As a parent, it can be overwhelming to have to purchase presents for every party your child gets invited to during a school year. Multiply the burden by the number of kids you have, and it can get downright impossible to budget for! If each new party invitation leaves you scrambling for funds to cover a gift, consider these practical presents that most every child will love — and that your budget can easily accommodate.
Gift Cards for Edibles: Buying snacks as a gift can be seen as cheap, but a gift card for food brings a sense of legitimacy to the idea. If there is a popular place in town that kids like to buy their pizza or ice cream from, for example, grab a few of their gift cards at the beginning of a school year, and stash them in a drawer for unexpected parties. You can choose a denomination that meets your financial situation, but $5-10 should be the bare minimum.
Coupon for a “Ride-Along”: Depending on how well you know the kid, inviting them along with your family when you do something special can be a great way to offer a high-dollar gift at a fraction of the price. Think ahead to the next outing you’ll already be taking your kids to. Baseball games, indoor water parks, or the zoo are big-ticket excursions that many families have to budget for well in advance. Bringing an extra kid along will only cost $5 to 20 more, but can provide an experience gift worth well above that. Since you’re out for gas and time anyway, why not stash an extra kid in the back of the van and give them a gift to remember?
Help for a Hobby: Most parents with children invited to a party take little time to get to know what the kids will really want. For most parties, it’s assumed that little Johnny will want the next trading card game booster pack and that little Suzy needs that fashion doll accessory (especially if you consult your own kids for ideas). You may be surprised to learn, however, that some kids go deeper than that. Do they have an unknown interest in philately (stamp collecting), music appreciation, or horse-back riding? If so, you can make your gift stand out by tying it into their passions. (The little stamp collector will love a mint set of this year’s Art of Disney Mickey Mouse Collectible Stamps!) You can even get by with spending less, because it will mean that much more.
Cash: Let’s face it. Kids (and adults) love cash. If you decide to go this route, you’ll almost certainly be given a huge “thank you!” Don’t feel like you have to give the equivalent amount of cash as you would have spent on a gift, however. Similar to many rewards programs, cash is given a higher value than merchandise because it is so versatile. If you don’t feel like you can spring for a $20 novelty toy, give a ten dollar bill in a nice card, instead.
If you find yourself up at night worrying about all the birthday parties your children have been invited to, maybe it’s time to prioritize your schedule. Pick the parties that are for the children closest to your kids, or decide that 3 to 4 parties a year will suffice. Buying for other people’s children shouldn’t trump keeping your own family well cared for.
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