I swear I’ve thought about this many times over the last few years of throwing birthday parties. Then all of a sudden I started seeing it pop up on some major blogs like Living Well Spending Less’ Why We Say No to Gifts, and Your Modern Family’s Best No Gift Birthday Party. Were they reading my mind? Was this already a trend I was not aware of?
It was one thing when we were poor. We looked forward to being able to spruce up the old toy bins for our little girl, because we hadn’t ever really bought her anything. And she’s received some really cool gifts at her birthday parties that she still uses. But then time went on and we started accumulating more and more stuff. And we accumulated another kid. And no matter how often you purge, the stuff just keeps growing.
It’s gotten to the point where she really, truly, does not need a single new thing. So would it really be that terrible if we asked guests not to bring a present to a birthday party? Would they listen? We’ve even been to a few parties where the kids didn’t open the presents until days later, and they were totally fine with not having the pomp and circumstance in front of their friends. They just wanted to play.
Lo and behold, a good friend did what I’ve wanted to do for years. They were getting ready to move, and when we got the 5 year old’s birthday invitation in the mail, it requested that people contribute to a Plumfund for a new swing set instead of giving gifts they’d have to haul three states away. GENIUS!
Now I feel like the seal has been broken. Someone in our circle of friends bit the bullet and requested no gifts. There were a couple people who just couldn’t resist, but for the most part people listened. Being the procrastinator that I am, I just now got on to the site to give towards the swing set (the party was three weeks ago) and it appears that enough people contributed to at least put a dent in the cost.
I’m completely sold on the idea. It’s not like I’m suggesting we get rid of Christmas or anything. And people will argue why take that joy away from your child. Well if you think it would ruin your kid’s birthday, let there be gifts. But I can tell you, in the six birthday parties I’ve thrown for my kids, not once have they asked when it was time to open presents. Quite the opposite in fact... we usually have to drag them away from playing in order to get the present opening out of the way.
I do feel that people have a hard time not giving a kid ANYTHING for their birthday. So it seems like offering an alternative gives you better odds of having guests follow your request. These are the ones that I’ve debated using over the years, and I just may start to implement:
Have your child pick a charity for guests to donate to in their name. Make it easy and put the direct link on the invitation with detailed instructions.
Ask for them to contribute to a college fund. We’ve set up specific college fund accounts that are easy to have people contribute to.
Collect for a larger gift. Like my friend above who set up a Plumfund account. We often do this as a family, but why not get friends involved as well?
Do a book exchange. Technically this involves your guests bringing a wrapped book. But then after they’re all opened, each kid gets to take a book home with them. Plus then you don’t have to do gift bags!
Ask for wrapped donations. If you really want your child to open presents, ask people to bring a toy, stuffed animal, clothes, or pretty much anything that can then be donated to someone like Big Brothers Big Sisters.
Now we’ll see if I put my money where my mouth is and follow through for my little guy’s second birthday in a few months...
You can read more of Jennifer’s thoughts and advice on her blog The Search For Imperfection.