An Awesome Alternative to Pricey Birthday Parties for Kids

balloons

So when did birthday parties get so expensive? I’m okay with paying $100 or even $150 for a birthday party but when the quotes are more like $300, then that turns into a No, real fast. To frame this, our daughter is 3 so $300 for a party is a bit much, in our opinion. While planning our daughter’s party we re-discovered an awesome alternative to pricey kid’s birthday parties.

The going rate in my area is $300 to host a children’s birthday party at a local event place. With our daughter, Lauren turning 3 we almost hosted a party at Chuck E Cheese. Key word being almost! I also looked into a gymnastics’ studio and a trampoline place. All 3 of their party packages are in the range of $200 – $300 for a 2 hour party. Then add on extra’s like invitations and goodie bags, and you are definitely in over $300!

The thought ran through my mind that all the little kids in her class are having birthday parties so she should have a party too. Ultimately, we decided to forgo the big hosted party at an event center and instead have the party at this great location which was free, OUR HOUSE! You know that dwelling that we pay a monthly mortgage payment on, that can comfortably fit our family, yes that place.

This isn’t the first time, we held a party there or even her birthday party there. Her 2nd’s birthday party was at home. However, I will admit that for her first birthday, we did have it at an event space and it did cost a pretty penny – admittedly near $500 when you factor in space rental, invites, food for close to 50 people, decor, goodie bags, and custom birthday cake. (However, I am am thankful for growth and not going that route again anytime soon) Also, we don’t regret spending the money because there is just something special about the 1st birthday so it was a big celebration and we enjoyed it.

However, For Lauren’s 3rd birthday, I was reminded of how most of my birthday parties went when I grew up – they were held at our house with immediate family and close cousins invited. Those parties was filled with hotdogs, neapolitan ice cream, cake, and lots of memories captured on my mom’s 35mm camera. Those were great times and we had a good time in that same house and same kitchen year after year.

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Lauren’s 3rd Birthday Party Picture

This year we decided to do the same for our little one by cooking at home for our immediate family, enjoying cake, ice cream and unwrapping her presents together. Lauren enjoyed it and so did everyone else and it definitely didn’t cost $300. In total we spent a little over $100 for food and cake for 8 adults and 1 kid. To add to her birthday celebration, I also took her and one of her friends to jump for one hour on the trampolines at a local indoor trampoline park for $18 total. Then we took advantage of Build-A- Bear’s promotion of a child paying their age for the birthday bear during their birthday month. For Lauren that was $3 but she picked out an $18 Frozen dress for her bear (trust me, I tried to get a cheaper outfit but she loves Frozen, LOVES!) so that brought our total to around $22. All in all for us to have a little party at home and 2 birthday related activities for her, we spent around $140. Definitely a win in my checkbook.

I also asked 2 other personal finance mom’s on their opinion on children’s birthday parties and ways to save.

First, I spoke to A’Shira Nelson, better known as Savvy Girl Money. She has one child, a daughter named Skylar Nelson who is 5 years old. She turns 6 this summer.

Savvy Girl Money

A’Shira from Savvy Girl Money and Her Mini Me

A’Shira’s top financial goal currently is paying off her student loan debt which will be done in March of this year. Afterwards, her only debt remaining will be her car loan and mortgage.

So let’s dive into her thoughts around children’s birthday parties and the associated costs.

A’Shira’s Thoughts on Birthday Parties

A’Shira: Honestly, in the past, I was always HORRIBLE at saving money on my daughter’s parties. This year I’m going to take the challenge of spending under $300. In the past my husband and I spent $600 on average for her parties. One way I’m going to save is by having her parties at home. I have a big backyard with a swing set. I’m not going to hire entertainment, I’m going to have the kids play outdoor games. For food, I’m going to bbq and make treats at home. 

SugarandMoney: Sounds like you are taking the route that I took this year and trust me, your daughter will love it and your pockets will thank you! Another bonus of having parties at home, you don’t have to transport anything to a location, everything is at your house.

You can find A’Shira at the following locations because she has a YouTube channel and is also very active on Instagram.

Website: www.savvygirlmoney.com

Find Savvy Girl Money on Instagram: @SavvyGirlMoney

Then, I spoke to Shatoria Smith of Coincountinmama.com she is the mother of one son, Brayden, who is 1.

Coin Countin Mama picture

Shatoria from Coin Countin Mama

Shatoria’s eyes are on becoming debt free which she is working on achieving within the next 5 years.

