THROWING a birthday bash for your little darling now totals, on average, an eye-watering £320. This is thanks to all the ‘necessary add-ons’ including professional entertainers, a made-to-order cake and party bags overflowing with plastic tat. 

But Tracy Lewis believes it’s time to stop the excess, ignore the social media pressure and go back to basics. 

“People will probably be shocked by this but I’ve never thrown any of my children a birthday party,” she says. “It’s saved our family tens of thousands of pounds over the years.

“I’m sure trolls will think I’m cruel or callous but my kids were happy with a small gift, a homemade birthday cake and a family meal at home.” 

The 58-year-old admin worker from Poole, Dorset, and her husband Pete, 63, are the proud parents to 13 children including: Carly, who is 40 in July, Tracy Junior, 38, Samantha, 37, Charles, 36, Lyndsay, 35,  Danielle, 33, Chantelle, 32, Charlotte, 30, Georgia 29, Candice, 27, Shannon 24, Shaznay, 22, and 19-year-old Portia. 

The Lewis family has given an insight into their bumper birthday celebrations for the fourth installment of My Supersize Family, an exclusive Fabulous series. 

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Tracy has faced a lot of prejudice for her big family, with bullies mistakenly assuming she’s a “single mum on benefits” or has a “different dad for each child”. But it’s hard graft, savvy saving and love, not material possessions, that the family focuses on. 

“When my kids were growing up, we survived on just £25,000 a year,” she says. “We’ve never claimed government handouts. Pete and I both work multiple jobs and, over the years, we’ve found unique ways to celebrate birthdays and pay for presents.” 

Tracy reveals she came up with the ‘Cash and Card’ method – giving her kids a birthday card with a £5 note inside when they were little. “There’s something special about getting cash these days, it’s more exciting than someone saying, ‘Oh, I’ve put a fiver in your bank account’,” she says. “You don’t have to spend big money to make kids happy.” 

According to a new study from the UK’s leading money-saving brand, Voucher Cloud, has revealed that over two thirds of British parents throw their children a birthday party every single year. 

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The party and presents spend is almost £500 a year with standard  party costs an eye watering £320.50 and parents forking out an average of £175.80 on average on birthday presents.

If Tracy and Pete had spent that it would have cost them a staggering £6500 a year for the entire clan or almost £120,000 for all the children over eighteen years.

As the children got older, the Lewis’ would buy ‘family gifts’ everyone could share, such as a train set, a table tennis table and a swing set. DIY-fan Pete would also get creative and make decorations, such as birthday banners out of recycled paper and ribbons, and dolls’ houses for the girls. 

Tracy says her children went to “more than 1k birthday parties throughout primary school” so she set present-buying limits.

“I only allowed the kids’ to spend £3 on a present for their friend, which could be anything from sweets to colouring sets or small toys. It’s the thought that counts.” 

Tracy and Pete would always make each child their favourite flavoured birthday cake at home. We’d then have a family dinner, and celebrate with a roast, a BBQ or a favourite meal. Chocolate cake and victoria sponges topped the list for favourite cakes.  

“We’d have homemade jelly with ice cream and play traditional party games like pass the parcel. It was always great family fun.”

I only allowed the kids’ to spend £3 on a present for their friend

“We always knew what special ‘big’ gifts each of our children wanted. We’d put money aside and  the kids knew we’d do our best to get them a special footy jersey, push bike, dress or gift if we could.”

Tracy is also savvy about spoiling her 24 grandchildren, which includes Shaznay, 19, Chantelle 17, Candice 15, Lewis, 14, Warren, 13, Sienna, 12, Reece, 11, Romeo, 11, Dolly, 10, Callum, 9, Harry, 9, Jack, 8, Ellie 7, Belle, 7, Sammy, 7, (not twins),  Teddy, 5, Dorothy, 4, Sophia, 4 (not twins) Riley 3, Everleigh 3, Betsy, 2, Ralph, 2, Kye, 1, and  Penelope, 7 months.

“When you have two dozen grandchildren, you can’t spoil one and not the other. Spending a fortune would bankrupt us so we need to be smart.” 

Tracy says she only spends £125 a year celebrating all of her grandchildren’s birthdays and relies on her ‘Cash and Card’ method. “They love that Nan and Pop give them ‘real’ money,” she says. “The older kids tend to either save it or buy a posh Starbucks coffee, while the younger ones buy sweets or a small toy from the Poundshop.”

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June is Tracy’s busiest month. “Five grandchildren celebrate their birthdays then. In January, February, March and December there’s three birthdays each. In September and October, there’s two a pop, and we have one birthday each in April, August and November. Fortunately, we get a break in May and July!”

Tracy also repurposes old birthday gifts she gave to her own children. “Some bikes, swing sets and dolls’ houses are still in amazing condition. We give them to the grandkids as ‘birthday bonus’ gifts and they are free. It’s generational upcycling.”

Tracy also has a present cupboard packed with birthday cards, wrapping paper and any bargains she finds that can be gifted. 

“If I spot a bargain sale of chocolates I sweep the shelf for my store cupboard. It’s the same with wrapping paper,  little Lego gift bags, colouring pencil and book sets and games. 

“It’s ‘Nan’s Narnia Cupboard’ of standby gifts.”

Spending a fortune would bankrupt us so we need to be smart

“I buy in volume and ram raid soups to ensure we always have something on standby.”

The Lewis’ apply their thrifty approach to Christmas, too. “We’d budget around £100 per child for Christmas,” she says. “If the kids wanted some expensive trainers or a special Barbie doll we’d encourage them to save with us and if we could afford it we’d buy it and they’d know it was a special gift.” 

She says she’s used almost 6,300 metres of wrapping paper over 40 years for presents. 

Tracy estimates that her children have been gifted more than 600 Barbie dolls, 800 cuddly toys, 100 jigsaw puzzles and one million Lego bricks over the years by friends and their wider family. 

To treat her grandkids at Christmas, Tracy bulk buys chocolate and cards in the sales. “I pay about 50p per chocolate Santa and get cards for about 5p in January.” 

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Tracy says her children and grandchildren are “adored and spoiled with love and family togetherness”.

“When I see birthday parties, costing hundreds of pounds, being thrown by exhausted parents for confused toddlers, I am shocked. It’s not necessary. Kids don’t need dozens of expensive gifts. We’re proud our grown children use similar birthday budgeting with their children.” 


• Diary birthdays in your phone 

• Set phone reminders and yearly repeats for birthdays 

• Give five pounds in cash  

• Use Cash and Card method

• Upcycle presents you gave your own children & gift  to the grand children

• Set a budget for birthday party  invitation gifts of £3-£5

• Give family presents 

• Bulk buy chocolate Santas for Christmas for grandchildren

• Make presents like Dolls houses

• Ask the child if they want a birthday party – many prefer a home make cake

• Celebrate for you and child not social media

• Ignore critics

• Have a gift giving cupboard and buying in bulk to keep it stocked

• Make birthday cards.


1. Used four miles of wrapping paper over 40 years

2. 600 Barbie dolls

3. 800 soft toys

4. One million plus lego bricks.

5. Gift more than 40  Chocolate Santas a year

6. £125 budget for 25 grand children

7. Given 520 birthday cards to children

8. Give 25 birthday cards a year to grandchildren

9. 1000 chocolate Santas for children and grandchildren

10. Spent over £3000 on children’s party gifts for other people’s kids

11. Lewis children invited to 500 plus birthday parties in primary school

12. £100 budget at christmas for Lewis children each

13. Made more than 520 birthday cakes for their children and grandchildren

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