Personal Finance 101: Generation X Series – A kid’s birthday party for $500 (or more)?

Generation X is classically defined at people born between the years 1965 and 1979.    Pretty much those of you in your early 30’s to the mid 40’s.  However, having given personal financial advice to thousands of people, I can tell you that many of you who were born 1960 to 1964 fit within the Generation X type of financial and personal attitude.   Since I am 42 and have had a good deal of financial success, I’ve noticed some big mistakes that I see my generation making with their money and how they think about money.    This week I wanted to discuss the mistake parents make that have two, three, or four children, and the crazy amount of money they spend on birthday parties.

As a Gen X parent with a 14, 12, and 10 year old, I got caught up making some of the mistakes other Gen X parents make.   As you compete with your neighbors and friends for which kid has the coolest birthday party, you may have noticed over the course of the year what kind of damage this can do to your budget.    When I was growing up, birthday parties were real simple.  My mom basically made some sandwiches, put out a couple of bowls of chips, and it ended with an ice cream cake from Carvel.   There’s nothing better come birthday time than having some of that chocolate crunch inside of a vanilla ice cream cake.   We usually played a few games in the house, and each kid brought over some small gift such as a board game or a small toy.   Today, birthdays are often held at upscale gaming places or having tea and scones at high end place like American Girl.  The party are more about the production rather than thinking about how the kids can have fun.  By the time you throw in the event location, food, and decorations, many of these parties can run $500 to $1,000 before you even buy your child some birthday gifts.

For my daughters recent birthday (she turned twelve), we decided to actually use television to our advantage.   I don’t know about your kids, but mine watch some of these reality TV programs that are on today.   My twelve year old happens to really like watching The Food Network including shows like The Top Chef and Cupcake Wars.   Since she really likes the show Cupcake Wars, we invited seven of her friends over and did an old fashioned cupcake wars right in our kitchen.   We made 3 different teams with the girls and gave them three different recipes with the adults as the judges.    All of the kids had a great time and we even let them sleep over that night.  When it was all said and done, the party cost less than $150.  Could your next party have a reality TV theme involved?

I can only really remember a few of the birthday parties my parent’s put together for me when I was a kid.  Many years from now, your kid’s won’t remember many of the parties you throw for them as they grow up.    Take the cash you would have spent on parties and put it toward something good such as their college education, your retirement, or just paying down your mortgage.   Now that will be something to truly celebrate!

Go to www.oxygenfinancial.net to request a consultation with the leading financial experts for Generation X in the country.

Written by:

Ted Jenkin, CFP®, AAMS®, AWMA®, CRPC®, CMFC®, CRPS®

Co-CEO and Founder  of oXYGen Financial, Inc

Ted Jenkin is one of the foremost knowledgeable professionals in giving financial advice and Smart Money Moves to the X and Y Generation.

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About the author  ⁄ Ted Jenkin @ Your Smart Money Moves

Ted Jenkin @ Your Smart Money Moves


My friends and family all think I’m a workaholic, but I say I’m just a guy that loves to help people do better in life.

My mother is still the only one that calls me by my real name Theodore Michael, my wife calls me Teddy, but for the rest of you it is just plain old Ted.

Ever since I was a little kid, I always loved money and being an entrepreneur. In fact, I still have cassette tapes of me talking to my grandmother at the age of five and my mother tells me all the time how much I played with money as a kid...

Read More About Ted Here

Ted Jenkin is a frequent guest columnist for the Wall Street Journal and Headline News Weekend Express. He is the co-CEO of oXYGen Financial. You can follow him on LinkedIn @ www.linkedin.com/in/theceoadvisor or on Twitter @tedjenkin.

Securities offered through Kestra Investment Services, LLC (Kestra IS), member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advisory services offered through Kestra Advisory Services, LLC (Kestra AS), an affiliate of Kestra IS. oXYGen Financial is not affiliated with Kestra IS or Kestra AS. Kestra IS and Kestra AS do not provide tax or legal advice.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and may not necessarily reflect those held by Kestra Investment Services, LLC or Kestra Advisory Services, LLC. This is for general information only and is not intended to provide specific investment advice or recommendations for any individual. It is suggested that you consult your financial professional, attorney, or tax advisor regarding your individual situation. 

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  • Avatar
    November 4, 2011

    Thank you! Finally, someone is talking about this. I love your ideas too! Cupcake wars, I am sure are far more memorable than games off site…and more intimate too.

  • Avatar
    Erik L
    November 7, 2011

    Funny you posted this…My 7 YO son is going to have his party in December. My Wife priced out those places you described as well as party vans that came to the house with game platforms inside. When she was getting prices like $500 to $1000, I said, why don’t we just ask him, if he wants a one-day party for $500+ OR we buy an XBOX 360 console and have a sleepover for 2-3 friends with pizza and cake and they can stay up all night and play XBOX.

    Before she even got out the full explained idea of XBOX vs Party, XBOX was chosen! Yes, we bought it on sale ($300) with a $75 gift card used for party munchies (and other household goods) so, It’s as close to a 1978 style party as you can have today!

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