own present-less parties.
Milli’s 5th Birthday – The Pinata Cookout
Milli wanted hot dogs, brownies and a pinata.
We asked that our guests bring a bag of their favorite candy for the pinata. Milli’s friends were so excited to show her their favorite candy, put it in the pinata themselves, and then chase after it when the pinata broke. The gift was the party entertainment, and the majority of it went home afterward!
Each family contributed $2 or $3 for a bag of candy. Individually, it felt like a small, reasonable contribution; but when grouped together, they saved me $40 to fill up the pinata.
Milli’s 4th Birthday – Fancy Balloon Parade at the Park
Milli wanted a fancy balloon for her birthday. So we asked that our guests bring one fancy balloon to a play date at the park. We whipped up some simple PB&J sandwiches, strawberries and dessert for a picnic at the park.
I’ll let you imagine how picturesque it was to see preschoolers trotting across the park with their massive, fancy balloons. And boy were they proud of the balloon they picked out for her!
Milli’s 3rd Birthday Party – Trip to the Zoo
We were traveling in the RV during Milli’s third birthday, and we’d met a couple of families in a San Diego RV park. We headed to the zoo as a large group. With the small contribution each family gave, she paid for her ticket, food and a souvenir!
We love experience-based gifts! Tickets can be expensive, especially when the whole family goes. Getting a ticket or gift card for Milli only makes it much more affordable for the whole family to attend.
Milli’s 1st and 2nd Birthdays
Let’s be honest- birthday parties for 1- and 2-year-olds are for the parents. We are celebrate our surviving the first years and snap a million photos of how adorable our baby looks smashing cake. And we were lucky to do it with our “village” (grandparents, aunts, and uncles) who were equally excited and smitten about the whole ordeal.
Other Birthday Ideas
I’m excited to keep up our tradition now, because they birthday parties turn out so memorably! I think it’ll be more challenging the older Milli gets, but for now I have some ideas for next year.
- College Fund, give $4, $5, $6 (depending on age) to a savings account
- Bring Your Own Paint, art party where the kids decorate a sheet or a keepsake
- Birthday Signs, decorate a huge poster for the birthday person, hang on clothesline at the party
- New to Town, give $5 gift card to your favorite place in town
- Sports Party, pick a sport and everyone brings their own gear
- Fundraiser Parties, collect items for a local humane society or Give Your birthday to Charity:Water
Thanks To You All
Many of the early Man Vs Debt readers met Milli around her first birthday. Since then, you’ve seen her grow to a witty 5-year-old who is gearing up for kindergarten. Adam and I appreciate the good wishes and support you’ve given us on our biggest adventure yet – parenthood!
Which birthday idea should we use next year? Do you have ideas for kids 6 to 10 years old, tweens or teens?
Share your ideas in the comments below.