My son turned THREE this week, and since we are – okay I am – big on birthdays, we had multiple celebrations for him over the course of the birthday week. This is such a fun age and I’m loving everything we get to do with him.

1. We had my in laws over for breakfast the morning of his birthday party day. The time worked better for them and we got some one on one time instead of the craziness that comes with a party with a ton of kids. We made coffee and cooked up breakfast sandwiches, which cost very little and was more relaxing and enjoyable than trying to get out to a restaurant for breakfast. My father-in-law hung out with our son while we got ready for the party as well.

I so appreciate living near family and this was just one more reason why it is so great. It was nice to have them over for breakfast and to celebrate with him in a small group, but it also wasn’t SO special because we get to see them throughout the year. Our son has a real relationship with them and gets to just hang out and play when they come by (plus he gets my mother in law all to himself two days a week while we’re at work.

2. By request (and with a little help from my son), I made six pizzas and thirty cupcakes from scratch for his big birthday party. If you’d told me a decade ago that I’d have made everything – and enjoyed doing it – I would have told you that you were absolutely crazy. But both the pizza and the cupcakes turned out fantastically, and the kiddo made sure to let everyone know that HE made the food (or at least that he helped mama).

And lots of sprinkles of course.

Even better, the cost of all the food was only a fraction of what it would have been had everything been store bought, and it tasted so much better. Another thing I’ve noticed by doing a lot more cooking and baking from scratch is how much less garbage we produce in a given week. Even premade crust or box mix come in more packaging that ends up getting tossed or recycled. It feels so good to have a half empty garbage can for pick up these days.

Speaking of waste, We also don’t bring out the paper plates and cups and plastic cutlery and napkins that are ubiquitous at parties these days. We may do a lot of dishes and laundry afterward, but our trash wasn’t any more full after his party than it is on an average night. We did go through all but three of our unpaper towels though – what happens when you feed a house full of kids pizza and cupcakes.

3. His actual birthday fell on one of the two days a week he’s at preschool, so of course he got another party there as well. They request that you bring in something at least slightly healthier to share with the class, so we made blueberry muffins from scratch. My son saw a picture of Budget Epicurean’s cranberry orange muffins, but we didn’t have all the ingredients at home already, and I wasn’t going back to the store, so he agreed that blueberry muffins would be tasty also. I have promised him we will make those soon though.

The school party was right after nap time, but my husband was able to leave work early that day, so we both got to be there to sing and celebrate with him. The fact that daddy got to be home early that day really made it special for him.

Birthday song at preschool

After that, we had time to stop at the park on the way home and let him play for a bit. It wasn’t warm and a little rainy, so we had to cut it shorter than he would have liked. Otherwise, since it was his birthday, he got to call the all shots. Which means we picked up teriyaki for dinner when he asked instead of making something at home, but it sure was tasty and something he enjoyed.

4. We stopped in to the grocery store while we were waiting for the teriyaki to be ready because my son is friends with one of the managers there and he wanted to say hi to her on his birthday. Imagine my surprise when she had a bag with a little present for him (two hot wheels cars). Being friendly and creating relationships wherever you go is something I hope to pass on to my son, and he definitely seems to be learning that one early.

5. Similar to our Christmas tradition where we only exchanged stockings, our son didn’t receive any physical presents from us for his birthday. He did receive plenty of gifts from friends and family, but thanks to the suggestions in this post, I clearly outlined our preferences for him, and the requests were MOSTLY granted: books, clothes, and experience gifts (tickets to the aquarium, a gift card for Cold Stone, and money toward his college fund). The physical gifts he DID get (dinosaurs, a stable with horses) are things I expect he will play with for a long, long time. 

I’m hoping as he gets older, our son will still be as interested in the people and experiences as he is now and doesn’t get bogged down with the want of just more things. I’ll let you know how it goes in another 10 years 😉


37 thoughts on “Friday’s Frugal Five (Toddler Birthday Edition)

  1. Happy birthday to him! Cupcakes with sprinkles…yum! The last big party we hosted was for my husband finishing his Master’s program. They can be very reasonable! I’m not quite so noble with the plates, though. Luckily, I found some reasonably priced ones that we could pop into the compost afterward 🙂

    1. Thank you! He had a great time. Sometimes I wish I wasn’t so focused on not using disposable plates, but I just can’t help myself. Compostable is definitely quite a step up from the normal though!

