Budgeting / March Makeover

6 Ways To Celebrate Your Birthday When You Can’t Throw A Big Party

By Thursday, March 18, 2021



Birthdays can be one of those budget-busting scenarios that come out of nowhere. After all, it’s easy to justify spending money on yourself on your big day. You made it through another year and it’s a friggin’ awesome occasion that most definitely deserves a big celebration. Which is why learning how to spend less money on your birthday can be a real buzzkill.

But, in the real world, there isn’t a free money portal that appears on your birthday. Your finances are still the same, and the birthday fairy isn’t going to show up and zing away all your expenses. If you want to build a financially responsible life, you have to think about finances — even on your birthday. Luckily, there may be a way to keep killin’ it on a budget and have a stellar birthday. That’s right, you can have your birthday cake, and eat it too; it just takes a bit of a mindset shift and a dash of creativity. 

So while you can’t have a Kardashian-esque birthday getaway or buy yourself the biggest gift, there are certainly some ways to make your day special without breaking the bank. Here are six tips for building a budget-friendly birthday:

Spend Less To Invest

Decide what’s most important to you to celebrate on your big day and invest your spending in that one item or experience. What’s one thing you’ve wanted to do or purchase for a long time? Allow yourself one indulgence without spreading your funds thin on a lot of different things. You can pool your available spending-money on one thing that you really enjoy.

Stay Local

Staycation, anyone? Everyone on Instagram is checking out a new spot for their birthday, but that can get pricey. Instead, find a special spot near you to check out or take a day trip to a fun local area. You can even have fun without going anywhere and play tourist in your town. Do all the things you normally leave to visitors – including getting a hotel, if your budget allows. Plane tickets, overnight stays, and dining out for days can eat away at your budget real quick. You can still indulge your celebratory wanderlust closer to home, and bonus — you may even discover a favorite local gem!

Create A New, Meaningful Tradition 

Creating a birthday tradition that’s free brings a unique moment this year and for years to come. Get creative with your tradition. Maybe you visit the local goat farm and tell the goats your birthday wish. Or, you could take a walk around your neighborhood on the morning of your birth, listening to a specific song. Find a way to set the day apart as special without spending a dime. It could become your favorite birthday moment for all your birthdays to come.

Channel Your Inner Coupon Queen

If you’re willing to look, the world just may offer you a completely free day of festivities. Lots of restaurants and stores offer discounts and free items for your big day. Check out this list for a full rundown of birthday bonuses. You can also ask local businesses if they offer anything special for birthdays. Choose just one freebie to cash in on or arrange a day of searching for freebies. It could become your own birthday coupon parade around town. 

Learn from Anne Frank

Traditionally, celebrating a birthday means spending a lot of money (or, at least, more money than you would on a normal day). Maybe this year you find joy not in spending, but in giving. As the young, late Anne Frank once said, “No one has ever become poor by giving.” A lot of birthdays consist of spending a ton of cash, but feeling let down. This year on your big day, look for ways to give instead of spend. It will probably leave you feeling richer and more fulfilled in the end.

Before you start wondering how giving things away will really save you any money, remember that generosity isn’t always financial. Brainstorm ways you could be generous on your birthday without spending much (or at all!). You could volunteer for a few hours at the local food bank. Or, make a few peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to hand out to the homeless people in your neighborhood. It might not sound as glitzy as a weekend with friends at a five-star resort, but it can be surprising how enjoyable it is to act with generosity.  

Think whimsically

Whimsy is defined as, “Playfully quaint or fanciful behavior or humor.” Tell me that doesn’t sound like the right attitude for celebrating. Put on your whimsical thinking cap and start dreaming. You could dream up some pretty fun things to do on your big day, and whimsy can help you do that without spending a pretty penny. Purple cake with bright green frosting? Check. Confetti poppers on the hour every hour of your birthday? Definitely. Twinkly lights hanging above your bubbly bathtub? For sure. Journaling about your future plans? Easy, breezy (plus it allows you to finally use that journal you haven’t touched since the first of January). Thinking whimsically invites a special sort of magic into your birthday and it doesn’t have to cost anything.

Challenge yourself on your birthday this year and look for meaningful, low-cost to no-cost ways to celebrate you. You might be surprised by the creative celebration tactics you discover. Oh, and, happy birthday!

Emma is a freelance writer based in Seattle who writes about food, personal finance, and fashion. When the writing’s done, she enjoys reading, hiking, and drinking coffee, as any true Pacific Northwester does. You can reach her through her website.

Image via Unsplash

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