May 5, 2012

What Do You Spend on a Child's Birthday Party Gift?

I have noticed that there are times where I am going around thinking $x is the right amount to pay for something, and then I find out that everyone else considers even $2x to be totally cheapo. Haircuts can be like this: I think of myself as paying kind of a lot for a haircut, not a ton but not cheapo either, but it happens repeatedly that I will hear someone say "I'm never going to get around to going to my usual place, so I'm just going to get a cheapo $2x cut and hope for the best"---where $x is what I pay for a haircut. That kind of thing.

Anyway, what I'm wondering about is birthday party gifts you'd bring to someone else's child's party (not for a relative of yours, but for, like, your child's classmate). I definitely don't want to be cheaping out on that, but I don't need to bring the most expensive gift of the day, either. And I'd like to be SENSIBLE about it: we generally don't know the child's current toy inventory/preferences, so what we get could easily be a duplicate or something they don't like. So even if I found out that everyone else was spending $20-30, I might still stick with what I currently spend, which is "about $10." I will spend a little more for the perfect thing, but I was going to put a range there, and I'd thought "$8-13," and then I realized no, I don't think I'd spend $13 unless it was really truly irresistibly perfect---and it's rare to know such a thing about someone else's child.

Anyway-again, what I think is useful for these sorts of things is a POLL (over in the right-hand margin). [Poll closed; see results below.] But I also like the comments section, because I like hearing people say the DETAILS of they do: "Well, for someone we don't know, I spend $x; but for close friends' kids, I spend more like $2x" or "I let my child choose a gift, and anything up to $20 is fine" or "We've been spending $30, but that was when we hardly went to any parties; now that the kids are getting invited to more, we have to cut it back to more like $15" or "I don't have a plan: sometimes I spend $5, sometimes I spend $40" or "It depends on the location of the party: if it's a home party I aim for $10, but if it's a big exciting place I aim for more like $25" or "Well, we MAKE gifts, so it's harder to figure out, but probably $5 for the materials, and the result is the equivalent of a $15 gift."

(If you've never had to bring a gift to a child's birthday party, you can answer with what you think you'd be likely to do.)

88 comments:

Sam said...

This is definitely something I've been thinking about. We are at the stage where we're getting invited to more birthday parties, and not just for our close friends' kids. We have a $30 limit but I'm thinking for kids we don't know as well, $15 limit.

Josefina said...

I usually spend $10-15. If one of my boys is invited to the party, it will be around $15. If both boys are invited, it will be more like $10 each for two $10 gifts or one $20 gift, depending upon what my boys find at the store that looks good to them. I do let them choose, within reason and with guidance.

Lindsay said...

I have a $10-15 range, depending on how well we know the kid and my mood. My kids are going to a lot of parties these days, and three $15 gifts in a month is very irritating to me.

I also aim to but non-plastic gifts. First because of the environment, and also because who really needs more Polly Pockets?

Usually I end up with a nicer type coloring book and coloring pencils. I don't think that's going to win me any gift awards, but I really find birthday gifts hard and tiring!

Nicole said...

I usually stick to the $15 - $20 range for classmates. For close family friends, whose kids we really like and have known for a long time, I'll do about $40.

Melospiza said...

When we're browsing the toy aisles of Target and I'm trying to keep the kids on track to select things for the party, not for themselves, the cap, I always remind them, is $20. Adding mostly to myself, $15-20. Sometimes I'll drop it to a $15 cap, especially if they aren't especially good friends. I do get paranoid about the cap occasionally--our public school services a wealthy population, and it's not unusual for us to show up at a party with a $10 gift and have that gift be the exact thing the party hosts selected for the gift bag. Well. It is unusual, now that I've raised the cap. But it's not unusual to find one of the toys we had considered but passed over in the gift bag.

Di said...

It depends - if it's a friend of hers from school usually about $10, if it's a casual aquaintance (one of those "invite the whole class" parties) or $15 if it's a special friend.

This year, she's five, and it's very different. None of the kids seem to want parties, they all seem to be doing special things with family. We're going to the ballet, then to fancy tea with my SIL and oldest niece.

christina said...

We're new to the birthday party situation.

For closer friends, we've spent up to 30 bucks. Most of the time their parents request no gifts - just come eat cake and play.

As far as school parties we try to keep it low key. I think our last party was in the $10-12 range mostly thanks to the target dollar section, otherwise up to $15-20. They had some really neat things for summer. We then wrapped the gift in tulle that the child could use for dress up.

I am also that parent that likes to get them books, art/craft supplies, or something that encourages creative play over a hunk of plastic.

Our children's school is low income/high poverty majority. So parties tend to be at parks with the occasional at a rented location.

JodieG said...

I let my kids choose, often because they know the kids better. We stick to $15, per kid from the kid--so I have twins and so far they have been invited to the same party. So it ends up running me roughly $30. Usually I don't count sales tax in that either. This generally works for me.
We did get invited twice to other "twin parties" so basically I was buying 4 presents! One of them was for good friends of ours though so I didn't mind too much.
Oh and if I'm worried about duplicates, I'll steer the kids toward consumable art supplies (that is art supplies that get used up).