So let’s dive into her thoughts around children’s birthday parties and the associated costs.

Shatoria’s Thoughts on Birthday Parties

Shatoria: In 2018, my son turned 1. I was strapped for cash but I wanted to throw a nice celebratory party for us (let’s face it – my son had no idea he was turning 1 – LOL). 

We spent a ton of money on the baby shower the year prior, so I decided to scale back and have his party at our home. The theme of his party was Baby Shark, so I decided to incorporate bubbles and other beachy/summer supplies.  His birthday is the week before the 4th of July, I was able to purchase beach buckets shovels, bubbles and other summer themed items at 75% from Michaels. I took advantage of using my in-store coupons so I saved an additional 30%! I purchased 30 cupcakes (as opposed to a sheet cake from Publix). I spent $24.99 and we received a smash cake for free! For the adults, we purchased 4 large Pizzas from Costco and asked them to cut the slices in half. We provided water, lemonade as beverages. In the end we spent no more than $100.00 on EVERYTHING! 

SugarandMoney: Wow, less than $100 is awesome and definitely a great idea to have the party at home. Both are a win-win in my book.

A little about Shatoria:

I’m a millennial mama with six-figure student loan debt (eeeeeeekkkkkkk!!!!). Although I have not paid off my all of my debt, I’m actively working towards it! After having my son in 2017 and being sick and tired of being broke, I decided that I am ready to become debt-free.

You can find Shatoria at: www.coincountinmama.com

Sharoria is also active on Instagram at: @Coincountinmama

Recap:

  1. Brainstorm out all of the ways that you can celebrate your child’s birthday and how much each will cost. This will show that there are ways to have a party that cost a little or that cost a lot.
  2. Decide that you aren’t paying an outrageous price for a birthday party just because everyone else is having a birthday party.
  3. Realize that you don’t have to pay $300 – $600 for a birthday party at various event centers. Especially if you have large financial goals like paying off debt, saving for a home, saving a fully funded emergency fund, etc – really consider your priorities before opting into these expensive birthday parties especially if you have small children that will not remember the party.
  4. Remember that your home is the perfect place to host an intimate but fun birthday party. Your child will just enjoy being surrounded by family and friends (if you choose) while opening presents and of course eating cake and ice cream.
  5. Take advantage of birthday specials like Build A Bear has to still give your child a great experience but at a discount.
  6. Consider taking your child and a close friend(s) to an event space to enjoy for an hour or two. This is much cheaper than paying for a big birthday party for 10 kids (and parents) when they’ll have just as much fun with their close friend(s).
  7. If you don’t feel like your home will be suitable, consider a local park and have an outdoor party there. 
  8. Don’t hesitate to use coupons for the things you’ll spend on at places like Michaels, Party City etc.
  9. Also, consider having the party at an off time that may offer a cheaper price if you decide to do it at an event center. For example a Sunday or a weekday could be cheaper than the high demand Saturday option.
  10. Ultimately, a birthday party is a celebration and it should come without the regret of overspending.  Don’t fall into the trap of “Keeping up with the Joneses” with an expensive party unless you can truly afford it.

There are many options to have an affordable birthday party, it may just take some creativity  but in the end, you will save money and your child will still have an awesome birthday party.

I would love to hear from you!

Let me know, what creative ways you can think of to celebrate a child’s birthday without breaking the bank? What’s the average price that you spend on your child’s birthday party?

 

PS: Check out this post that give 5 Awesome Financial Gifts for Kids: Click Here.

And of course my favorite post about giving yourself permission with your personal finances: Click Here.

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August Debt Payoff Report

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August Debt Payoff Report

August was a great month because I paid off another Student Loan Group. Yes! Student Loan Group D bit the dust. When this loan was disbursed to me in college, it had a balance of $4,934.00 but due to interest that accrued while I was on the Income Based Repayment plan (that didn’t cover all the interest) an additional $1,151.24 was added or as the student loan people like to say, “capitalized”. So a balance of $4,934 became $6,085.24

Income Based Repayment Plan: This is where your monthly payments will be either 10 or 15 percent of your discretionary income (depending on when you received your first loans), but never more than you would have paid under the 10-year Standard Repayment Plan.

Capitalization: This occurs when the lender adds the interest to the principal balance of the loan. Then the capitalized interest becomes principal.

