Depending on whose research you read, parents are willing to shell out between £100 and £200 on a birthday party, and this often has little bearing on their ability to afford it.
In one survey conducted by ThinkMoney, 2.7 million parents spend more than £150 on birthday parties, with an average cost of £107.76 for the most recent party (according to research carried out by Opinium Research in April 2013).
It's easy to see how costs build when the same survey found that the average number of guests at kid's party was 15. The general trend is for fewer guests as the children get older, for instance 12-18 years olds typically had an average of 13 guests compared with 16 for the under 11s.
Average cost of a birthday party
But look elsewhere and this expenditure may be on the conservative side. A survey from Littlewoods, found that the average cost of a party was £214, with a third of parents saying they spend the money on the party to ensure their child's party is better than a friend's. A staggering, and presumably extremely elite group of parents, said they spend £800 or more (9% of respondents).
"A staggering, and presumably extremely elite group of parents, said they spent £800 or more*."
As extravagent celebrations become increasingly the norm, so too does the quality of the contents of the party bag. Two per cent of parents in this survey said their child had received an iPod in their party bag!
So in this scramble to out-do each other on the party stakes, what types of parties are most popular with kids? Perhaps unsurprisngly their aspirations are high and their ideal party would be in a theme park, last more than 5 hours, with a class-worth of guests invited. Throw into the mix lunch at Nando's and them being given at least 17 presents, and they're happy.
And if it's not theme parks it can be other equally grandiose venues. In recent years, the trends for parties has included activities such as go-karting, hiring limos, tree-top climbing adventures, horse riding, Laser Quest, paint-balling and ice-skating. The list, and the cost, goes on.
But as research from YouGov for the charity Lumos shows, 66% of parents think children’s parties have become too expensive compared with five years ago.
So surely it's time to be brave and break away from the pack to rediscover the joys of a party that is about the experience not the cost. This generation of parents certainly didn't grow up with the lavish parties they are putting on for their own kids. In many cases there weren't any parties at all.
So how does one cope as a parent of limited means? Does it matter if the party ends up costing more than the present? Will your child be ostracised if their party doesn't make the grade?
Budgeting for a party
Like all areas of life it helps to start with a budget. Decide what you can afford and stick with it. One cost-cutting route is to share a party: find a mate with a birthday near to your child's and do it as a joint party. Nobody minds this, in fact it keeps the party dates down which can be a help if there are nearly 30 kids trying to fit in parties during a school year.
It can be really effective to opt out quite dramatically from the high price parties. Summer months help here. Anything that involves outdoors – picnics, treasure hunts, mystery walks, mini Olympics – can be done cheaply and is often enjoyed, and remembered, far more by the kids.
And then at the end, it's the party bag. No matter what you put in the bag or how much you spend, the thing kids are really interested in, is the sweets. Of course, there's a whole etiquette on whether this is suitable depending on the age of the kids, but whether it pleases the parents or not, they'll be rooting around looking for the Refresher.
This generation of kids may have become all too familiar with extravagant parties, but they are not beyond learning that everything has a budget and entertainment can come in all shapes and sizes.
*Survey conducted by Littlewoods
Written by Jane Bainbridge
Note: Whilst we take care to ensure Hub content is accurate at the time of publication, individual circumstances can differ so please don’t rely on it when making financial decisions. OneFamily do not provide advice so it may be worth speaking to an independent financial adviser about your own circumstances.