Mrs. Irritation said...

For classmates, unless they are super BFFs, $15-20. For good friends outside of school, probably double that. I love the no plastic rule that someone else had but I totally do not adhere to that, at least for classmates. I like to go to places like Marshalls/TJ Maxx/Home Goods to find stuff on sale to use at future parties.

Rayne of Terror said...

We live in the rural midwest and my oldest is invited to about 6 parties per year. We spend $10-12 per child. 1/3 of the parties we are invited to request food for the food bank instead of toys. One of the best presents my son ever got was a game named "Hiss" and so when I see it available I stock up because it's gender neutral, good price point, and a great game.

Karen L said...

So, we are very new to birthday parties. My oldest has been invited to one by a classmate, otherwise, it's been for children of MY friends. Everyone in the class plus some more were invited. I think that if everyone is bringing a $20-$30 gift, then that is borderline obscene. $25X25=$625. A 5 y-o is receiving $600 in presents, just from his classmates, never mind from the parents, grandparents ... ??? I don't think so. Plus, the family has to find somewhere to put all that stuff. So, when I took my oldest shopping and he picked out a $5 Cars jigsaw puzzle, I decided that that was just fine.

Then, we hosted the next birthday party and for complicated-but-amusing reasons, we invited 20 kids - the whole class - and 14 came. And they all brought $15-$30 presents. Of course, some may be bargain shoppers or regifters (totally fine by me. We received two Jengas and youbetcha one has been slated for regifting). Still. I was a little surprised. But, this was April and only the second whole-class party of the year, so maybe people weren't feeling overwhelmed with the birthday-present-budget situation.

Even though it seems to influence people's thinking, on principle, I don't think that the value of the gift should correspond to the cost of the party, same for weddings. The cost of the party should correspond to the means of the host, the cost of the gift to the means of the guest and to the relationship. Guests are not compensating hosts. We ended up hosting a kinda of expensive party, and that would have been obvious given the location, but I HATE to think that people felt that they had to spend more on the gift accordingly. Or worse, that they had to decline (although I didn't get an RSVP from any of the 6 kids/families who didn't come) because they didn't want to buy a $20 present.

Aside: We spent longer doing thank you notes than at the party. Excruciating.

Sorry, did you not want an essay?

Anna said...

My girls haven't been invited to many parties yet, but I'd spend about £5-10, which is about $10 I suppose. And I'd spend more like £10-15 for a relative.

Kelsey said...

I usually aim for about $10. But I think I might increase this as the kids get older. I'm thinking $10 for preschool, early elementary school. Often times I find $10 will buy a crafty item or small game, which are both things I'm inclined to gift. We sometimes impulse buy some stickers if we find some we know the birthday person will like, which might increase our price range a bit. In fact, now that I think about it, we probably go up to $15 much of the time, but I usually set out aiming for 10.

The one exception to this is a very good friend who's party we're invited to every year, her mom goes to great lengths to be safe/inclusive of Harper's allergies so she can fully participate. AND they put together consistently very nice "treat" bags with useful/non-cheap items (hair things, cute socks, BBW lotion) so I factor that in as well. I spend closer to $20/$25 on that child.

(Sorry for the crazy-long comment.)

Anne said...

If it is a family friend, I'm more likely to spend more. Getting perhaps a little shopping cart and pretend food, up to $40 maybe (for our very good friends). For a school friend, I'm thinking $20 tops. As my kids get older, I think I would let them pick out the gift, again, keeping it under $20. I kind of like to do a theme gift...gardening stuff for example, where you can get some stuff from the Target dollar section (currently) to compliment the main gift of a cute shovel and rake (in the $10 range for that part). However, we haven't hit full birthday mode yet (oldest is only 3 1/2), so my guess is when that happens and all 3 kids are getting invites I might scale it back.

British American said...

I wondered about this too, when my daughter had her first real birthday party at age 5 and invited some church friends and some from preschoool. They gave her gifts that were way nicer than gifts I'd given at birthday parties. Some were two different things, whereas I would have just gifted one item.

I like to spend $10 or under. I used to always try to buy books and I'd often find some at Goodwill that looked like new but actually were not. Another favourite thing I buy is Playmobil - you can get a small set for around $10. Maybe $12. Lego came out with the Friends line, so the last gift I bought was a $10 Friends set. They can always take it apart and build something else if they don't like it.

I also like to buy generic gifts at the Target 70% toy clearance. So I spend $5ish on a toy that was actually worth around $20. That way it looks like I spent way more than I did.

I wouldn't expect someone to spend more than $5-$10 on a gift for my own child. The kid is usually just excited to have friends over and to be getting any kind of gift.

Nicole said...

