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How I Save Time and Money on Birthday Gifts For My Kids’ Friends

How many kids birthday parties can one family be expected to attend ⏤ or afford?

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The following story was submitted by a Fatherly reader. Opinions expressed in the story do not reflect the opinions of Fatherly as a publication. The fact that we’re printing the story does, however, reflect a belief that it is an interesting and worthwhile read.

Last week I opened my child’s backpack, and there it was ⏤ the fourth birthday party invitation in two months! Sigh. “Does my daughter even know this 6-year-old throwing a rodeo-themed party? And how many kids birthday parties can one family be expected to attend?” Sure, I’m overjoyed that my kids have friends, but birthday presents add up. Think about it. If my child is invited to an average of two parties per month, and I spend $20 per present, I am looking at around $480 per year. With two kids, that amount doubles to almost $1,000 per year. Woah! I certainly didn’t factor that in my budget when my husband and I decided to have children. Luckily, I’ve discovered a few simple and creative ways to put a dent in my birthday budget.

Homemade cards

I absolutely hate spending money on children’s birthday cards. Unless the card’s going to become a keepsake, I can’t see dropping $5 on a piece of paper that’s going straight to the trash can in a week. That’s why I have my children make homemade cards. All they need is some paper, crayons/markers, and stickers. Not only is this a great money saver, but it also allows my kids to play a part in the gifting process. And if I absolutely have to buy a card, I’ve found some nice inexpensive ones at the dollar, drug ($.99 section), or thrift store.

Stocking up on gifts ahead of time

One of the best ways I’ve found to save time and money on birthday gifts is to keep a box of fun gifts tucked away in my closet. When one of my children is invited to a party, I just grab an age-appropriate gift out of the box instead of making an unwanted trip to the store to buy something new. I typically stock up on generic gifts like make-your-own crafts, Legos, Play Dough, and books. End-of-season clearance sales and buy-one-get-one (BOGO) sales are great times to purchase items, as well. I also tend to replenish my present box by buying things with store cash (Kohl’s has a decent toy section) or adding a toy to an online purchase when I am a few dollars short from getting free shipping.

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Giving a gift bag bundle

Bundling simple themed items together to create a gift bag/basket is a great way to give a fun present without breaking the bank. For about $7, I create an awesome bundle by purchasing items from the dollar store or box-store clearance bin. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Art bundle: construction paper, stickers, glue, googly eyes, pipe cleaners, craft sticks, markers.
  • Mani/Pedi bundle: a few bottles of nail polish, nail polish remover, emery boards, nail stickers.
  • Outside play bundle: sidewalk chalk, frisbee, bubbles, sand toys, pool noodles, jump ropes.

Reusing Gift Wrap

This is a simple idea but one that’s saved me a lot of cash over the years. Whenever a member of my family receives a present in a gift bag, I save the tissue paper and bag in a box for later, assuming it’s in good shape. I also hit end-of-holiday clearance sales at dollar stores, drug stores, or chains like Target or Walmart. I often find simple holiday wrapping paper that I can later pass off as birthday wrapping paper for as much as 90-percent off.

Making a donation to a charity in the child’s name

Okay, so this one doesn’t actually save much money as much as it does time ⏤ and it may even make a kid cry when they find out their Lego money went to the Human Fund ⏤ but this is my great go-to for the child who has everything, or for those occasions when I just don’t have time to run out for a last-minute gift. Plus, it makes me feel good to know that not only am I giving a present but helping out an organization as well. When choosing a charity, I try to consider the birthday child’s interests. So if they’re into horses, I might make a donation to a horse rescue group. Although other great charities that can benefit from monetary birthday donations include schools, the local library, or your neighborhood YMCA/YWCA. I always make sure to save a copy of my receipt so I can deduct the donation come tax time.

Kimberly Falchek is a freelancer, blogger, child development specialist, wife, and mother to two amazing kids. She recently relocated from New England to the Virgin Islands. When she is not writing, she is busy exploring the island with her family. You can read about her adventures at Island Mama In the Making.