'Good intentions gone wrong' is how a friend describes the belated birthday card section at the store.
Birthdays are a funny thing.
Though we (technically) know a year in advance when someone’s birthday is, we’re often scrambling at the last minute to get a card in the mail or find that perfect gift.
A younger me might have thought a forgotten birthday wast a statement about the quality of the relationship.
The older me knows that sometimes, despite our best intentions, we don't do everything we intend to in a timely fashion.
Here are seven things you can do to make sure you’re never late with another birthday:
1. Mark their birthday on your calendar, 30 days PRIOR to the day
Most of us recall the birthdates of those closest to us.
When we do remember someone’s birthday is coming up, it's very often at an inopportune time to do something about it...like when we're in the shower or driving.
There’s an easy fix to remember birthdays in a timely fashion:
- Add the birthday on your calendar
- Add a second item to your calendar one month PRIOR to their birthday, “Get ready for ____’s birthday” one
By having that reminder 30 days ahead of time, you have many more options on what to do to commemorate their special day.
For those VIPs in your life, add more reminders to your calendar if necessary.
2. Schedule specific time on your calendar to mail a birthday card, get that gift or plan that party
One of the greatest sources of stress is not having the time to do the things we want to do.
By contrast, when we intentionally set aside time for an activity, it’s far less likely to cause us angst.
Case in point: Pat arrives late at work because of a dead car battery. Terry leaves early because they have a car maintenance appointment scheduled.
Both individuals are out of the office for the same amount of time.
Pat is likely stressed because his car hiccup made him miss his first two meetings. Meanwhile, Terry has no qualms about leaving early because they plan to do some expense reports while sitting at the car dealership.
Make the same structure work for you when it comes to birthdays:
Schedule time on your calendar for “Birthday Prep for _________’s Birthday”.
At the risk of stating the obvious, it’s not enough to just write the activity down. You must also block off the time, so that nothing else can be scheduled then.
If you’re willing to reserve time in your week to see your dentist, shouldn’t you set aside time to get/make a gift or card for a loved one?
After all, something like your cousin's birthday is worth celebrating!
3. Extend an invitation for a birthday get-together several weeks AHEAD of their birthday
As much fun as gifts can be, nothing beats a celebration.
In fact, a study showed that a whopping 89% of Americans liked it when their loved ones put effort into celebrating their birthday. (Given the political climate we're living in, it's especially notable to find something nearly all of us can agree on!)
Make your loved one feel extra special by sharing the plan to celebrate several weeks prior to their birthday.
The benefits of extending an invitation ahead of their birthday include:
1. Demonstrating that you're excited about their birthday and have already made a plan
2. Allowing them the sweet taste of anticipation
3. Easier scheduling further in advance
4. Save time by giving multiple people the same gift
At Birthday Butler, we've seen customers gift a birthday party or an interchangeable holiday centerpiece to multiple different people.
As customer Tara Delaney put it,
"I loved giving a unique gift to everyone on my list and it saved me a ton of time shopping, wrapping and sending gifts out."
Send them a birthday party in a box! Different styles and sizes available here.
5. Set aside one day a month to write out birthday cards for all the special people born in that month
As convenient as it is to post birthday wishes on someone’s Facebook page, an actual, honest-to-goodness-you-can-hold-it-in-your-hands birthday card is a wonderful thing.
If you have trouble getting the card there in time, this tip from a neighbor of mine can help.
When our paths recently crossed, she told me that she had just welcomed grandchild #16 into her family. She went on to say that she now had 3 grandchildren born in the month of May.
I asked what her secret was for keeping the many birthdays straight for her ever-expanding brood.
She told it me it was easy because she had a “system”: the first of every month, she writes out all the birthday cards she needs to send during that month. She signs ‘em, seals ‘em and in the upper right hand corner of the envelope where the stamp would go, she indicates the day she has to drop it in the mail.
She proudly said she hasn’t been late on a single birthday card in the past 25 years. As my track record pales by comparison, I'm adopting her system.
6. Let technology prompt you to get a gift
When it comes to remembering things, I’ll take all the help I can get!
Several years ago, I moved my To Do list to my phone. I've now set up all sorts of reminders to remember everything from birthdays to groceries.
Some companies even offer “set it and forget it” reminders.
You simply enter the occasion and the date, and then the company sends you a email saying something to the effect of, “Your mom’s birthday is coming up on June 17th. Would you like to send flowers?”
This prompt makes it easier to take action AND makes you look good. Plus, there's no requirement to purchase so you can use it as a reminder service.
7. Apply economies of scale to save time in searching, selecting and wrapping birthday gifts and cards.
In business (and very often, in life as well!), there’s a term called “economies of scale.” It means that the more a business produces, the less each unit costs to make.
Economies of scale can apply to time as well physical output.
(For a more thorough and delicious explanation of economies of scale, please jump to the bottom of this post.)