When I started targeting this loan in May of 2018, the balance was $5,901.05 ultimately it took about 3 months to pay if off.

Drum Roll Please

My payoff for the month of August wasn’t as large as other months but progress is still progress. I paid off an additional $425.00 this month which paid off Loan Group D and started the payoff process of Loan Group H which is starting with a balance of $5,889.34. The goal for paying off Loan Group D is December 31, 2018.

Just Say No

As with all months, there were somethings that I had to say no to but it was completely fine and life still went on. I don’t believe that you can yes to everything, everyone, every event and still achieve your financial goals. Therefore, the following things received a no from me:

  1. Recommended car repair of $700.00
  2. Taco Crawl event – $100 because of event cost and cost of babysitter
  3. On the Run Tour with Beyonce’ and Jay-Z – $100-$200

Debt Recap

Currently I only have student loans and a mortgage – 5 student loans to be exact and at one point I had 10. The snowball method is the current strategy for paying off my student loans.  I pay the minimum required payment on my student loans via monthly auto debit and then throw all remaining money on the student loan with the lowest balance. This plan will continue until I get down to the last two loan groups. When I get to the last two loans and will have one loan with a 2.125% percentage rate and one with a 6.3% percentage rate. I will pay off the 6.3% interest rate loan first and then the 2.125% interest rate loan, even though the balance will be lower on the 2.125% loan. Therefore, the last two loans will be paid off using the avalanche method. The avalanche method is where you pay off the debt with the highest interest rate first. This will save me some money on interest.

How do I pay on a specific loan group?

When making monthly payments on my student loans, I pay the extra money by group and my servicer is Nelnet. Nelnet provides an option to pay by group. Of course, any accrued interest would be paid first and the remainder will go toward the loan’s principal. Sometimes I make large payments, usually around payday and other times I make small random snowflake payments. August payments looked like a month of snowflakes:

3rd 16.95

9th 200.22 – This paid off Loan Group D

15th 110.00

27th 82.83

28th $242.58 (Standard monthly payment – not included in payoff total)

29th 15.00

 

2018 Numbers and Progress YTD:

January – $2450.00 – Last Credit Card Payoff!

February – $900 .00– Paid off Student Loan Group G. YAY!

March -$126.00 – Cash flowed a beach house rental for April, purchased spring/summer items and cash flowed some other expenses that came up. Honestly, just did a lot of spending this month.

April -$899.00- I planned to pay $1000 but I didn’t fully submit the payment so it was added to May’s payoff amount.

May – $2000.00 – This payment put me under the $50,000 mark! It was great to see $49K….

June – $1175.12 – I set a goal to pay off $1350.00 and honestly, I am a little disappointed that I did not meet that goal. Even though, I was only off by $174.88, I was still off! But now I am super focused to meet my goal for July – which will include the payoff of a loan group so there will be strict budgeting for July and saying, “No” to more events and non-essential shopping. However, I am a real believer of making  short-term sacrifices now for long term successes in the future.

July – $1200 – I set a goal to pay off $1447.83 – Which would have paid off Group D and it was a stretch but I wanted to try. Group D will definitely get paid off in August.

August – $425.00 – Group D paid off and started on Group H and my total balance is under $47,000.

The numbers reflected show payments made above the minimum payment required.  The payoff amounts show actual debt reduction.

Sugar and Money for the Month of July

Sugar for the Month- Moments with my family and friends to include a family beach trip to Isle of Palms, brunch boat ride with friends and rewarding myself with the 2019 Erin Condren Deluxe Planner!

Money for the Month – Paid off $425

Now Let’s Imagine… What could I have done with $425 if it didn’t go toward debt…

Sugar – We would have went to see the On the Run Tour in Atlanta, GA and made a weekend trip out of it.

Money – Continue funding the imaginary Roth IRA that I would have opened in May. I could add $425 to it and I would only be $700 away from the 2018 contribution limit of $5500.00.

 

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In Conclusion:

For the month of August, I paid off $425 from my student loans and I know the number could have been higher. However, every month won’t be a high payoff month in the sugar and money household because some months there will be more sweet living than paying off debt. I’m currently targeting Group H which now has a balance of $5,783.64. My current total balance on my student loans is now $46,771.17 – Under $47,000! I remember when my balance was $61,000.

A Question for you and Thanks…

Do you have any Student Loan Debt? If so, how much and do you have a plan in place to pay it off? Do you even plan to pay it off? Are you on a repayment plan?

