How much will be wasted on celebrating Princess Charlotte's birthday?

Birthdays cost an average of £545 - and an enormous chunk of this is completely wasted

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Princess Charlotte's first birthday

It's Princess Charlotte's birthday today, when she reaches the grand old age of a year old. As a royal, the usual fuss and palaver that surrounds children on their birthday will be multiplied dramatically. However, almost every little girl tends to be treated like a princess on her birthday, and it's costing parents a small fortune.

A recent study by American Express found that parents spend £545 across a mix of gifts, entertainment, party food, party venues, new outfits and party bags, to celebrate their child's birthday.

This breaks down as £122 on presents, £94 on entertainment, £91 on party food, £90 on a party venue, £85 on new outfits and £62 on party bags.

Catherine Prentke, Director, American Express said: "From cakes and new clothes to clowns and bouncy castles, there are plenty of fun options on offer when planning your child's birthday, but this does mean that costs can soon add up. Remember to make sure you're maximising the money you spend on a party by using a credit or charge card that offers cashback or rewards on spending. That way you'll have some of the costs covered for next year's birthday party."

Waste of cash

While the urge to spoil your kids is understandable, sadly, the vast majority of this money is completely wasted - especially in the early years.

Most one-year-olds don't really have friends. They may hang out regularly with the same children, but for the vast majority of their first year, that's only because they aren't able to crawl away from them. Spending a fortune on getting everyone from their nursery in one room to largely ignore one another, is hardly a wise use of your cash.

They don't understand presents either, and while the first one or two may be exciting, the rest tend to be overwhelming, and likely to kick off floods of tears. And who in their right mind would pay for a party and entertainment for someone too young to know what's going on?

Once they get a bit older, pester power and parental competitiveness enter the fray. At that point, the party is partly about everyone having a good time, but mainly about trying to stop a spoiled five year old crying because her cake isn't pink enough, or because she didn't get the same clown as another girl in her class.

Five ways to cut costs

The good news is that you don't have to get sucked into any of this. It's perfectly possible to celebrate on a budget. Here are our top five tips.

1. Be savvy about the venue

There's nothing to stop you having the party at your house for free, but if the potential for mess, damage and over-crowding is too much, you can always meet at a local park. If possible, find one with a bit of shelter or where you can erect a gazebo if it rains.

2. Don't bother with an entertainer

The internet is packed with great activities and games you can put together yourself, and if you have activities planned for every ten minute block of your party, you can keep everyone happy.

If you have large numbers, a teenage babysitter can be a great addition, as they're affordable, and close enough in age to enter into the fun of the event. There's a good chance they'll be happy to do 'makeovers' or 'face painting' too.

3. Ditch the party bags

Don't give up on these entirely, as half the kids see this as the highlight of the party. However, you don't need a bag or a pile of plastic tat. If you have a party theme, find something reasonably bulky, and around the £2 mark to give to each child when they leave - along with a fun size chocolate bar. Armed with a new pirate sword, pair of sunglasses or a wand, they're not going to miss the bag itself.

4. Go halves

If you can team up with someone in their friendship group with a birthday around the same time of year, you can cut the cost in half - assuming they have a similar group of friends and aren't going to end up inviting twice as many kids.

5. Get older children to choose
If you set a reasonable budget, older children can decide what they really want. Throw in a shopping spree for them and a friend; or a pizza and a sleepover for a handful of friends, and your chance of ending up with a hall full of screaming kids will drop dramatically.

Of course, the one golden rule is to try to have fun and enjoy it. When you're scraping cake out of the carpet and breaking up a musical-statues-related brawl between 6-year-olds, the word 'fun' may not be at the forefront of your mind. But don't forget, they'll be teenagers demanding an out-of-control house party in no time, so you should try to enjoy the years of party bags and candyfloss while you can.

Birthday Fails