Joint Birthday Parties: Frugal or Just Plain Tacky?

I actually rented this ridiculous thing for a birthday party once.

I actually rented this ridiculous thing for a birthday party once.

I may not be getting mother of the year this year. Again.  That’s because, much to Greg’s chagrin, I’m planning a joint birthday party for my two kids.  The oldest is turning five and my youngest daughter is turning three, all between the end of April and the beginning of June.  But here’s the thing: their birthdays are only 6 weeks apart.  Complicating matters further is the fact that we can’t have my oldest daughter’s party until a few weeks after her actual birthday since we’ll be on vacation.  We could have it a few weeks before her birthday, I suppose, but then it might not be warm enough to plan anything outside.  Anyway, if we had two separate parties, they would likely only be 3 or 4 weekends apart.  And not only does that sound like a giant pain, but it sounds utterly wasteful to boot.  So why not combine them?

Holly Says

Combining their birthday parties seems totally practical to me.  For one, it wouldn’t require our friends and family members to give up two weekend afternoons within a one month time frame.  And while I’m more than willing to make two separate cakes, I would probably only have to supply one set of plates and napkins, and one buffet of side dishes and snacks.  I have a friend from high school who usually lets me borrow a bounce house for super cheap too, and having one big party would allow me to do that just once instead of twice.  When I asked my oldest what she thought about it (our youngest is too young to care too much), she was totally indifferent.  She said that she just wants to have some sort of party and that she really wants to invite some friends from daycare.  Done.

Greg Says

Talk about a fun sucker! I think that having a joint party takes away from how special and unique each one of our children are.  And while I recognize the practicality of doing it that way, I would prefer to have two separate parties, even if that means giving up two weekend days within a month.  But, as Holly often points out, I don’t do any of the planning or preparing for either of our kid’s parties, so that’s easy for me to say.  I never stress about the cake, the food, or making sure that we have enough drinks and snacks.  I usually just provide moral support and show up. But that is the great thing about being awesome. I just bring the party with me.

Parties are Wasteful

If going down a giant water slide in your front yard isn't white trash, I don't know what is.

If going down a giant water slide in your front yard isn’t white trash, I don’t know what is.

I’ve been to a lot of over-the-top birthday parties for kids over the past few years, and I tend to think that they’re wasteful.  I mean, does a four-year-old need a petting zoo and a clown at their party?  No.  Professional catering?  No.  A custom-made birthday outfit with their name on it?  No.  And they certainly don’t need a giant waterslide bounce house big enough for adults to frolic on.  Guilty!

In my opinion, our kids will not suffer long-term damage from having a joint birthday party.  Hell, they might even enjoy it.  Regardless, I think it’s worth a try.  And if it doesn’t work out well, we just won’t do it again next year.  It’s as simple as that.

Is it just plain tacky?  Maybe.  Do I care?  Apparently not.

What do you think about joint birthday parties?  Would you have one for your kids?  Are they frugal or just plan tacky?

 
About Holly

Holly Johnson is a wife, mother of two, and frugal lifestyle enthusiast. She is the co-founder of Club Thrifty and a staff writer at Get Rich Slowly, Frugal Travel Guy, and U.S. News and World Report's "My Money Blog." Holly has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Kiplinger Personal Finance, Fox Business, and Daily Finance.

Comments

  1. We’ve done it when we lived out of state and wanted to do something back home for the kids. We probably won’t do it now that we live back home (the birthdays are 3 months apart). But I totally agree that parties are wastefully expensive from a pure financial perspective. Not trying to keep up with the Joneses and have all sort of craziness helps. I’m good with separate, simple parties.

  2. I can definitely see both sides, but I would say that now when they’re younger is definitely the right time to try it out. I’m 100% with you that the over-the-top kids birthday parties are ridiculous, so I’m all for keeping things simple. I do have some pull towards celebrating each individual kid’s special day, but like Greg I wouldn’t be the one doing a lot of the prep work AND I like the potential to build a connection between the two kids by sharing.

