Birthday Party Gift for a 7 Year Old- Etiquette on Cost?

Updated on January 31, 2012
J.F. asks from Petaluma, CA
21 answers

A classmate of my son is having a birthday party tomorrow, no actual invites were sent, but it was mentioned "unofficially" a few time in the last week or two. Today (the day before the supposed party) they happened to be walking by when the mom (known for her lack of class or etiquette) says she would really love to have us there tomorrow and that her son wants a video game that runs around $50 or we could get him this pillow thing that runs about $30. She actually listed the prices like that! I was a bit shocked. We did invite their entire family (they have 3 kids) to our son's birthday which they probably spent around 25-35 dollars. Keep in mind she has 2 kids in my son's class. We've loaned them money before (and never were paid back), picked up their kids when they didn't show up, and even brought their kids home when they didn't even know they had left the house! I realize some of this had nothing to do with the birthday party, but just as a testament to her (and their) characters. Anyway, I would rather my son not even associate with the family, but know that it's not the kids fault. What do I do about a gift? I don't have time to shop tonight and the party is tomorrow! How do I address her lack of manners?

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So What Happened?

I did feel my son should go to the party for at least a little while & did not want to rob him of the experience so we dashed out after church and picked up a small gift. I only spent $10 since we've done a lot for the kids and the family in the past. They waited until late Saturday evening to call and invite anyone so there was only one other child there. The mother ran into town at the last minute, spent all her money on decorations and although they ordered a cake, she couldn't pick it up since she didn't have the money. I felt bad for the little boy, but, he did get a MOTORCYCLE / DIRT-BIKE from his parents! (?) Because she (the mom) showed up over an hour late to their own party I didn't have much time to talk to her as we had plans and had to leave. All went well and the 7 year old was happy and thankful for his gift. I'm still a bit surprised by the audacity of listing/ expecting high priced gifts, but given the source... nothing surprises me with this woman!
Thank you for all the responses. You are all my voice of reason and assurance when uncertainty takes over!

Featured Answers


answers from St. Louis on

I hate when people do that. This will not make me sound nice but I would just get a 20 dollar gift card and be done with it.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

WOW...very rude of her to assume that's what you're willing to spend. My best friends, who are parents, would never tell me what to buy their children. If I ask, their suggestions are never extravagant.
Anyway, for my kids' very close friends, I usually spend about $20. For their other friends about $15

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answers from Norfolk on

Spend no more than $20 on a gift.
There are some nice Lego kits for that price.
If her son's heart is so set on a particularly video game as a gift then his Mom can get it for him.
If you really 'like' this lady, be sure to get her son something loud (whistle, kazoo, harmonica) and/or something with lots of tiny parts that will hurt when you step on them in the dark.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

We've attended several 7th bday parties in the last few months. Two of them have been for our daughters two BFFs...we spent 20-25 on week we are going to another one...we will spend 15-20 on this one...

Unless my family specifically asks me what they should get I tell no one anything. if someone other than family asks...I say oh anything purple or butterflies or soccer. With my son...anything yellow, Cars related. Never would I say specific...

If your son attends you address it by getting/spending what you are comfortable with...not what she is comfortable with.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Milwaukee on

i would put some money in a card and tell her you didn't have time to go shopping. and it wouldn't be $30-50 either.....maybe $15-to go towards the item that he wants....and let her know that the money is intending just for that!!!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Colorado Springs on

Well, you already knew what the mother was like, according to your post, so you shouldn't be surprised. You can feel a little sorry for her, because perhaps she doesn't know better. Many people are set in their ways, and really don't see that there could be anything the matter with what they do. It might be better to take the high road in this, as an example for your boy.

Meanwhile, decide how much you'd like to spend on a gift for her son (assuming you will let your son go to the party). You could speed by the store and get - besides a nice birthday card - a gift card that the birthday boy might be able to put toward the game or the pillow thing, if he wants to. On such short notice, that should be all right.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I think some parents assume too much outside of their little world. I personally would also just grab a $15-20 gift card to the gaming store for this video game and call it good. I think it's important to show your son that even though others don't act in ways your family would think is appropriate, it's still nice to show up in support of the other childs big day.


answers from La Crosse on

If I don't have time to shop,

Then under 10 I give a card with $10.

10+ I give a card with $20.

