I have two daughters – ages 5 and 8. We go to a lot of birthday parties, which means a lot of presents. (The one time I heeded a mother’s request for ‘No Gifts, Please’ and just brought a card and a balloon, we were the ONLY ONES who didn’t bring a gift. My then 4-year-old was so embarrassed, and when I asked the mom about it, she said it was only a suggestion – as though she thought she was doing the right thing by asking, but didn’t mean for anyone to not bring a gift. Sigh.) Being a frugal gal, I don’t want to spend a lot of money for these parties. Here are 9 ways I save money when those invitations come home from school.
1. Buy on clearance.
Target has some great sales, and even better clearance end-caps. If you see something YOUR child wants, chances are good they will be invited to a birthday party and the birthday child will want it too. Pick up a few extras for future parties.
2. Stock up during back-to-school sales.
Kids love to color, and back-to-school sales always have super-low prices on crayons, markers and colored pencils. There are also pens, erasers, notebooks, scissors and glue sticks that add up to hours of entertainment.
Read more: Report: Asbestos found in crayons, toy kits
3. Go to Kohl’s.
Kohl’s Department Store believes in giving back to their community, and sells books and coordinating stuffed toys for $5 each, with 100% of the net profit going toward education and health initiatives for children. A book with matching toy adds up to $10. This idea is especially great for younger kids.
4. Make it yourself.
My daughter read Secret Millionaires Club: Warren Buffett’s 25 Secrets to Success in the Business of Life and decided she wanted to start a bird-house building business. For the cost of a piece of wood, she has made 4 birdhouses to give as gifts. The recipients loved them – and I loved the price. Best of all, my daughter had a ball making them. She decorated each one for her individual friends.
5. Check out the thrift store.
I love the thrift store for inexpensive clothes and toys for my family. But did you know there are lots of brand-new, in-the-box items there, too? Different thrift stores have different pricing structures, but you can save significant money just by keeping your eyes open. Same thing goes for garage sales.
6. Re-Gift those items you just can’t use.
Did you get two of the exact same gift and no gift receipt? Did you get something your child has no interest in? Re-gift it to someone who wants it or can use it. There are rules to re-gifting – try to keep the re-gift out of the same circle of friends who gave it to you – regift from family to a child at school for example. MAKE ABSOLUTELY SURE you aren’t giving it back to the person who gave it to you. An unwanted gift can turn into a freebie for the next party you attend.
7. Have your child make the card.
Birthday cards can add another $5 or so on top of the cost of the gift. My girls always seem to want to buy the MOST expensive card. Why not take advantage of your little live-in Picasso and have them make the card? At our birthday parties, my girls love seeing the drawings made by their friends, and those are the cards we keep.
8. Re-use those gift bags and tissue paper.
Another thing that adds to the cost of the gift is the wrapping. But when you have your own party, you will receive a TON of gifts in gift bags. Toss the ones that have your child’s name written on it, and keep the rest, including the tissue paper. Next party, find a bag that fits your gift and wrap for free. Not only do you save money, but you keep usable items out of the landfill. Win-Win!
9. Store gifts in one place.
Nothing is more infuriating than not being able to find something you just know you have. Keep all your pre-purchased gifts in one place, like a closet or a tote, so you can easily find them when it is time to attend the next party. Let your child choose from all the things in the gift closet, so they feel like they helped with it. (Make sure if there is a re-gift involved, you make a note of who gave it so you can follow those re-gifting rules.)
Read more: How to save money on Disney
Attending children’s birthday parties doesn’t have to break the bank. By keeping your eyes open, shopping smart and having a specific place to store those gifts, you can let your children ‘shop’ the gift closet when it comes time for the next party, saving you time and money.