If your child is one of 30 kids in her school class, how many birthday party invitations will she get this year? Now, take that guesstimate and add birthday parties for neighbors, friends from extracurricular activities, and family members like cousins…and whoa! You’re not imagining it: Buying birthday gifts for other people’s kids—an implied responsibility when your kid attends a party—can be a family budget-buster.
The silver living: Birthday gift shopping is an ideal opportunity to teach kids hands-on life and money skills. And as your children get older (say, age 11+), you can even use friends’ birthday gifts as a reason to transfer some money responsibility over to your kids.
- First, decide what you’re willing to spend. Yep, you as a family can actually plan in advance for your kids’ friends’ birthday gifts. If you have younger children, you, the parents, decide whether that’s $25 a month or $250 a year. With older kids, you could work out a gift budget together.
- Set gift-price guidelines. Many kids are incredibly generous. They want to buy their friends awesome—and often $$$—gifts. However, you may want to help kids set price limits, whether they’re spending your money or their own. LearnVest experts suggest setting up some general gift-spending “rules of thumb.” For instance:
- Family members, like cousins, might take top priority, with a gift budget of $25.
- For your child’s good friends, allocate $20-$25.
- School friends might get a $10-$15 gift.
- Acquaintances may warrant a modest $5 gift, or something homemade.
- Involve kids in gift shopping. Even very young children can help choose gifts that match your dollar limit. Yes, it takes more time to let young kids help with the shopping. However, it’s a valuable skill they’ll need later. It’s even more important to have older kids gift-shop with you. Don’t be that parent who shops for, wraps, and efficiently plops a gift (contents unknown) into your kid’s hands as they walk out your door to the party.
- Help older kids create a “friends’ gifts” budget. By the time they’re about 11 years old, it’s smart to let your kids—with your coaching—manage some of their own gift-buying. That’s what Sara, who blogs at GoGingham, does. There are many ways to do this:
- Save as they go: Require kids to set aside a small percentage of every allowance or earned money toward friends’ gifts. They should keep the money completely separate from their spending money. You can use a special envelope, jar, subcategory of a bank savings account, or online budgeting category.
- Lump sum: Give kids a set amount of gift money at the beginning of each month or year, and let them choose how to spend it. But stay involved. Require your kids to discuss purchases with you ahead of time, so you know they’re reasonable. Ask kids to show you receipts afterward.
- Work for it: Tell kids they’ll need to do extra tasks around the house (or for neighbors and family) to earn money for friends’ gifts. If they don’t earn enough money to buy a reasonable gift for a pal, they don’t go to the party. Simple as that.
- Give kids a party limit. Some parents tell kids they can only attend a certain number of parties each year. That way, your family is only on the hook for a set number of gifts in a 12-month period. Be sure you help your child prioritize family members’ and good friends’ parties over those for neighbors and acquaintances.
And don’t worry: It’s not lame to set some boundaries around kids’ birthday-gift spending. You’re teaching your child a great lesson: We all have to pick and choose the social events we’ll attend—and what we can afford to pay for them.
(photo courtesy © Anthony Crider cc2.0)