- Find a train to ride. We opted to enjoy a 1-hour excursion on a steam engine featured at the Mid-Continent Railway Museum in North Freedom, Wisconsin. A steam engine has not been on its track since 2000, so this was a big draw. Total cost, $38 for two adults....our kids were young enough to ride for free. We scheduled this event for the Saturday prior to his actual birthday.
- Honor his heroes: Firetrucks and firefighters are deities in our son's world, and we used that as a theme for his actual birthday. No, I did not spend a bundle on firefighter plates and napkins. Instead, we cooked up some food and took it down the street to our local fire station. Complete with a tour of the engines and a chance to ask all those pressing questions like "how do you decide who gets to drive". Cost? Just the groceries for the food.
- Food Thanksgiving style: In our home both parents take the day off from work and we spend it together as a family. This gives me a chance to work in kitchen time so that we can have a lovely meal. Since it is August we opted for the grill: hotdogs, potatoes, corn, etc. Quality food is the centerpiece. This meal cost less than $10 thanks to farmers' markets.
- Family: we did invite his grandmother and aunt/uncle cousins for dinner the previous weekend. We asked them not to bring gifts as we are swimming in toys already. We shared a meal, good laughs, and one another's time. The most precious thing we think you can give a child for his/her birthday. A meal for 7 adults and 2 children cost less than $25; one pot roast, the rest veggies and home made oatmeal chocolate chip cookies.
There you have it, a frugal approach to a child's birthday. Think outside the box and be willing to take a path away from the ordinary. You just may save some money, go easy on the earth, and have very little stress.