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What is the cost of your child’s social life?

Children went back to school only two weeks ago and already the invitations to birthday parties are rolling in. Let the fun begin!
I never realized just how much the cost of gifts for children’s birthday parties can add up: $20 one weekend, $30 the next. Unfortunately, the cost multiplies as the number of offspring increases. Plus, incoming invitations are not limited to classmates, no! Little Johnny or Jane will most likely be invited to birthdays of ex-classmates too. Add the cost of gifts for 30+birthdays, multiplied by the number of children you have and the total cost is enough to make any parent a bit woozy. Add that cost to the long list of your child(ren)’s extra-curricular activities and you are looking at significant annual spending; spending certainly worthy to be added in a line of your family’s annual budget.
But then again, if your child is being invited to all of these parties, logical conclusions can be made that he or she has friends. Having friends and actively participating in social life is very positive and can be one of the more important parts of childhood. How many adults do you know who still ruminate about the wrongs that were done to them in high school? These are crucial times for children so perhaps the question should be: what is the cost of NOT contributing to your child’s social life?

Children bond and friendships solidify outside school hours and can heavily influence how socialization progresses within the confines of the classroom. So what if it costs you $240 per year (based on $20 per month) to ensure that your child makes friends! Isn’t it worth them taking part in the reminiscing on Monday morning? After all, as adults, our entertainment budget (movies, restaurants, and drinks with friends) is often astronomical. Why not extend the same courtesy to the little ones in your life?

How can you save on the cost of gifts?

  1. Buy in bulk: If you happen upon a relatively generic toy, book or game, which happens to be on sale, STOCK UP! All parents know that individuality is a rare thing when it comes to the trends and wants of children or teenagers. For example, my son is into anything Spiderman, Transformers, or Avengers, and so is every other little boy in his class. So, when I saw an Optimus Prime mask on sale, I grabbed a few to stockpile for future birthday parties.
  2. Homemade gifts: Depending on the ages of the giver and receiver, a homemade gift may be appropriate and much appreciated. Consider having your daughter or son make a bracelet or a sculpture for the birthday girl or boy. Perhaps a decorated frame with a personalized picture inside, or a cd compilation of favorite songs. The possibilities for homemade gifts are endless and need not be expensive. Often, they are treasured even longer than store-bought ones.
  3. Re-distribution: Every child, at least once, has received a gift they already had; maybe it is a movie, a doll, or a car. And, sometimes this gift does not come with a receipt for exchange or refund. Dare I ask: what is the harm in giving this unused, unopened gift to another child?

Whatever alternative you choose, it is important to examine the projected cost of birthday parties and include the estimate into your annual budget. As with any other financial priority, it should be calculated and considered to avoid added stress and surprises throughout the year.


  1. MB @ 12 Year Career

    If only all the parents could agree that birthday gifts are getting too expensive!

  2. W at Off-Road Finance

    Seems to me you could easily solve this problem. How is your child giving a gift if their parents pay for it? Time for junior to earn the money for gifts for however many parties they want to attend. That may not be feasible when they’re 4, but by 6 or 7 it sure is.

    • Helene S.

      What kind of work can a 6 or 7 year old possibly do to earn $20 a month to GIVE away to someone else. Until they’re in their teens, it’s the parents who will have to pay for this, realistically.

  3. Cherleen @ My Personal Finance Journey

    I also have three children and we normally receive two to three invitations each month. Imagine the cost of gifts that we have to spend each month! To save money on gifts, we buy generic gifts such as books, tumblers, bags, or gift cards. However, we have also tried giving homemade gifts to some special friends of theirs, such as fashion accessories, hair bows and headbands, and portrait on a picture frame.

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