I'm going to just hop on my soapbox for a moment and tell you that I absolutely hate shopping for kids' birthday parties. It is generally disastrous. I also find, in my circle, that the kids I know need absolutely nothing, have everything, and invite the whole class to their parties so chances of gift duplication is huge. Some of my friends - and myself - have implemented "charity" parties, so that guests bring food donations or $5 for a donation to the cancer society or something. In that case, I tend to spend a lot. I spend up to $30 because it's for charity. But if it's a gift party, I spend more like $10-15. And I begrudge it. I know! I'm a grinch. But we all have housefuls of plastic shit, and so I get a little steamed when there are twenty party guests all bringing gifts for the spoiled little birthday kid.

Wow, I kind of went off on a tangent, didn't I? I should say that if there is a special friend of my child's, I consider it to be less of a total hassle and so I do think about the gift more.

Katie said...

My son is 4 and in preschool, so we've just started getting the school friend invites. I've spent a wide range on presents, depending on the friend and what we've picked out. Usually it is about $20. The last party we went to, though, we are also friends with the parents. I sent my husband shopping alone and he picked out this super cool laser-pointer rc car thing. It was $40. To which I said what the hay, dude? Way more than I'd normally spend on a non-family child present. However. We've now been told by the parents like 15 times (seriously) that it's his favorite present he's ever gotten. He plays with it constantly. So... at least there's that.

Our normal $20 range will probably be decreased when our daughter (currently 1.5) and son are both in elementary and parties start to get overwhelming. Right now though, $20 is the aim and I'm not too strict on it. And it doesn't include the card and wrapping, which is my favorite part.

Heather said...

I think anything over $20 is unnecessary unless it's their very best friend.

This reminds me of a conversation between my dad and step-mother. Mum and dad always gave us all an equal value gift but when my step-mother bought for her sisters, she bought one a $15 gift and one a $50 gift and dad was adament that wasnt fair but she said, 'Does cost matter if each child gets something they want? Equal desire fulfilled is more important than equal money spent.'

Snoopyfan said...

Usually when my kids are invited to a party of a classmate that they/I don't know well, we try to stay around $15. For a good friend or family member we spend between $20 and $30.

When I call to RSVP, I ask what the birthday child likes to do or play with and then we base our gift decision on that. We also ask what kinds of books they like to read and we always include a book with the gift. I don't usually factor the cost of the book in the amount I spend for the gift. The only thing I absolutely won't buy someone else's child is a video game.

Jolie said...

For a classmate, I generally think $15 is sufficient, especially if I don't know that much about the child/family. BUT we have a really cool, local (small) toy store in our neighborhood that has really neat stuff. I usually spend $20 (sometimes $25) in there on a gift. They have unusually creative ideas in the store which I love because you can get some unique things that a child probably won't have (unless their parents also shop there) AND the stuff they have is very, well, "parent impressive" for lack of a better description. It's like health food, only it's toys. (Does that make any sense?) ALSO, they gift wrap anything you purchase there in any combination (2 items can get wrapped separately) and attach a gift card that you get to write on prior to them attaching and that alone is totally worth the extra $$ spent. I could easily spend $5 on gift wrap and I'd much rather spend on the actual gift.

Wendy said...

I try to spend right at $10. Slightly more if it's something I think the kid will really like, assuming I have a clue about what someone else's kid will like. If it's a girl, I tend to make the presents, so I spend less of course. I try to buy stuff that's more active, like kites or bubbles or water guns or nerf footballs or stuff like that.

Slim said...

I spend about $20 unless I know what the perfect gift is and it costs more. The only kids for whom I know what the perfect gift is are kids we're very close to.

In a perfect world, kids who come to our birthday parties would give a single paperback, which I guess makes me a hypocrite? My kids don't need piles of loot (although they do, thanks to family), and yet I inflict look on other families. But . . . the kids like it! I have to buy popularity! What if someone thinks I'm cheap! I must have the good opinion of near strangers. MUST.

Melanie D. said...

What a great conversation to start - I love it! Will you do 'what do you pay a babysitter' next?!

I am very random with the gift thing. If the kid is a close friend, we tend to be around $10. It was less when they were younger, but we are in grade school now and an actual toy gift is a little more expensive. If it's a friend, I let my kids pick something in that child's area of interest.

When the kids were pre-K and early elementary, we did a ton of art supply gifts. Markers, nice sketch book, etc. For friends that we know who have a lot of stuff, we did a balloon arrangement with a gift card tied to it.

Melanie D. said...

Sorry...I meant around $20 for a close friend. Blogger won't let me delete my errored comment.

$10 range for classmates.

Type (little) a said...

Twenty dollars is my limit though if I can find something decent for 10-15, score. I sometimes shop clearance and use duplicate presents for my gift closet in the basement.

I've had to be selective in my toy budget in general, because there was a vertiable BABY BOOM in my circle of friends/family and I buy 12-15 kids Christmas presents (and I only buy birthday presents if I am invited to, and can attend a party). Also Sabrina attends at least one birthday party a month. Arts and crafts make great gifts!

Suzanne said...

My kids are too young for school yet but I like to throw big parties with all our playgroup friends so we get reciprocal invitations to maybe 5-6 parties a year. In the poll I voted I spend around $20 but that's really more like an average - for one party we bought 5 fun things from the Target $1 section (so $5 total) and for another I bought $40 worth of Thomas the Tank engine stuff because it was my son's best friend.

