Saturday, January 10, 2015

Lego Birthday Party on a Budget

Birthday parties are a cause for excitement - and discouragement.

Excitement for the little ones. Discouragement due to the messy house and even messier costs of excitement.

I've always tried to limit the costs of my child's birthday party to $75 or under, but I know there has been some budget creep. 

This year, when my son wanted a Lego theme for his seventh birthday, we went for it. 

We brought out every Lego in the house and set up a building zone in the toy room.

We let the boys watch The Lego Movie and munch on bowls and bowls of freshly popped popcorn while it rained.

We had plans for a low-key homemade cake with a small Lego figure and vehicle on top. When the cake crumbled - literally - we went to a plan B  - Lego "cup"cakes - literally frosting and cake pieces in a cup. Those first-graders gobbled it up.

And when the rain finally came to an end, we took advantage of the still-warm weather to play games on the driveway.

Our goodie bags were replaced with a bag with a thank you note, a Lego Ninjago DVD we got on Black Friday, and a copy of the Lego magazine (which we received for free just by emailing the Lego company.)

Did anyone notice there was no bounce house? No unique location? No wild activities? 

No. These were just boys having a good day.

Just remember: Bigger isn't always better. 

Having a slamming sixth birthday party will not pay for your child's college education. Here's a way for a low-key, low-budget party that the boys will remember.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Budget Star Wars Jedi Party for Our Boys

The Force should be with all birthday party planners.

A December birthday is a tough act. Most years the weather doesn't cooperate, and the spirits are high with the over-sugared, over-active Christmas season.

But when our 6 year old wanted a Star Wars birthday, we knew we could make it happen.

Star Wars Jedi birthday party ideas on a budget

The great thing is we pulled this party off on a budget. Here's how we did it.

I'm not afraid of making the "homemade" birthday cake out of a box mix. Rather than pay for a high-price bakery, we frosted the cake and put a small Lego Star Wars figure on top for a decoration. (Sorry, I just can't do all the Pinterest amazing cakes, nor do we necessarily have to!)

We splurged and did a pinata (something I rarely do). There was a party store going out of business, so we took a pinata and converted it to Darth Vader with a little paint and creativity. Poor Darth got a beating out of him both during the pinata game and after.

Yes, we pulled out all the stops, including Jedi costumes for the boys. Lest you think I have great skills, these entailed a large-sized brown T-shirt and inflatable light sabers from the party section at Target.

Jedi training was the name of the game. And even though the weather outside was frightful, we had plenty of activities to keep the boys busy.

We laid the ground rules early. As part of our training, after each training session we went to the "Jedi circle." We then did silly party games like keep the balloon in the air using your Jedi skills, light saber training, a training maze created by the girls, etc.

At the end, we watched part of the Star Wars movie until parents picked the boys up.

You don't need fancy or high cost to do a party that the boys will remember...even if it's like the boy at the left who told me a year later that he liked everything but the light sabers should not have been pink!

Slaying Debt in 2015? This Book is For You

Slaying the Debt Dragon: How one family conquered their money monster and found an inspired happily ever after | Cherie Lowe | Queen of Free | paying off bills | reduce debt | new years resolutions
Getting rid of our credit card debt has been a dream of mine since my husband was able to return to work a few years ago. But the details made it tricky. Getting half his former salary, combined with the expenses of Catholic school (a priority for us as well) and the unexpected expenses, and our debt, despite our efforts kept trickling up.

I'll admit it. I've been frustrated. I've been angry. I've wondered more than once, How could this happen?

But I'm relieved to learn I'm not alone. Recently I read - and re-read - an advance copy of Slaying the Debt Dragon: How One Family Conquered Their Money Monster and Found an Inspired Happily Ever After, written by Indiana author and blogger Cherie Lowe.

Here's the thing: It doesn't matter if your debt happened over a big mistake, a lot of small mistakes or misfortune. The reality is you can get out of it.

Here's what I love about Slaying the Debt Dragon: It's a book filled with baby steps, hiccups and great advice. I love that Lowe comes clean about the impact massive debt has on her family, her marriage, her faith and her sense of self. And I love that she has a success story to share.

Lowe's story is about a leap of faith and a series of small changes that over time built her family's success in paying off $127,000 in debt. I've read this twice already - once just after it arrived, looking for small tips to glean and try, and a second with new eyes after getting a small raise. What can I do differently? The answer is it starts with a plan and ends with consistency. But a little sense of humor never hurts too.