It's my child's birthday and I'll cry if I want to - The true cost of the kid's party

7 November 2016


It seems the days of never-ending invites to children’s birthday parties may be under threat, according to new research that highlights the true cost.

The Nationwide Current Accounts survey, which asked 2,000 parents of children aged up to 18, found that only a third (37%) of children have a birthday party every year to which they invite friends – but one in six (16%) have never had a party.

Great expectations?
These days having a couple of friends round for jelly and ice cream, and perhaps a round of pass the parcel, doesn’t appear to cut it, with parents forking out an average of £218.12 on festivities. More than half (52%) admitted to spending more than they had anticipated, with one in five (18%) confessing the costs just mounted up, 8 per cent citing pester power, 7 per cent trying to compete with others, and one in six (14%) admitting they just like to indulge their child when they can.

Phil Smith, Nationwide’s Head of Current Accounts, comments: “While it’s great to throw a birthday bash for your child, its important its affordable and won’t leave you significantly out of pocket, especially if money is tight. For kids, the best parties are often more about spending time with their friends, rather than a lavish event, so parents shouldn’t feel under pressure to over-deliver.”

Birthday buddies
Of those lucky enough to have a birthday party, two in five (42%) invited between five and ten children to the most recent occasion and a quarter (22%) entertained four or less. Only 8 per cent invited more than 20 children, suggesting that parties for the whole school class may be falling out of favour.

Party central
For two in five (40%) the party fun was hosted at home, while 3 per cent took friends to their grandparents’. However, one in six (16%) held their bash at an entertainment venue such as a bowling alley, trampoline centre, laser quest or football venue, with a further one in eight preferring a local hall or soft play centre.

How was the fun financed?
There was a varied approach to financing of the event, with more than half (54%) budgeting for some or all elements, one in five (22%) saying they bought items over time and the same amount saying they had saved in advance. A few were lucky enough to receive contributions from relatives (4%) or to have them cover the whole cost of the event (1%). However, one in seven (15%) chose to fund the occasion with a credit card, one in twenty (5%) through their overdraft and one in fifty people (2%) got a loan to cover the extra expense.

Festivity finances
Asked what they spent their hard-earned cash on, it’s easy to see how quickly the costs mount up – with the average cost of a child’s birthday party totalling £218.12. Here’s a breakdown of the party shopping list spending:

  • Entertainment/activities £77.21
  • Venue hire £47.29
  • Food £33.58
  • Birthday cake £15.02
  • Party bags £12.71
  • Decorations/tableware £12.33
  • Child’s party outfit £12.15
  • Invites/thank you notes £7.83

Kids’ social calendars
When it comes to reciprocal invites, the average number of children’s birthday parties attended in the past year was four, though one in fifteen (6%) went to more than ten. The average spent on each child’s birthday card and present was £10.86, with two in five spending up to £10 and a frugal one in six (16%) spending £5 or less.

Guilty secrets
In this social whirl of other children’s parties, a number of the parents researched took the opportunity to confess, with one in seven (14%) missing an invite left in their child’s school bag, one in ten (10%) either pretending that their child was ill or that they were away so they didn’t have to attend, and 6% forgetting to take their child to the party all together, even though they had previously accepted! One in twelve (8%) made their excuses because they didn’t like the birthday child and a further 6% because they didn’t like the parents!

Notes to Editor:

Survey conducted by Onepoll among 2000 parents of children aged 1-18 between 20.09.2016 and 04.10.2016.

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