Gift giving can be stressful. Especially when it comes to the dozens of birthday parties your kids get invited to. How much is enough? How much is too much? Is there an etiquette to this sort of thing?
“You have to spend what feels right and comfortable to you,” says Ali Kaplan, Editor in Chief at Twin Cities Business Magazine.
Kaplan has lived this. With a 10 and 14 year old, she knows the stress of purchasing a gift for someone else's kid, and feeling like you've done enough, but not too much.
“When you buy an actual item as opposed to doing a gift card, first of all, you can spend less and have a bigger impact and a bigger memory,” she says. “Some of the most fun gifts I've done have been like a grab bag of cool candy that you can't find anywhere, and slime, and the kids remember it, and they love it, and they don't care if it costs three dollars or thirty dollars."
But, if you need to put a price tag on it…
"I think most etiquette experts will tell you that, for a kid birthday party, in that neighborhood of 15-25, somewhere in there is appropriate and perfectly fine, and people going beyond that, that's their business,” says Kaplan.
Is there anything a parent can do to help the people coming to the party know what’s appropriate, or to take the pressure off? Kaplan says if you get an invite that says, “no gifts”, abide by it. There’s always that inclination to buy something anyway. Don’t’.
Also, try a party with a theme or ask for books. It narrows the gift search and makes it more meaningful.
And if everyone shows up with presents in hand, maybe don't open them at the party.
"Then there isn't that concern about who spent what, who gave what, this person went overboard and this one didn't. You sort of take that pressure off the table. I think it's a thoughtful thing to do for the guests. Then, of course, the key is, if the kid is not opening the gifts at the party, you make sure they write thank you notes,” she says.
“They don't love doing it at the time but it's a really good exercise that makes them take the extra moment to think about what they got and to show their appreciation,” Kaplan adds.
And that, lesson of gratitude and etiquette, is a gift too.