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Celebrate only a few select birthdays

Most birthdays are not landmark occasions. And think of all the money we could save.

By Karen Datko Mar 24, 2010 8:26AM

This post comes from Paul Michael at partner blog Wise Bread.


What if we suddenly stopped celebrating every single birthday in our lives, and instead concentrated on just the important ones? Would you care? Would you support it? I’ll tell you one thing -- we’d all save a bunch of money.


The idea comes from one of my favorite comedians, Patton Oswalt. If you don’t know the name, you’ll certainly know the voice. He played Remy in “Ratatouille.” He was also Spence Olchin in “The King Of Queens,” and he’s an exceptional comedian.

On his CD “Werewolves and Lollipops,” he outlines a plan to stop the celebration of most birthdays, saying that there’s nothing special about most of them. And he’s right. What’s so special about hitting 36 (my next birthday)? Or 42? Or even 14? They’re not landmark dates in your existence. They’re just another year.


The full list is printed below.


Birthdays you can and cannot celebrate:

  • Ages 1 through 9. Yes. You’re a little kid, and kids should get to celebrate birthdays.
  • Age 10. Yes. You’ve entered the double digits. Something different has happened. You get a birthday.
  • Ages 11-12. No. Nothing special about those years.
  • Age 13. Yes. Now you’re a teenager, and that’s worth celebrating.
  • Ages 14-15. No. Again, nothing special here.
  • Age 16. Yes. The laws have changed. Now you can drive. That’s worth celebrating.
  • Age 17. No. What’s special about being 17? Exactly.
  • Age 18. Yes. Awesome birthday. You can vote and own a gun. That’s all worth celebrating. (And if you’re in other countries, including England, you can drink alcohol. Now, that is worth a party.)
  • Age 19. Yes. It’s your last year as a teenager.
  • Age 20. Yes. You’ve entered your twenties.
  • Age 21. Yes. Awesome birthday. You’re an adult. Hit the bars.
  • And then only one birthday every 10 years (30, 40, 50, 60 and so on) until you hit 90. After 90, you get a birthday every year because the rule no longer applies to you.

Now, as 90 is a rare age for most of us to reach, I’d say most of us are in for 22 or 23 birthday celebrations in our lifetime. That’s a lot less than 70 to 80. And think of all the money we wouldn’t have to spend. Hallmark would see its profits go down the toilet, but personally I wouldn’t shed a tear (especially when you can make those cards on your own). Paying $4 or $5 for a card someone reads once and throws away is something of an extravagance anyway. And think of all the trees and resources we’d save.


Not only that, but once you reach the adult years, you usually don’t want for that much anyway. As a kid, you have no income. Your birthdays are what you rely on for toys, clothes, games and candy. But as a 36-year-old, I’ll be getting stuff for my birthday that I could afford anyway. I usually have to search my brain for days to come with ideas for people. And they’re the same. My dad’s birthday is in a few weeks. He had no idea what he wanted, so I bought him some DVDs. He’s probably seen them, he may even have them, and who knows if he even wants them.


Now, I’m not saying we should treat the day like any other. By all means, have a few drinks after work or go to the movies. Have a good meal. But do we really need to continue spending all of this money on each other, buying junk we don’t need for people who don’t want anything, just because we’ve reached the grand old age of 27 or 43? Many people in this world would be thankful for a healthy meal and sanitary water every day, and the money we throw at each other on gifts, cards, and endless wrapping could more than pay for that.


This idea may have started as a joke, but I think it’s far from just a bit of comic relief. Think it over.


Related reading at Wise Bread:

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