I HAD been doing a good job making fun little kits (a fort kit with clothespins, flashlight, coloring book, crayons, blanket or a bathtime kit with bubble bath, bath crayons, rubber duck, toy, and bath fizzies) but I realized I was spending $30 once I added all the stuff up and that was more than I wanted to commit to EVERY TIME. So I try to choose something I know MY kids like but is under $20 - a particular play phone or Lego set for example.

Bailey said...

For those random classmate invitations, I do my very best to find a Gamewright game that I think will fit the kid's personality, because I think they are top-notch and reasonably priced (almost invariably under ten dollars). I wrap it in white paper that my daughter decorates with stickers and boom! Done! No card for kids, they don't care. It's never the flashiest gift at the party, but games don't break, or require batteries, or count as screen time.

If my daughter has a set idea of what they might like, she has a budget of $10 and anything more she has to comp herself. Mean mama is mean.

Groovymarlin said...

I've got this down to a science...sort of. I spend $12 to $15. If I've happened to find something perfect for a lot less, I make up the difference with little extras like packets of stickers. Sometimes I need to buy a special gift bag, and if I do, I factor that into the cost. Also, I buy almost all kid gifts at Target, and put the gift receipt in the bottom of the bag, because you just never know. The exception is to buy things like sticker books or activity books, which I buy from Amazon, because I figure who would want to return something like that?

StephLove said...

$20 usually when I buy it, I think my partner might spend more when she does. We live outside DC, the cost of living is pretty high.

Make!Do! said...

I'm the school librarian at my daughters school so for classmate parties I've come up with a good for me solution - I buy them a new, hardcover book. $16.99 is reasonable, it's not plastic, I buy it from my local independent bookstore and it's easy for me to shop for. I get to reinforce stereotypes and support good authors= win, win! As I never get to see the kid open the present or get thank you notes, I kinda of could give a crap what they think.

Anonymous said...

I usually aim for $10 or less. I've been unemployed for awhile so buying gifts for a birthday party means we'll have to cut the budget somewhere else. But even when I was working I didn't go crazy - like you said: you don't know what they already have or what they collect and why spend a lot for something they either already have or possibly don't want. If I spend $10 and they hate it I can live with that. When both daughters are invited to the same party I only send one gift - not a gift per child - but I might buy something a little nicer. Otoh, if it is a joint party with 2 or 3 kids I go the other way and get each kid something cheaper ($5/each). k

twisterfish said...

With my older kids (now in their late teens) my goal was $10 per gift for friend/classmate and $20 for niece/nephew gifts. But as the years go on (now I've got a 6 year old who is starting to get invitations), it's hard to find good gifts in the $10 range, so I'm okay going up to $15 for classmates and sometimes up to $25 for relatives.

But, I always go against the expected -- I don't buy toys that are "in". I get board games we love, or books or art/craft supplies. I also purchase items on sale year round, to keep in a bin for gifts when we get an invitation.

Gentle Blue Mom said...

I stalk Kidswoot.com and I try to buy things that are crafty/artsy and will go over well with boys/girls. Typically, I can find a craft kit for $7 and it goes for double or triple that on Amazon. So I have a small stash and I pair two of them up for a birthday present. So I will spend about $15, but the value is higher than that - probably around $30. If I'm out of gifts, I get Pajamas and a book - so again, about $15. It's my fall back gift - practical and useful. Kids don't need more "stuff". ;)

bluedaisy said...

$15-20 is my usual range. If I don't know the child well, I like to opt for a gift card to Barnes&Noble or Old Navy. Or a movie gift card is my standby for older kids (even cousins). Since I might have NO idea what the child already has, I like the freedom of a gift card but feel like $10 doesn't get you much in these parts (I live in a Philly suburb)

Gwen said...

For us it kind of depends. If it's someone we know only casually, I stick to around $10-$15. Last weekend we went to a birthday party for close friends's sons. So I got them two gift cards to a bookstore for $20 each. We were closer to them, plus when it's a gift card a small amount doesn't look as good. You know? But this year my girls are going to start kindergarten, so I'm guessing we'll have a lot more parties. So then I'll try to stick to $10-$15. I think.

lynn321 said...

I shoot for something "worth" about $15, but try to buy ahead and have a gift closet of items that I bought at great sales. Like that time you posted the Sticky Mosaics deals? I stocked up, and those have been great for gifts (e.g the Heart Box retails at 14.99, but a year ago xmas it was on sale for $6.99 - score!) I similarly stock up on barbies and littlest pet shop - can't have too many of those, right?

So that works for my daughter, who's 6yo and invited to lots of parties, but my son is now 11, and is only invited to parties of close friends and we know what they want - they're all into Magic the Gathering. So I spend about $12-15 for an Intro deck and/or booster packs.

MelissaInk said...

I am at "about $10." I will usually keep a stash of puzzles and small Nerf guns (after-Christmas clearance), fun school supplies (Back-to-School sales), and other toys or books I find good deals on (Target will sometimes have a good coupon or Barnes and Noble with a teacher appreciation deal or a freebie that comes with a larger gift purchased for one my own kids or closer friends). It is a small stash and yet still has enough to always put together a reasonable and appealing gift. Come Christmas, I dole out much of the leftovers as gifts to small cousins.

