Plan a Birthday Party Without Going Broke

Twice a year about a month before my daughters’ birthdays, I ask myself a multitude of questions: 

  1. What kind of party should I plan?
  2. How many of her classmates should I invite?
  3. How will I make this year top last year.
  4. How will I afford this? 

The final question is the one that hits me hardest and determines the answers to the previous questions. 

Cost Saving Tips


  • Local Parks – They’re free. They often have pavilions for inclement weather. No clean up at home. 
  • Nature Centers – If you have a local nature center, call them. We have one in Aurora that has amazing staff and fantastic programs. 
  • Somewhere that has an entry per vehicle such as a State Park, City Park, or National Park – Bring mini vans full of kids and you have yourself a cheap venue. 
  • Discounted Theaters – We have the Elvis Cinema theater here. The kids can see a movie that they may or may not have already seen for a cheaper price. 
  • Places that have all inclusive pricing – party packages = super easy. 
  • Local government buildings with meeting rooms. Kids don’t care where it is, they just care if they get cake and play games. 
  • For the adventurous – go camping, hiking, biking. 
  • At home – not ideal but definitely cheap. Basements, back yards, sleepovers. 

Invitations, Cake, Decorations, Goody Bags:  

  • I have, on occasion, spent a lot of time and effort on making (yes, making) invitations. Though they are super cute and make me feel better about my Pinterest obsessions, they also take a lot of time, effort, and money – they’re actually more expensive than buying pre-made invites. 
  • Tiered cakes are nice for weddings. Sheet cakes are perfectly acceptable for birthday parties and King Soopers has a great selection of cakes and cupcakes. I spent hours on extravagant cake pops for my daughter’s 6th birthday. They were cute, yes, but much more expensive and time consuming than a sheet cake would have been.
  • Decorations are nice but aside from balloons… Kids. Don’t. Care.
  • Goody bags. Two words. Dollar Store. 


Handmade Tutus for Every Child (12 total) at Daughter’s 6th Birthday


Lorax Cake Pops


Lorax Bear Cake Pops


Lorax Truffula Tree Cake Pops

What to spend money on: 

  • Activities – whatever the kids are going to be doing. 
  • Helpers – if you don’t have a husband or mother that’s willing to help, bring in helpers especially if there are going to be more than 10 kids under 10. 
  • A bottle of wine – you need something to celebrate your success after the party.  


  • You don’t have to compete with classmates’ birthday parties. You know your child and what they would like. Don’t go overboard just to keep up with the Joneses. 
  • Though your kids will seem like they don’t care and may ignore you, your presence at their party – smiling, taking pictures, etc – is way more important than everything else. 
  • Encourage people to RSVP but be prepared for additional kids to show up. RSVP’s don’t work well with kids’ parties for some reason. 
  • Make a budget and stick to it. 
  • Keep your eyes open for deals. Groupon, Living Social, Etc. 

Good luck in your party planning endeavors! 

~ Thankfully Exhausted


Even Established Events Need Good Marketing

The Denver Post just reported that the National Western Stock Show had their lowest participation numbers in 9 years. I had a feeling that would be the case…

Flashback to a month ago: I heard a muttering from a friend that they had tickets to the event and asked if I wanted to join. I declined but the event was immediately on my radar. I started listening for advertisements remembering a year ago I heard about the event everywhere I turned. This year I heard none.

No TV Advertisements.*
No Radio Advertisements.*
No Billboards.*

I had nearly forgotten about the event until I read a report from the Denver Post that said event participation should hit a record high. This piece of reporting shocked me since I hadn’t come across any marketing. I assumed maybe they were targeting a different demographic than myself or I was simply out of the loop.

When the news broke tonight that numbers were down, I wondered to myself if it was due in large part to the lack of marketing.

I have an event that typically sees a steady participation rate, almost always at capacity.

Until this past year.

