What is the appropriate amount to spend for a kid's birthday present (not your kid)?

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Submitted by flu on March 13, 2010 - 10:59pm

Some I'm totally out of touch with reality, so I thought I'd ask the wiser Piggs.

If your kid is invited to a birthday party, what is the socially acceptable amount of money to spend on that kid's birthday present (age 3-6 group) if....

Scenario 1)The birthday kid is "acquaintance" of your kid..That is, you don't regularly hang out with that kid's parents (maybe a classmate or such)

Scenario 2)The birthday kid is a regular "playmate" but not necessarily a close friend

Scenario 3)The birthday kid is a close friend

In my mind

#1 = $15 to $20
#2 = $20 to $30
#3 = $30 or beyond.

However, having hosted my kid's birthday party with 30+ kids, I'm seeing a lot of the presents are around $30 or more, even for folks that are complete strangers. So I'm just wondering if I'm cheap.

Second question: does this amount change if you bring more than one kid to the party? (For example, the kid's parent has an "open invite" to allow them to bring siblings).

Third question: are there any alternatives to wrapping a present? I just think of all that paper used to wrap a present a complete waste of resources. With my better friends, we have an understanding of no wrapping paper. But for pure strangers, I think it would be kinda odd.

Fourth question: if your kids receives a lot of presents, is there anything wrong with either returning some of the presents or regifting them (provided you don't regift the presents back to the person who gave them to your kid)? I really don't want my kid to have 30+ new things that they opens and plays for 2 hrs and then never plays with again....no matter how educational some of them might be (books,drawing,crafts, etc), not to mention that I don't want my kid to get into a habit of having so much crap.... We have enough stuff as is, and my observation is that my kid still plays with the most basic things like my old tinkertoys, legos, lincoln logs, toolset.

Submitted by CA renter on March 14, 2010 - 1:12am.

FLU,

I think your numbers are right on, even though we've also seen the overly-generous parents with too-expensive gifts. Tough call, but a quality present at $20 is a very decent gift in my mind, even for a close friend.

Also, I'd say the dollar amount should go up if other siblings are invited. Maybe $10 more.

We've tried to tell people that we don't want any presents at all for our kids' birthdays, and that we just want their company, but too many still end up bringing gifts. Really, kids these days have way too much stuff.

Regarding the wrapping, we like to use gift bags that we all reuse over and over and over again. Agree that wrapping paper is pretty wasteful. Kids might recognize the re-return of the gift bags, but they seem to enjoy recollecting when they last saw the bags. It's only an issue if parents make it an issue.

Yes, you can re-gift, too, but best to do it with kids from different playgroups, if possible. :)

Enjoy the party!

Submitted by jpinpb on March 14, 2010 - 7:55am.

That sounds about right to me. But during the bubble, I saw more expensive gifts being given. Well, let me think about this. People aren't paying their mortgage, so they have more discretionary money to spend, so I can see more people spending more even in today's time.

But w/unemployment going up and fear being instilled, I think your numbers are fair, at least in my circles. If you're going to parties in RSF, maybe those numbers are way off.

Submitted by desmond on March 14, 2010 - 9:58am.

Not to get you riled up, but inviting 30+ kids and then complaining you don't want 30+ new things for you kid to play with? Next time either invite 5- kids, or invite the 30+ and write on the card: No Gifts, please. Just a suggestion, no harm implied.

Submitted by scaredyclassic on March 14, 2010 - 10:02am.

buy gifts in bulk on ebay so you always have them around!

You can get 4 gyroscopes for $25.00 free shipping.

that is a great gift.

also, check out Kikkerland products, they have amazing wind up toys that jump in very odd and amazing ways.

often i just give $20 in cash though.

Submitted by Raybyrnes on March 14, 2010 - 10:19am.

With 2 children I hate getting this stuff. I don't need anymore plastic junk in the house. That being said, the best scenario which is not on your list is to combine with another friend and get something decent. If 3 people came together and got a nice 50 dollar gift it would be one item in the house as opposed to 3 and would be a lot nicer and probably used more in the long run.
We both do this and have had friends do tis for or kids.

