I don't know about you but there seems to be a new expense every two minutes - whether it's for school trips, kits for sports and after school activities and school shoes (which seem to last about 6-8 weeks before having to be replaced).
Christmas and birthdays are times when the expenses seem to ramp up even further.
As Princess Charlotte turns one today, American Express® has carried out some research into exactly how the costs of a child's birthday can mount up - and the company has discovered that parents plan to spend, on average, £545 to celebrate their little one's birthday.
Now I'm not entirely sure who they asked because a straw poll of mums here in Dinas would find some who will pull out all the stops and others who will happily say "enough is enough" and impose a modest budget which covers all the bases without being overly extravagant.
Here's how the costs in American Express' research mounted up:-
Gifts - £122
Entertainment - £94
Party food - £91
Party venues - £90
New outfits - £85
Party bags - £62
And you don't escape the expense if you're a guest at a child's birthday. Parents were found to spend on average £32 on presents and £28 on new party outfits.
I suspect that some of these parents are strangers to the words "Mothercare Sale" and are desperate to keep up with the Jones'.
I have always thought you could do away with a child's birthday party altogether and just go straight to handing out the party bag and slice of cake after school because that seems to be the main lure of attending these things.
In fact, if the Sugar Police in our schools weren't so hot on scanning each child for the merest hint of dried fruit in case something that could rot teeth has sneaked in, this is a scheme that would save parents hundreds of pounds each year.
|Caitlin just before her first birthday in 2008|
If the thought of having 20 children running round your house is too much to bear but you don’t want to hire a venue, then local parks or an outdoor play area can be the perfect location for a summer party. Just make sure to check the weather.
There's always your local soft play centre of course (and you know how fond I am of those).
Professional party entertainers are expensive, so keep the stress levels and costs down by doing it yourself. Ask friends or family members who could do simple activities such as face painting. I don't think you can go far wrong with the old favourite party games like Pass The Parcel of Musical Chairs. I did once ask the Husband to appear as Spiderman in a morph suit but he still hasn't "got back to me" on that one.
Those little bags can often be the things that cause costs to rack up quickly. So get creative and make them yourself. One of the simplest ways to do this is to fill clear cellophane bags with sweets or pocket-money toys or even put a book into each bag.
Back to haunt the party-ware aisle in your local ASDA it is then. I still have a cupboard full of small bouncy balls and unsharpened pencils. (Why can you not buy sharpened pencils any more?!).
If a friend’s child has a birthday around the same date, then you could coordinate with their parents and throw a joint party. Your child would probably love to share the day with their friend, but you’ll also save money by splitting the cost of the party.
Keep it fun
If the planning becomes hard work, the party could end up feeling forced and often costs rise. Remind yourself to opt for the simpler, easier options. By keeping the guest list manageable and offering a few kinds of drinks and snacks, not only will this be more manageable for you and enjoyable for your child, but you can save some money.
This does, however, lead neatly into the social minefield of how many children to ask to your child's party. Do you ask the whole class, their special buddies, just relatives? Whatever decision you make has the potential to upset somebody.
I think it's worth reminding ourselves that, in many instances, one or two nice presents, oodles of love and affection on the day, time spent on a favourite activity and perhaps one or two special friends to tea is probably all that is needed to give your child a memorable birthday.