Christina said...

Growing up, my mom collected clearance section toys throughout the year and put them in a big "toy closet." She always spent in the $5-10 range, I'd say.
When we were invited to a birthday party, we had 2 tasks: get some construction paper and make a free card, and go pick a toy out of the "toy closet."

Sometimes it'd end up being something smaller, like those specialty Lego sets (ie: star wars kit) but people knew it cost more than regular Legos. Or, sometimes it'd be really impressive, like a huge play teaset she got for like $4, and I think was originally supposed to be like $30.

When the "toy closet" was running low, or if it had an overabundance of boy toys when you needed a girl toy, we'd usually go to the dollar tree and pick out a handful of items to make a nice stuffed gift bag or themed box so it looked more impressive than $5 slapped down.

Christina said...

Oh, and re: haircuts. The place I always used to go was $8, so I'd give $10 and let them keep the $2 as change. The most I would ever, ever pay for a haircut is like $15? I just get a cut- no wash, dry, style, product, coloring, etc.
But that's neither here nor there, b/c for the past.. oh? 10 years- I've had my mom trim my hair on the back porch when I visit. haha $0

Joanne said...

I think $10 is just about right and if it matters I live in Indianapolis, IN. I think if I still lived in NJ, it would be more because everything is more out there. It's rare that I spend just $10, though, because there are always other factors. Like, I took my four year old to her friend's party, but I felt bad because I asked if I could take my three year old and six month old too, since I didn't have a babysitter. So I spent about $22. Then that same weekend we went to a good friend of mine's daughter's party and I took both my four and three year old and I spent almost $50! But my friend gives me ALL of her daughter's hand me downs and I felt weird buying clothes for her, I felt like I was buying my own kids someday clothes. I decided to do a fun 'summer gift', with a beach towel, suit, cover up, and sunglasses and poof! it was $50. I didn't even realize it until I got to the counter. I am vowing to be better prepared for these things in the future.

d e v a n said...

I typically try to spend $10 or less. With 4 kids, we get invited to A LOT of birthday parties.
For close friends, or "whole family invited, where they serve dinner" type parties, I may spend more. I still pretty much never spend more than $20.
Also, I sale shop to fill my gift closet a lot so that I can meet my $10 budget but often give gifts that are worth more.

Tara said...

We just went to a kid's party today! I bought him 3 board books for ~3-4 each. I guess I usually spend between 10-20, whether it's a family member or not. The kid today is someone whose family we like more than some of our family members, so there's that, too. :)

Ruthie said...

My favorite gift is a hardcover book that my kids have enjoyed or in a subject that I know the birthday kid likes. (Mostly because that's my fave gift to receive - don't have to find a place to store it, always nice to get new books, etc.) If we're feeling ambitious or really like the kid, we write a note in the front cover about why we chose it for them.

If we don't do that for some reason, I usually do $10-$15 at Target with a gift receipt. That's just because I really appreciate when others include a gift receipt for my kid.

If it's one of my kids' best friends or a good family friend, we might $20-$30.

Emily said...

I usually spend about $10, maybe $15-ish if it's for a good friend.

minnie said...

this is hard!
I really like buying kids presents and i only have one kid so there aren't that many parties. i figure i spend up to 20$ but spend more if it was a special friend.

when his friends were really little I just hand made gifts.

my child totally doesn't need any more crap... and i often think i should try the whole book exchange party. but... little kids like presents so much i cant bring myself to do it.

Anonymous said...

i love the 50% 0ff regularly priced item from AC Moore. they have a new one weekly, so i grab one of those when i need a kiddo party gift and there you go $40 gift for $20. it's especially nice if you know the kid loves thomas the train or something else spendy. i often use it on "crafty" items, though, which can be $20-$30 minus 50%. love it. i am going to start doing the "no gift, just ice cream and playing" trick for my child's next b-day. we've been invited to a number of those and i like them. we don't need one. more. toy around these parts. i don't even think she'll notice (going to be 6)

Anonymous said...

meant to say that it is a 50% off COUPON that i use for this purpose. it's not a particular gift. the coupon is either in the sunday paper or online. you can pull it up on your phone.

HereWeGoAJen said...

We are somewhere between $10-20. More towards $20. BUT that is because I am VERY stingy about our weekend time so I turn down invitations to about 85% of the parties we are invited to. So the ones we go to are very close friends. If we went to all the aquantaince parties that we are invited to, I would probably be in the find a good deal $5 to $10 range.

She's only three right now though. I suspect this to change when she actually realizes that she is invited to all these parties and I probably have to go to more of them.

Sarah said...

I think that if I were going to throw a price point out there I would say $15. However, I like to buy books or art supplies or something from etsy so often I can get away with a less expensive gift and still give something thoughtful.

