Hope for your financial life and beyond

What Should I Do For My Birthday Today?

Birthdays come but once a year. Today just so happens to be mine. And with it comes the obligatory question, What should I do for my birthday?

Some birthdays seem bigger than others. When I was a child, my birthday ranked right behind Christmas as the most important day of the year. I’d look forward to March 7th each and every year because it meant parties and cake and presents. I mean, what child doesn’t like to have those things on Christmas or their birthday or on any given day of the year?

what should i do for my birthdayNow, at 43, there is not so much gifting. There are fewer parties. Sometimes there is cake or perhaps a night out – if a babysitter can be found. More than likely though, the kids just come along on said night out.

The decade birthdays draw a bit more attention like when I turned 40. But for the most part I’m finding birthdays in middle age pass quietly without much fanfare.

And I’m OK with that.

A few months ago I spent some time with my grandfather, just a few weeks before his 102nd birthday. As we sat down to dinner one night, the conversation turned to a discussion about things that had occurred during the last year that we were thankful for. I’ll never forget his response when it came time for him to answer.

What Should I Do For My Birthday?

At the table that night, my grandfather quietly looked at all who were present and simply said, “I’m just happy to be alive. I’m glad I still have the chance to do things I enjoy.”

I thought at the time – and am thinking again today – that his answer speaks to what we should all be doing on our birthday. Yes, birthdays can be fun, filled with presents and friends and adventures. But when it comes to answering the What should I do for my birthday question, the answer is simple.

I should appreciate it…appreciate my life that is. And each year I live should mean more to me than the year before.

I know not everyone probably thinks this way. It’s hard to when life is tough. When you are sick or all alone. When you have little to no money. When it feels like everyone has deserted you. Or when it feels like the future looks bleak.

In those times it’s hard to appreciate life. A birthday just serves as a reminder of all that’s wrong.

But whether you choose to see it or not, know this…your life is a precious gift. It was given to you to enjoy and appreciate. It isn’t something to throw away or waste. And what I’m finding is that the older I get the more I understand this. Each year that ticks by now brings with it a greater appreciate for those moments I’ve already lived.

But at the same time there is a greater sense of urgency for the moments ahead.  While the experiences of the past year continue to shape my understanding of my life and the world around me, they’ve also helped enhance my view of the future – what it looks like and where I’m going with it. So for me, a birthday serves as a hinge that swings both ways – looking with appreciation into the past and looking forward with anticipation at the future.

So what should I do for my birthday? Well, I could go crazy and spend wildly on any number of practical ways to celebrate a birthday that might make the day fun. There is nothing wrong with that if you’ve financially planned for it. Maybe I’ll do that from time to time on certain milestone birthdays.

But right now for this year, I just don’t feel the need. Being thankful and grateful for the life I’ve been given is present enough.

Questions: What do you typically do on your birthday? Do you spend a lot of money on your birthday? Do you look forward to birthdays are are they a reminder of all that’s wrong with your life? What’s the best birthday celebration you’ve ever had?

Image by synx508 at Flickr Creative Commons

I hope you enjoyed that post. Want more?
Sign up to receive my blog posts via email and get your free gift...
99 Ways to Spend Less and Save More

Privacy Guarantee: I will not share your email with anyone.


  1. A simple birthday is what I always want because celebrating shouldn’t be extravagant. I have been honest to them that all I want is that my family members and close friends should be there on my birthday.

  2. Happy belated birthday Brian. I love your grandfather stories. I don’t like birthdays, like New Year’s Eve, because people say you have to be happy, they sell you on TV that you’ll get the perfect cake and perfect gifts and it’s often not like that. Once more your grandfather has it all figured out. We should simply be thankful for another year.

    • Thanks Pauline. I’d feel blessed if I developed half the wisdom of my grandfather. 🙂 And you are right – thankfulness for the life we’ve been given is something we should all practice.

  3. A simple birthday would do. It’s not how much food you serve; it’s about the memories you share with your family members and friends that matter during birthday. As long as everyone’s is enjoying, I think that’s all that matters.

  4. Hi Brian,

    Happy belated birthday!