If shopping the gift is always under $20.



answers from Santa Fe on

My older son turned 7 a couple months ago, and I told the moms in our homeschooling group (we just moved, so it's the first birthday we've known each other), that they shouldn't feel like they needed to bring anything, but if they wanted to, that hand-me-down/yard-sale/thrift-store or otherwise used toys, books, games, etc., were perfectly acceptable. I bet that they spent less than $5 apiece, and some things were probably in the range of $1, and my son was thrilled. However, I like giving my kids used gifts, so that they don't think that they have to have new things in order to be happy; plus, it makes more financial sense to spend $5 on a huge bucket of Legos or blocks at a yard sale than to spend $20 on a small set of Legos or blocks. Sure, some used toys can look rough, but you can find a lot of new, nearly-new or just-as-good-as-new books, games, movies, toys, etc., if you are patient and know where to look.

I'd probably spend about $10 on a gift; perhaps more since they did spend more on your son. Perhaps something like a bag or two of candy and some cash to go towards the purchase of the item he wants.


answers from Santa Fe on

How cheeky! Bad manners for sure. Just spend what you would normally spend. For me that is about $15 to $20. Ignore her telling you what to get. Or if you do not want to go, then rsvp saying you cannot make it.



answers from Pittsburgh on

Was your son planning on going (since it's tomorrow)?

What did you already buy?
I'd probably just give what you had planned.....



answers from San Francisco on

I would say something to the effect of its the thought that counts and if you are just looking for more gifts for your son, don't bother inviting us. I personally wouldn't go to the party and I wouldn't worry about a gift. Its obvious that the mom is just looking for more gifts and if she cared about the kids being there, then she would have properly invited them. So sorry you are dealing with this. I would consider yourself done with this family. GL



answers from San Francisco on

Give a gift certificate for the amount you wanted to spend.


answers from San Francisco on

I always told my kids they had a $15 budget for birthday gifts, though it usually ranged between $12 and $20, depending on the friend.
I would buy something in that range, smile and say, oh I hope he likes this, we only budget $20 for birthday presents :)
Since you have loaned her money without her paying you back she probably just thinks you're a sucker, don't be!


answers from Houston on

$10 - $15 is my limit on bday gifts. I see no reason why a special request would make it my obligation to get that gift. I wouldn't even bring it up, I would just send your son with a gift in your price range.



answers from San Francisco on

As for a lack of manners, there is really nothing you can do about that unless you want to try to give her an etiquette lesson!

As for the gift, I would not worry about getting him that $30 or $50 gift - to me that is too much to spend on my child's friend for a birthday. When it comes to birthday gifts, I set a limit which depends on who the birthday person is (family and close family friends a bit more; child's friend's limit is $15 - $20). I would set the limit and then let my child pick out what he/she wants to give within that price range.

I would simply forget/ignore her request and let your child pick something. If you don't have a lot of time, Walgreen's usually has some pretty cool stuff for kids at great prices!



answers from Washington DC on

The party is tomorrow... you live nearby... she just invited you TODAY when she happened to see you on the street. You are not her priority so do NOT make getting a gift your priority for the weekend.

I'd do a card with seven bucks inside. Write a nice note about how much you like having him as a neighbor and enjoy his friendship.



answers from Dallas on

Get a $10-$20 gift card and call it a day.



answers from Austin on

If you had planned on going, how much would you have spent? I would only spend what you normally spend on birthday presents, and leave it at that.

Even if you say something to her, she won't "get it" .... she is already an adult. Just save your breath.

If you choose not to go, and she asks why you didn't come, just tell her that you never received an invitation with the details... that people usually hand out some kind of invitation to parties like that.



answers from San Francisco on

I would spend the same amount for this child's gift that I would spend on any other kid's gift. After all, it's not this kid's fault that his mom has no manners. However, I would NOT give him cash or a gift card --- those things probably wind up in the parents' hands. If you want the kid to get a gift, buy him what you want to buy him and don't include a gift receipt. That way the parents can't take it back to the store for cash. Can you imagine? No birthday cake because your mom blew it all on an expensive gift? One guest because your mom waited until the last minute to invite anyone? This poor child is growing up in an etiquette vacuum. Don't blame the kid for what his mom doesn't know or doesn't want to learn.



answers from Minneapolis on

How...odd. I'd say around 10.00. Maybe even a 10.00 g/c to target and call it good.

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