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How much should I spend on kids' birthday party gifts?

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A picture of a child with birthday presents

Birthday boys and girls usually rack up on gifts at their parties.

Photo © David Woolley / Getty Images
Question: How much should I spend on kids' birthday party gifts?
How much to spend on birthday presents for your child's friends is a common question parents have. You don't want to appear too cheap or like you don't care about the birthday boy or girl but you don't want to dip into your child's college fund every time a party invitation arrives in your mailbox.
Answer: Every parent knows kids' birthday party gifts can quickly drain your wallet. Any time your child attends a party, you feel obligated to send along a present. Parents hosting parties are cutting party costs so you can cut party gift costs too based on how close your child is to the birthday boy or girl.

Tip: Cut kids' birthday party gift prices by being a smart shopper. Look for buy one, get one free deals, deep discounts and other special savings as you shop. Stock up on birthday party gifts when there's a great deal so you can save the most money.

Acquaintances

It never fails. Your kids meet a new playmate on the playground and your child is instantly invited to this new pal's birthday party. Or, you'll receive a party invitation from a kid down the street your child only sees a couple of times a year.

Spend very little on gifts for your child's acquaintances. Look for simple toys that are $5 or less. One option is to give homemade gifts you can make with your children.

Kids' birthday gift ideas for under $5:

  • Books
  • Card games
  • Stickers
  • Coloring books
  • Miniature dolls
  • Hot Wheels or Matchbox cars

Classmates

Most classrooms have at least 10 students in them. If only half of them invite your child to a birthday party, that gives you at least 5 presents to buy.

Spend no more than $10 on your child's classmates. Lower that number if your child has more than 10 classmates or you could spend a small fortune over the course of a school year.

Kids' birthday gift ideas for under $10:

  • Play-Doh sets
  • Kickball
  • Wooden puzzles
  • Travel games
  • Action figures

Friends

Friends can be broken into a couple of categories. There are the close friends your child sees often and the one or two friends he considers his "best" friends.

For friends your child may play with regularly in the neighborhood, in playgroup, etc., keep the spending to $15 or less. For close friends your child considers his besties, spend around $20.

Kids' birthday gift ideas for under $15:

  • Remote control cars
  • Legos
  • CDs
  • Board games
  • Sports balls

Relatives

Family members get the highest cap on spending. Up to $25 is a good guideline for a cousin's birthday party.

Only you can gauge how much you really want to spend on family members. How you decide can depend on a number of factors, such as how often you see them, how tightly-knit your family is, etc. Anywhere between $15 and $25 will give you plenty of gift options for family members.

Kids' birthday gift ideas for under $20:

  • Barbies
  • Thomas the Tank engines/cars
  • Wooden puzzles
  • Board games
  • DVDs
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