How Much Should You Spend on a Child’s Birthday Gift When Your Kid Is Invited To Their Party?

Small children ruunning with present outdoors in garden on birthday party, playing.
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When your young child gets invited to a classmate’s birthday party, he or she will likely be overwhelmed with excitement. Meanwhile, you can’t help but wonder, “Wow much should I spend on a gift?”

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You don’t want to spend too little and have the gift reflect that you’re cheap, but you also don’t want to spend too much and risk making the birthday child’s parents (or any other parents) uncomfortable. To answer this question and find out what other points of etiquette you should brush up on before the youthful celebration, GOBankingRates consulted industry experts.

Here’s everything you need to know. 

How Much You Should Logically Spend

“This is such an important question as for many years when your children are younger, this will need to be a line-item on your budget,” said nationally known etiquette expert and owner of Mannersmith, Jodi RR Smith.

“Without any information, the lazy answer is $20. But the true answer is it depends. For those with bigger budgets or in tiny social circles, the answer may be $50 or more.”

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How To Discreetly Find Out How Much You Should Spend

“If you are a new parent and/or new to the school or neighborhood, ask other parents, especially those with older children,” said Smith. “The way to ask is not what they spend, but what do people usually give as gifts. If you ask a few different people, you will be able to figure out the typical spend from there and then scale up or down to match your budget. For your child’s BFF, you may spend more than for a lunchtime acquaintance.”

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What Should You Buy as a Birthday Gift?

“When you RSVP, ask if there are any toys/gifts that are not permitted and find out what they are really into,” said Pamela Eyring, president of The Protocol School of Washington. “Think items such as Legos, bath toys or stuffed animals.”

Smith agrees that it’s a good idea to find out ahead of time what type of gift would be appropriate.

“A bit of intelligence gathering is important,” Smith said. “Some parents, especially of young children, can be persnickety. Ask a few questions about what the child likes to do or if there is anything the parent does not want in their home. A crafting kit may seem like a good idea, until you find out the parent despises glitter. A doll or army figures may seem like a good idea, until you find out the parent eschews normative gender toys. A gift certificate to a local ice cream shop may seem like a good idea, until you find out the parent promotes an all-natural only diet.”

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Other Things To Keep in Mind

Now that you have a general idea of how much to spend and how to find out what you should actually buy, here are some other etiquette tips to help you and your kid avoid any faux pas when the day of the party arrives. 

Gift Wrapping

Make sure you leave yourself enough time to be mindful when wrapping the gift.

“Remove any price stickers from the gift before you wrap it,” said Eyring. “Beautiful and fun wrapping can make the moment more special. If using a ‘pre-loved’ gift bag, ensure it’s in new condition without a forgotten note or name written on it.”

Donating Snacks, Food or Favors

It can be a nice gesture to donate snacks, food or favors for the party if the birthday child’s parents are amenable to it. But Eyring said to inquire if any of the party guests have allergies to avoid bringing something that would be unsuitable for anyone.

In Case of Illness

If your child falls ill and can’t attend the party, don’t forget your manners. “If your plans change or your child is sick, let the parents know immediately and drop off the gift at their home,” Eyring said.

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Party Manners

“Most importantly, reinforce manners and sharing with your child,” Eyring said. “Practice saying please and thank you, how to address the parents, eye contact and fairness if playing games with other children. Remind them of their dining manners, such as using a napkin and eating cake with the fork — not their fingers!”

Opening Gifts

“Lastly, know that most children’s parties no longer open gifts as part of the activities,” Smith said. “It is often too long for young children to sit still. It can be too much of a focused spotlight for the birthday child. And it can be difficult if the gift does not elicit the appropriate response.”

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About the Author

Cynthia Measom is a personal finance writer and editor with over 15 years of collective experience. Her articles have been featured in MSN, AOL, Yahoo Finance, INSIDER, Houston Chronicle and The Seattle Times. She attended the University of Texas at Austin and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English.
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