Today is a Sad, Sad Day

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Today is a sad, sad day for me, not because someone has passed away or some horrendous event has occurred.  I am personally sad because this is the last day of my birthday month.  Most people celebrate the day of their birth, but I prefer a birthday week and a birthday month.  That may sound like I’m an egomaniac but let me explain.  And, by the way, it’s not really a sad day.  I am just teasing.

It has taken a while for my minimalistic ways to catch on in my family – not just my immediate family, but also my family of origin.  Gifts have always been a way my family showed love, and growing up, Christmas and birthdays were an extravagant affair, gift-wise.  These gifts weren’t necessarily elaborate in expense but certainly in the number of gifts received.   I have planted the seeds with my family, and I have been dutifully watering them – talking frequently about my love of simplicity and how I don’t need material things.  Finally, these messages seem to have sunk in, and I could not be happier about it.

Here is my idea of great birthday celebrations.  About a week before my birthday, I start talking about it being my “birthday week.”  This gives me the authority to choose the games we play in the evening (Skip-Bo is my current favorite.)  If my daughter or husband suggests a meal or game I don’t favor, I just pull out the ace in my sleeve and declare it my birthday week – meaning I get to choose.  Lest you think I’m a tyrant, I’m not.  I just get to choose, and Greg and Rowan get the same courtesy on THEIR birthday week.  Hearing Rowan (who is nine) declare, “No, Daddy, Mama gets to choose – it is HER birthday!” is music to my ears.

My birthday week usually stretches into two, as I try to wield my power in the week leading up to, and the week following my actual birthday.  In my head, I celebrate all month long, but my status as the Birthday Queen wanes about a week after my birthday.

This year’s birthday was particularly wonderful.  Typically, we choose a nice restaurant for birthday meals.  This year, Greg and Rowan made me a special birthday dinner at home.  Typically, my daughter feels compelled to buy a gift for me, and the best I can do is steer her toward something practical that I actually need.  This year, she made me a great card that she and Daddy signed. She also made me a special birthday charm to carry around.  Greg bought a bottle of my favorite wine and a package of my favorite cookies, and that was it.  Really no additional costs over our normal weekly grocery spending.  We had a lovely dinner and then played games.  It was perfect.

But it was even better than that.  I have a Barnes and Noble membership, and I got an email with a coupon for a free drink of any sort at their café.  These email offers arrive once a month, plus I had a coupon for additional savings on a book.  On my actual birthday, I hit the bookstore (browsing books is one of my most favorite things to do), chose a book for myself and one for Rowan, and headed to the checkout.  I saved decent money with my coupon stacking, and the store printed out a buy-one-get-one cookie coupon with my receipt.  This was just about the best thing I’d heard all day.  I headed to the café, where I spent $2.45 on an enormous cookie, got a second one for free, and ordered my free chai latte.

At home, I shared my cookies with my family for dessert.  Total spent on my birthday was $2.45, plus the cost of books.

Best. Birthday. Ever.

Do you celebrate your birthdays simply?  Share your ideas so I have eleven months to start dropping hints!

2 responses to “Today is a Sad, Sad Day

  1. My partner and I are not big birthday givers, but I struggle to keep it small with our kids. It’s also difficult at Christmas. I find I’m much more likely to splurge on something if it’s for a family member than myself, but I like the idea of finding non-monetary ways to celebrate. A birthday week or month getting to choose what to do seems like a nice way to make it special. Although I’m afraid it might mean at least a week of pizza if my daughter choose the meals! I could see letting each person choose an activity for a day that we could do as a family. We’ve also tried to limit gifts from family for birthdays and holidays because we don’t want to focus on things and it gets to be way too much stuff in the house! Do you have any recommendations for kindly telling family (especially Grandparents that are determined to spoil the grandkids) to cut back on the material gifts? We’ve tried, but they still want to see the kids open packages.

    1. Hi Monica! I know what you mean about grandparents that spoil. I had to just be blunt with my mom about it, and she was really quite awesome about it. It helps that we don’t always see them at the holidays – that urge to see them open gifts is reduced. Maybe asking them to dial it back by a third or half? And steering them to experience gifts versus material gifts? Some people say that if you have asked and your request falls on deaf ears, just let them give and then do a decluttering shortly after the holidays. For Christmas time, we made good strides this year to create special times of family activities, and we dialed back expectations on gifts. I wrote about it here:

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