I gave my daughter a budget for her birthday


Humblebrag: This year, I rocked my daughter’s birthday.

I got her the best present ever, and I’m fairly certain that I deserve a prize for this stroke of genius gift giving.

What did I get her, you ask? 

A dollhouse?

A huge party?

A gift card to a trendy store?

Nope. I got her …(drumroll please)…  a BUDGET.


That’s right, Dave Ramsey fans. I used her birthday to teach her the value of cold, hard cash. And we’re both better people for it. 

I’ll be honest with you here: We aren’t rich. I stack coupons like a boss. I beeline for the Clearance Racks. I raid the WooHoo Bargain markdowns. I truly want my daughter to have a fun birthday par-tay, but I refuse to pay a crap-ton of money for something that lasts 2 hours at best. 

It just isn’t happening.

Don’t get me wrong: I adore my child, and I want her to be celebrated in a way that shows her how thankful we are to have her in our lives. I realize that there’s a lot of hoopla about parties, from Pinterest to My Sweet Sixteen, which makes it feel like parties have to be extravagant in order to be fun. There’s also a super weird competition among birthday parties, where each one needs to set the bar a teeny bit higher than the last. What’s more, when Mom handles the budget it feels like a very slippery slope, because it introduces Mo Pressure and its cousin Mom Guilt. Bottom line: It takes the control away from the birthday gal.

So this year, I gave my daughter the proverbial reigns to design her own birthday, while learning how to manage money. It’s the gift that keeps on giving, really.

Here’s how it went down: I drank a lot of coffee – how all my good ideas begin – then decided to give her a budget of $100 (because frankly, I have zero time or energy this time of year). I’m also a pretty terrible party planner. 

*Although $100 sounds like a lot to a kid, it is actually less than half of what many popular party venues cost. I gave my daughter the $100 bill and told her that she could keep whatever was left over for herself. She was ALL IN, confident that she could buy the moon with all of that money. She immediately got to work making and revising list after list after list, planning the best par-tay in the history of parties. 

Y’all, what happened next was pure magic. My daughter realized that bittersweet truth that us frugal mamas all know: Stretching money is super hard. It looks a little something like this:

  1. Shop around for item(s) on list. 
  2. Feel poor.
  3. Lower expectations.
  4. No, a bit lower. There you go.
  5. Revise budget.
  6. Prioritize.
  7. Feel poor again. Get creative.
  8. Repeat steps 1-7.

PARENTAL WARNING: This process requires a LOT of time and patience. I don’t have boatloads of either, but this is the time to simply suck it up, Buttercup. Like potty training, this lesson is important and, if done well, will last a lifetime. Block out your day to focus on comparison shopping at Target or Party City or Amazon. This is less about your time and more about your kid’s financial future.

In the end, budgeting made sense to my daughter, and she’s much wiser with her money now. She’s also much more conscious of spending when it isn’t her money (thank you, Jesus!). The whole experiment left me questioning why I’d never done this before now… plus it saved me a ton in terms of money and sanity.

I’ll be implementing the $100 party for all my kids from now until forever. 



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Jeanie is a perfectly imperfect mama, transplanted to Cordova fresh out of graduate school. She and her husband, Matt, had no intent on making Memphis “home” – but ten years later, they’re still here (and love it!). They have three saucy gingers, along with three “fur babies”. Between homeschooling and chairing graduate Psychology departments online, life is never boring in the Whinghter house. It’s no surprise that Jeanie fancies coffee, but she also loves bargain shopping and embarrassing her children with her questionable singing/dancing skills. She’s had more #PinterestFails that she can count and has perfected the art of giving a good pep talk (watch out, puberty!). Motherhood has slowly transformed her into the “uncool” Mom she thought she’d never be, yet she’s never felt cooler or more content with her life.


  1. Thanks for asking! We built our kids a big play fort in our backyard last year, so the girls had “girl time” hanging out in there – they did “spa things” like nails, then had pizza and cake. It was inexpensive, fun and super simple. Mission accomplished!

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