Although the bubble may not have completely burst, the recession is certainly having a huge impact on many of our lives and the bubble is definitely looking somewhat deflated. Unemployment has reached an all time high in Spain which is not good news for business owners or employees. Despite feeling the pinch, many of us still recognise the benefits of family life in Spain and don´t want to return to the UK with our tail between our legs. If this sounds like you, then it is time to get back to basics, batten down the hatches and cut your cloth accordingly.
If you are worried that your children will suffer as a result of reduced income, it is worth revisiting the important things in life. Provided you have a roof over your head and food on the table first and foremost, second that your children are receiving a good education and are growing and well loved, the rest is window dressing. The good thing about life in Spain is that “keeping up with the Joneses´” does not appear to be so important. People do not put you into a box according to the size of your house or the make of your car. Equally children don´t seem to hanker after clothes with a label or a logo at such an early age and a second hand Nintendo from Ebay is really no different to a new one if it has been well looked after by its first owner. The next few articles will all feature recession busting tips starting this week with children´s birthdays.
Birthdays are expensive for two reasons: the party and the presents. Most children nowadays expect both. This isn´t because they are spoilt but purely because, this is what they have always had. You do not need to spend a fortune on presents. For younger children, it is the number of parcels wrapped up that is important and not the monetary value so take a visit to your local Euro shop and buy lots of small items and wrap them all separately. Put small things in large boxes with lots of tissue paper to add to the excitement of opening them. Add one or two larger items and they will be perfectly content. For older children who understand the value of money a little more, if they want a really big item, then you could ask them to save up some of their own pocket money to contribute towards their desired present. If you have several children who want the same large present – a Nintendo Wii for example – perhaps it could be a joint Christmas present for sharing. An alternative for an older girl is to give money for their birthday and have a shopping party. Pick one or two friends and organise a shopping spree to the centre of their choice. Combine this with a DVD, popcorn and a sleepover and you have reduced your party costs considerably.
Turning our attention now to the all important birthday party, there are a huge range of exciting options for children of all ages which don´t have to break the bank. For little tots, you can´t beat the magic of a traditional party at home and with generally better weather here in Spain, the chances are you will be able to hold it out of doors thus cutting down on the clearing up. Toddlers love playing musical statues, chairs and bumps as well as the fun of pass the parcel. It is a good idea to ensure that everyone gets a turn at unwrapping the parcel and perhaps receives a small gift or lollypop. There is very little point in spending a fortune on food either. Little children are much more interested in the party games than the food so a few sandwiches, crisps, the trusty jelly and ice cream and the birthday cake will keep them happy. If you have a little more time on your hands, you can make a hedgehog using half a cabbage wrapped in foil and sticking cocktail sticks in it with sausages or cheese and pineapple. You can also make pin wheel sandwiches by rolling the sandwiches into thin circles or make a chequered flag using squares of alternating brown and white bread. Don´t forget to include plenty of drinks to compensate for all the running around.
Older children may well have outgrown the joys of pass the parcel but can still feel happy to have a party at home. If you have a strong constitution and can turn a blind eye to lots of mess and noise, a sleepover involving one or two close friends can be a fun way for children to spend their birthday. Ironically not much sleep is likely to take place so make sure sleepover parties take place on Friday or Saturday night so there is time to play catch up.
For a girly sleepover, you could organise an artistic friend to do their hair and make up for them or for boys a football tournament in the garden will burn off excess energy. For the birthday tea, provide them with some pizza bases so that they can decorate them themselves, add some garlic bread and oven chips and some corn to pop in the microwave and you have the perfect, easy solution.
If the idea of a party at home has you reaching for the valium, what about a barbecue or picnic at the local beach or park with your child´s class mates? Bring along a swingball, some racquets and shuttlecocks or rounders equipment and they will have a great time. Alternatively, arrange an “It´s a Knockout Tournament.” You will be surprised how little equipment you need to make an obstacle race. Add a few balloons to pass over and under your legs and an orange to pass under your chin and before you know it you will have a tournament on a grand scale.
Sometimes a lack of cash prompts us to come up with creative solutions and in years to come we look back on these occasions as being some of the happiest moments of our lives. Perhaps the fact that we have to substitute hard cash for lots of enthusiasm and imagination is the recipe for success regardless of our finances so here´s to a happy birthday!