Do you ever get sick of the sheer amount of STUFF your kids accumulate? And then birthday season rolls around, and all of a sudden the toy bins are literally bursting at the seams. The notion of throwing a gift free birthday party had started crossing my mind more and more frequently over the last couple of years.
Then all of a sudden I started seeing this very idea pop up on some major blogs like Living Well Spending Less Why We Say No to Gifts, and Your Modern Family Best No Gift Birthday Party. Were they reading my mind? Was this already a trend I was not aware of?
It was one thing when we were living on a super tight budget. We looked forward to being able to spruce up the old toy bins for our little girl, because we never really bought her anything. And she’s received some really cool gifts at her birthday parties that she still uses.
But then time went on and we started accumulating more and more stuff. And we accumulated another kid. And no matter how often we purged, the stuff just kept growing.
It’s gotten to the point where our daughter really, truly, does not need a single new thing. So would it really be that terrible if we asked guests not to bring a present to a birthday party? Would they listen? We’ve even been to a few parties where the kids didn’t open the presents until days later, and they were totally fine with not having the pomp and circumstance in front of their friends. They just wanted to play. I would too!
Lo and behold, a good friend did what I’ve wanted to do for years. They were getting ready to move, and when we got the 5 year old’s birthday invitation in the mail, it requested that people contribute to a Plumfund for a new swing set instead of giving gifts that they would have to haul three states away. GENIUS!
Now I feel like the seal has been broken. Someone in our circle of friends bit the bullet and requested no gifts. There were a couple of people who just couldn’t resist, but for the most part people listened. Being the procrastinator that I am, I just now got on to the site to give towards the swing set (the party was three weeks ago) and it appears that enough people contributed to at least put a large dent in the cost.
I’m completely sold on the idea. It’s not like I’m suggesting we get rid of Christmas or anything. And people will argue why take that joy away from your child. And if you think it would ruin your kid’s birthday, then let there be gifts.
But I can tell you, in the six birthday parties I’ve thrown for my kids, not once have they asked when it was time to open presents. Quite the opposite in fact… we usually have to drag them away from playing in order to get the present opening out of the way.
I do feel that people have a hard time not giving a kid ANYTHING for their birthday. So it seems like offering an alternative gives you better odds of having guests follow your request. These are the ones that I’ve debated using over the years, and I just may start to implement:
•Have your child pick a charity for guests to donate to in their name
Make it easy and put the direct link on the invitation with detailed instructions.
•Ask for them to contribute to a college fund
We’ve set up specific college fund accounts that are easy to have people contribute to.
•Collect for a larger gift
Like my friend above who set up a Plumfund account. We often do this as a family, but why not get friends involved as well?
•Do a book exchange
Technically this involves your guests bringing a wrapped book. But then after they’re all opened, each kid gets to take a book home with them. Plus then you don’t have to do gift bags!
If you really want your child to open presents, ask people to bring a toy, stuffed animal, clothes, or pretty much anything that can then be donated to someone like Big Brothers Big Sisters.
UPDATE – We threw an Animal Shelter Donation Birthday Party for my daughter’s 6th birthday, and it was a huge success. I’m thinking we’ll try a book exchange for my son’s birthday in the winter.