My friend's daughter turned six and I bought a little bag with a place for crayons off of etsy and I spent about $10 on that, plus some shipping. My cousin's daughter has her first communion this weekend (she's 8) and I bought her a copy of Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein for about $11. Sometimes I'll give a pad of nice art paper with some fancy drawing pencils from the art supply store. Sometimes a gimmiky bubble bath and bath poof makes a nice gift for a little girl, too.

Rebecca said...

I try to stay in the $10 range, but I'm a very good shopper out of necessity, so I can pretty much get whatever my little guy thinks his friend would like.

However, my older son (15) has a best friend who I consider to be one of mine (I've kind of adopted him) so for his 16th next month I will find something special, regardless of price.

Special circumstances, I spend more, obvs, but otherwise yeah, $10-ish.

Little Bird said...

Let me start by saying that we live on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, on Park Avenue. Its a high rent district and everything else follows suit. I did say that I tend to spend $30ish for gifts.

The bigger bit of guidance I have to offer is about choosing gifts. I don't use this advice any more as my kids are 12 and 17 and its less important. Anyway, I let my children choose the gift but I want them to choose a gift they already have and love. 1) I know it will be successful as my child already enjoys it and 2) I don't get the puppy dog eyes from a child who wants me to buy one for our home as well!

Tina G said...

About $15 for a gift. Handmade card and butcher paper wrapping or recycled gift bag for wrapping. My daughter (and I only have one kid at home right now- the other one is grown)only goes to about 4-5 parties a year so I think that makes a difference. If she was going to more than that, I'd chisel it down to $10 or less. And my haircuts are $39. I have been going to her for more than a decade and I like her. I think it is only really worth about $25 though.

Ann Wyse said...

We do about $15, determined by the fact that most things I deem appropriate gifts cost about that much.

Most of our friends seem to be doing the same - and I SO appreciate that. Because there's nothing worse than feeling like you need to spend more because someone gave your child an expensive gift. Same goes for gift giving in the family.

We try not to "raise the bar," with the realization that even the perfect gift might be less of a perfect gift if one feels the need to return the favor with equal money spent (and some people do feel this way, at least in our families).

Robin said...

I haven't bought a birthday present in years (except for my 6-year old's best friend, then I'll spend ~$40+). I regift absolutely everything I can (including gift bags and tissue paper). My inlaws give us tons of presents we don't need (books, art supplies, games, craft kits). I put everything that's still in shrinkwrap in the gift closet.

Also, I also only let my daughter keep 2-3 of the presents she gets for her birthday. Everything else is regifted.

Nothing we get from grandparents or as birthday presents is garbage, it's just unnecessary for one kid to have too much stuff.

If you plan to do this, just keep a meticulous master list of who gave you each present so you don't regift to the same kid or her good friend.

As for price, I'd guess that each gift is in the $10-15 range but I always assume lots of people get their stockpile on sale!

Guinevere said...

My answer is for toddlers, which I think is why it is the low end of the spectrum. Our usual is to get a book, and at the used bookshop, and that means that we're in the $5 range.

As our kids get older, I would imagine extending to more like the $10-ish range.

Also, as our kids get a lot older, I think it might start to depend on how close a friend the giftee is. I think a best friend might merit an extra-special gift above the usual standard. This is how it was with me growing up, both as a recipient and as a giver.

As I am thinking about this, practically, from the parent perspective, I think it might also depend on how many birthday parties that child gets invited to. Like, if one of our children is a social butterfly with tons of acquaintances inviting him to parties every weekend, and the other has just a very small number of close friends whose parties he goes to, I could see spending more per gift on the friends of a child who has just a few close friends.

Carmen said...

We spend about $15-20, mostly because it's not really possible to find anything cheaper. I'd prefer to spend around $10. Where are you guys all finding presents for $10. Do I need to start ranting about prices in Canada and the fact that Amazon doesn't ship most things here? Sheesh.

Elizabeth said...

$10 for classmates, but I feel like a big cheapo because it seems like others spend more. I try to buy nice, generic gifts in bulk - like those Melissa & Doug stamp sets or the smaller citiblocks - that I can spend around $10 for, but that seem a little nicer. I think. $10-$25 for close friends, as in both my five-year-old or four-year-old are friends with the kid and I am friends-in-real-life with one or more parents. $50 for my sisters/nieces/nephews.

What I think is very much related to this topic is teacher gifts. I have been doing a homemade brownie and $10-$15 gift card, which I think is generous? But then other parents bring in a $50 gift certificate and . . . *cringe*

Lucy said...

My rule has always been $10.00 or less. Especially if it is a child that we don't even really know that well. A best friend? I may spend up to $15! ha ha. It becomes more difficult as they get older for sure because it is very difficult to find a gift for only $10.00 for a 12 year old! :o)

M.Amanda said...

My daughter is a few months shy of 4 years old, so I haven't run into this dilemma much yet. With family, it's easy. We've agreed on a $25/child limit. Sometimes we go $5 over or more than $5 under, but nobody cares if it's The Perfect Thing.

For close friends, I'd say $15-20. For someone who isn't a close friend, $5-10.

