Budget-friendly Ideas for Children's Birthday Party Presents

I have two children – two different ages, two different schools, two different little groups of friends. That equals a LOT of birthday parties. Sometimes two or three in one day.

We are super grateful that our children (and ourselves) are well liked enough to be included in so many birthday celebrations. And we are thrilled to attend, even if that means two separate trips over the Ben Franklin Bridge to Bounce U in one day.

But with more than 30 parties per year, if I spent the typical $20 per gift plus $5 for fancy paper gift bags, I would be out a solid $750. And the broken toys ending up in the landfill would take an immeasurable toll.

Here’s how I do my gifting – thrifty, crafty, and eco-minded – without looking like a total cheapskate:

1. Regifting. This one is pretty obvious but only doable in select circumstances. When we had a full-class party for my son’s 5th birthday, we had more presents than he could even handle. We hid most in the gift closet, distributed select toys on rainy days and re-wrapped the rest for re-gifting. You just have to be careful not to give the same present back to the gifter. But, honestly, what kid or parent would even notice they had even seen that LEGO set before? This option has not been readily available to us recently as we didn’t do a big party for either of my children’s last birthdays. So I’ve been working with the following options.

2. Stock up on Green Toys sales. Made in the USA from recycled milk jugs, this brand is my go-to for supporting a sustainable toy company. I keep on my Zulily alerts for big clearance sales, offering regularly $25-$30 toys for $14.99 and under.

3. My favorite trick for gifting kids and doing good at the same time, is hitting the little shop on my corner that sells secondhand children’s books. Philly AIDS Thrift at Giovanni’s Room began as the country’s oldest LGBT bookstore but now offers all sorts of traditional resale items to benefit local organizations involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS. They have a wonderful little children’s section with mint condition books. Classics and new books marked $20 or more are discounted to $2.99. We carefully choose a couple of titles with the birthday child in mind to create a present that will make the child and parents happy. Of course, we are careful to peel off the sale stickers, but considering that I am posting this publicly I have no shame about spending less on a thoughtful gift for a 3-year-old!

4. I will never, ever, ever buy gift wrap. Not a ribbon, not a bow and certainly not a bag. I love VZWraps fabric gift bags – especially when they come back around to me! But when I am out of those, I use the following materials to create crafty little packages:

  • Collected ribbons, bows, and wrapping paper from gifts received. I like to cut the paper gift bags and fold them into gift wrap.
  • The brown paper that comes in every Amazon box
  • My children’s artwork
  • Newspaper and random free calendars with interesting artwork
  • Random things I have laying about in my craft stock like yarn and paper flowers

Paige Wolf is a Philadelphia mom and author of Spit That Out! The Overly Informed Parent’s Guide to Raising Children in the Age of Environmental Guilt. This post is adapted from her blog, Spit That Out!

Categories: MomSpeak