For example, the time you spend cooking dinner for 2 people isn't that much different than the time it takes to cook dinner for 6 people.
The key to using economies of scale in gift giving is to consider all of the birthdays coming up in a particular month, season or year:
The more cards and gifts you select and wrap in one outing/sitting, the less time you will spend selecting and wrapping each gift.
Since we usually know the birthdays of our family and friends in advance, you can save time by:
- Purchasing/making multiple birthday cards at one time
- Writing and addressing multiple cards in one sitting
- Selecting or making several gifts in one outing/sitting
- Wrapping or packaging several gifts in one afternoon
8. Pick a “theme” for birthday gifts to make selecting gifts easier
Most people approach gift giving as unique, independent experiences: the gift selected for one person is completely unrelated to the gift selected for the second person,..which is completely separate from the gift for the third person…
A more efficient way is to select a “theme” for all the birthday gifts you give in a particular time period, and then customize the theme for each person’s birthday.
This approach is similar to selecting a design theme, which according to MBASkool, can be defined as the "recurrent, underlying objective that ensures consistency in the design of wide range of products that belong to a single family."
Imagine you're throwing a birthday fiesta for a friend. Since you've selected a Mexican-themed party, you can avoid looking at Parisian pink decorations, black and white decorations and pretty much anything else that isn't fiesta related.
For example, you might decide that this year's gifting theme is “music appreciation.”
You could give your husband concert tickets to see his favorite band; your nephew might receive an iTunes gift card because he’s always listening to music; and, for your sister who never gave up her album collection, you might gift several extended play vinyl records and a retro concert t-shirt.
And yes, it's very okay to gift yourself a new pair of AirPads Pro because you're on-theme. 😁
Selecting an overarching theme allows you to quickly narrow down the entire universe of possible gifts and find something for everyone on your list in less time.
Birthday Hacks Save Time and Reduce Stress
Birthdays are a wonderful excuse to celebrate the people we love. Adopting some of these birthday tips can make it easier on you and, quite possibly, more enjoyable for them.
Those unfamiliar with economies of scale may find this helpful:
Economies of Scale Explained: A Delicious Example
I get excited when we can borrow principles from other disciplines to help save time and make our gift giving and celebrations more special.
You may have heard the term "economies of scale" in a business context. Basically, it means the more widgets a business produces, the less each of the widgets costs.
Since widgets are...well, boring....let's bring economies to scale to life in a more delicious way with this example.
Baking Cookies for a Friend's Birthday
You decide to bake a batch of homemade chocolate chip cookies for a friend’s birthday. You get out your favorite recipe and see that one batch will yield 36 cookies.
If you didn’t have the ingredients on hand (perhaps your kids raided your pantry without telling you), you would need to purchase butter, sugar, brown sugar, vanilla, eggs, flour, baking soda, baking powder and chocolate chips.
Once you have the necessary items, you'd make a batch of cookies (no judgment here if you eat some bites of raw cookie dough!)
As you start to clean-up the kitchen, you throw away the bag from the chocolate chip cookies you used.
The remaining eggs and butter go back in the frig, while the vanilla, sugar, brown sugar, flour, baking soda and baking powder get returned to your pantry.
Even if you only needed 2 cups of flour, you were still compelled to buy a 5 pound bag because that's how flour is sold. Ditto the other ingredients.
Baking Cookies for Two Birthdays
Now assume your cousin is unexpectedly coming to town. You recall that he loves your chocolate chip cookies (though you wish he liked nuts, because you love pecans in your chocolate chip cookies).
Instead of baking just one batch of cookies for your friend’s birthday, you decide to make two batches---one for your friend and another for your cousin.
As you consider whether you need to make a second trip to the store, you realize you already own most of the items on hand. Except for purchasing a second bag of chocolate chips at a cost of $3, there’s no additional money you need to spend.
That's How the Cookie Crumbles: Breaking Down the Numbers
Looking at the receipt from the grocery store, you find that you spent $15 on ingredients for the first batch of cookies. Since the recipe made 36 cookies, it works out to $0.42 per cookie.
The second batch?
They were seemingly a bargain at $3 because the only incremental cost was an additional bag of chocolate chips.
To calculate the true cost of both batches of cookies, you need to add the cost of the first batch ($15) to the cost of the second batch ($3) for a total of $18 or $0.25/cookie.
As you can see, economies of scale apply here: making 36 cookies cost $0.42/cookie, while making 72 cookies resulted in a cost of $0.25/cookie. The more you baked, the less each cookie cost to make.
Economies of Scale Applies to Your Time as Well
If it took you 90 minutes to make the first batch of cookies, it would NOT take you another 90 minutes to make the second batch.
Even if we assume it takes the same amount of time to scoop out the dough and bake the cookies for each batch, you would still save time.
The ingredients are already out on your counter, you’d probably measure out the increased amounts all at one time, you’d probably mix the two batches at the same time….