Birthdays and Halloween and School Clothes, Oh My!

Yesterday afternoon the girls and I took a quick trip to Target.  $150 later I emerged with 2 Halloween costumes, 2 plastic pumpkins, 3 birthday gifts, and a variety of sundry grocery items.  Yes, I realize that last phrase was redundant, but it sounds good, don’t you think?

I went to Target in search of birthday presents and somehow ended up shopping for Halloween as well.  I mean, I was there, the costumes were there, and we all know that Halloween will be here before we know it. It just made sense at the time.

C will be Minnie Mouse, and R will be Sleeping Beauty.  I got home and ordered D a Darth Maul costume online and paid an astronomical amount in shipping, but I remember that last year I called all over creation and could not find the elusive Darth Maul costume, and D ended up being a mutant ninja turtle, and I couldn’t live with myself if my son didn’t have his costume of choice for the second year in a row, so there you have it.


June, I know it pains you to read my run-on sentences, but bear with me.  It’s just how I talk.  Ask my real life friends.

So here’s a question.  Back to the birthday presents purchases.  How much does one generally spend on birthday presents for other people’s kids?  And while we’re at it, do you have any tried-and-true birthday gifts that you give over and over again?  I have been meaning to order a bunch of PakNaks to have on hand for just this purpose, but did I get around to it?  Of course not!  (Although just this afternoon I rectified this situation and placed an order so I have some for the next round of birthday party invitations that are sure to be pouring in.)  (And also, if you place a PakNak order for your own birthday party present needs, or for yourself because, you know, you deserve them, enter PAK10 at checkout for 10% off.  You’re welcome.)

I hate contributing to the accumulation of junkie plastic toys in someone else’s household, but I never know what else to get.  Disposable toys, that’s what I call them.  They’re cheap and fun for a few days.  Then they get thrown by the wayside and long forgotten.  And eventually tossed in the trash during a decluttering session.  At least, that’s what happens to them in MY house.

I have three of my own kids’ birthdays coming up this fall that I haven’t even begun shopping for yet.  I am always stumped with what to get them because after the birthday party presents and the grandparents’ presents, they really do not need another single thing.  But there is the expectation that mom and dad will get them something really fab.  So I wanna know.  How do y’all handle birthdays?

And then there is the issue of the birthday party.  Most of our friends seem to have a birthday party for each kid every year.  I’m a meanie because I make my kids rotate.  Last year D had a birthday party, and this year C will have one.  Next year R will get her first ever birthday party, when she turns 4.

Of course we always have a small family celebration here at home with cake and ice cream and presents, but we don’t have a big bash for each kid every year.  My kids’ birthdays fall in Oct, Nov, and Dec.  Add that to all the fall festivities and then Christmas, and that’s a nervous breakdown in the making.  I just can’t do it all so I don’t.  Hub is in complete agreement.  In fact, he wouldn’t even throw a party a year.  I have insisted on at least that.

I mentioned school clothes because that’s just one more thing to buy this time of year.  Where does it end?  I swear, we spend more from Sept to Dec than we do the whole rest of the year.  What do you do?  Do you budget all year for the end-of-the-year spending spree?  Or do you just take it as it comes?

Did I ask enough questions in this post?  Come on.  Talk to me.

And also.  If you aren’t subscribed, you should be.  Because it would be a tragedy to miss a moment of the deep and thought-provoking discussions here at Musings of a Housewife.  It’s easy.  

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35 Responses

  1. I shop all year round. For Christmas, for birthdays, etc. I frequent a site called My Bargain Buddy (https://www.mybargainbuddy.com) and she has deals that stores have that you would not believe. When I see something that’s cheap and either my kids would like OR would work as a birthday gift, I order it and it goes in the “gift” box. When I need a last minute gift, I go to the box and most of the time, I’ve not paid more than $5 for any of them. The key is finding it and ordering en masse. Then people think that I’ve paid an astronomical amount of money on stuff, but really? I just shop ahead.

    And I love her site. She’s got AWESOME deals and you wouldn’t believe what I’ve gotten because she’s found the deal and told me about it.