  3. I don’t have kids yet… but I’m LAZY and this sounds efficient. My nieces have birthdays about a week apart and I think sometimes they do joint birthdays.

    • lazy, lol

      I suppose I’m being lazy about it. My main gripe is forcing friends and family to give up two Saturdays in a month. People have better things to do.

      • I appreciate this part of it Holly. I like that you’re being considerate of other people’s time and if your girls don’t care either way then that’s really all that matters.

        • I have two kids, an 10 year old and a 12 year old (both boys) and their birthdays are two weeks apart. Luckily they are close enough in age that most birthday themes me and my wife come up with can work for both of them. We pick a day right between the two birthdays and both kids get excited for the same day. Sometimes we have two separate sections in the back yard… “Tyler’s Section” and “Aden’s Section” so they each have their own decorations and fun events with their friends. We’ve never had a bad experience doing it that way.

  4. I only ever had two birthday parties as a kid and they were both joint . One was with my brother when we were in elementary school (he’s 2 years + 1 week older than I am) – so it was convenient as most of our friends were 2 year separated sibling combos. Plus, it must have been cheap – though back then it was here’s a tub of bubbles and water balloons, no bounce houses or water slides. =)

    The other combo party was planned by 3 of us in middle school that all shared the same birthday. We each brought a cake and our parents let all of our classmates hang out in a public park until after dusk. It was amazing fun.

    If the kids don’t care, I say go for it. I personally hate birthday parties for me alone (I’ve had a couple thrown as an adult now), as I hate being the center of attention.

  5. LOL, love the photo caption. :-) We’ve got two September babies and two March babies and we do joint parties for them every single year. Friends and family LOVE that they only have to give up one day instead of two, as everyone is so busy these days, and I think it teaches the kids to share, you know? As far as Greg’s point on celebrating each kid and their uniqueness, we always have a mini-party on their actual b-day with just immediate family and Rick’s mom. The birthday kid gets to pick out their fave dinner and dessert, and that evening is just about them. It’s been a good compromise for us.

    • That’s probably what we’ll do- have a small cake on their actual birthday. We’ll be in Florida on my daughter’s 5th birthday so that will be a huge treat in itself!

    • We are trying the same thing this year but for slightly different reasons….for 1…. our children are only 4 months apart and share a lot of friends….I am just going to do one table in transformers and the other in hello kitty…the kids are turning 6 and 7 and they love being together, and as a mom I hate going to 10billion different parties for one family! I think its asking a lot. If you are going to invite the same set of people for both parties its really unfair to ask so much, especially of the parents who don’t really know you or your kids and are just attending as school friends. My children will also get a small celebration on the day of their b-day, until they are older and want to do things separate. What’s funny is they always want their parties at the same place too! As step children they also get parties with their other family’s who desire to do their own thing so this year I’m throwing in the towel and joining them together. There is the question of presents, being that my kids are spoiled rotten by their other half of the family and can get 50+ birthday presents and several b-day parties we are going to ask that guest mot bring presents and if they desire to do so anyway that they bring a birthday present wrapped for donation, in which our children will bring to the salvation army, or donate to their chosen organization. Kids are really spoiled these days and frankly I’m tired of going to so many birthday parties. A special dinner and a small cake and an present from Grandma and mom and Dad on their actual day is more than enough to communicate how special they are. We have started similar traditions of books, clothes or family trips for Christmas because the kids received 100′s of gifts one year from their big families and turned into little monsters!

  6. If you’re kids are on board with it I say definitely go with the joint party. I understand Greg’s concern that it makes it ‘less special’ for each individual kid, but at the same time the party may be more fun with a bigger group of friends since they will both be inviting people. Also, unless Greg is going to help plan it all I say you get the final say ;)

  7. It’s fine. Just don’t say it is joint on the invites for school friends so they don’t feel like they have to bring two gifts. If Greg is worried about unique and special, that is easily solved by cake and mom and dad presents at dinner on the actual birthday itself.