BTW. I am all for no gifts at all but I have found that even if you say this people are going to give a gift anyway. Like a wedding ring. Totally senseless yet there is a social taboo for not participating.

JMTC

Submitted by flu on March 14, 2010 - 11:31am.

desmond wrote:
Not to get you riled up, but inviting 30+ kids and then complaining you don't want 30+ new things for you kid to play with? Next time either invite 5- kids, or invite the 30+ and write on the card: No Gifts, please. Just a suggestion, no harm implied.

No harm interpreted :)

We originally invited 15 kids, no gifts.....But then what ended up happening is that some kids had siblings and since we weren't explicit we had much more than we originally expected. And I they also also brought a gift or two. Lesson learned, I guess. Someone suggested next time suggested writing, "in lieu of gift, please donate to the XYZ charity". For now, I guess we got some spares for regifting and Toys for Tots when Xmas rolls around..For next time, is there an etiquette way of saying "immediate friend only?"

Submitted by desmond on March 14, 2010 - 12:06pm.

OK then. All of that is a touchy situation and you handled it well. Rule 1-10, you cannot give a cheaper gift to somebody that has already given your kid a gift. That is unless somebody way overspends on your kid, then do not have to overspend on theirs. It gets easier as they get older. On the donating part, I would put that all gifts brought to your party will be donated by you to XYZ. That gives parents the out on buying a less expensive gift that they won't be critiqued on.

Submitted by AK on March 14, 2010 - 1:58pm.
Submitted by briansd1 on March 14, 2010 - 4:06pm.

flu, you're Chinese so why not get all the kids to implement the Chinese system just like for weddings. Cash only! A check in an envelope is the best gift in my mind, no matter what the amount is.

I think a reasonable amount for a kids' birthday is the cost of the meal (say $10/person) + 10 = $20. More if you're feeling generous or it's a nice party.

If everyone did that, the child would have a nice amount of cash to buy a good gift for himself.

I'm not Chinese but that's the best way!!

Submitted by flu on March 14, 2010 - 4:49pm.

briansd1 wrote:
flu, you're Chinese so why not get all the kids to implement the Chinese system just like for weddings. Cash only! A check in an envelope is the best gift in my mind, no matter what the amount is.

I think a reasonable amount for a kids' birthday is the cost of the meal (say $10/person) + 10 = $20. More if you're feeling generous or it's a nice party.

If everyone did that, the child would have a nice amount of cash to buy a good gift for himself.

I'm not Chinese but that's the best way!!

Brian, I think my objective is to create a decent social environment for my kid so that my kid is more or less socially accepted by some kids. While it's not my intention to turn my kid into a social butterfly and party animal, I do see the value in my kid having some friends versus being a totally anti-social hermit embarrassed by the perception of kooky parents.

I don't think my main objective here is to maximize profits off of my kids' friends/acquaintances' parents, nor is my objective to try to be ostentatious or lavishing in gift giving in a environment whose parents tend to be professionals.

Somehow, sending like $15-20 check would probably be tacky/kooky in my book, and probably borderline insulting if the parents are professionals making decent money...Plus it would probably be annoying if you were the only one doing it, because that parent would have to make an extra trip to the bank to cash the $15 check, which after gas/time/vehicle usage/ probably ends up amount to $7.

For the past two months, almost every weekend, my kid has had a friend with a birthday party or something. While it isn't necessarily burning a hole in my pocket (yet), it does add up...And there is a balancing act between saying too many parties versus not going at all. BTW: you can gauge how bad an economy is based on how much/little parents are willing to spend on kids. You know the crapper has hit the fan, when the level of birthday parties has fallen off a cliff (unless, your kid is a complete social-path). The number of birthday events was almost nill at the beginning of the year, despite me knowing several of her friends had birthdays during that period.

Submitted by temeculaguy on March 14, 2010 - 9:58pm.

I buy gift cards from costco and sams club and keep a supply for the inevitable last minute notice the night before that one of my kids is going to a birthday party. Mine are teens so itunes cards are coveted, as well as movie cards, jamba juice, starbucks, etc. The formula is as follows, $25 for a kid I've never met or don't know the parents, then a sliding scale up to about $50 for one of their best friends and everyone else falls in between. Sams and costco sell the cards at a discount between 5% and 20% off, so the numbers I'm quoting are face value, not what I paid. It's easy and there is no time or gas costs when you just buy a couple hundred worth of assorted cards in one stop that can get you through the year.