  2. My two-year old is going to be Dorothy, but I’ve decided that I’m making her wear the silver “sparkle shoes” that she picked out a few months ago and has NEVER worn. Is that wrong?
    I’m already worrying about her third birthday party in April and shudder everytime we’re invited to one of her friends’ birthday extravaganzas. I hope this post will generate some exciting gift ideas for us all!

  3. You were a wise woman to grab the costumes at Target. I have learned my lesson at SuperTarget too many times: Do not like and admire and then push away for a decision on another day. It will be GONE when you return. Get it now.

    As far as tried and true and not cheap junk I do have a few. For spring and summer bdays we give a cool beach towel, swim toys (you know, the crazy shark ones your kids beg for but you don’t buy? Those.). I don’t have any great fall and winter suggestions.

    For a very, very close friend of my daughters, I will spend 25.00. Everyone else gets 15-20.00

  4. Books are my go to birthday present. Yup. I’m THAT mom.

    I hear you on the costumes. Aubryn is going to be a ladybug – I bought the costume on Labor Day!

  5. Happy Halloween!

    Can’t even begin to think about Halloween yet, but it is not too big a deal here. However saw my first christmas tree and santa in the shopping centre this morning…just plain wrong!

    Birthday pressies for other kids? Close friends £10-£15, other class friends £5.

    Ideas- usually crafty but not too messy – gel pens, drawing pads, stuff like that. I try to avoid presents I would hate my own kids to get – clay, pottery, very messy stiff (I am such a kill-joy!). Starting to give more vouchers – book tokens, or gift voucher for the local cinema for older kids.

    Parties – I have 2 daughters with December birthdays, and my son will be 4 on October, (but that will just be a family one again).

    My daughters have both had one BIG party each – soft play/whole class. Other than that we have had smaller (max 10) parties for each. We have had craft parties at home and in church hall, pyjama party (dvd and popcorn, but go home to own beds). AsI enjoy craft, I usually do something crafty and then this is their goody bag gift with a few sweets.

    If they want to do something like cinema/pizza then the numbers would be 4-6.

    As we have school uniform, usually only need new sweatshirts for a new school year. Fortunately my kids grow slowly (bad mum!) so don’t grow out of things to quickly. My 8 year old still wears her age 5 school polo shirts.

    Any more questions?

  6. Hey – when were you at Target? The girls and I went around 5 PM. I spent some of my gift certificate money at Starbucks and then got a few other things. I actually got out of Target for only $30. BUT, you should have seen it. I head towards the register and someone is holding up the line. It is my dear daughter who had gotten past me in the store and went up to the register with all the change she had collected from her daddy’s dresser. There she was counting out $10 in change to buy the toy she wanted. Change was falling, the clerk was taking other customers. Laura and I almost turned back around and went to the opposite end of the store. But my love for this enterprising daughter took over and I swooped down to rescue my carefree,industrious little girl. It was truly a moment to behold.

  7. Jo-Lynne, I’ve been reading your blog for awhile and I’m finally coming out of hiding (sorry…) to tell you that I love it. Thanks for this great post, too! I can’t wait to see what people say- especially about birthday parties/gifts because I struggle with that one.

    I usually spend $20-$25 on a b-day gift. I think that’s a little on the generous side around here. (I’m not sure if it makes a difference but we live in a suburb of Boston.) I usually ask the mom what to buy and give a gift receipt.

    As far as my own kids’ gifts go, I think that this year I’m going to request that people not bring gifts- or, if they’d like, bring something for the local food pantry. One of my friends had another good idea. (She said that she tried the “no gifts” route and it caused problems with other parents!) She has her son set aside half of his new, unopened toys to bring with her to a local charity that gives new toys to kids in need.

    When my kids are flooded with toys after their b-days, I let them pick a few to open and put the rest in storage. (The first time I did this I was shocked by how amenable they were to it!) Every month or so, I let them pick a new one to open up. It’s great for rainy days- or days when they’re just driving me crazy! That said, for the next round of b-days I’m saying “no gifts”.