    We do an over the top birthday.. Sort of. The local museum does parties and they are cheap and easy. Worth us not putting in time and effort.

    • They are still in daycare now so that have the exact same friends. That’s a good tip though for when they get to school.

      I did a gymnastics party for my oldest last year and I loved having it somewhere else. We picked up our trash but didn’t have to clean up at all. Pure bliss.

  8. Joint birthday parties are fun! My dad and I, our birthdays are only a week apart, so we’ll often celebrate it together. A good friend of mine has a birthday the same month as me and we’ve celebrated it together. I’ve always found it more fun than me just being the celebrant. I don’t like being in the centre of attention too much anyways. Haha.

  9. In one sense it makes sense to me to do it this way. Having 2 parties means that guests have to give up 2 Saturdays. I’m not sure how much I would be thrilled with that. I guess I just don’t get why parents have to have these big blow out parties for their kids (I realize you aren’t doing this, I’m commenting on other parents). To me it seems like a complete waste of money. And they wonder why they can’t save for retirement.

    • Yeah, I hear ya. It really does get over the top sometimes! Like I said in the post, I’ve been to a few fancy schmancy birthday parties for kids!

  10. Hi Holly!

    A joint celebration sounds good as long as each child doesn’t feel that the other is getting more attention or more gifts or whatever. As long as both kiddies are fine with a joint party then what’s the harm…:)

    Take care Holly and Greg and I’m sure your children will have a great time, no matter the choice either of you make. All the best.

    Lyle

  11. I think it’s a great idea to try it at least once- who knows, maybe your kids will love it and want to do it every year! If it doesn’t go well, you can chalk it up to “live and learn” and not do it again.

  12. Sure. I would do it some years and have it separate some years. My kids have attended a few joint birthdays. My girls’ bdays are only 2 or 3 weeks apart but I’ve never had a joint kids birthday party for them as they’re 4 years apart in age and their interests differ. I don’t think my older one would like it but maybe. We do have joint family birthday parties for them every year.

  13. Hey, as long as the kids are truly happy and okay with it, no harm in trying it this year. I wouldn’t make a habit of it, especially as they get older (I think Greg has a point – each of your children is unique in their own way. They don’t have to be “special snowflakes” but they are their own little people! :) ) I think your plan makes sense considering how close their birthdays are, and the timing of your vacation.

    • As they get older, I actually expect that they’ll want to stop the family parties and start having “friend” parties. Then they might get a separate party.

      But, when you have kids, you’ll find that weekends mean a lot more. There is only so much time and asking people to give up two weekend days within a month is selfish IMO.

  14. My first thought was that you should have separate parties, but then I remembered that I’d rather get a tooth pulled than plan a kid’s party, so I change my mind and say go for it. If you keep both kids happy with one shot, that’s a bonus!

  15. Many places celebrate all the birthdays for the month at one time. I see nothing wrong with that. and feel that there is nothing wrong with celebrating your two girls’ birthday jointly as long as they each get their own cake or special treat of their choice. As a kid, I never had a birthday party and when we had our son, we didn’t have many parties. We just celebrated as a family with cake and ice cream, presents etc. He had a couple of ice skating birthday parties, and a couple of pizza parties at Chuck E Cheese or Pizza Hut with 2-3 of his best friends but certainly not every year. He doesn’t seem any the worse for it.

    • I will definitely make them two different cakes and ice cream if they want. They basically have the same friends right now so it really does make sense to have one big party!

  16. I think it’s fine! It’s your family: do what you guys think is best! I can see both sides here, but if the kids are on board then I say go for it.

  17. I LOVE the idea, personally. You just have to find a way to ensure all the kids involved get to feel special – which they should. If you can accomplish that, I think its a GO.