Nieces and nephews are an exception, I only have a couple so it is fun to spoil them rotten and they wont be drifting in and out of my kids or my life. I had that "cool" uncle when I was a kid, every kid should have at least one. Every two years they need a new computer or laptop, other years it's ipods, it's a way to give money to my siblings without actually giving it to them and I'm a firm believer that kids should have computers, this is their world and familiarity with technology is a requirement.

Submitted by briansd1 on March 14, 2010 - 10:50pm.

flu wrote:

Brian, I think my objective is to create a decent social environment for my kid so that my kid is more or less socially accepted by some kids. While it's not my intention to turn my kid into a social butterfly and party animal, I do see the value in my kid having some friends versus being a totally anti-social hermit embarrassed by the perception of kooky parents.

I was only kidding... And sure, parents would be annoyed at cash requests. But if they stop to think about it, it's much easier to write a check or give cash.

I personally would much rather give cash as I don't have to run around looking for a gift. :)

Submitted by flu on March 14, 2010 - 10:52pm.

briansd1 wrote:
flu wrote:

Brian, I think my objective is to create a decent social environment for my kid so that my kid is more or less socially accepted by some kids. While it's not my intention to turn my kid into a social butterfly and party animal, I do see the value in my kid having some friends versus being a totally anti-social hermit embarrassed by the perception of kooky parents.

I was only kidding... And sure, parents would be annoyed at cash requests. But if they stop to think about it, it's much easier to write a check or give cash.

I personally would much rather give cash as I don't have to run around looking for a gift. :)

Oh, I know you were being tongue and cheek. No offense taken. I guess I'm sort of overly concerned about being a kooky parent at times...Folks without kids probably can't relate until they have kids.

Submitted by flu on March 14, 2010 - 10:55pm.

temeculaguy wrote:
I buy gift cards from costco and sams club and keep a supply for the inevitable last minute notice the night before that one of my kids is going to a birthday party. Mine are teens so itunes cards are coveted, as well as movie cards, jamba juice, starbucks, etc. The formula is as follows, $25 for a kid I've never met or don't know the parents, then a sliding scale up to about $50 for one of their best friends and everyone else falls in between. Sams and costco sell the cards at a discount between 5% and 20% off, so the numbers I'm quoting are face value, not what I paid. It's easy and there is no time or gas costs when you just buy a couple hundred worth of assorted cards in one stop that can get you through the year.

Nieces and nephews are an exception, I only have a couple so it is fun to spoil them rotten and they wont be drifting in and out of my kids or my life. I had that "cool" uncle when I was a kid, every kid should have at least one. Every two years they need a new computer or laptop, other years it's ipods, it's a way to give money to my siblings without actually giving it to them and I'm a firm believer that kids should have computers, this is their world and familiarity with technology is a requirement.

TG, can I be your niece or nephew? I need to know people more like you. My kid,though, ends up getting a ubber cool aunt.

Submitted by briansd1 on March 14, 2010 - 10:58pm.

temeculaguy wrote:

Nieces and nephews are an exception, I only have a couple so it is fun to spoil them rotten and they wont be drifting in and out of my kids or my life. I had that "cool" uncle when I was a kid, every kid should have at least one. Every two years they need a new computer or laptop, other years it's ipods, it's a way to give money to my siblings without actually giving it to them and I'm a firm believer that kids should have computers, this is their world and familiarity with technology is a requirement.

I had a cool uncle too. I still remember the legos sets that nobody else would get me.

TG is right. Gift cards are a good alternative to cash.

Submitted by sdduuuude on March 15, 2010 - 9:15am.

We attend parties in Carmel Valley and Clairemont. For your basic birthday, you can get away with $10 in Clairemont. But $15-30 in North County is more common. Sometimes close friends go higher, and people who tend to spend money (you know who thye are) do so, but it isn't really necessary.

Returns are very acceptable, especially when you get duplicates. Not everyone knows what everyone else's kids like and all parents get this. Because of this, always include a gift receipt so they can return it.