    Sorry about this long post! As you can see, you hit a nerve with this one. Thanks again for a great blog!

  8. You do ask a lot of questions. I shall do my best to answer what I can.

    Four of the five kids have birthdays between September 14 and October 14 in our family. We have done a couple of joint parties in the past, but not lately. We do one big family party in October, and we call it Scottoberfest because we are dorks like that. It is also to celebrate Husband’s October birthday, as well as in-laws birthdays. The kids always get presents. My girls have made some noise about a party this year, but I already told them the most we will do is a sleepover with one or two friends.

    As for presents for friends, I typically spend in the 15 dollar range. If I know the kid will like it, my go-to present is art supplies. I buy some card stock, markers, maybe glitter glue, foam stickers, those kinds of things. I figure that is something a kid can enjoy without needing someone else to play or help. I am also a big fan of buying books, if I have some idea of what the kid would like.

    As for budgeting, we should plan for it all year long, since we have the same mashup of celebrations that your family has, but we don’t. We try to handle it one pay period at a time, at least this year. Maybe next year we will be more organized. We’re really still learning to budget.

    I try to spread out the back-to-school purchases. Since we live in TX, we can wait on winter clothes or buy just one or two things at a time, so the hit is less substantial at any given time.

    I have now left a comment that is long enough to be its own post. Sorry about that. Oh yeah, for my girls this year for birthday from us, we are looking at kid friendly digital cameras so they can have one to share.

  9. Every birthday party my kids go to, each child receives the same gift….$20 in a $0.99 card.

    I hate buying a cheap-o toy and clothes are hard enough to pick out for my own kids let alone someone elses. I have decided gift cards are not worth it, too limiting and most of the kids I know are saving up for something “big”. Those Visa gift cards sound fabulous but are actually difficult to use at a lot of places.

    I have also (recently) bought Webkinz(s) if I can find out one they’d want/don’t have. They range from $12 – $16 depending on where you find them.

    Regarding birthday parties for my own kids, we don’t do a huge bithday party either. I always say would you rather receive a nicer gift or have a huge birthday party? The gift has always been the answer 🙂

  10. Yes, you do talk in run-on sentences and I love it.
    Birthday presents are usually in the $10-15 range unless its a close friend and then its $20. I try to stick to things that are consumable. There are a ton of great craft kits out there. I have boys and we mostly go to boy parties. Tonka has some fun kits. My boys also love any of the AirHogs toys. They are great because they are for outdoor use, so they don’t clutter the house and eventually they end up in a tree or on a roof, darn! If its a girl party we go for the jewelry kits (the simple ones).
    We try to budget for this time of year but its never enough. We’ve started giving the option of a party or a special day. Dimples chose another trip to Hershey Park instead of a party. We did everything he wanted at Hershey, let him buy stuff in the gift shop and still spent less than a party.
    This is an expensive time of year between b’days, halloween, Christmas, back to school clothes/gear, sports fees and the dreaded school fundraisers.

  11. I don’t mind birthday parties because to me they celebrate the life of my child. But I limit everything involved with the party (number of kids invited, goodie bag – usually a pinata that has candy and trinkets and they scoop and take with them OR a craft that they make-like a picture frame or such). I do stop birthday parties at 10 years old. Then when they get past that they are allowed to bring one friend to some place like bowling or putt-putt or something. September is BIG birthday month for us but my kids are January, June, and July.
    As for gifts, I shop year round. I have a chest in my closet (my old toy chest when I was little) that I fill with items that I buy. The good thing is that when you find a good deal and buy it, the items are usually worth much MUCH more. So technically I only spend less then $10 for gifts. I also recycle gift bags. So parents aren’t surprised they might get the same bag back. ROFL I make little cards to give so those are cheaper too. 🙂 Or I buy them when they are 2 for $1 at the Dollar Tree.
    I will say that my brother’s family doesn’t do birthday parties and his son has often said that he doesn’t think ‘his parents care about his birthday’. It’s sad really. Yes it’s a little time and a little money but early planning can reduce both of those a lot.
    I can’t even believe that Christmas items are out already! Wow!