  18. My sister and I are Irish Twins (she was born 1 week before my first birthday). My mom used to do joint birthday’s all the time. So maybe I’m a bit jaded when I say this… but it SUCKED! I never felt like I got any attention of my own and as the oldest, I always resented her being born near my birthday. LOL. We still complain when someone suggests joining our birthday parties or celebrations together!

    But with a 3 and a 5 year old, they wont remember nor care so I see no problem in doing it while they are young and most likely wont remember it.

  19. If I had two children as close together as your children I would definitely have their parties together. Once they are both school age I would probably have the parties separated.
    Emmett and his twin cousins were born within 5 hours of each other. I am not sure how we will handle their birthdays so that everyone can celebrate each child’s birthday. Luckily we have 6 more months before their birthday.

  20. My brother and I are three years apart with birthdays three weeks apart in August. No one is around in August so my mom used to throw us a joint party in June and I LOVED it! We had a pool, so everyone would just come over and hang out. The only big expense was the two separate birthday cakes.

  21. I think the joint birthday party is fine since it works logistically and it’s practical as well as cheaper. But are you still going to do something on each child’s actual birthday? Maybe a cake and immediate family/grandparents only. I think the over-the-top parties are crazy…I’m wondering what I should do for my son’s FIRST birthday. I’ve seen many over the top 1st b-day and that’s when the kid doesn’t even care.

    • We usually go out to eat with my parents and have a small party on all of our “actual” birthdays so they will get a special day all their own.

  22. Ha! Looks like I’m the odd one out. But I’m with Greg on this one! I don’t think it’s tacky. I just think each birthday should be ‘special’, as Greg says. It’s different when you’re adults. My dad shares his birthday every year with his brother-in-law, but when they’re kids… So just curious, two cakes or one? And do you sing Happy Birthday twice?

  23. My birthday is November 5th, my older cousin’s is the 3rd, and my older sister’s is the 30th. We always had a joint party for the three of us. On Thanksgiving Day. It didn’t scar any of us for life. If anything, it made it more fun. Combining them all meant more people, and a bigger To-Do could be made out of the party. Of course, we’re all somewhat introverted, so I think sharing the attention was better for our personalities.

    That being said, my older sister and I were 2 years apart in age (1 year apart in school), but very close, and not too far off in size. So everyone treated us like twins. We’d get the same outfits, one pink, one purple (or blue). Same types of toys. I experienced a lot of things that weren’t appropriate for my age because my sister was “ready”. Horror movies. Learning about Santa and the Easter Bunny. I could go on and on. Shared parties are fine, so long as you still acknowledge their individuality and age differences!

  24. I think until they reach school (i.e. kindergarten or first grade) it is TOTALLY acceptable. Most kids don’t develop a long term memory until five or six so it is not as though you are truly traumatizing them, and the money you save can be used for parties down the road that they will remember.

  25. I can understand if the kids are being affected by it and don’t feel special because they’re being grouped together, but if that’s not the case I don’t see the issue with a joint party. My cousins are only a few weeks apart and we’ve had joint parties for them several times. One of their birthdays is close to Thanksgiving and we’ve even combined those and then celebrated the early birthday alone. I think it made it easier on everyone.

  26. I got no problems with joint b-day parties. We have done this with friends who have kids with a birthday close to my kids. Makes sense, young kids typically don’t care…the more the merrier…

  27. Hmmmm….I’m torn. Honestly, I’d more than likely do one party. My daughters birthdays are December and May so I can’t do that. The only reason I’d hesitate is because I think my five year old often gets jealous of everyone saying her three year old sister is so cute. My oldest daughter had a birthday party in December and she just LOVED all the attention being on her. Especially since they share a room, do everything together, it was her special day.

  28. If the kids (that can understand) are indifferent, then I would do the same thing. Event planning, even for a kid’s birthday party, is more of a time-sucker than most people realize!

  29. I vote for worst parent ever… between that and no cable I don’t know how your kids will grow up without needing years of therapy /sarcasm.

