A Special Day on a Shoestring Budget

Gabriel turned four yesterday. FOUR. *sniff* It’s been such a pleasure watching this gift from God grow and develop.

I recently discovered the American spending average on a child’s birthday gift is $300. That’s just for gifts, mind you, and doesn’t include party or food expenses. Not only does that seem outrageously high to me, for our family at least, it’s an impracticality.

We live on a single income and do our best to avoid debt like the plague. So… $300 gifts are out of the question, except on the very rarest of occasions. Now, granted, preschoolers tend to be easier to please in the gift department than your techy-teenager might be, but I still think we parents pressure ourselves to make the day SO special, that we get distracted by all the party and gift options and forget what’s most important.

You. Your child wants you. He wants you to smile, make a big deal over him, spend time with him, and create memories. Family traditions don’t have to be expensive. They just have to have a lot of love.

So in today’s post, I wanted to share how we celebrated Gabriel’s special day without spending a fortune.

A pack of multi-colored balloons blown up and strewn around the house when he woke up – 97 cents

Making birthdays special on a shoestring budget.
Cinnamon Rolls with birthday candles for breakfast – $3

Making birthdays special on a shoestring budget.
A new knight dress-up outfit and sword from Goodwill (used, in great condition) – $6

(Yes, you absolutely CAN buy your child used toys and gift them. Teach them to appreciate the TOY, not the price tag)

A tool set found on clearance – $12

Shared Subway sandwiches, splurging on soda instead of water – $7


Eating those sandwiches picnic-style at the local park and playing together afterward – $0


Having dinner at the grandparents’ house – priceless 😉

Walmart half-dozen cupcakes for dessert – $3

Unfortunately, these were gone before I was able to grab a picture.

Total birthday expenses for a wonderful day – $31.97



18 thoughts on “A Special Day on a Shoestring Budget

  1. Michelle says:

    It sounds like you provided a very special day! Appreciate you sharing. While it may not apply exactly, I learn something each time someone explains what they chose and why. Please extend a belated happy birthday wish from me!

  2. Jody B. says:

    $300 for a Birthday gift. Wow I’m shocked! I don’t fit in that either. Gabriel looks so happy and that is all that matters. I buy second hand gifts too!

  3. Candice L. says:

    Love this post! I think it is so important to teach our children to appreciate the gift and the person giving it, not the the price/store it came from. Besides being frugal it is also teaches them the value of reusing, recycling, and being stewards of the limited resources God has given us.

  4. Kaylee Trammell says:

    Fun day! 🙂

  5. Jen says:

    Love it! And I completely agree with you!

  6. Sarah says:

    I totally agree with you! What a wonderful birthday filled with love…I am inspired:)

  7. Gina H says:

    Happy Birthday to your little man!!!! What a great day he had!

  8. lina says:

    Happy Birthday to your handsome young man 🙂
    Totally agree with you here too !

  9. Audrey DENIS says:

    Kelsey, this is the way every child’s birthday should be celebrated. Beautiful birthday pictures….memories filled with happiness and love.

  10. Jeanine says:

    Loved the post; we’re on the same page even with all school aged kids 🙂

  11. valemon2000 says:

    What a GREAT birthday celebration, planned well and executed with style! Definitely not ‘cheap’. Happy Birthday, little knight!


  12. Sonia says:

    My sons first birthday is coming up next week. Every-time I tell people there is not a theme and that we are keeping things low key I get blank stares and strange looks haha. I remind myself of this post and it is a comfort to know I’m not the only crazy mom who thinks that less is more. Thank you for sharing!!

  13. Wendy says:

    Did the grandparents give him gifts, too, or just celebrate the meal with him?

  14. polly says:

    I love your birthday ideas!every kid doesn’t need a chuck e cheese or bounce house party!

  15. polly says:

    I get lots of books, music CDs and toys at thrift stores, for gifts!I’ve found pretty vases, candlesticks, etc, too.I don’t care if its used as long as its clean and works:)

  16. Amanda B says:

    LOVE this post!!! I am guilty of splurging on Birthday’s and Christmas! You make an amazing point here… It is about the love, not the price tag! Wonderful post! Great ideas! Thank you for sharing! 🙂

    A “Living Life with Littles” follower,


Ooh, a comment! I LOVE comments!