  12. November to February is our non stop spending time. It’s crazy. One birthday after the next including my youngest’s on Christmas Day! I love your idea of rotating the kid’s friends party each year. I wish I would have thought of that. It definitely would have reduced a lot of stress.

    When my kids were little and attending mega amounts of parties I used to have a birthday box. I’d always watch for good prices and clearances on toys and then buy them and put them in the box. When a birthday party invite rolled around they’d get to pick from the box what they wanted to give the bday child. It saved a lot of last minute shopping stress and don’t have the money now stress.

  13. You are full of questions today!

    We are not big party people,so b-days are low key. My 9yo usually likes to do something with 2-3 friends. One year he had about 6-7 at his party & the next year he said no party! LOL!
    So far the 4 yo has only had family over.

    For all our misc/irregular spending like gifts and clothing, we regularly deposit money into an ING account and only use that debit card to keep our spending in line.

    For friends b-day gifts I try to make the “value” of the gift be in the $15-25 range…I shop ahead, and have a gift stash, so maybe I only spent $5 for a gift.
    Also my photographer DH does some sports photography, so a few of DS friends get an 8×10 action shot, which goes over quite well! We may do posters this year.

  14. First things first: Did you notice that you said this at the end of your post:
    “Just lick on one of the two links below.”
    It made me laugh. Maybe if the link were covered in cheese I’d consider it, but uh, no thanks.

    Second, I do my shopping for events that require gifts throughout the year. I’ve got a big stash of Christmas presents for the kids in my family, and it’s growing all the time, and for birthdays I usually keep a list of ideas that if I need something at the last minute, I can check the list (or my stash).

    Granted, I usually can’t keep track of my list…

  15. Oh, the dreaded birthday present shopping. I never know what to get and almost always roam around the store staring into space waiting for something to fall into my cart.

    Sorry, no help here. But I am going to keep checking the comments hoping someone else has a good idea!

  16. I usually spend less than $20 on a present. I don’t have a daughter, so we usually are only getting boy gifts. For boys my son’s age (9) and younger, we have success with legoes, Star Wars stuff, and Nerf. Sometimes I’ll get a board game if they have siblings and sometimes a book if I know what they like. Older kids usually get Target gift cards.

    We don’t do yearly parties. My son had a huge party when he turned 1 and another huge one when he turned 5 and we’ll do something special when he turns 10. Other than that, we usually invite 2 or 3 friends and do something fun. In fact, this year, he didn’t have a party as we had to go out-of-state to be with my dad. Instead, we went on a fun outing, let him pick the place for dinner, made his favorite dessert, and gave a few gifts. He was perfectly happy with that! He needed a new bike anyway, so that was his big gift.

    I don’t budget for this time of year, but I should. I just try to keep the expenses to a minimum.

  17. Rotate the b-days parties and don’t feel guilty already. I think maybe a good plan might be on the odd years have a friend party, even years have a smaller family party. Or vice versa. Or whatever.

    Also, we haven’t really entered into the foray of birthday gifts, my general theory is to spend as little as possible without being embarrassed. 🙂

  18. You had a busy, expensive trip to Target! I went in the other day and only spent 7.31. First of all I didn’t know what a PakNak was, so I had to go check that out first. Very cute. Secondly, I only spend about 20.00 for another childs present. If it’s summer, I try to do a little tote bag with sunscreen and a cute towel. Sometimes I’ll do fun lotions and things from Bath and Body (my older daughters friends are turning 10 this year). Webkinz area always a hit with younger daughters friends. I love things that are consumable, like craft projects or paint sets. I give eat child a party. I have one in Feb and one in May, so it’s manageable. Last year, I gave the girls a choice between a party or going to American Girl with the money that I would have spent on a party. We took them to lunch and gave them a 100.00 budget. They loved that!!! One year we took a family trip, instead of a party. This year when my daughter turns 10, she wants to have a sleepover. And my younger daughter has been planning her 7th b/d since about 10 min. after last years. As for Halloween. We don’t purchase costumes anymore, we make them. But, I have already been researching ideas. Ok, I think I answered most of the questions :o)

  19. i started doing a book with BabyGap pajamas for little kids. sometimes i do a cool beach towel or something in the summer. i also like to do a crafty-backet with coloring books and stuff, since who doesn’t love new crayons?

    grace just got a gift card to cold stone creamery for her birthday. she was SO EXCITED you’d think she got the coolest gift ever.

