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Have you heard the one about the homeschooling family that lives on less than $22K a year in an area that costs above 100% (116%) of the National CoL Index?

I haven't quite figured out why so many people still persist in perpetuating the myth that living on a single income and homeschooling on a dime aren't possible. I can only suppose these are people who can't imagine life without a daily trip to Starbucks and dinner out several times a week. The people who actually shop at malls (*shudder*) and think "Brand Name = Best". The people who really live by the "Keeping up with the Joneses" mentality.

That? Would not be us!

Welcome to our world. We cook from scratch. Buy from thrift stores. Find 95% of our homeschool materials for free. This is my blog and this is how we do it.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Birthday Budget.

My daughter's birthday is coming up this week, so what better time to talk about kids' birthdays on tiny budgets? ;) We follow a system where each year, one of the children gets a "big" party and one gets a small/family party, then we switch the next year. Last year my daughter had 15 girls attend a ceramic-painting, pizza-eating, raise-the-roof blow-out, while for my son we simply went bowling in the early afternoon when games are just $1 per game. So this year it's my daughter's turn for the "small" party. (More in full post.)

I guess there might be some people who think we are short-changing our kids this way, but we set up this system many years ago and the kids have never once complained. And thinking back on my own childhood, there were years I had big parties - like a dozen girls at a slumber party when I turned 9, and years when there weren't so many; like when I and two friends went to play mini-golf for my 12th birthday. I suspect this is actually true for most people if they stop to consider it.

For my daughter's birthday this year, she elected to just stay home with the family. She chose a movie from the library - The Princess Bride (Which? Hee. My husband and I both started quoting it as soon as she brought it to us. She and my son have never seen it, so we thought it was a great choice.) On her birthday, we'll be having chocolate chip pancakes and bacon for breakfast. Potato Soup and biscuits for lunch. And tacos, Spanish Rice, and refried beans for dinner. All her favorites. We'll also be having chocolate cake. After dinner, we'll watch the movie in the den with popcorn* and some limeade.

Her big gift this year is a digital camera. She's been asking for one for awhile, and we've decided she's demonstrated she's responsible enough to have one. (On a side note - this is a girl who taught herself how to use a Paint program to manipulate graphics and images, how to set up simple webpages, and she even has created her own animation videos online. It is not at all surprising that she wants a digital camera!) I put out word to all our family members and friends that we were looking for a used digital camera if anyone was selling one, and I was contacted by a friend of a friend who sold us a nice Sony camera for $10. My daughter has no idea about this, so I can't wait to see her face when she opens it.

She's also been asking about a sewing machine, so I sent out word about that as well, and wonder of wonders, one turned up that someone was selling. In fact, I was going to give her that as her birthday present, until we were called about the camera. So now I'm keeping the sewing machine to be a Christmas gift.

I made her some new headbands for herself and her Our Generation Doll** (a sorta American Girl doll, but doesn't cost more than our monthly utility bills!), USING THIS REALLY SIMPLE PATTERN.

Last week, my husband took her to a local used bookstore that sells used CDs and let her pick out 4 of her favorite Christian bands/artists. (At a total of just over $7.) We recently got the free iPod through wowio.com for her and now she's able to convert and play the CDs on it.

We were able to get free tickets to the Orlando Opera's youth performance of The Pirates of Penzance, so we'll be going to that at the end of next week as her final birthday gift.

(Note - she's received some gifts in the mail from relatives, but as we haven't opened them yet, I don't know what they are.)

The food costs are negligible - we'd be eating anyway, obviously, and nothing in the meals is anything different/more expensive than something we'd usually eat - and the addition of the cake isn't much. I use a master mix for that and I make the frosting, as well. The cakes I make only cost around $1.50 at most, even if I add sprinkles.

Her gifts cost less than $20. The headbands were made from yarn remnants from other projects, so at most that was $1. To be fair, I should also factor in the gas costs to drive to the opera, so I'll say this birthday is costing us $21.

One other note: We do decorate for birthdays. We have a "Happy Birthday!" banner that we purchased years ago. We blow up a few balloons and tie them to the chair of the birthday person. We have a "Celebrate" plate from Pampered Chef that the birthday person eats on all day. (Um, LOL! I do wash it between meals! I don't mean someone walks around with the plate all day, eating off it.) Ours is an older version I bought at a garage sale a long time ago. It's blue and white. They have a more colorful one now, so maybe I'll stumble across it at a garage sale, too, sometime. :) We also have a special tablecloth that we bring out. I made it when my oldest turned 2. I bought a couple of yards of green fabric, hemmed it all around, and appliqued circles of yellow, red, and blue on it and embroidered black "strings" to make balloons.

*I'm not typically a fan of extra kitchen gadgets. I don't often buy things that serve only one purpose, but I do have one of those hand-crank popcorn pots. It produces MUCH better popcorn than what you get out of a microwave, and we won't even talk about the cardboard-tasting horrors that come out of air-poppers! Also, even with some salt and butter added, a really big bowl of popcorn costs less than .20 cents when you pop it yourself and it hardly takes that much more time than the microwave - about 5 minutes. I've seen them selling new as low as $20 and you can probably find them for less on auction sites (Though watch the shipping costs!). If your family eats popcorn at least once a week, it wouldn't take very long for you to pay off that upfront cost in savings from not buying the microwave version. Plus you can avoid the questions that have recently arisen concerning the possible toxicity of microwave popcorn.

**OUR GENERATION DOLLS - We purchased one of these awhile back, using a gift certificate someone gave me. It's held up just fine with her playing and taking it with her to her Keepers at Home club meetings where they read and discuss American Girl books. My mother has made the doll some very cute outfits, and made matching sundresses for my daughter and the doll.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

We don't have big birthday's because we don't know that many people for our children's birthday's. We do make their favorite foods though all day. This year, actually last week, was my dd birthday and we were able to get an LL Bean swetshirt she has been wanting for $10 new. My has thier credit card with free shipping and it was on sale and she had a $10 gift cert she let us use. Not bad we thought.


June 17, 2007 at 7:34 AM  
Blogger Just Me, Jenni said...

Not bad at all! :) She got just what she wanted and you didn't have to not eat for a week for it. I call that a win-win. Hee.

June 20, 2007 at 12:42 PM  

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