What to spend on a child’s birthday party?

It’s that time of year again… G’s birthday is coming up!

As my little man plans to mark his fifth year, I have a party to organize. And, of course, pay for. He wanted gymnastics, so I called the nearest place. The cost? $270. On top of that, I will need to buy food, cake, and the highly-coveted and altogether essential goody bags. When all is said and done, this party will easily come in at $350.

I wondered: Is this normal? How much are other parents spending on their kids’ birthday parties? I couldn’t ask parents I know, so I instead asked the internet.

According to what I’ve found, the average parent spends right around $250 on a kid’s birthday party. Where do you fall?

Predicting Babies’ Eye Color

I am completely obsessed with genetics. I find the manner in which dominant and recessive genes combine to form a phenotype (i.e. the trait that displays) positively fascinating. I write about predicting babies’ features a lot on this blog because: 1) I think it’s so damn interesting and 2) You can actually predict what your future child may look like with just a few inputs.

I created the chart below to help you predict what eye color your baby may have. It’s a very simple eye color predictor, as it only takes into account the eye color of the parents:

Baby Eye Color Predictor

If you know the eye color of the grandparents (as I’m guessing most of you do), you should check out TheTech’s baby eye color predictor. The more info you can provide it, the more accurate your eye color predictions will be.

Did You Know…?

  • Brown is the most common eye color across the world. It is also the most common eye color in the U.S. today.
  • In 1900, blue was the most common eye color in the U.S., with approx. 58% percent of people having blue eyes.
  • Most babies are born with blue eyes, regardless of the color they will ultimately be.  Children’s eye color may change during their first few years. Usually, by the third birthday, a child’s eyes will take on their permanent color.
  • Your eyes don’t grow. Their size at birth is the size they will always be.
  • Having two different colored eyes (e.g. one brown, one green) is extremely rare but does occur. This condition is called heterochromia.

What Does it Cost to Raise a Child?

A quarter of a million dollars, to be exact.

It is now more expensive than ever, in real terms, to raise a child. In 2009, the average cost to raise a child to age 17 was nearly a quarter of a million dollars – $222,360. This is compared to the $182,857 that it cost in 1960.

(Source: USDA, Expenditures on Children by Families 2009)

And it’s not just the actual cost that has changed – the make up of the cost is different now, too. Most notably, childcare and education have become a large portion of expenses (17%) today; whereas they were virtually negligible just 50 years ago. The main driver of this change is the proliferation in paid caregivers (babysitters, day care, etc.).

Families are now spending less of their child-rearing dollars on food (24% in 1960 compared to 16% in 2009), attributable to “advances” in agriculture that have lowered the prices of most food items. Perhaps related, spending on health care has climbed from 4% in 1960 to a notable 8% in 2009.

For more information on this data – it’s actually quite fascinating – check out the USDA report.

5 Ways to Save Money on Vacation

A fun family vacation need not break the bank. I just returned from a five day trip with The Ex and G where we did a lot – for very little. Having saved money on my vacation, I was inspired to share some of my tips for how you can save money on your vacation, too.

5 Ways to Save Money on a Vacation

  1. Leverage work retreats. This really helps save money on your vacation. My company recently scheduled a weekend at a wilderness retreat for the entire company. I brought along The Ex and G at no extra cost (since I already had a hotel room – paid for by my company) and turned it into a mini-escape. As resort guests, The Ex and G were entitled to use of the pools, parks, sauna, restaurants, etc.
  2. Travel in the “Shoulder” season. I love the Shoulder season. It’s the time in between the high and low season (think: September for summer vacations; March for winter vacations). Many places have already lowered their prices to low season rates and the weather, while not as reliable as during the high season, is often just as good. Plus, the crowds have usually tapered, so popular attractions will be easier (and cheaper) to visit.
  3. Stay in a home, not a hotel. If you’re looking to save money on your vacation, cross hotels off your list. Many people rent out their homes for vacation use. Staying in a home is often much nicer than a hotel, especially if you have kids. Who wants to be cramped in a single room when you could have an entire house (for less money, too!)? (We recently stayed in a beautifully-appointed converted barn from the 1800s for half of what a hotel would have cost.) There are many websites that list vacation homes for rent and make it easy – and secure – to find a vacation rental. My favorite is www.vrbo.com.
  4. Cook some of your meals. The first thing we do when we arrive at our destination is to stop at the local market. We pick up coffee, milk, cereal, juice, ingredients for sandwiches, and ingredients to make an easy dinner. If you’re worried about not having spices on hand (like I am), pick up salt, pepper, and garlic. Those three will go a LONG way. Skipping the restaurants for every meal will help you save a LOT on vacation. Because we save so much by eating in for some of our meals, we always treat ourselves to a nice dinner out one night. We also grab lunch out if we feel like it – the key is to not be too strict or feel like you’re depriving yourself.
  5. Don’t pay for recreation. There are so many great ways to have fun on vacation that cost little to nothing. On our recent vacation, my favorite activity was going on a hike with my 4 year old son (or, as he called it, “an exploration”). Total cost? $0. We also went swimming in the lake (for free) and built a campfire for dinner (free, except food). If you’re driving to your destination, pack your bicycles, fishing poles, kayak, you name it. While you can rent these items at most places, they’re going to charge you an arm and a leg. Save money – and bring your own!

Random Thoughts for a Cloudy Tuesday

I could write an eloquent post, but let’s be real. People like bullet points. So, bullet points I shall give you. (Plus, I’m cranky and lazy this morning.) Some random, unrelated thoughts for a cloudy Tuesday morning:

  1. They say you should dress for the job you want to have, not for the job you do have. I want to be a stay-at-home-mom. Does this mean I should wear sweatpants to work?
  2. Color Me Badd will forever remain one of my favorite bands of all time. (Mark Calderon, who’s with me?) But, what’s with the extra “d”? Does it increase their level of badd(dd)ness? Anyway, back to Mark Calderon…
  3. Has anyone ever heard of Splatanimals? They’re these sticky, gooey creatures your kids can get in the quarter machines at grocery stores. They apparently leave permanent wet splotches on any wall they stick to. I now get to repaint jaguar-shaped spots all over my ceiling.
  4. Re: Splatanimals. The Ex is no longer permitted to go grocery shopping with quarters in his pockets.
  5. Re: Color Me Badd. I am having a strong desire to start singing “All 4 Love” to my coworkers. Thinking this may help me achieve goal #1 sooner than later.

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(the handsomeness known as Mark C.)

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