How Much to Spend on Gifts?

Updated on May 16, 2008
C.Z. asks from Elgin, IL
37 answers

Hi, Moms. Just wondering how much each of you spend on birthday gifts for preschoolers and elementary aged children. I have a 3 year old and he is starting to receive birthday invites from friends at school and in the neighborhood. Just don't want to break the bank, but don't want to be stingy either. Any advise would be great. Thanks.

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So What Happened?

Thanks for all your advise. I wasn't totally out of the ballpark with what I have been spending, but it is good to know I can cut back a little and not feel cheap!

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N.S.

answers from Chicago on

I just started this also. I tend to spend $15-$20 on a gift. That way you can still get something nice without spending a fortune. It seems that's what everyone else spends at the parties that I have been to with my daughter.

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S.K.

answers from Rockford on

I've always thought $15.00 was good for that age. As they get older, or for a special friend, I do $20.00. (as they get older... it's $20.00 CASH... that's all they want!)
Some people may do more, but that's what's affordable for us, and they get invited to so much! Hope this helps.

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L.R.

answers from Chicago on

You don't need to go over $10. Art supplies are one of the best presents, because for $10 you can get several kinds of colored markers, paints, or pencils, with a pad of paper and a folder or some kind of cool bag to put them in! I find it strange that some posters gauge the size of the gift to the elaborateness of the party. That's putting it on the same level as a business transaction, IMHO. You are not obligated to spend more just because the parents chose to spend a lot on a party.

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M.J.

answers from Chicago on

Hi I myself have a 5 year old and I 3 year old but we got invited to our first b-day party for her age in preschool and it was hard to decide on how much to spend. Well my advise to you is to ask what kind of stuff the child likes or what the parents would like for you to get. If the child and you guys are really close friend I could understand if you want to spend a little bit more but usually I would think $10-15 i would think? I have had a couple of close friends that I would spend a little bit more cause they are really close. Or if they want some clothes I would get a couple of outfits for them. I hope this helps.

M.

a Little about myself: I am a 29 year old mom with a 3 year old-Boy and a 5 year old - girl. I am SAHM as well for 5 year and love it. I am happily married for almost 2 years.

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A.M.

answers from Chicago on

My general policy is around $10-15 if it's not a friend we spend time with outside of school. My oldest is in kindergarten now. Recently I started to ask the parent (when RSVPing is easiest) what to get their kid when I didn't know them well. I've been consistently and pleasantly surprised that parents are usually giving specific ideas that normally are under $10. Just today we were at a girl's party whose mother said she really wanted some Lip Smackers & a makeup bag. I spent less about $8 on a 6-pack and a makeup bag and she was thrilled. The last birthday girl wanted new coloring books. When I don't know, though, I stick to the $10-15 and go higher for kids we know well or see outside of school. Packaging also counts. Don't get a $4 card, a $3 bag, etc... I cover the gift in colored tissue paper and stick it inside one of those clear plastic shoeboxes that are around $1 and voila...it's ready to go. Parents have commented on how nice it was to NOT have yet another gift bag or wrapping paper to toss out, and how neat their kid thought it was to have their own box for art stuff or matchbox cars or whatever. Good luck!

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L.S.

answers from Chicago on

I would say around $12.00 to $15.00. When they get a little older then about $20.00-$25.00.

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L.C.

answers from Chicago on

C.
I usually spend around $15-$30 depending on how well my son knows the birthday boy/girl. I also will usually go in on a gift with another mom if both of our boys are going to the same party. That way you can get a bigger gift. Hope that helps!

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S.W.

answers from Chicago on

I usually spend 15-20 dollars

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M.O.

answers from Chicago on

I often as the Mom when we RSVP if there is something in particular the child likes, especially a restaurant or "set" they are adding to. I too have a gift drawer where we have stocked up on some of our favorite gifts when they were on sale. If the Mom gives me a good suggestion we usually will get "it" or a gift card to Target or a restaurant the child likes. It's a SPECIAL TREAT for the child to spend "their own" money. The gift cards have always been appreciated - especially if it's for ice cream or a local movie theatre.

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L.

answers from Chicago on

Hi C., that's a very good question. It is difficult enough to buy presents for a child that you don't really know then having to worry about how much to spend on them is crazy. I keep my spending for kids's presents at between $15-$20. You can get some really nice toys for that price. You might even get lucky and find some nice deals. I do check with my kids to see if that is something they would like so their friends don't think they are cheap.

