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Forget the Joneses – how to keep up with kids' parties expenses

Chocolate fountains. Manis and pedis. Gift registries. These aren't highlights from your favourite celeb wedding but a snapshot of the things you can expect at a 5-year-old's birthday party these days. What happened to musical chairs and jelly oranges? Social media bragging has seen pass-the-parcel turn into pass-the-unicorn-macaroons. We look at what started the frenzy and how you can curb your spending whilst giving your little superhero a fabulous day.

Why we're keeping up with the Joneses

Buying material things to impress others is also sometimes called 'conspicuous consumption'. According to psychologists, our animal brain often takes over when it comes to money and how we measure up to others. Humans don't puff their feathers – instead, they use signals of wealth such as cars, clothes, houses and (you guessed it) lavish parties to show their social and economic status.

So next time you feel the urge to outdo that school mom, recognise that it's a normal instinct! Also ask yourself if it's reasonable to spend R3500-4000 on a 2-hour event. Add up the cake (R500), catering (R500), gift (R500), décor (R300), party boxes (R500), entertainment (R800), venue (R800) and you'll easily arrive at that total. For two children, spread over a year, you'll have to put away over R600 a month.

Saving on the venue

While it can be tempting to rent out a venue, you can save a lot of money hosting a party at home or at your local park. Move some furniture into a spare room to make space or borrow a gazebo for your garden. Alternatively, ask around for community or church halls to hire for a small fee. On the other hand, be realistic about your budget and see if it's not perhaps cheaper to use a kids party venue. For example, a R3000 party at home for 15 children works out to R200 per head whereas you could get away with R100 per head – and have a clean house afterwards!

Let them not eat cake

According to a Babycentre poll, parents spend the bulk of their party budget (56%) on food. Resist the temptation to feed both adults and children. Be brave and go food free – kids are totally happy to play and be entertained with the promise of cake at the end. If you want to provide snacks, plan your menu in advance and buy one thing every time you go grocery shopping so that you spread the cost over the year. Save on the cake – use 'box' cake and pimp it with little toys. Cover some boxes with gift wrap to create tiers and make it look more impressive.

Clever décor savers

The internet is your friend when it comes to décor, from free printables to clever hacks with anything from cheap paper lanterns (transformed into an owl/pirate face/unicorn) to duct tape racing tracks. A party invite can be as simple as a piece of paper inside a balloon. If you like a lot of colour and decorations, why not club together with two friends and buy bunting, tablecloths, etc. to reuse?

Budget-friendly entertainment

Who needs an expensive magician when you have the neighbour's son to do skateboarding tricks? Why pay through your teeth for a fairy when you can ask aunts and uncles to dress up as different movie characters? Kids love it if adults act silly and grown-ups always enjoy a good dress-up. You can also use apps for charades games for older kids (such as Heads Up) or set up a projector outside and host an outdoor movie night. Anything that's a bit out of the ordinary – e.g. a treasure hunt around the block – will be a huge hit.

Favour inexpensive party favours

What do you need after 2 hours of non-stop sugar? Not more sugar! Don't send little guests home with the obligatory bag full of sweets and a trinket that will break by nighttime. Rather give some seeds to plant at home, balloons, homemade bubble liquid or a vintage second-hand book.

Rethink the gift

When you've already spent hundreds of rands on a party, the actual gift can completely bankrupt you. Think outside the box – shop on secondhand sites like Gumtree and ebay, keep an eye on sales or even ask friends to bring something from abroad if it works out cheaper. Club together: ask friends and family to contribute to a joint gift through Addabit or buy a SatrixNOW voucher to start an investment for the future.

Want to bring out the WealthsmithTM in you? Call us on 0860 22 33 90 or find your closest BlueStar adviser.



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