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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Birthday Celebrations- Frugally?

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On Friday, my husband Mike celebrated his twenty fifth birthday, and I celebrated my twenty third. Yes, my husband and I share a birthday. It makes things easier in the frugal sense- one less celebration to figure out how to celebrate frugally.
You might have wondered- how does the most frugal couple in the world (OK, slight exaggeration, but I sometimes feel that way) celebrate birthdays?


To be honest, not as frugally as you might expect.
Then again, compared to some, you might call our celebrations ultra-frugal.



To start off my birthday celebration, long after my kids (and husband) went to sleep, at just a little bit after midnight, February 18th, I, Penny Penniless, devoured a whole (small) wheel of camembert cheese (my absolute favorite type of cheese)- all by myself! It cost me nearly 5 dollars for that small wheel, but wow... it was so worth it! I rarely get to eat food without some kids pulling my arm, asking for a taste, or just being left in peace. So getting to eat my favorite food all alone- a slice of heaven.

Before I share the rest of how our birthday celebration was spent, I think its important for me to share my birthday philosophy, which really translates into our general living philosophy.

You need to enjoy life. Being frugal for the sake of being frugal to the extent that you don't permit yourself to have any nice things because they aren't necessary for your life- that's just key to disaster.
Burnout is bad.
Its expensive.
It takes a toll on you emotionally long term.
To avoid feeling burnout, I think its important for you to have as many pleasures in your life as you can financially afford. You don't want to be feeling like that hamster who is running repeatedly on the wheel of finances and life, never getting anywhere, just making concession after concession, but never getting any payback. Sacrifices need to be made with an eventual goal in mind, the goal of eventually getting something that you want, whether that goal is buying a house, paying off debt, saving up for a vacation. Just doing without again and again and never getting anything you like because you "cant afford it" is likely to discourage you from even trying, because what's the point in working like a dog if you never benefit from it and see results?
I think its important to have things you enjoy, even if they're expensive. But not all the time. And you might need to make even more sacrifices so you can afford the few things that you really want- but make sure to include those into your life!
With that preamble, I'll say that we don't skimp so much on birthdays. We will spend money on birthdays for each other and for our kids. We go out to celebrate. Each of those we do in general frugal way, but not extremely frugal.
I have no regrets with spending more money on our birthdays. We are so extremely frugal throughout the year that our special days invigorate us and give us the mental energy to be frugal the rest of the year. We also can afford it. If we'd need to borrow money because of how we celebrated our birthday that would be foolish. Instead, we budget money each month, so that come our birthdays, we're able to do something really nice. And be able to pay for it without hurting financially.
2 years ago, money was quite tight for us for a while. We couldn't afford to go out for our birthday or do something special. So we didn't celebrate.
In February.
Once we did have some extra cash- in July- we celebrated our birthdays then.
That's the frugal way. To spend money on nice things to give you mental energy to continue what you're doing. Money that you have. And if that money isn't available, you don't spend it.
Oh, and the last most important point- only spend money on things that you will appreciate and will give long term benefits. Things that will be used and appreciated daily, for example, or events that are meaningful and build positive memories that will last for a long time.
Money spent that you end up regretting won't recharge you emotionally at all!

So, what were the birthday gifts we bought?
I bought myself the cheapest nice camera I could find. The one that I had until now was a piece of junk, had a really low resolution, and I couldn't take nice enough pictures for my blog, for my magazine articles, or for myself. Hopefully this camera will work a lot better, and because it wasn't a fortune, and it'll help me in the long run, I don't consider it a bad way to spend my money.

My husband, funnily enough, is a big technology lover. He uses his cell phone very frequently as he is at work outside in a place with no land line and needs to use his phone a lot for work related phone calls. He had a plan with a few minutes but it cost a lot of money. My husband upgraded to a better plan that cost the same amount of money he had been paying before, but got many more minutes and text messaging than he previously had. But the best part about it was- he got a smartphone- free- with the plan. He's so very excited and loves using it. It's like his own personal mini computer in a way. I'm posting about this partly because he's embarrassed that if people will see him with his phone, they'll think he's a spendthrift and a hypocrite. But it was thrown in to the deal, and it wasn't a waste of money. Ok, the plan isn't the cheapest plan he could possibly get- he is paying something for the phone, but he's allowed to- that was his birthday gift!


I also got a silicon baking sheet (to be used instead of wax paper or aluminum foil)- my request- from my mom, along with a book on edible wild plants. (Yay!)

What are we doing for our birthdays? 
My brother took us out to pizza for lunch on Friday.
My sister invited our family to her house that night for a celebratory birthday dinner, and she made us a 5 course meals, 4 of the courses were meaty. It was absolutely delicious and I really felt pampered with all that meat, especially since we go skimping on the meat in our home.

My husband and I also would like to go out ourselves as well, but had had a hard time coming to a decision of a venue. As I mentioned, I don't mind spending money on going out... But, I have my criteria.
When I go out, I'm willing to spend money on either an extra nice atmosphere, or delicious food that I can't get at home. I don't mind spending money on this- I'm willing to spend up to 80 dollars on a night out (and that can get a lot where we live), but it has to be worth the money. I don't want to pay that much money for food that I can and do make at home.
Which makes it hard.
The restaurants with the "good food" around here are the traditional Italian restaurants, South American type restaurants, Chinese restaurants, Middle Eastern restaurants, and Indian restaurants. I routinely make all that type of food at home, even the complicated fancy stuff like raviolli, wonton soup, egg rolls, curries, etc... so none of that is "special" for me, and in fact, most of the food I buy in restaurants isn't as yummy as the stuff I can make at home. (Not to mention, it usually has many more chemicals which end up giving me a headache and make me feel sick.) Which is a big waste.
We were considering a restaurant here that is an all you can eat meat restaurant, but I'm not sure. There's also another restaurant here that serves exotic types of meat that you can't usually buy in a store, which sounds really cool.
If we go to either of those, we'd go during the day and get a business lunch, which usually ends up being much  cheaper.
But, I think we probably won't end up going the restaurant route.
My husband loves picnics. So do I.
I think we're gonna leave the kids with a relative (who offered to barter babysitting) and head off to a park with a picnic basket. Gonna bring along some yummy fruit, veggies, crackers, fresh breads (bakery bought), a variety of exotic, expensive, and yummy cheeses, some store bought pastries, and some champaign. A much nicer meal than what I'd be able to get at a restaurant, but a fraction the cost. And its an environment my husband and I prefer. More romantic than a hustle and bustle restaurant. We just need to pick a day with decent weather, but we're having quite a few of those lately, so I'm not worried.


So, what do you say? Do you think this sounds like a decent way to celebrate a birthday, or is it too "unfrugal" or too frugal for you?
How do you tend to celebrate birthdays?

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