Birthday Trends: Worth it?

Category:  Opinions
Wednesday, September 26th, 2018 at 5:57 PM

While scrolling idly through Yahoo! News, I came across an article by The Huffington Post regarding a mom who spent over $9,000 on her son’s birthday party. I was immediately dumbfounded and clicked on the article so fast my finger bounced off my phone screen. 

Throughout the piece, the mom discussed her justifications for spending such an ample amount of money for a mere birthday party. For example, she wanted to create a positive memory for her son and explained how the gathering of family and friends to celebrate her child did not have a price tag. Although that line of thought can be validated in an emotional sense, I still couldn’t wrap my head around the idea of equating that type of “love” to the money spent. Moreover, I couldn’t help but wonder: Is this the new standard for birthday parties, or is this mom an outlier in the crowd?

To resolve this conflict, I jumped onto Google and hastily typed in, “average cost parents spend on birthday parties.” The first three results had titles that were congruent to this new social rule, such as, “How much moms are really spending on birthday parties” and “Will your child’s next birthday party bust your budget?” As I researched through the varying articles, I came to the conclusion that parents are spending on average $500 per birthday party for their child. However, the range many parents spend fluctuates from just under $500 to over $3,000.

As I came to understand that this new societal model was a part of our culture in not only the top 1 percent of our population, I delved into understanding how blue collar Americans could afford such expensive parties. 

According to USA Today, the average amount of debt in a typical American household is $137,063. Therefore, in all reality, parents who are represented in this data truly can’t afford to lavishly decorate, rent out the largest ballroom or hire the finest catering in town. Yet, many parents do achieve such criteria even under such financial burdens.

This brings me to my final question: Why? Where did this obsession with spending thousands of dollars on birthday parties stem from? Is it about status? Even more so, why are parents bending over backwards to create a dream-fueled birthday party for their children when their bank account is empty? 

I would assert that based on the data and analysis on the topic, many parents engage in this birthday culture due to their own history and daily busy schedules. A rule of thumb for many parents is to try to give their own children better experiences and memories than they received; thus, an extravagant birthday party might qualify as achieving something “better.” In addition, many parents work long hours and do not feel they get to spend as much time with their children as they would like. Hence, a birthday party can be a very special occasion for family and friends to cherish that time together. 

This trend is going to have some longevity in our society due to a parent’s overarching desire to take care of their children. And in our cultural mindset today, that may be defined as spending thousands of dollars on balloons and party hats. I would like to add, though, that no form of love can be “bought,” and parents who utilize this birthday party extravaganza idea in lieu of emotional, physical or mental support are harming their child psychologically. It is important to recognize that material goods do not make the party special or important; it is those who show up and care for the child that make their birthday truly happy. 

JoAllie Paluchak can be reached at

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