My daughter was born in December. (In fact, her 5th birthday is next week and I have a very special Money Tune Tuesday planned in honor of her birthday.)
When most people hear that, their first comment is “Wow. That’s awful! What do you do? Do you just combine her birthday with Christmas?” The answer is a resounding no (for the record, we also don’t combine it with Hanukkah, which we also celebrate. And also, thanks for telling me that my daughter’s birthday is awful. While I understand what you mean, it is still rude).
When we found out that I was pregnant and that my due date was December 23, we immediately began a conversation about how we were going to handle her birthday among the other holidays. We agreed that she would never have a birthday present under the tree, she would never get a birthday present after lighting the menorah nor would she get a holiday present at her birthday party. It was (and still is) extremely important to my husband and I that we recognize the importance of our daughter’s birthday.
We also realized that our budget was going to take a huge hit every December. To combat that, we had lengthy discussion about how we could plan and budget for both without going bankrupt. Since we knew it was important to make them separate and distinct, we had to plan very carefully. And, as all of these events happen every December, there’s no reason for surprise.
So what do we do to financially plan for the onslaught of holidays as well as keep her birthday separate? We follow these steps:
Separating her birthday
- Plan her birthday party at least 2 weeks before Christmas. This way, there’s a clear distinction between her birthday and Christmas. As she gets older, we will probably do something small with just her close friends and then do a larger party in June.
- Let our families know that we will not be combining her birthday with the other holidays. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, well meaning family friends—they all like to give gifts and like so many others, like to combine them. This obviously does not mesh with our desire to separate them. By telling them our preference, we eliminate those problems. However, should her birthday fall during Hanukkah (which is does every other year), we are fine with giving her a birthday present and a Hanukkah present on the same day. As long as they are wrapped in different paper or there is some way to distinguish one from the other.
- Make the day all about her. Every year, on her actual birthday, one or both of us will take the day off of work and let her do whatever she wants (we don’t send her to school if her birthday falls on a weekday). We let her pick what we’re having for dinner and we make sure there’s a cake or cupcakes just for our family. This is also when she gets her card and gift from us.
- Have a specific budget for each. We have a very specific price limit for each event. Her birthday party usually takes up most of the birthday budget but we still get her a small gift.
- We maximize our Dependent Care account. We contribute the maximum amount allowable every year and, because of the way we structure the payments combined with the cost of daycare, we have a huge surplus every December. That money helps offset the cost of her birthday party as well as buying last minute Hanukkah and Christmas gifts.
- We shop as early as possible. I can’t stand Black Friday. I can’t stand the stores at holiday time. People are pushy, rude and generally unpleasant. By getting the shopping done as early as possible (or online), I don’t have to deal with the crowds. That way, by the time her birthday and the holidays come around, I have everything on hand. And I get the added bonus of spending my weekends at home instead of battling a crazy person for a parking spot.
To most people, it would just seem easier, financially and logistically, to include her birthday with Christmas (and, in my house, Hanukkah). However, I believe that her birthday is special, and should be treated as separate and distinct from other holidays in that month. Even if it means spending extra money. By planning for it, it’s not an extra burden and my daughter never feels that her birthday has been overshadowed by something else.
Do you have a December baby? Are you a December baby? How do you feel about separating birthdays from Christmas and Hanukkah?