Involve Your Kids in Buying Friends’ Birthday Gifts

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)

How to financially prepare your kids for back-to-school season

Parents aren’t the only ones pulling out their wallets for back-to-school season. According to a 2019 survey from the National Retail Federation, teens are spending an average of $36.71 of their own money and pre-teens an average of $26.40. 

This year, your back-to-school budgeting may be a little different (okay, a LOT), but one thing remains the same: A new school year means new costs. Which also means new opportunities for your kids to learn about money. Follow along for our tips on getting your kids ready for the upcoming school year!

Plan beyond the school supply list

School supply list with pencil and ruler

Back-to-school budgeting brings up a lot of conversation about school supplies for the first day, but what about the whole school year? When you sit down and talk to your kids about their school supply lists, you may want to chat about other expenses that might pop up throughout the year. Here are a few to consider:

  • Sports
  • Yearbooks
  • ACT/SAT study materials
  • Lunch money 
  • School pictures

Shifting over to a virtual learning environment? Some of the usual expenses may go away this year, but you should be ready for new ones. Think: Virtual classroom decorations, new desks and high-powered laptops.

Talk about back-to-school deals

Love a good BOGO deal? So do we. But your kids may not understand how much it matters to score a good deal — especially during a busy retail season like back-to-school season. 

As you probably know, smart shopping means looking for deals, shopping early and doing research before buying. To get your kids into these habits, try comparing prices online and showing them how to find discounts. Bonus: Help your kids make savings goals throughout the school year. They can do this with their Greenlight app

Separate wants from needs

Trade-off decision about spending extra on pizza delivery

Coming up with a back-to-school budget is a great time to talk about wants and needs. If your kids have a school supply list from their teacher, use it as a guide. If not, it doesn’t take too long to come up with one yourself — or use a quick start list of common items by grade

Go through your kids’ school supply lists one by one. Talk about each item and whether it’s a must-have or a nice-to-have. Then, decide how they (or you) would like to budget accordingly. Maybe your kids want to splurge on a set of trendy binders but they’re okay with buying cheaper folders and erasers. Or maybe they’d rather save for something else down the line, like a laptop or an iPad. And look at that… they’re already thinking about wants and needs! Piece of cake.

Always come back to learning

Your kids might be excited about the first day. They might be nervous. You might be stressing about setting up a virtual learning environment. Or maybe you’re just not ready to think about any of it yet!
Here’s what really matters: Your kids are learning. And we’re not just talking about school. Kids learn by doing chores, deciding how to spend their money and setting savings goals. Just pull up your Greenlight app and let the learning (and fun) begin.

A fresh new look for Greenlight

In 2017, Greenlight started on a bold mission to raise a generation of financially-smart kids. Now, that mission is growing. Because… well, we’re growing.

1 million strong

Earlier this year, we surpassed 1 MILLION kids and parents. That’s more than 1 million of you who…

  • Dreamed up new features for us to build.
  • Reached savings goals (and then created more). 
  • Finished chores on time and earned allowances.
  • Chuckled at our corny jokes. 
  • Gave money to charities.

And throughout it all, it’s the 1 million of you who inspired us to keep reaching for new milestones.

Fun, fresh and new

We thought a lot about how we could celebrate you, be better for you and evolve the Greenlight you know and love.

As a team, we decided it needed to be big. It needed to be new. 

So we came together to imagine a new brand — a brand that can be there for every first, every birthday, every transition and every milestone. A brand that inspires your trust and is there to celebrate every little joy of being a parent.

Today, we’re so happy to introduce you to the new look for Greenlight, as we take on an even bigger mission: to shine a light on the world of money for kids and parents.

What changes?

Starting today, the new look and feel will take over our website, social media, emails and more with (minty) fresh colors, a new logo, fun patterns and delightful photos that reflect our vibrant community of families.

What’s next? Stay tuned. Over time, you’ll see our new look across more and more of the Greenlight universe.

What stays the same?

Us! We’re still Greenlight. We’re just growing up, like your kids do. For now, your app and debit cards will still look largely the same. But, changes are on the way — we’re just getting started!

From our Greenlight team to your family, thank you for getting us here. With 1 million reasons to celebrate — and many more to come — welcome to the new Greenlight.