    I can see where you are coming from and in the not so distant future I am going to have to cross this bridge since we have a second kid due in July and the first one was born in June. We would probably lean towards two birthdays since birthdays are a big deal to my wife. Personally I don’t think birthdays are that big a deal so I would push for your join birthday idea.

  30. Do the Dual parties, separate cakes. Kids only remember if they have fun or get the same gift for trying to make things equal. Ohhhh matching pajamas, well how awesome is that-say no kid ever. You get a mommy pass! In fact, I think more friends should share birthday party together. It drives me nuts to attend Birthday parties every weekend. Bang it out & have fun!

  31. It seems like you already have a ton of feedback on this one, but FWIW, I say go for it. They are soooo young still.

  32. Growing up, my brother stopped having birthday parties after 7 or 8 but I continued to have them with our backyard pool. My brother and I do have birthdays 6 weeks apart so I don’t know why we didn’t have joint parties. Although he is four year older than me, we could have had joint pool parties and it would have been fun, especially since it would have been more folks there to have fun with.

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  34. I have a son who is 9 and a daughter who is 5 and their birthdays are 3 weeks apart (in winter, in MA so no outside parties sadly). We tend to invite half of the same kids to the parties since they are family friends so I have thought to combine as well. My kids expressed an interest in doing this so I think we will try it next year. My concern was that the older kids might be too rough around the younger kids (thinking jumpy house type place). I am all in favor if the kids are in favor and the invited parents sort of know which kid to get a present for. I would also make 2 cakes – one to the specifics of each child (we try to make cakes in the desired shapes) so at least each kid does get to feel special.

  35. I’ve had a joint birthday party all my life. My mom, dad, grandpa, and I all have birthdays within one week. Naturally, all of us would celebrate together. I never really thought it was a big deal – it was just the way it was!

  36. Not tacky at all. It is actually smart. You can increase the budget for the party allowing for more rentals, more food and a better time for all.

  37. My kids have the same birthday says:

    I certainly hope joint birthday parties are NOT tacky. My kids share a birthday (same exact day) 2 years apart and their little brother is currently due 4 days after their birthday this year- when my youngest turns 2 and the oldest turns 4- at this point we’re just hoping for another born on the same day to save on sibling jealousy. Needless to say, the 2 shared a party last year, will this year and all 3 will share next year and going forward as long as I can before the fact that we have 2 boys and 1 girl forces me to separate them. I know that an 8 year old boy will want something different from his 6 year old sister (especially once we get to slumber party age- clearly combining won’t work)- but by then I plan on an “invite 4-6 friends for a special movie or activity” party and not the big deals that you have to have when parents still have to attend with their very young children/babies. I don’t do anything fancy for my kids’ parties- other than fun decorations and plates that they pick- we just turn everyone loose in the back yard and serve pizza and cake. BUT I currently am struggling with the problem of party size because when I even just invite my family and a few friends- since parents and siblings attend the total number of guests to feed starts to seem ridiculous for a simple back yard kids’ party. I hope it doesn’t look over the top since we’re just in the back yard- but the size is daunting- although I suppose I still come out ahead financially since I don’t have to purchase all the party stuff/food/etc. twice. For what it’s worth, we own a moderately sized bounce house and I don’t find using that in the back yard tacky either- but that’s just me.

  38. I just realized why I’m so stressed out at the end of August. My daughters have birthdays two weeks apart. I don’t know why I never thought to combine them?!? This year I think I will try it. Rent a bouncer water slide -this is AZ. Buy one set of party supplies. Done and done.

Trackbacks

  1. […] a bitter, older sibling who always shared birthdays with my sister, so I’m digging Club Thrifty’s debate on joint birthday parties for her […]

  2. […] And it’s not because I sell my kid’s toys on craigslist or am forcing them to have a joint birthday party to save money.  It’s because I recently discovered that I’m too cheap to go to Disney […]

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