26/05/2009 05:11 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 10:12 BST

Thrifty Ways To Celebrate Birthdays

How much we spend on our five children's birthdays and how we choose to celebrate varies in our house. Now with the economy as it is, celebrating in thrifty style is high on the agenda.

We are starting our birthday marathon entailing four celebrations in six weeks (planning was never a strong point) so making every penny count is essential.

Read on to learn about my family's birthday traditions which don't cost a lot but do make the day, and the person, feel extra extra special. Of course, presents help with that too but who doesn't love those little rituals that your child will hopefully remember forever?

Our traditions are set in stone and it would be the failure to invoke them and not a lack of a party that would make our birthdays feel just that little less special.

  • Ice-Cream for Breakfast. This is gleefully anticipated by the children. They tuck into cookies and cream or chocolate while I nurse my customary cup of tea and try to wake up. It is a simple, if unhealthy, way to make the day feel special particularly if the birthday boy or girl has to reluctantly go to school. I had thought a lot of families kicked off their celebrations in this way but not according to my children. Their friends think it's "cool".

  • A Birthday Balloon: A helium balloon is bought the day before for £2.99 and hidden, albeit with some difficulty, at home. It's tied to the chair at the head of the table and woe betide anyone who sits there. This is perhaps the one tradition I find a little tricky as I'm reliant on a particular shop staying in business and not selling out of suitable balloons. Plus, travelling into town the day before is not always convenient. But a birthday wouldn't be a birthday without one so travel I do.

  • Nigella's Chocolate Birthday Cake: This is our standard birthday cake which is sometimes baked into a special shape (usually a number) but always lavishly decorated. It has a delicious ganache which dries to a nice sheen and is easy to decorate. Luckily for me our nearest town has a specialist cake decorating shop and some of our purchases get reused year after year. Magic re-lighting candles are also a must.

  • Bunting and a Special Tablecloth: I admit one year I did buy this lovely, cheerful red bunting and a cotton tablecloth emblazoned with "Happy Birthday" but it's served its purpose time and again not just for our family but friends' birthdays too. If you are skilled with a sewing machine (which I'm not) I'd imagine it would be easy, and more frugal, to make your own.

  • Fresh flowers: I know they make a house a home but quite often my budget can't stretch to them. At birthdays it can and, coupled with bunches of balloons, the bunting and our birthday table cloth, they can help make our kitchen table feel very celebratory.

  • A Special Meal: We rarely go out to a restaurant for our birthday meals, instead preferring to have a special just-what-they-want meal chosen by the lucky boy or girl. Occasionally a friend will join us, Grandad always does, but with five children there are enough of us to make it always feel like a party, or a rowdy riot, whatever the day.