Numbers were way down. And I realized that it was due in large part to our marketing or lack there of. The event has been held for over 20 years and this year we decided to use some sponsorship money for other items and get rid of some marketing we had done year after year. Our thought process was simple: most of our participants have registered for the event for many years, they didn’t need to see an ad, get a piece of mail, etc. to remember their favorite event, right? Wrong.

This year our marketing strategy will change and revert back to some of the old ways. Hopefully our numbers will come back. I believe the stock show marketing team will have to reevaluate their assumptions as well and hopefully they will have a much more successful event next year.

Have you had a drastic decrease in event numbers? Was it due to marketing changes?

~ Thankfully Exhausted

*This is not to say they didn’t advertise. This is just my perception and awareness of their advertising.

Rant: The Bachelor

The Show: The Bachelor

The Premise: One super hot guy meets 25 semi-hot to majority-hot girls. Eventually he sends 24 home and proposes to 1. 

The Rant: OK, here goes… Though I am guilty of geeking out on all things Bachelor and Bachelorette, I started taking issue with the show when my 5 year old daughter decided it was her favorite. The reason it’s her favorite is because of the barbie-esque women wearing princess-type dresses on the initial episode. This is not unusual for the 5 year old, who loves fashion more than most things, however, I started to think about what kind of lessons this show teaches. 

On the outside, it seems to be all about people trying to find love. A real-life eHarmony. You sort through the women you don’t like and hope to end up with the woman of your dreams. Sweet, right? Wrong. This man is a cheater. Period. Point blank. He goes around kissing and touching and I don’t even want to know what in the fantasy suite, several women at the same time. Remember what our mothers always told us? Once a cheater, always a cheater. Yep. And what about the girls? You leave your job, your friends, your kids, your entire life for the chance that a man you don’t even know might want to date you. Isn’t rule one of dating “Don’t lose your own identity?” Plus how low does your self esteem have to be to sit around pining over a man that you know is wining and dining other women?

As if that weren’t enough, these women wear super inappropriate clothing, even resorting to nudity at times (thank you crazy Courtney) and are portrayed as complete lushes as they stumble around in heels, crying because they didn’t get a rose after they knew the Bachelor only one night. Wow, pretty sure any guy who watches that episode is going to call out a Stage 4 Clinger alert and she’ll have to dye her hair and get a nose job before ever getting a date again. 

So what if you “win” the Bachelor’s heart? What if you’re the girl that he proposes to and all of your fantasies have come true? Then you have to sit at home for several weeks watching the man of your dreams wine, dine, kiss, etc. the other women that you came to love/hate while you’re not allowed to see your fiancé because heaven forbid you ruin the grand finale of the show by ending up in the tabloids with him. You can’t tell your friends, post pictures of your ring on Instagram, or make any wedding plans.

The Caveat: I like the show, however, I’m a grown woman who understands the show is completely unrealistic and ridiculous. 

The Moral: Don’t let your 5 year old watch the Bachelor. 

End Rant. 

~ Thankfully Exhausted

Power in the Name

My youngest daughter loves tormenting her big sister. It’s a sad reality in our house but a reality nonetheless. One of the 5 year old’s techniques is a simple word that strikes terror in her sister’s 6-almost-7 year old heart heart.


You may laugh, but when I was about her age, maybe a bit younger, I was scared to death of someone repeating Bloody Mary over and over again. It’s a very real and terrifying fear. I’ve tried to get my youngest to stop and to teach my oldest that there are ways to mitigate the fear. That being said, we had an incident recently that unfolded like this:

Both girls are going to bed and my youngest saunters up close to my oldest daughter’s bed and whispers something I can’t hear in her ear. My oldest then proceeds to yell out “JESUS!”

This made my head whip around quicker than the speed of light.
“We do not say the Lords name in vain!” I reacted.

“I didn’t, I mean, I just…” My oldest stammered.

I proceeded to give her a long speech about how it’s not acceptable to say that blah, blah, blah. When I was finished she looked me straight in the eyes – mine semi harsh, hers brimming with tears – and said, “Mommy, it’s how I’m not afraid.”