  2. Wow, you’re a rock star mom. Great job. My kid’s birthday is next week and we are so unprepared. I don’t like birthday parties and my wife isn’t taking charge of it either. Not sure what we’re going to do. We got some toys… Our condo is too small to host a birthday party. 🙁

    1. Our house is pretty darn small too, but we keep our front living area mostly open and have a bunch of folding chairs, so it gets crowded, but works.

      Really the only “preparing” we did was set a time and make food. Otherwise it was just hang out time 😀

  3. That had to be an exhausting week! Who would’ve thought hosting a birthday party for kids would be so much work!

    Seems like you made the best of it though. I like your tradition of letting your son call all the shots on his birthday, it was the same way in my family 🙂

    1. It actually wasn’t terribly exhausting, since I did absolutely zero decorating/setting up. The cupcakes and pizza took a while, but it was something fun to do with him anyway 🙂 And yes – we plan on keeping up the tradition of him calling the shots as he gets older.

  4. Hey!! That sounds like the best birthday week! Love those cupcakes – looks like he was extra generous with the sprinkles on a few! That’s the best!

    Yes, during holidays and birthdays I wish we lived closer to fam, just have to work around/travel when we can. I brought my kiddo to a work party this past week – he was a hit and all wanted to be invited to his birthday so maybe we’ll just substitute fam for coworkers & bosses. Lol

    Have a great weekend!

    1. Lol. My son definitely asked the grocery manager to come to his party multiple times 😉 I bet your son would totally love it if your coworkers showed up haha.

    1. Thank you! They were SO good. I just have to be careful not to make them too often lol

  5. Wow what a hero!! I’m sorry I made him want a thing he couldn’t have, but am thrilled to be future inspiration! (The cranberry orange muffins ARE delicious). It sounds like he had a really awesome birthday week. You are an amazing human to make such good choices for the Earth and follow through, at great expense to your personal time and energy. Well done, you’re an inspiration to me.

    1. I’ll make sure to let you know how they turn out once we finally do make them – maybe next week 🙂 Remember I also don’t work full time; not sure I’d manage to do it all if I did.

  6. It sounds like he had a lovely day. Nicely done!
    I’m a drama teacher, so as my kids got older we’d have a traditional at-home party with home-made food, but instead of party games I’d run a massive drama lesson. The kids all loved it and it was fun for me too. Hardly cost me anything. 🙂

  7. Aww, what a little cutie! And girl, those cupcakes look heavenly. Now I wanna go make cupcakes…

    Frugal stuff we did this week included: Just made a caramel macchiato with my espresso machine, we didn’t eat out once this week, and I made a bulk batch of crepes and froze them.

    1. Ha yeah now I just need to make sure not to make them on a regular basis because the leftovers disappeared VERY quickly. Do crepes freeze well? Making a bulk batch sounds intriguing.

  8. It’s days later and I STILL want some of those cupcakes 🤤 Love all the party prep, and love that you’re raising your son to value people and experiences. I suspect in 10 years he’ll still value those over things—although he might be a bit more grumpy about it because teenagers haha.

    My frugal win this week is meal-prepping for this petsitting gig. Sure, since I’m getting paid I could get takeout and save myself a lot of effort and time (and various lists to make sure I have the food for three meals a day plus snacks to eat at work this weekend plus coffee and milk for the coffee and various containers for packing lunch 😅), but that could easily become a slippery slope of treat yoself. My one concession this week is potato chips since they’re still on sale at the grocery store.

    Although I guess I’m spending what money I saved on not getting takeout on gas from driving to work in rush hour traffic. Ah well, I guess it evens out, and after Monday morning I’ll be back to walking to work!

    1. Haha I’m hoping he doesn’t get TOO grumpy (my youngest brother never did, so I have hope!)

      And I agree on the slippery slope. It gets too easy to keep giving yourself reasons to give in “just this once,” and then it’s a habit again.

  9. I love the birthday week celebration. It’s take the sadness away of just having one special day. Also I like that you avoid gifts, they will adore the experiences more!

    1. That’s true – it feels like we get our money’s worth for each birthday this way 🙂

  10. Yay for frugal birthdays! My son also turned three in February, and we kept it sort of inexpensive with a trip to the kids’ museum (we already have a membership there, so it feels free), a dinner out, and homemade chocolate cake. Unfortunately, we haven’t convinced any family members to give up on toys as gifts… we’d love experience gifts, but they all want to pile on the typical toys. Nice job getting people to sort of stick to gifts that fit your goals and lifestyle!

    1. We definitely ended up with SOME toys, but fewer than had I not suggested other options for sure! It’s been a slow process getting others on board, but worth it. Happy birthday to your son was well! Toddlers are so much fun (most of the time).

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