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M.K.

answers from Chicago on

I do not spend more then $20. At this age one can get a lot of little things or a bigger item for that amount. I know that most of the kids my daughter went to birhtday parties w/in preschool she no longer see's. Especially after preschool all the kids were seperated into different elementary schools. Just my opinion :)

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K.C.

answers from Chicago on

I am the sameway as alot of the moms on here. We are tight on money as well and with 2 kids in school and birthday invites coming out of nowhere it is hard. The close friends we spend more on and the not so close friends we dont spend that much on. But Walmart is a great place to buy gifts at. What I try to do is buy small gifts for the not so close friends. We buy a couple of small gifts so it looks like we spent alot. Like if its for a boy we might buy a couple of matchbox cars and a action figure and if its for a girl we buy a couple of things. And so on. If its for a friend I ask my kids what their friend likes and we buy that but dont spend over $15.00 or so...Hope this helps.....

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N.S.

answers from Chicago on

I just started this also. I tend to spend $15-$20 on a gift. That way you can still get something nice without spending a fortune. It seems that's what everyone else spends at the parties that I have been to with my daughter.

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K.B.

answers from San Francisco on

Casual friends, under $10. Closer friends, closer to $20.

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L.E.

answers from Chicago on

I normally don't spend anymore than $15 on kids we don't really know, and about $25 on kids we know well. And I always get gift receipts in case the moms get duplicates or want to return it for something else. And, I normally get clothing... I figure I have no idea what kind of toys the kids are interested in or already have, but clothes are usually a safe bet.

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L.R.

answers from Chicago on

You don't need to go over $10. Art supplies are one of the best presents, because for $10 you can get several kinds of colored markers, paints, or pencils, with a pad of paper and a folder or some kind of cool bag to put them in! I find it strange that some posters gauge the size of the gift to the elaborateness of the party. That's putting it on the same level as a business transaction, IMHO. You are not obligated to spend more just because the parents chose to spend a lot on a party.

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L.S.

answers from Chicago on

I always spent about $15 on a gift. But one thing I did do that was a good idea was, when I saw things that my kids loved (example might be Hannah Montana stuff or action figures or pokemon cards for boys) When I saw this kind of stuff on sale I would stock up. Then we had a drawer full of this birthday stuff. The kids could then go into the drawer and pick out something they knew their friend would like. It was great for last minute shopping too. If my kids recieved a toy they didn't really want for their birthday it would go into the birthday party drawer too. If we couldn't find anything that their friend would want in the drawer we had to go shopping but most of the time we had something and it saved us the trip.

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B.P.

answers from Chicago on

I totally understand how you feel. I hate to be stingy too, but we're on a tighter budget so when my daughter started receiving birthday invites (and lots of them) from her pre-school friends, my rule for my daughter became that if the friend was someone we went on playdates with the gift would be about $12-15. If it wasn't an outside-of-school friend the gift would be around $8-10. I will also usually go to Wal-mart - you can get more for your money there. I also like to save a couple bucks by having my daughter make the birthday card herself for the friend. Construction paper and markers are wonderful things!

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G.H.

answers from Chicago on

$20.00 is plenty. You can find a large assortment of clothes and toys for $20.

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A.P.

answers from Peoria on

I have five kids under the age of 12 and birthday gifts could easily break the bank. I keep it to $10 to $15 at the most. Cards and gift bags come from the dollar store or they could easily cost as much as the gift these days.

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D.S.

answers from Chicago on

We usually spend $10-15 on gifts for school friends. You can actually get some decent gifts in that price range, and they don't break the bank.

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L.B.

answers from Peoria on

I would think 15-20 dollars tops would be acceptable for gifts for toddlers. My daughter turned 3 and we didnt expect anything extravagant...we mostly wanted her just to have some friends to celebrate with!

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E.P.

answers from Chicago on

I try to spend $15 or less on a gift. ($20 - up to $25....for a good friend, niece or nephew). But, in preschool, I would buy some items in bulk and save $$$. For instance - summer birthdays, I would buy a couple nice beach towels. Disney always has an incredible sale in Spring and their towels are marked very low. I would add bubbles, chalk, bucket and pails - fun summer stuff and make a summer theme out of it. Or I would buy a bunch of nice, craft items - cool markers, big packages of construction paper, paints, stamps, etc... - keeping the cost,easily under $15.00. It's also nice to buy cards, in bulk, at mail order places like "Current", because cards can be so expensive, which adds an expense to an, otherwise, reasonable gift. Hope this helps! Good luck.

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M.K.

answers from Chicago on

I just want to say that most party givers are not all about the gifts. I throw my daughter some slightly extravagent birthday parties because she is my only one, and because I like to include everyone. I would hate to have to invite only half the kids in the class because little ones get their feelings hurt. With regard to the gifts, though, I think you should at least act like you care what the birthday child would like. And if you're on a budget, fine...try to find something on sale to stretch your money. My pet peeve is people who go on and on about their expensive vacations to Disney and other places and then they give something from the dollar store. I guess it shows how much they value our friendship.