  20. ACK! You’re demanding today. Overload.

    Bdays–we don’t do big birthday gifts for the kids, usually, because as you said, the grandparents take care of it. Plus Amanda’s is in Sept, just too close to another bunch of stuff at Christmas. That said, this year she got a Wii, which is big, so don’t go by me.

    As far as how much to spend on gifts — it’s tough. I used to think that $10 to $15 was fine, maybe $20, but my son got some great $20+ gifts from his preschool friends. C’mon — preschool??

    I don’t spend over $20. When I wrote up the PakNak review on 5 Minutes for Mom (contest is still open if people want to enter), I thought the same thing — these would be great bday gifts — or a little extra-something. I too need to go ahead and order some.

    One thing I like is disposable or consumable. For example, for the preschool set, I like to buy watercolor paint sets or sticker books. They are fun and generally take their attention, but they aren’t clutter, because eventually they’ll be used up and gone.

  21. We also spend around $10-$15 for friends. Lately I have been letting the older one pick out the presents because he knows his friends’ interests better than I do. I do love the idea of shopping ahead for bargains, but that only happens in my mind, where I live a very organized life. In reality, I’m at Target the night before the party…and always forgetting the wrapping paper.

  22. I do $10-15 for gifts. I am a little cynical about the kids who have friend parties every year. But that is just me.
    Most of the time for my kids I left them have a friend or two over and do something one on one with that group of kids.

  23. Wow, I never thought of rotating parties. I have Oct, Nov, and Dec kids too. Then on top of that and Christmas my niece’s birthday is right before Christmas.

    I have to ask how you manage the invariable disappointment/jealousy of those not getting a big old bash of a party? I can’t even fathom how it would play out in my house. Have you always done this?

    Old standby presents… I honestly go to Borders/Barnes and Noble pick up a favorite kid book and attach a $10-20 gift card (depending on the age of the kid). That way they get something we have liked and they also get to go and pick out something of their own. A little more personal than just the gift card. So, my max for other people’s kids is between $20 and $30. Sometimes less, sometimes more depending on how well I know the kid and the parents.

    There’s my 2 cents! (where’s the cents sign on the computer? Too outdated, I guess.)

  24. Birthday’s are busy in our house, because the kids are two day apart. Not the best planning on my part.

    We do a family party every year (groan). I have lost this battle of having twenty people crammed into a party room. But, this year is the first year that Boo won’t have a friend party since she turned three. I made the decision to do every other year from now on, it just makes it easier.

    For my spoiled children we do one present, and that is it. In February they will both be getting new bikes, and that is it. We limit how much we give them on Christmas too, usually one big and 4 small gifts. We also have 5 Christmas celebrations between the families (Hunter goes to 9 total between both houses).

    For friend parties it depends. I have a couple little kids that I spend $40, but I have known them since they were born and their mom’s are our very good friends. Otherwise the limit is $20, between 10-15 if I don’t know the child. I always ask the parents when I call what the child would like for their birthday, or if they like art, reading or outdoor activites. This at least gives me a jumping off point.

    We set a budget for this time of year, but it is never easy to keep it. I work hard to make sure that we don’t overspend as much as I can. But, this time is year is crazy.

  25. Oh, I’ve loved reading the comments on this post.

    We’re just entering birthday party territory. I’m hoping to start stocking up on things that have a value of $10-20. Emphasis on have a value of $10-20. I hope not to always pay that much. 🙂

  26. I think it is great that all your kids don’t have bday parties every year.

    I spend ~$15 for a bday gift for someone’s kid. I often buy workbooks for preschool aged kids. I know my son goes through one in a day, and they aren’t cheap, so I figure at least it’s not another dumb toy.