My heart fell out of my chest. I knew instantly what her sister had whispered in her ear. That one little word that was scarier than any snake, spider, or clown. And I felt like a total jerk. I jumped to conclusions, I fell into her little sister’s trap.

With her in my arms apologizing profusely, tears running down both of our cheeks Romans 10:13 came to mind “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (King James Version)

She was simply calling out the name of The Lord. Jesus made her less scared. There is power in the name.

~ Thankfully Exhausted

Silence is Platinum

“If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”

“I put my foot in my mouth on that one.”

“Wordless Wednesday”

“Silence is golden”

See where I’m going here? In a culture where we are encouraged more and more to speak up and be heard, we still have these phrases that beg the question, “What’s more important: being heard or being nice?” Most ask this question when it comes to business. It’s a dog eat dog world out there and usually being heard is valued over being nice.

I would argue, however, that silence is more than just being nice. It’s about listening, connecting, communicating, and silence is not always nice (ex: the mommy look).


I don’t know if this is my “mommy look” or my “Seriously? You’re taking a picture of me?” look.

When to be silent:

  1. You’re not adding anything of value to the conversation.
  2. You’re being destructive.
  3. You’re playing devil’s advocate ALL THE TIME.
  4. You’ve not been asked your opinion or for advice.
  5. When a look will speak 10x louder than any words.

Silence can be powerful, awkward, refreshing, and painful yet it is a tool in our communication toolbox. Recently the Bachelor began again (reality TV show) and one girl got out of the limo, introduced herself to the Bachelor, and then proceeded to have an awkward silence moment on purpose to “get it out of the way.” It was awkward and silly yet honest and intriguing all at the same time. It definitely broke the ice and she ended up with a rose two weeks in a row.

My encouragement for today is don’t be afraid of silence, embrace it and use it to hear and be heard.

~ Thankfully Exhausted

Really, This Is 40? A Review

Why do you go to the movie theater? 

Do you go to learn something? To relate? To laugh? To cry? To eat popcorn?

I generally like to go to the theater to be entertained. I laugh, I cry, but all in all if I’ve been entertained I leave feeling satisfied.

Recently I had to opportunity to see “This Is 40” and I fully expected to enjoy the movie. I mean who wouldn’t expect to like a movie that had laugh out loud previews? I did not enjoy it, however, not at all. There are a variety of reasons I didn’t like the movie: 

  • The length: It just kept going on… and on… and on… and… well you get the point. 
  • It was depressing: The main characters have an awful marriage, they’re pathological liars, and don’t even try to be good parents.
  • It was inappropriate for no reason: There were random boob shots, lots of cussing, and a variety of sexual innuendoes. These came at the strangest times and didn’t really fit in the movie.
  • Nothing was resolved in the end: There was no point of the story other than showing a bad week of a couple turning 40.
  • The inconsistencies were crazy: Two people who each own their own unsuccessful businesses are driving BMW’s, live in a 3 million dollar house (minimum), and have pictures littering the walls of their kids meeting Justin Bieber and the like… um, yeah right. Oh and there are no trust funds either, one of their fathers is mooching off them constantly and the other is not involved in their lives. 

So needless to say, this movie didn’t satisfy me. But I know lots of people who did enjoy this and other movies I haven’t. So my questions to you are: Why do you go to the movie theater? What types of movies satisfy that purpose? Did you like “This Is 40”?

~ Thankfully Exhausted

Do Your Kids Ever Fight?

Do your kids ever fight? I’m not talking about a simple exchange of semi-hostile words. No. I’m talking:

• Fists thrown?
• Hair pulled?
• Mean words?
• Bickering?
• Yelling?
• Screaming?
• Tattling?
• Taking and hiding the other ones’ special toys?
• Antagonizing?
• Smiling when they get the other one in trouble?

And then afterwards they’re best friends? Apologizing and laughing and playing?

Does this ring a bell with anyone?

Do your kids fight?

Yeah, neither do mine.

~ Thankfully Exhausted