5 Ways To Celebrate Your Birthday Instead Of Having A Dinner

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For someone who has perfected the art of "collecting" a couple of good friends throughout different stages of her life, the idea of a big birthday dinner is just plain stressful to me.

If your friend group isn't comprised of the same five or six people that meet up at MacLaren's and Central Perk on the reg, it can be daunting to set up a celebratory meal that includes all of your pals.

What if no one shows? What if they don't all get along? What if no one tells me I have spinach in my teeth?

Even if you don't immediately conjure up doomsday scenarios when thinking about a birthday dinner, it might be a welcome change to shake things up a bit.

So before your next birthday, consider these five alternatives to the typical birthday dinner:

Have a "drop in" at a fun location.

Round up a couple of your very best pals, and set up camp at the cool, new brewery or arcade that just opened.

You could also stake out some prime real estate at your favorite park and bring along some fun, inexpensive activities, like a bean bag toss. This way, you can extend the invite to whomever you want, and they can come at their leisure.

Since your besties will already be with you, you won't be stressing over when the others show up. Just be sure to include "BYO-whatever" on the invite, so you're not stuck lugging around all the goods.

Utilize an event already happening near you.

Is there a cool music or food festival going on around the same time as your birthday? Forward the info along to your friends, and have them join you there, as you toast to aging as fine as the award-winning red they're serving at the Catalina Wine Mixer!

Why waste time stressing over plans when you don't have to? Plus, it's a great opportunity to try something new and explore the different areas around where you live. Who says old dogs can't learn new tricks?

Pare it down to family only (at least for one night).

Remove the stress of a guest list by keeping it to the OGs in your life. I'm sure the baker of the fam will be more than happy to provide the confections for your celebration.

Get back to your roots, flip through some old photo albums and dig out the family videos. Good memories and a few laughs are the only presents you'll need.

If your genetic family isn't all that close, I'm sure the friends you've promoted to family will be there for you too.

Reunite with an old friend for dinner.

I might technically be breaking the "birthday dinner" moratorium here, but I think we can make an exception for a reunion with one or two old pals.

Birthdays are a good time for self-reflection, and hitting up an old haunt with someone you haven't seen in a while might be just the refresh you're looking for.

Put aside the stresses that come with adulthood for one night, and reminisce about the times when the best present you could get was a Teen Beat mag with the Backstreet Boys on the cover.

Treat yourself to a "me" day.

Take the time to acknowledge all that you've accomplished in the last year and indulge a little.

I'm sure you can talk a friend into joining you, if that's your thing, but don't be afraid to go solo, either. Alone time is hard to come by, and you should relish it when you get the chance.

Whether your idea of a splurge is shopping off the clearance rack or taking in a double feature starring the dreamboat of your choice -- looking at you, Bradley Cooper -- just get out and enjoy the day however you want to.