Regifting is a little odd, unless you get duplicates. There is no way your kid will keep the secret, and probably awkward to explain to them why they should. So, only do it if you are OK with everyone knowing.

Have your kids help pick out the presents, too.

If you don't want 30 new things, in the invitation, let the parents know they can provide a check, made out to a charity in lieu of a gift, if you are so inclined.

I once went in with several other parents and bought 1 large thing. That went over well.

"No wrapping paper" is just wierd. Maybe OK for adults, but half the fun is seeing all those gifts and opening them one-by-one.

Submitted by avidsaver on March 15, 2010 - 10:17am.

I usually use $15 as the rule of thumb for the birthday parties to which my kid is invited. Sometimes I go slightly higher or lower but that's the general rule. Across the board. I let my son pick out the gift because he goes to school with these kids and knows what they like, and we can usually find something reasonable in the range.

We also reuse the gift bags that have come from other parties. Once in a while, I'll buy an assortment pack (from a school fundraiser) to have on hand.

The "in lieu of gift, please donate to xyz charity" idea seems a little weird for young children. I completely understand the merit, but it doesn't make for much "fun." I'd rather say "no gifts" than designate a specific charity.

Submitted by eavesdropper on March 15, 2010 - 11:12am.

flu, I think your gift pricing is totally appropriate. I've been a mom for 28 years (my youngest is about to turn 15, if I choose to let her), and have much experience in birthday etiquette. In that timespan, I've seen birthday parties go from modest celebrations that the kids - both celebrant and guests - enjoyed thoroughly, to exercises in excess that honestly had nothing to do with the kid's birthday (aside from the date) and everything to do with the parents' need to flex their exhibitionist muscle.

Unfortunately, there wasn't anything I could do about that, but I didn't let that affect my gifting decisions. The "keeping up with the Joneses" stuff really took off in the mid-80s, and it was not only how big a blowout you could throw, but also the number of guests for whom you could throw it. Ergo, my kids were always getting invited to parties for kids they barely knew. I gave them a choice as to whether they wanted to attend, and worked out a costing model similar to yours.

Quite honestly, I think many of us have lost the concept of what a gift is - something that we want to give someone because we're grateful for something they did and want to show that gratitude, or because we care for them and want to make them happy. The scenario #3 you list is an easy one because it fits this description, and that's why the amount is open-ended. Scenario #2 isn't terribly difficult, either.

However, #1 is tough because you don't want to tell your child that they can't attend a birthday party. So, in that situation, the $15 or $20 is the cost of maintaining a part of your kid's social life. But I've never felt an obligation to give more because of what other people might be giving. Trust me: most of the parents giving the pricey gifts are doing so not because they're so fond of the birthday child, but because they are concerned about how others will judge them.

Someone wrote that you cannot give a cheaper gift to someone who has already given your child a more expensive gift. I can't agree with this. If the child is a close friend, I'm already searching for an above-average cost gift that I really feel (very important) will give the child pleasure, and that will be my criteria - not whether his/her parents spent more on a gift for my kid. Over the years, I've witnessed a significant number of parents who give gifts inappropriate to the level of friendship, either because they just can't help themselves from overspending, or because they are worried about what others will say.

So I think your pricing is appropriate, and if it works for you, stick to it.

Re: #2, I usually brought a gift from each child. But I only took the 2nd child if he/she truly qualified as a playmate or friend.

Re: #3, I agree with those who said that wrapping is essential as the opening of the gift is almost as important as the gift itself. I know that I like it, pretty much everyone I know likes it, and it also provides great photo ops. Buy inexpensive wrapping paper at the dollar store, or have your child find a way to wrap/decorate the package. Then you'll at least have some of your guilt assuaged by the knowledge that you engaged your kid in a creative activity.

Re: #4, regifting never occurred to me, but I don't find anything particularly offensive about the idea, so long as you're careful about it (I don't think that the gift-giving parents would take it in stride). I think your success is dependent upon your kids: I have some that were aware of every gift they received three years after the party, and others who remembered only one or two by the week's end. I can empathize with your having to deal with the sheer amount of stuff; being almost-empty nesters, we downsized recently, and what a treat that was! Since it appears that the recession will only be deepening in the foreseeable future, perhaps you can stockpile some of the gifts for holiday toy drives.

