Frugal Living – A Special Day On A Budget
Not too long ago my husband and I decided that it was time we stopped wasting money and other resources and started appreciating what we have and only buying things if there was a need. Basically we decided we needed to start living fantastically frugal. Many people have the wrong idea of what being frugal is and think it is a means to be cheap. That is not true. It just means to appreciate and use what you have until there is no way to continue to use the item, purchase only what is needed, not just because you want something newer. In a nutshell, it means to be more responsible with money and resources.
Because we want to live our lives in this way and because we want our son to learn some really good and useful tips, tricks and traits from us we decided to really dig into this idea and give him a great birthday on a budget. We allotted ourselves fifty bucks for the days activities and the rest, like cake, present and decorations, we would only spend what was absolutely needed.
How we had been in the past, just spending our money all over, looking at the most expensive toys and clothing and whatnot had never gotten us far when it came to our son having a birthday. I cannot tell you how many times we spent over five hundred bucks just on one or many presents for him for his birthday only to have him break whatever he was given in less than a week.
I tried every brand of toy out there, if it is plastic, made in this day and age, it is meant to break. There really is nothing out there made today that is meant to last. This is a commercialized materialistic world and that means those makers of any product, especially toys, want their items to break so you will be forced to be a repeat customer.
This year we changed, no more cheaply made, designer toys. We put a lot of time and effort into thinking about something he has always wanted. Something he would not grow out of in the space of a year or two or ten. Something that would be useful and fun. We got him a nice digital camera. It could very well be that this camera will last him until he is an adult and decides to buy another one. It could also be that he drops it in the toilet next week but, at least it will not be broken because it was expensive, plastic crap.
If he is responsible, this camera will be around for a very long time which, I cannot say about any of the toys we purchased him over the years. I recall one particular Christmas where he pulled a Transformer out of it’s box and was playing with it properly when, the thing broke in front of all of our eyes for no good reason.
That was a gift from Santa…so imagine how upset he was about that and how upset I was when I could not get a new one because, it had been purchased over the internet from an Ebay toy business and so the manufacturer could not be sure that it was not a used item – even though it clearly stated on the page, NEW IN BOX, NEVER BEEN OPENED with photos to show it and we had to break the original seal and help our son remove it from the packaging. But I digress… and he loves his camera.
THE DAY HISTORICALLY AND FRUGALLY
I do not know what your birthdays were like but mine were never the sort of affair where there were all kinds of people, a hall, a cake from a bakery or any rooms full of decorations. Typically, my mother would ask a week ahead of time what kind of cake I wanted and I would tell her. She would get a hold of the family and invite them and whoever decided to show up would bring something for the dinner. Someone brought drinks, someone else a salad, someone else chips and so on. That is what I am used to and pretty much every other kid I grew up with had a birthday like this.
Here where we are living now, parents are spending up to a thousand bucks on throwing a party just for the kids and parents that their child goes to school with. They are paying for a hall, entertainment, snacks, drinks, alcohol for the parents, food and a giant ice cream cake that costs at least a hundred bucks on its own. People in this country are constantly keeping up with the Jones’ and I find it to be something that is completely unnecessary even if it is fun for the children. In the end, it will put them on a learned by seeing course of competition, to always do something better, have something more expensive than someone else etc., and that is not how I want to raise my son.
Celebrating a birthday is about appreciating the fact that the person was born, showing that person some love and attention. That is part of what being frugal is about. To that end, we started off my son’s birthday by getting up early and waking him up early by singing Happy Birthday to him. We had already gotten the table ready to surprise him with a small gift (he already has his camera a few days beforehand and we just wanted to make sure he had something to unwrap – a Nerf type thing that was less than twenty bucks and still has not broken) and many types of snack cakes, breakfast sweets, juices and a cupcake with a candle in it.
The table decorations I had reused from his party the year before and I spent less than ten bucks on a birthday card and three helium balloons. We let him open his little gift from us, lit the candle and had him make a wish and then he opened his card and ate his cupcake. We spent some time with him, played a few of his favourite games, got dressed and went for a family bike ride. Along the way we did some filming, let him fly his dad’s drone, let him play in a couple of parks and got home about two hours later. His wish was to go bowling and play a round of laser tag with us at the bowling alley. We ate lunch, cuddled for a bit, went out for a walk and an ice cream cone and then drove to the bowling alley. They turned out to be closed that afternoon and while he was a bit disappointed, he still told us that he had experienced the best birthday ever. We had dinner, watched a family movie and then cuddled him in our bed, something we do every night before he goes to sleep. We let him sleep that night with us and we gave him the attention, appreciation and love that he wanted and needed on his day.
Being frugal has made me become more aware of just how important time and attention is for everyone. Children need it the most but, it is something we all need in our lives and is more important than any material item that can be purchased. Giving someone your time, builds good memories for both parties or for all that are involved in that moment. Memories last for a lifetime and there is no price that can be put on them especially after one of the people you love is gone. When I am gone, I hope that my son remembers how much fun we had together and all of the things we did as a family and I hope he laughs when he thinks about the funny things I said or did. I want him to learn that the best way to be a parent to a child is to spend time and not money. Mostly, out of all of this I want him to know and be sure that he is loved and appreciated as a person. I want to make sure that he understands that he does not need to impress people with money and that whoever he decides to spend his time with and give his attention to later in life that it should be someone that is real, not superficial or artificial and someone worthy of those incredible gifts.