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E.J.

answers from Rockford on

I spend about $15 for classmates at the most. For close friends and cousins we spend about $25.

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C.T.

answers from Springfield on

I have always kept it between $10.00-$15.00. It's not too much but not cheap either.

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H.H.

answers from Chicago on

We have a 10dollar limit on friend gifts. Depending on if it is a boy or girl gift we sometimes have luck at the dollar tree. Recently we just went there and loaded up on water toys for my 8yr old's friend.

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J.R.

answers from Chicago on

I have a generalized rule. Classmates 15$, friends, 20$ and we recently went to a party (2 adults, 2 kids) where they did a rock climbing wall at X-Sport Fitness. I know it was costly to pay for us all to rock climb and eat, so we were a bit more generous and gave 50$.

I always try to take into account the cost of our presence at the party and at least 'pay our way' in the form of a gift.

Good luck!

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K.H.

answers from Chicago on

I have a 10 year old boy and a 6 year old girl. We are invited to so many parties. I used to go to toys r us to pick out the best thing or Learning Express. Kids like to open toys. I had consulted a few other Moms and they recommend $15 or $20 gift cards to Toys R US or Borders. I have even just started giving a $20 bill. I know it is not very personable but the parents and kids love it when they receive so much. They can get what they like. Put it in the bank. I do pick out really cool cards and buy them in bulk. I keep them ready for parties and put the $ inside and go. It makes it very easy. My daughter must go to a party weekly.

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S.E.

answers from Chicago on

Really depends on where you live. I would for the age group you talking about I would spend about $10 for someone who you would consider a casual acquaintance. If you are friends with the family and the children play together at each other homes I would spend $15.-$20. Personally I think 3 years old is a little young to have a bigs birthday for other than with the family but I know it goes on all the time. We were very lucky we lived in a neighborhood almost no children when he was that age.

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M.R.

answers from Chicago on

It is the gift that counts & making it enjoyable for the birthday kid. You can get a great gift for around $15

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S.K.

answers from Rockford on

I've always thought $15.00 was good for that age. As they get older, or for a special friend, I do $20.00. (as they get older... it's $20.00 CASH... that's all they want!)
Some people may do more, but that's what's affordable for us, and they get invited to so much! Hope this helps.

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A.G.

answers from Chicago on

I really getting games for kids presents, or puzzles and the like...usually can find really cool stuff for fifteen or twenty dollars. Target usually has a good selection of this stuff.

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L.K.

answers from Chicago on

The going rate is about $20. It's always nice to give a gift receipt ,too!

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S.A.

answers from Chicago on

I think you need to spend what you believe is will fit in your budget. My hubby and I are living on one income so I can stay home with the kids. Everyone knows this and must realize that I can't spend a fortune buying gifts for everyone. My own family knows that I won't always buy birthday presents for my nieces and nephews. Nor will I be able to do Christmas for both the family in IL and in SC every year.

As a rule I generally spend $10 to $15 for friends of the family and then $20 to $25 for relatives. It also depends on the finances for that month. Some months are tough since there are several birthdays.

Also remember it is the thought that counts...which I think many in our materialistic society have forgotten. If you made homemade gifts like blankets, pillows and such it still should be appreciated.

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D.G.

answers from Chicago on

I would spend $10.00. There are some very nice gifts out there for that price. Even those nice boutique type stores have great gifts, for a great price. However, if it is a good friend you may want to spend a little more, but I would try to keep it simple. Kids get so much these days, no reason to spend $25 on each kid.

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E.E.

answers from Chicago on

A homemade batch of playdough or finger paint is easy to make and often appreciated. We put it into a reusable container and wrap or decorate. Books are always a great way to go. My son will often pick out a book that he has enjoyed himself and thinks a friend would like.
With friends, he will even go through his toys and books and pick out some special things he'd like to give. For example, he recently gave a younger friend one of his Thomas trains and a book. It meant so much to the little boy and my son was sharing something of himself.
It is clear that many kids in our culture have more 'stuff' then they could ever use. We try to keep things simple and personal if possible. If a toy is destined to have a short life and then a trip to a landfill, we take a pass.

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M.M.

answers from Chicago on

$10 generally no more than that. I think I may have spent $15 once, but that was someone we are close to...

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C.U.

answers from Chicago on

$20.00 bucks is the going rate around here!

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M.G.

answers from Chicago on

I usually spend $15-20, depending on how well we know the kid. I have a 9 yo son and most of his friends are from his sports teams, so we normally buy a Dick's gift card. Target or Wal-Mart if the child isn't into sports.

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