    I just love when you said, “So for me, a birthday serves as a hinge that swings both ways – looking with appreciation into the past and looking forward with anticipation at the future.” It’s a really refreshing way to look at birthdays and getting older. Personally, I love my birthday and anyone else’s. I think a birthday is a yearly reminder to celebrate the person you love. If they are in your life, you should take the reminder of their birthday to tell them what they mean to you and how glad you are they still choose to have you in their life. Birthdays can be fun, but mostly I like them to be meaningful. Sounds like you’ve got a great perspective on them!

    • That’s great perspective Vanessa. We always make a big deal of our kid’s birthdays because we know it’s something they look forward to. And, like you said, we know it’s a time to show and tell them how much we love them.

  5. I stopped asking myself that question a while ago and I’m not that old. I always find it absurd for a grown-up person to “celebrate” his/her birthday.

    For me, my birthday (if I even remember it! LOL) is the day I look back at what I have achieved in my life so far and whether I’m on the right track or it’s time to rethink my life goals and strategies.

    • I’m OK with milestone birthdays being celebrated a little more. We had a great party for my grandfather on his 100th. That was really special.

  6. Jayson @ Monster Piggy Bank says

    Now that I am older than 25 years. I am just satisfied with having a simple birthday celebration. Gone are the days when birthday celebration is spend with luxurious food and party. Having a simple dinner is fine with me as long as it is with family and some close friends.

  7. Depending on what phase of life you’re in, it’s easier or harder to be appreciative of just being alive. It’s certainly admirable and inspiring regardless of what phase you’re in. Personally, I’ve had birthdays that were very exciting and grande, and I’ve also had low key, small, private birthdays. I think it depends on the season of life you’re in.

    • “…the season of life you’re in.” Well, I’m definitely in the quiet, low key season now and I’m good with that. I had a fun night out with the wife and kids and that was excitement enough.

  8. Happy Birthday Brian! Birthdays definitely change, especially once you past 21. The best birthday I’ve had was a massive surprise party the Summer before my senior year of high school. It was really special because I was 100% surprised and there was just so many people there. I knew that nothing would top it. My sister planned it which made it extra special.

    Nowadays I am happy doing something small or quiet. I don’t need to have a big party or see a ton of people. In fact I oftentimes tell my wife I don’t want to do anything! Haha

    • I love surprise parties! I had one years ago and had no idea it was coming. I agree those are ones we never forget, mostly because of all the work that goes into keeping it quiet. You know the people involved in doing that really want to do something special. It just shows how much they care for you.

  9. I turn 30 next month, and I’m trying to approach it with gratitude and positivity. I hate that birthdays come with all these accomplish x by x lists now. You’re so right to use it as a time to reflect on where you’ve been and where you’re headed. Happiest of days to you! My best birthday was on my wedding shower, especially because it was the last birthday I got to spend with my grandma 🙂

  10. Linda Albarran says

    I truly hope you have a very blessed birthday. You’re posts are superb and I quite enjoy them. May you continue with great success.

  11. Happy Birthday my friend. I live in Trinidad in the Caribbean and I always read your pieces. I am mid forty and I can relate to every word. I have learnt to be greatful for all that I have. I plan to celebrate this year (April 4th) with a Thanksgiving (wife, kids, father in law, mum and pastor – who is actually my sister and her husband).

    I recall my favourite birthday after it happened, my dad was alive and my entire family was with me. I celebrate life each day and your email only cements what I need to do. God bless.

  12. Happy birthday, Brian! I’m in my 50s, and I appreciate being with family on my birthday. I don’t need the gifts, but I appreciate that my extended family wants to get together for birthdays. I think relationships is what’s important.

    • I agree on being with family. I definitely value my relationships more now than I did and birthdays are a great time to reflect on that.

  13. Happy birthday!

    I am not huge on birthdays so we rarely do anything. Being in your 30s isn’t that exciting, quite frankly. My kids like to make me something and my husband will usually make dinner or take me out.

    • “…Being in your 30s isn’t that exciting…” Haha so true…It’s not exciting like the teens or 20s. I guess I’m finding excitement in different ways now, most of which is wrapped up in my kids, not in myself.

Speak Your Mind