    I was in Target Sunday night when they were putting out the costumes. I was trying to talk my son into Captn America, but he just wants to wear his Superman PJ’s so, hey, that’s cheap!! Works for me!

  27. Well, My daughter has her 4th B-day party this weekend. It is her first big “party” with her pre-school friends (the others have been family parties). It is at the local Rec center and she is excited. My son is 6, and he is inviting a few friends too….his birthday is Oct. We will not do a big party for him, rather we will go to Grandma and Granddad’s and have a party over there…probably just a family party (maybe a few friends). My daughter’s B-day present is her Halloween costume (Care Bear Costume)–I know, it is a little mean, but the costume is 40$! And I know she will love it, so she will want to wear it anyway…I like the “your present is your presence” parties–my kids don’t need more toys, but want their friends to be there…I spend 10-15 on presents for friends….so it seems I am in the “normal” range!

  28. love this post~ my first and foremost rule is we dont go to EVERY party, we let them go to ones for close friends so i am willing to spend about $10-15 on my boys friends becasue they are younger and $15-20 on my daughters friends. for the girls i normally get art stuff or craft stuff. the boy usually a soccer/basket/ foot ball or some sort of action type figure but i let the kids normally pick it out. my go to presents for little kids (under 5) are color wonders, or books.

    my boys birthdays are within a week of each other so they get a joint party now we include the baby becasue his birhtday is 4 weeks before but they get one fairly big party. mydaughter gets to chose a party or a big gift this year she chose a wii so we just had immediate family over.

    sorry that comment was long

  29. I don’t have much to be able to contribute to this post, but there is a neat idea starting to circulate regarding birthday parties. That is making them into charity things. Like you bring a gift but it will be donated to charity. I’m sure there are many different, creative variations for that idea. That could help cut down on the “disposable toys”.

  30. Thanks for stopping by my blog and I’m glad you were able to laugh with me (if only between the gags, lol).

    Birthdays. We have always only done family birthdays. Maybe it’s because my mom was such a poor planner when it came to my parties (the no-show factor tends to be high when your friends are invited 1 day prior). Or maybe it’s the trauma that lingers from a friend giving me a Captain and Tenille MUSKRAT LOVE 45 lp as a gift? I’m just sayin’. And besides, if I have any thought at all of doing bigger parties, I need only to remind myself of how things go in my world.

    That said, I really do like your idea of rotating and only doing one party per year. I think that’s a perfect middle ground. And btw, I soooo cracked up at your 5yo deciding she’s too old for Barbies. ROFL!\

  31. I love the idea of rotating birthday parties. I think too many kids expect a big birthday bash every single year.

    Since we only have one kiddo, and won’t be having anymore, that idea won’t work for us. What we plan to do is pick several birthdays to be “BIG” birthdays – age 5, 8, 12, etc. Those years, she’ll get a big party with friends. I know that sounds stingy. That’s our plan anyway.

  32. Becuase our children get gifts from grandparents and relatives we given them experiences – tea out with Mommy OR day at the zoo with Daddy OR coffee with Daddy at Starbucks, etc. They love going with 1 parent and leaving the other siblings at home

  33. First time visitor!

    I have a 4 yr old (will be 5 in oct), a 2.5 yr old (will be 3 in Feb) and a baby that is due any day. All of my daughter’s friends have bdays in the Fall-ugh. I am the mom that always gives books/coloring books/artsy stuff for bday presents. I know the moms appreciate it. Last year, I did PJ’s and a book for all of the Fall bdays. I got the PJ’s when Disney had a big sale and I got the books from BAREFOOT books during their summer sale. BTW- I LOVE Barefoot Books.

    For bday parties, we have done them at home or at the park. This year, we are having my daughter’s party at a Bounce House place, but that is mainly due to the fact that I due with baby# 3 in the next few days and I just did not want to mess with a party at home.

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