Birthdays are the kind of thing that it feels particularly punishing to have slip from our minds. Unlike Christmas, it’s a day when you’re just meant to celebrate one person. It’s a chance to buy someone you care for a gift you really think they would like, or spend some time just celebrating how much you like them. You might even have been looking forward to their birthday for several months, so it’s all the more surprising when you discover that you forgot.

Setting the balance right is going to take some work, so take a deep breath and get ready to throw yourself into it. You can’t reverse time and ensure that you remember on time, but you can take the next best option.

STEP ONE: Forgive Yourself

It happens. There are so many things that we all now have to worry about, remember, and take care of. Somewhere, there’s going to be a blip in your thinking and a birthday is going to skip clean out of your mind. Chant this over and over to yourself. You didn’t intentionally forget and you shouldn’t punish yourself for doing it.

STEP TWO: How Late Are You?

If you remember up to a week or so later, then it’s rescuable.

If you’re incredibly late and it’s been weeks or months without either of you mentioning it, then you have two options. You can call them and confess all, apologies tumbling from your lips. Or you can just leave be. There’s a chance that by bringing it up you remind them that you forgot, which they might have otherwise overlooked. It’s up to you and how your friendship generally operates. If you think your friend would be hurt that you forgot, then try to resolve it with a phone call as soon as possible. If you have a lighthearted friendship, then it might just be best to leave it in the past – just make sure you don’t forget next year!

Let’s presume that you’ve remembered within a week or so for the rest of this discussion, as this is the point where you can still turn things around with a little effort. You’re still going to be able to mark their birthday, just… a little later than everyone else.


Whatever you were intending to do for their birthday is going to need to be supersized now that you’ve forgotten.

This doesn’t necessarily have to mean you go out and send a lot of money. Perhaps you could make time for them; you could go out for lunch or to a theater show of their choice. You might want to offer to throw them a belated party. Or you could offer to babysit their children while they go out for a night on the town. Just a little something extra that says… I know I messed up. This is what you will initially offer to them when you make the phone call to apologize.

Keep in mind what you’re going to do for your additional birthday treat as you move on to…

STEP FOUR: Find A Gift

If you already had a gift sitting in the bottom of your closet and had just forgotten about it, then you can skip this step.

Most often, though, you’ll remember about their birthday and you don’t have anything planned as a gift. So, it’s time to get one.

Generic is going to be the winner in this instance. If you want to get them something personal, then that usually means you will need time that you just don’t have. You can’t wait for an ornament to be customized or for something special to come into stock – you need to do something now. Today. Before you forget again!

So what are the quick gifts? You’ve got plenty of options, and the internet is more than happy to help you out. You could order hampers online and have your friend receiving them in double-quick time; or you could order them a gift voucher for a massage and have it emailed to them. Keep it quick and simple, something that you can do in a few minutes that helps to assuage some of the guilt and gives them something they will love.

STEP FIVE: Get In Touch (And Don’t Lie)

When you have a gift winging its way to them, then you can move onto the next stage – getting in contact and making your apology.

If you’re tempted to lie at this stage, you really need to zap that temptation clean out of your mind. If you try and come up with some convoluted reason as to why you forgot, then a) it’s going to sound ridiculous and b) you’re liable to forget about it in future and find yourself caught out. Don’t do it; tell the truth.

Start with an apology to them, but don’t apologize for yourself. Don’t say “I’ve been really busy recently” or other statements that are more focused on absolving you of blame than fixing their problem. Tell them simply: “I forgot and I’m so sorry, it’s awful…” and let them take it from there.

Don’t mention the gift; that’s going to be a surprise.

STEP SIX: The Gift Arrives

A few days pass and hopefully all is well with your friendship. Then, the cherry on the top of the cake arrives: your gift. Your friend will feel an immediate rush of surprise which makes it all the better – gifts you’re not expecting are sweeter than the ones you know are coming! That’s why you should keep your gift quiet, instead offering a verbal apology and an offer to take them out for dinner instead. Let that sit for awhile and then when your gift does arrive, they will love it all the more as they didn’t know to expect it.

STEP SEVEN: Ensure You Don’t Forget Next Year

Finally, the last step to finish the process is simple: make it impossible to forget next year. Write the date on a calendar; set an alarm on your phone – whatever it takes to be sure next year won’t be the same. Once isn’t great, but twice is – actually, make sure you never have to find out what twice is!


Hey there! I'm a professional dreamer, part-time blogger and full-time mum. When I'm not writing about lifestyle related topics on my blog, Sash & Jayd, you can find me creating abstract paintings in my cozy little studio.

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