I've been seeing the $79 Kindle commercial with the woman who says she paid more than that for her jeans, for her hair cut, etc. Every time, I think "$79 for jeans! $79 for a haircut! Stop overpaying for clothes and haircuts and you won't have to wait until Kindles are $79 to afford one."

I'll never forget when I thought I was doing such a good deed putting my friend onto good-fitting office pants for $25. About a week later I was there when a friend of that friend gushed over these great pants she found. They were ONLY $89! Stock up! My head was one big battle of "Are you crazy, woman?" and a feeling of being low-class.

Jen in MI said...

We spend $10ish. My kids get invited to so many parties, there is no way I could do more. There are exceptions-my daughter's best friend of many years, my best friend's kids, who are more like family to me, but generally the $10 is it.

Jess said...

I love this post, and the comments. Callum is only 15 months so we haven't gotten to the birthday party stage, but generally when we do buy a birthday gift for a friend's kid we spend something in the $20 range. That might go down as Callum gets older and parties become more frequent, and as the birthdays are for his friends rather than the children of our friends.

But now I want to do an actual study about this! Like a real one that studies the factors behind it and leads to charts and graphs and whatnot. Like I see that a bunch of your commenters have shared some demographic information that provides context for their budgets. But what I am most curious about is this: is there a gap between budgets based on public vs. private school? Like if your kid goes to a private school where every child is dropped off from a luxury SUV and tuition is $20,000 per year, are those parents spending more on gifts at birthday parties than the regular families at public schools? I'm just thinking about the commenter above who mentioned living on Park Avenue... I wonder if private school brings with it some kind of social pressure to spend more money on everything, in addition to the astronomical tuition.

DomestiKook said...

After working in retail for what feels like forever, even in a higher end baby/ toddler store, I usually recommended no more than $20 for a kid you don't know. $20 to $30 for a kid you know/ like pretty well. I'd usually put a cap on suggested gifts for any kid of $30. A niece/ nephew/ grandchild could go a little pricier but only on request. Do it yourself/ art type kits are a GREAT gift in the $20 or below range for kids up to about ten. When I buy other people's kids gifts I stay below $20. Nearly always. Very small kids? $10-15.

Crafty Beth said...

Well. Lately I have been doing my best to make gifts--my oldest is in preschool, so for example I've appliqued t-shirts that I get on clearance for $2-3 dollars, and include a matching stuffed toy. Or made a superhero cape or apron for dressup/craft/cooking. And I'm a super fabric bargain hunter/upcycler of old clothes into new things, so my cost is usually $5 max, but I would say that such things might retail in the $20-$30 range? If I was buying something, my mental limit is $10-$12, but I would definitely buy it at Ross/TJ Maxx/Marshalls so it would be a $25-$30 value. I pick things up on clearance and save them too--I don't mind giving a gift I spent $5 on if it's actually a $15. Sometimes when I get a great deal on a gift (usually some cool Melissa and Doug thing on clearance at Ross for $5) I feel guilty and throw in something handmade as well.

Jenny said...

My limit is usually around $10-$12 max, but my daughter just went to a birthday sleepover with her best friend, and was taken out to dinner and made cupcakes and had a tea party and did chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast and all kinds of other stuff, so I felt like $16.50 was warranted. :)

Anne said...

I would guess $20-$25 range, but I'm wondering also if geography plays a part. If we all order online (assuming from places with no sales tax) then it's all equal, but if we're shopping in stores what I can get for $15 in Chicago is WAY LESS than what I could get for $15 if I were shopping in Minnesota where my parents live. HUGE difference.

nicole said...

10-15 usually. $15 if giving a gift card. But if my kids know that the recipient wants something specific and it is in the 10-20 range I will buy it. For godchildren/relatives I am more likely to spend $20 or more. It just depends on what they want and sometimes how many other kids have birthdays at the same time. My sister has 4 kids and we have 6, so we have generally agreed to keep gifts in the $15 range.

Jen said...

I put $10 on the poll, which is what I would take to one of his friend's birthdays and I would try to find a cool book. In all honesty though, mine is having his first other-than-family birthday party at the end of the month (he'll be 4) and I put "no gifts, please" on the invitations. Precisely because I cannot handle anymore toys. So I know I'm taking some of the fun out of it but really, it just seems so much nicer to have his little friends come over and play and eat ice cream and such and not end up with $50 worth of toys that will be forgotten (or broken) tomorrow. To have it be about fun rather than things.

Ale said...

I spend 10-15 depending on the situation for friends/classmates. We also have 13 nieces and nephews ages 8-16 so if I give cash or gift cards they would get $25 but if I actually choose a gift I will usually spend more. I have to tread lightly as most of my husbands family gets crabby if you go over a limit. Also, we tend to celebrate 4-6 birthdays in one get together.

-R- said...

Ren has only been to three birthday parties. We spent between $10 and $20 for presents for each. Closer to $20. When/if he starts going to more parties, I think we'd/we'll spend closer to $10.

For Ren's birthday, I would estimate the presents he got from friends cost $10 to $20 each.

LoriD said...

