Birthday Dictatorship — The Gift Registry

birthday wish list

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Good Morning America recently asked its loyal Facebook fans to weigh in on whether or not “it’s ever OK for parents to request gift cards or create registries for their kids when hosting a birthday party.”

Kids, of course, would love this. My own son would be at Target with his portable scanner beep-booping over Magic cards, phone supplies, video games…and then he’d want to go do the same at Dick’s Sporting Goods too.

birthday wish list

One parent, a mother of 5, was onboard. “[A] gift card allows the kids to pick out their own stuff and also shows them money sense,” she wrote. “They know how much they have to spend and they can spend up to that amount, or use their money and add to it if what they want costs more. Gift cards are a godsend if u [sic] ask me.”

Plus, she has five kids. Think of all the junk that would otherwise fill up her house after a birthday party!

Another respondent, though, made an equally good point: “A child should learn that any gift is OK…It’s the thought that counts. Too many spoiled entitled kids today.”

GMA asked an etiquette expert too. Elaine Swann said, “The bringing of gifts is a gesture of goodwill and when we start to set standards and ask for gifts in this particular instance, I think it’s setting the wrong precedence in terms of entitlement.”

A Generous Alternative

One of the respondents suggested what has become my favorite alternative to birthday gifts — giving to charity instead. I am happy to report it is becoming increasingly common for me to see a news story about a young person:

  • Doing a pet food donation drive
  • Sking for donations to a charitable organization in lieu of gifts
  • Donating their presents to a homeless shelter or Ronald McDonald house.
  • Getting people together for a birthday party where they make sandwiches for a homeless shelter.

Young people are using their birthdays as an opportunity to do acts of generosity for others!

I was able to get my son to take this approach for a few years, but then he got older and realized his friends were getting gifts, and he wanted the same thing. I suggest the alternative each year, but I’m not going to foist it upon him.

In the meantime, I’ve become one of those Moms who provides a gift card instead of a present. Yet, I won’t be allowing my child to openly ask for cash or register for gifts any time soon.

 

 

 

Budgeting for Kid Birthday Gifts

Kids birthday gifts

Photo credit: JD Hancock via Foter.com / CC BY

I was recently in a big box store with a nine-year-old trying to find a gift. We were having a difficult time. On the plus side, the boy is big-hearted and wants to get his friend a super-duper-cool gift. But I’m not really expecting to spend $50+ on a birthday present for a friend of his.

I told him my price range, and he promptly reminded me of how much another friend spent on a birthday present for him: “$70.” I assured him that it was probably on super-sale. I sure hope so. I cannot believe that his buddy’s parents spent that much, although the scooter was much appreciated. (And I did try hard not to take it as a sign that they didn’t want my son borrowing their son’s scooter any longer…).

Then, this week, I saw a headline: “Kids Party Gifts: How Much Do We Really Need to Spend?” I was thrilled to see I am not the only one experiencing angst over this.

Buying Kid Gifts

The article’s author said she tries to stick to a limit of $20 for each kid, which reaffirmed my own budget cap. But, then she pointed out related costs.

Apparently she hires a sitter to entertain her kids while she shops to avoid having to buy them anything. Then, there’s the wrapping and the card and she figures she’s “probably inching toward $40 per birthday gift.”

She doesn’t even calculate the value of her time in this equation!

The article, though, ends with a plea to include gift receipts. She cites the example of a Mom who traded in all of her daughter’s gifts and kept the cash. The author says it seems “kind of wrong.”

I’m not going to waffle here: The idea of me buying a gift only to have the parent return it and keep the cash gets under my skin. I’m OK with the kid making that choice and purchasing something they’d rather have, but this Mom’s recouping the cash rankles.

What do you think? What’s a good price range for a birthday present for a kid? And where do you stand on the idea of parents trading in their kids’ gifts for cash? I’d love to hear your point of view.