Submitted by flu on March 15, 2010 - 11:26am.

Thanks all for feedback. Last question...Where is a good source to find made in usa toys/games?

I was happy that my kid received a few Milton Bradley board games, and happy to find that they still make then here (some of them at least).

Submitted by sdduuuude on March 15, 2010 - 12:18pm.

Some Jigsaw puzzles sold at Target are made in the USA. Very inexpensive and usually appreciated. For $15 you can get two or three. Some kids just aren't into them, but for those that are, they are good gifts. Parents like them, too. Get 24 pieces for the slow learners and the 500 piece for little einsteins.

Submitted by nocommonsense on March 15, 2010 - 2:05pm.

As a parent of 4, I hate this aspect of a birthday party. We would've thrown a lot more parties if the thought of obligating our friends to buy presents didn't bother me so much. I would've allowed the kids to go to more parties if we didn't have to worry about what you're worrying right now. Kids nowadays have too much and nothing means anything anymore. Like someone else has said here--who needs more plastic junk that can only be played once? Also speaking of embarrassement, many years ago we went to a kid's party and being immigrants and not knowing the American customs we didn't know we were supposed to bring a present. The kids didn't mind but what an embarrassing for us!

Submitted by UCGal on March 15, 2010 - 2:36pm.

Chiming in late on this thread...

Your rule of thumb prices are very good. I try to keep the gift around $15 before tax... that way if you do a card or gift bag you're still under $20.

I've got two elementary school age kids. Like sddude my kids social network ranges from clairmont to carmel valley - and there's a different price range among the two groups... Clairemont tends to be a little less, CV tends to be a little pricier. I assume it's a keeping up with the Jones thing - and the Jones in CV spend more money. My rule still applies - $15-20/gift.

On a semi-hijack... when did it become requisite to have elaborate parties at places like Pump it Up, that Laser tag place, etc? What happened to back yard parties? And when did it become requisite to have a big party for every year? I feel like the old guy yelling "Get off my lawn" but back in the old days we got birthday parties every couple of years - the entertainment was pin the tail on the donkey, and it was pretty low key.

(Oh - and we walked up hill, both ways, through the snow to school!)

Submitted by CBad on March 15, 2010 - 2:40pm.

I give my kids the option of having a bday party with friends (always have a small one with fam regardless), going somewhere, or getting a bigger gift for their bday. I'm SO pleased they have chosen to not have parties for several years now. And honestly, giving my kids this option has shown me that those parties weren't exactly loads of fun for them if they always choose option 2 or 3 now. How many times have you been at a huge, extravagent child's bday party and the bday girl/boy is crying?

Flu, I pretty much agree with your #'s. My girls are very close in age and all 3 tend to get invited to parties so in that case I either get 3 smaller items or 1 bigger ticket item. As far as the charity bit, the party is supposed to be for the child and until they are older I would think most kids wouldn't get the point of that. I have also seen baby showers and bday party invites telling me to donate to their kid's savings in lieu of gifts. Ok, practical I guess and ultimately it will be for the child but sorry, that's pretty tacky too. (And frankly knowing a lot of parents around here it wouldn't surprise me if that $ wasn't going to the child anyway.)

Submitted by flu on March 15, 2010 - 3:30pm.

UCGal wrote:
.

On a semi-hijack... when did it become requisite to have elaborate parties at places like Pump it Up, that Laser tag place, etc? What happened to back yard parties? And when did it become requisite to have a big party for every year? I feel like the old guy yelling "Get off my lawn" but back in the old days we got birthday parties every couple of years - the entertainment was pin the tail on the donkey, and it was pretty low key.

(Oh - and we walked up hill, both ways, through the snow to school!)

It's not a prerequisite, but I'm one of those parents that prefer offsite...Namely

1)Cleaning up or own place afterwards is a total pain.

2)Liability. If I rent a jumper for instance, and some kid slips and hits his head on the ground.... Close friends this isn't an issue. Some not so close friends (like a classmate's parent, different story). Most of those offsite places make parents sign a liability waver.