Thank you so much for reading and all of your support!

Recommended books to get you started paying off debt and taking charge of your personal finances:

The Richest Man in Babylon

The Total Money Makeover: Classic Edition: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness

Girl, Get Your Money Straight: A Sister’s Guide to Healing Your Bank Account and Funding Your Dreams in 7 Simple Steps

Rich Bitch: A Simple 12-Step Plan for Getting Your Financial Life Together.Finally

My blog on creating a budget and setting a monthly goal:

How to Create a Budget in 6 Easy Steps

How to Create a Budget in 6 Easy Steps

Budget

Creating a budget in 6 easy steps is the perfect way to know the ins and outs of your money. You will be able to see your income and expenses to know exactly where your money is going. A budget will keep you from wondering where your money went. A budget will also tell your money where to go. So, let’s dive in…

Step #1: Grab your desired tools to make your first budget. I recommend a pen, paper and a calculator – Or if you are fancy, feel free to create an excel spreadsheet and build in the necessary formulas or create a digital budget online with an app like Mint or EveryDollar.

However, I always recommend to manually write out your first budget because there is just something about putting pen to paper and making the necessary subtractions, additions, doodles, etc. This is how you really FEEL the numbers and the process.

Step #2: Start with A Goal! At the top of your sheet of paper/budget write out your goal for creating this budget.

Examples of Goals: Determine where every dollar of my income is going. Find any money leaks because I feel like I make enough money but still come up short before the end of the month. Determine how much I am actually spending on shopping, eating out, etc. Find an area I can cut back on so I can save more money, cash flow a vacation or pay more money toward my personal debt.

Now it is time for the numbers

written budget

Step #3 List out all of your Income (All sources: Paychecks, business income, side hustles, etc.)

If you have inconsistent income take the average of 3 months and use that as your income.

Example: In the last 3 months your income was: $2000 (month one), $1000 (month two) and $1500 (month three). To find the average you will add up all of the income and then divide by how many months there are. So, $4500 (sum of all numbers) / 3 (amount of numbers or months) = $1500. $1500 would be the average and therefore use that amount as your average monthly income to budget off of. If during the month you are budgeting for  your income is higher than your average then the additional income can be applied toward your goal or rolled into next month. This is great way to handle additional income since your income is inconsistent and you based your budget off of a lower number.

Step #4 List and add up all your monthly necessary expenses then subtract them from your income

Non-Discretionary expenses are the expenses that are absolutely due each month: Housing, Electricity, Water, Sewer, Trash, Insurance (life, car, medical, long term disability, etc. – if these aren’t deducted from your paycheck)

Other necessities to include:

Gas/fuel/ transportation costs

Childcare/Afterschool

Grocery/food

Pay your future self fund – because you need to save for your future self – so pay yourself just like you pay a bill

Debt Minimums: Credit Card(s)/Personal Loans/Car Loan/Student Loans/Medical debt, etc. (It would be great if this number was zero)

Stop here and see what you are left with…circle or highlight that amount

Take a moment and look at what amount of money you have left after covering your non-discretionary expenses because everything in the next step are expenses that are discretionary and are what you have control of. This is an area in your budget where you can possibly eliminate items or reduce amounts spent in this area.

Step #5 List and add up all of your discretionary expenses and then subtract them from the last number you calculated.

Discretionary expenses are flexible and sometimes optional. This is where you can find money to help you achieve your financial goals like growing your savings account, adding to retirement, putting more money toward debt, etc.

Entertainment categories like dining out

Gifts

Vacations

Personal care (hair care/styling, manicure, pedicure, waxing, grooming)

Clothes

Cable

Subscriptions and Memberships

Step #6 Clap for yourself because you have successfully created your very own budget.

Fingers crossed your budget ends in the “black” with a positive number meaning you have some money left over. If you end up in the “red” with a negative number then you have some more work to do. Time to think about… can you cut out an expense, cancel a subscription, reduce spending in a certain area, pick up overtime or pick up a side hustle to put you in the “black” because you don’t want to come up short.

“Tell Your Money Exactly Where to Go and You’ll Not Wonder Where It Went”

Conclusion:

Have a goal for your monthly budget then get to work by adding up your income and subtracting your expenses from your income.

Good News – you got a positive number so you have money left to attack your goal.