I'm in the $20-$25 range. If we're choosing a toy, the price tag has to be under $20, so that with the tax it's under $25. If I'm getting a gift card, it's for $25. That seems to be the norm around here.

Anonymous said...

I have so much to say but will try to limit myself. First of all I don't have any children (but hope to some day). Nearly all of our friends have at least one child and some have as many as five. My problem is that we get invited repeatedly to "kiddie" parties and they suck. I'm sorry. No adult wants to repeatedly go to kiddie parties when they have no kids to bring. I feel like we shell out year after year after year. It's not that I don't love my friends and/or their child but please just invite KIDS and people with KIDs. Or invite me but don't make me feel obligated to come and bring a damn gift. On that note I spend about $25-$30 for my best friend's kids. My "second rate" friends 9haha) there kids get something in the $15 range.

Thanks for letting me rant.

DB

Deanna said...

My girls are just getting to the age where they are being invited to parties for kids other than our close friends' kids. So far, I have spent $20-30 on these gifts, BUT I generally consider it from both my girls (twins).

Along those lines, what is the guideline for twins, Swistle? Do you send two gifts, one from each, or is it okay to spend a little more on one gift from the both of them? (For the record, at this stage--age 3-- I have absolutely no problem with birthday-party acquaintances giving my girls a gift they can share.)

Megan said...

We spend between 10-15 if one child is going...I'd push it to 20 if more than one child was invited or if I know the family very well. We often go book + gift card to buy another book or gift card to movie theater for older kids. Also, I troll Costco for gifts all year and stash them for when parties come along. I got these really cool deluxe art/doodle/coloring books last time for 8 bucks. Then I added the 50 color box of colored pencils from target and that gift was popular. My kids were jealous they weren't getting it. I think it was the supersize box of colored pencils that put it over the top...Total cost was < 15 dollars.

Swistle said...

Deanna- I think either sending two gifts or one larger gift is good. So far my kids like to be involved in the choosing, so it works well to do one gift from each. I also like how that emphasizes that I'm sending one gift per party guest (I do the same if two non-twin siblings are invited).

Swistle said...

Anonymous/DB- I'd definitely RSVP a "no" to those!

Slim said...

Oh, DB. I don't always want to go to kid parties, and I have kids. Run awaaaaay!

liz said...

Between $10 and $20, unless it's a really special friend.

I also regift duplicate gifts our son gets, instead of returning them to the store (I buy them from him, and then he puts the money in his savings account).

liz said...

Oh, I forgot to say that the $10 - $20 tends to be spent on craft stuff that gets used up.

Also, I really like giving the card game, Labyrinth, as a present. It's $12 at Amazon. Easy to play and almost no-one has ever heard of it.

Leigh said...

My vote was $15ish which I'm glad to see puts me in the majority, but I had to chime in to say that one of my younger daughter's friends once gave her $50 cash for her birthday. I think she was turning eight. I was really taken aback--I don't spend nearly that much!--but not so taken aback that I reciprocated with the same size gift on HER next birthday. I have my limits, and apparently for birthday gifts that limit is 20 bucks.

Anonymous said...

Slim: I think I love you! Lol.

DB

J said...

I used to be in the $10 range but would go up to $20 depending on the situation. But honestly, I've stopped attending bday parties, unless it's very close friends. And stopped throwing big ones for the kids. I like intimate, no present parties. Good food + kid-led playtime while adults catch = fun for all. Seriously the present thing, choreographed entertainment and goodie bags full of junk are not working for me. Y'all can keep them, I'm loving my new policy! :)

J said...

Oops, while the adults "catch-up" was what I meant to say.

Holly said...

I would say about $10. I often make gifts, though. So I might spend even less on materials, but of course put in the time... I'm surprised at all the comments from people who buy more than one gift if siblings are invited to a party together. I only have 1 child. But in the cases when we've invited siblings to his party, I never would expect that each child would bring a gift.

Mama Bub said...

I usually spend between $15 - $20, but with school and sports, the number of parties we're attending is increasing exponentially so I'm moving more toward $10 - $15 per kid. I will still spend $20-$25 on children of close friends.

Laura Diniwilk said...

I spend about $25 for our cousins' kids, $35 or so for my nephew, and $15 (or I re-gift something my kids never opened) for non-relatives.

I am always so interested in these "what do you do" gift posts. There is actually a lot less variation in these answers than expected.

Rachael said...

All of the parties my son currently goes to ARE those of close friends. We generally spend about $20-$25, but I could see that number going down if it was just a classmate when he's older, that we don't know very well. Also I can easily see how people with more than one child would spend less, and if we should have another one someday I would think we would spend less if the kids were each going to different parties.

velocibadgergirl said...

I usually do $15 because I have trouble finding decent stuff for $10. We don't have classmates yet, however, just my cousins' kids and two close friends' kids. I suspect they spend more than $15 on my kid's gifts (but they also make more money than I do :P )

Anonymous said...

As my kids are getting older 11 and 14, the parties they are invited to are now their good friends, not just every kid in the classroom type thing - so I spend around $20 a gift.

When they were just casual friends bday parties (younger years) I would spend around $10 - 15.

Jo