3)I live in a stucco box with very little yard in back.

4)I have white/beige carpets.

Submitted by flu on March 15, 2010 - 3:37pm.

sdduuuude wrote:
Some Jigsaw puzzles sold at Target are made in the USA. Very inexpensive and usually appreciated. For $15 you can get two or three. Some kids just aren't into them, but for those that are, they are good gifts. Parents like them, too. Get 24 pieces for the slow learners and the 500 piece for little einsteins.

Ok, I'll make sure my kid has the 500 piece one while I work on the 24 piece puzzle. Did not know puzzles where still made here.

Submitted by avidsaver on March 15, 2010 - 4:28pm.

I'd like to throw the reverse question out there. How do you feel about the gifts that your child receives at birthday parties? Would you (all) be fine with $10 cash or $15 gifts, or do you expect more (or less)?

I could also do without the accumulation of junk that comes along with the birthday gift receiving although I know that my son really enjoys opening the gifts. I would feel a bit awkward receiving anything too valuable (except from the aunts/uncles).

As for why the offsite parties... I live in an apartment that isn't that conducive to having parties. I am a proponent of limiting the number of guests that can be invited though (just because of the sheer cost).

Submitted by scaredyclassic on March 15, 2010 - 4:39pm.

we ask that people bring nothing. i a m pleased when people bring nothing. i feel bad when they feel bad and bring something.

Submitted by sdduuuude on March 16, 2010 - 12:08am.

UCGal wrote:
On a semi-hijack... when did it become requisite to have elaborate parties at places like Pump it Up, that Laser tag place, etc? What happened to back yard parties?

I'm sort-of with FLU on this one, too. In the last three years, we have done all 3:
1) Big party at home.
2) Skip the party and go to Legoland w/ 1 friend.
3) Pump It Up.

The big party at home cost about $150 less than Pump It up after decorations, games, prizes, food for adults and kids. And we had to plan activities, decorate, set-up, and clean. For $150 more, Pump It Up is a no-brainer. It just makes for an easier day for everyone. I'm all for easy days.

We all liked legoland, but I think the kids and I all feel that birthdays should have parties.

Our kids choose their friends well, it seems. Having good kids there makes parties fun.

When I was a kid, we used to go to a place like Bulwinkles, and Ferrel's Ice cream. That can't be cheap. Parents would spend about $20/kid (5-10 kids) for games and another who-knows how much for food. Not too much different.

Oh, we also did one at the Woodward Animal Shelter when they were 3 or 4. That was money well spent, too. You felt good about spending it and everyone attending enjoyed it.

Submitted by justme on March 16, 2010 - 12:10am.

I liked (as usual) what Scredycat said.

I will add that children can get birthday presents from their parents. That should be enough.

The purpose of a children's birthday gathering should be to enjoy some fun together and some tasty treats, not some endless exchange of junk that should never have been produced in the first place.

Submitted by eavesdropper on March 16, 2010 - 12:01pm.

flu][quote=UCGal wrote:
.

It's not a prerequisite, but I'm one of those parents that prefer offsite...Namely

1)Cleaning up or own place afterwards is a total pain.

2)Liability. If I rent a jumper for instance, and some kid slips and hits his head on the ground.... Close friends this isn't an issue. Some not so close friends (like a classmate's parent, different story). Most of those offsite places make parents sign a liability waver.

3)I live in a stucco box with very little yard in back.

4)I have white/beige carpets.

Sorry, I screwed up on my previous post....

Flu, I heartily concur with your viewpoint on offsite parties, especially reasons #1 and #4.

Back in the late '80s, I had my house on the market, and there was quite a bit of interest in it. Not wanting to disappoint my child on his birthday, I told my realtor to suspend visits that afternoon so we could have his party. Right before the party was scheduled to begin, I received a call from my realtor, and we set up a walk-through for an hour after the party's end.

Sure enough, a few parents neglected to pick up their children on time, and one of the poor critters (kids, not parents) got sick and released about 3 quarts of fuschia-colored vomitus all over my front walk less than ten minutes before the prospective buyers were set to appear. Fortunately, since it was outside, we could hose it down, but the experience served to make me a true believer in offsite birthday festivities.

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