Bad News – you have a negative number so you will need to revisit your expenses and see where you can cut back because if you have a short fall, either something isn’t going to get paid or you may end up going into debt to make ends meet. Another awesome option is to make more money. Especially if you don’t want to cut back or you simply can’t cut back anymore so you will have to bring in more income to cover the gap.

And now the best part! Stick to the budget you created so you will know where your money is going and then start to smash your financial goals! I know the word budget has a negative connotation but it is truly the only way that you will know where all of your money is going.

Thank You and Please comment with your thoughts surrounding budgets. Do you create one? Why or Why not? Do you have any questions about making a budget?

 

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15 Free or Affordable Ideas for Summer Fun

Summer Fun Graphic

15 Free or Affordable Ideas for Summer Fun!

In Columbia, SC I could have sworn that summer started about 2 weeks ago with the temperatures that we have been experiencing but today marks the official start!

Here’s a round up of 15 things to possibly fill your summer calendar:

Free

1. Movies in the Park

Almost every city that I have lived in has a Movies in the Park series. Check your local community calendar or website for activities. (Google: local activities or movies in the park in ___________ (city).

2. Concerts in the Park

Same as the Movies in the park – check your local community calendar or website for location details.

3. Be a tourist in your own town.

This is something that we truly enjoy doing because most residents don’t explore their cities landmarks and historical markings. For example, at our Statehouse there are great spots to take pictures and landmarks/memorials to see. So, get out there and learn some history about your city or go to the next big city or capital and check theirs out.

4. Beach/Lake

The beach/lake is essentially free, you will just need to possibly budget additional for gas and of course food- but we always take our own lunch, snacks and drinks.

5. Local Park

Depending on which park you go to, it could be free or a small admission fee but we always enjoy visiting the state parks (possible fee). Pack a picnic basket and have lunch there, take a kite or Frisbee for some fun too! This is a great opportunity to unplug and just enjoy the outdoors. Sites to check out: NPS and State Parks

6. Visit your local library

I always include a trip to the library because there is so much knowledge just waiting to be soaked up and the books are free! (Just return them on time) Also, libraries have various events that you may be interested in, such as Summer Game Night, story time for kids, Book club for adults and more…so don’t forget about your local library.

7. Have a Cookout or gathering at home

If you are an extrovert like me and like to have a party from time to time…Let your friends know you are providing the place and the grill, but they need to bring a dish 😊  I am sure they are looking for something low cost and fun to do also.

Use what you have:

I am sure you have something that you have paid for and haven’t used yet. Or is that just me? A few things that come to mind are:

8. Netflix – Catch up on your favorite series, or watch some new documentaries. Ask a friend for a recommendation and you might discover a new show that you haven’t heard of.

9. Bookshelf- Raid your own bookshelf or EReader and read one of those books you purchased but never read.

10. E-Courses- I am sure we have all signed up and maybe even paid for an e-course but never did the work. So do the work because the summer is a good time to sharpen your skills or improve in an area.

Paid activities:

11. The Zoo and the aquarium-

I always love a trip to the zoo or the aquarium, unfortunately these usually aren’t free but you can always check groupon for a discount or even your job to see if they offer a discount. Also, ask about discount days or maybe if you go a lot, it could be worth it to get a membership.

12. The Museum-

Visit your local museum and check out a new exhibit. (This could be free because I know of one big bank that offers free admission on a specific weekend out of the month) Before paying, I would check for discounts just to be sure.

13. Waterpark

Who doesn’t love a trip to the waterpark? I will take a trip to the water park over a roller coaster anytime! Also, its so hot so cooling off at the water park is ideal this time of year.

14. Learn a new skill

Have you been wanting to learn photography, blogging, cooking, etc. Then find a class or an instructor and go for it. I enjoy searching for classes on udemy but If you don’t want to pay for this, then there is always youtube university.

15. Fill the Tank and Go!

When all else fails, take a road trip. Maybe go visit a friend or family member that you haven’t seen in a while. If there has been a destination on your mind that you can’t seem to forget, then get in the car and go. The world is out there waiting for you to explore and why not do it this summer! I recommend checking trip advisor for suggestions and recommendations of things to do/eat and see.

“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.” – Jawaharial Nehru

Bonus Tip: Get on the mailing list/IG/Facebook events page for the places you want to be in the loop about.

I hope you take these ideas and create a summer bucket list of things you want to do this summer. I will post mine soon!

Comment below and let me know your plans for Summer18.

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