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Happy Birthdays on a Budget

Go for it, Mom and Dad! You can keep your sanity and plan a budget-friendly, kid-friendly, birthday party for your child right in your own home. Simply consider your guests, your available space, and your inventory. Here's How...

Keep Things in Perspective
As a birthday party approaches, it’s natural to worry whether you’ve made the day “special enough” for your child. There’s a temptation, then, to go out and buy more—more gifts, more decorations, more stuff. But think about what this teaches your children. Instead of showering them with material affection, find more meaningful ways to make them shine on their day. Make a book about their life. Decorate their door with streamers the night before their birthday, so it’s the first thing they see when they wake up in the morning. Make their favorite breakfast that day. You can be they’ll remember the warmth of those moments long after the memories of extra trinkets and toys have faded.

Food for Thought
Friends will understand if you can’t serve a full-blown dinner at a child’s birthday party. If your budget only allows for cake and ice cream, don’t hold the party at 5 or 6 p.m., a time when guests have the right to assume something hearty will be served. Have the party at 2 or 3 p.m. instead, and call the event a “dessert party” on the invitations, so guests don’t show up with empty stomachs. Some families buy a set of reusable dinnerware that only gets used for parties. That helps make the event special without being wasteful. If ordering out is a must, call around for the best deals and use coupons. Pizza shops almost always run some sort of special, and don’t be afraid to ask if one is willing to beat their competitor’s price.

Do it Yourself
We sometimes forget how easy it would be to make party supplies ourselves. Professionally made cakes can be expensive, whereas making one yourself costs much less. Read up on basic skills for making and decorating cakes.

Reuse and Repurpose
When buying party supplies, ask yourself if they can be reused down the road. If you choose a timeless design, some decorations could last a lifetime. Wrapping paper alone can cost a small fortune, and it gets shredded in seconds in the hands of an excited birthday boy or girl. Instead, wrap gifts in newspaper, sew reusable fabric gift sacks or buy them, or save paper gift bags, and use them over and over again.

When buying party supplies, ask yourself if they can be reused down the road. If you choose a timeless design, some decorations could last a lifetime. Wrapping paper alone can cost a small fortune, and it gets shredded in seconds in the hands of an excited birthday boy or girl. Instead, wrap gifts in newspaper, sew or buy reusable fabric gift sacks, or save paper gift bags to use over and over again.

Here are some other money-saving moves:

  • Host the party at home or in a public park rather than at an event facility.
  • Keep the number of guests to a minimum.
  • Buy food in bulk, and cut fruits and vegetables yourself rather than buying pre-cut trays from the grocery store.
  • Send e-mail invitations, or make your own paper invitations using craft supplies you already own.

A party at home can definitely save you money but will require your time and creativity. Working with your child to plan a fun and engaging birthday party is something you will both remember forever!

Internet Safety

Our society today relies heavily on the use of computers. The work force practically mandates the use of computers in most types of jobs, we send letters and communicate via e-mail, schools ask students to research topics and type reports, and computer games are almost limitless. While the Internet has many benefits and puts world-wide information at our finger-tips, unfortunately it poses some safety risks for kids today.
 
Here are some computer safety tips you can follow at home to help protect your children:

Allow computer use only in high traffic rooms.
While it’s tempting to put the computer in a child’s room for homework purposes, the best place is a living room or family room. This way parents are able to monitor their child’s activities on the computer. You can see what sites your child is visiting, what games he/she is playing, and who he/she is Instant Messaging. This gives you more control over computer behavior and sends the message to your children that you care (and are aware of) what they are doing on the computer.

Instruct your child never to give out important information over the computer.
Let your child know it is not okay to give out his/her name, address, phone number, city, state, or school location over the computer. Even giving out the family (or their own) email needs parent approval. Evaluate photos or video clips before allowing your child to upload them, to ensure they do not contain identifying information. This helps limit the number of people who know how to contact your child.

Block Specific Sites.
There are many programs that can block the content of certain Web sites, making them off-limits for children. Installing a firewall on your family’s computer not only will block access to certain sites, but will also prevent unauthorized users from entering your computer. Most browsers have the ability to block specific sites from use, but you’ll need to install software if you’re looking to comprehensively block and monitor numerous sites. Also, keep in mind that schools automatically install firewalls onto their network systems, which helps make using computers at school safe.

If you think your child is visiting inappropriate sites, or is being targeted or contacted by a person you don’t know, the FBI has issued an informational publication that discusses in more detail, potential on-line dangers and what to do in these situations. With a little computer safety education, your child will be able to enjoy the benefits of technology and the World Wide Web once again.