It has begun. My not-even-3-year-old started preschool, and almost as soon as he did, so did the dreaded birthday party invites for classmates I barely knew (and whose parents I knew even less)! In advance of these parties, I wondered, what is an appropriate amount to spend on a gift? Can I give cash or a gift card or should I give an actual thing? Below are some tips and thoughts:
- Plan to spend $10-20 for regular classmates and $20-25 for your child’s closest friends according to this article I used as research, How Much Should You Spend on Gifts for Kids? OK. Phew! I have a dollar amount and I agree with it! I would even amend the $20-25 rule to include “kids of YOUR closest friends” ha! While I mentioned we’re getting the first CLASSMATE birthday invitations, we’ve gone to several birthday parties of little ones that are family friends. I didn’t seem to have as much stress giving to them!
- Think about what YOU as a parent would want YOUR kid to receive as a gift. Personally, my kid has sooo many toys. Our playroom is saturated and you can barely walk around in it! And recently I realized he has almost as many toys at MY PARENTS’ house! I don’t want him to have any more toys, but I couldn’t very well put a note on the invitation “Please, no toys” (believe me, I thought about it and tried to research a way to say it politely to no avail). But when I go to other parties, I usually give a gift card. Then parents and kids can share some quality time together shopping for something they both really want or need. And, it saves me some time/stress shopping for a gift. I also feel like books are a great gift, probably because I like when we receive those, too. While not every parent is the same, if you would want your kid to get a certain gift, chances are another parent would appreciate that gift, too.
- Regifting is not off-limits…within limits. Last year my son received so many toys I decided to regift one to another child. Is this wrong? You tell me. I think it’s a good example of “waste not!” Just make sure that you’re not regifting within the same circle of friends/family and that the giver won’t notice if your child doesn’t have that gift. This year I plan to do it again because my son received two of the same toy. It will be given to a classmate who is not in the same circle as either of the givers and the givers won’t know because he will still be playing with one! It’s still a brand new toy so I’m not shortchanging the birthday child, but I’m saving myself some green!
- When the budget is tight (or even when it’s not), gift your time. OK, so this may not work as well for a classmate you barely know, but for kids and families you do know, why not forego a material gift in favor of an experience? One friend, who is culinary-inclined, asked what she should get my son as a birthday gift and I encouraged her to have a baking session with him instead. He loves to put on his apron and help with cooking and he’d get some special time with his auntie. Win win! I’m sure you have some awesome talent you could share with a little one and broaden his or her horizons while saving you some dough!
And here are some tips to deal with gifts for your own child:
- Give less stuff. Yes, I’m a money maven, and sometimes super frugal, so when my child was born, I decided we didn’t need to get him a lot of gifts. Babies and young tots can’t even grasp the concept of presents, much less physically upwrap them! Plus, friends and family will probably give a lot of gifts anyway. Your little one won’t even realize none are from you! My son is 3 and we still don’t plan to get him too much this year. We’ll see how long we can get away with this! And for his birthday we gave the gift of quality time by getting tickets to his first movie theater experience (between the tickets and the concessions it was about $60 sheesh!), now we have a fun shared family memory.
- Spread out the gifts. For really little ones, tons of gifts are super overwhelming! We enjoyed spreading out Christmas last year by having him only open 1-2 gifts per day over a week or so. This way the child can actually open up the gift and play with it for a while before moving onto the next one, because let’s face it, that’s what they want to do anyway! Based on his recent birthday, I can tell this strategy will be important this year, too! And not all gifts are from you. We had wrapped gifts from other folks pile up under our tree so we spread those out and didn’t have to give as many from us (see bullet #1).
Do you agree or disagree with my advice? Do you have any tips to add? Let me know in the comments below