The Birthday Party Expense Moms Don’t Talk About

iStock 000013488677XSmall The Birthday Party Expense Moms Dont Talk About

It's 1:30 on Saturday afternoon.  You're racing through the toy aisle at Target, praying to find a last-minute gift for the birthday party that starts in 30 minutes. 

Up and down the aisles, you search for the perfect gift for your child's little friend, as you wonder… Does she still like princesses?  …. Or is she into fairies now?  …. What's that thing I'm supposed to beware of in plastic – BPA?  …. Geez, let's just get a book so we don't have to worry about it…

Your overactive brain is interrupted as your child declares she's found the perfect gift.  And at $16.99 – it must be your lucky day!

The mad dash to the gift bags…

Last minute gift?  Check.  Now you make a quick dash to the wrapping paper aisle for a gift bag and a matching sleeve of tissue paper.  Then it's off to pay with not a minute to spare. 

As you mentally sift through excuses for why you're late for the party,  the cashier snaps you back to reality, "Your total is $27.53."

There's no time to puzzle over how on earth a $17 toy turned into $28.  Sales tax isn't that high, is it?  You swipe your card, grab the bag and your child by the hand and hurry off to the car, hoping she can buckle herself while you shove the gift in the bag and try to arrange the tissue paper that keeps sliding in the wrong places.  

That's when you see the price of the gift bag — $6.99.  Check the tissue paper…  $1.99 for 6 sheets.  Ouch.

"Nine dollars on something that's probably going straight in the trash… Are you kidding me?"  You hide the receipt and pretend it never happened.

And nobody talks about it

If you're like me, you have your little outburst in the car…  You already know the other moms won't be talking about it at the party.

No, instead… we rush in, greet the birthday girl, place our gift in the middle of the other over-priced gift bags and virgin-tree wrapping paper, and go join the conversation about how great the salsa is.

And when it's time for opening gifts, we hope no one else sees us cringe when our $10 presentation gets ripped apart by three kids trying to see what's inside. We don't even say anything to that "helpful" mom who starts gathering up all the perfectly good tissue paper and wadding it into a ball to throw in the garbage.  

How to "green" your gift giving

No matter the gift, there's always a way to wrap it in a way that creates little or no waste. Especially when you're giving a gift to a child. Some of our favorite options are…

Wrap a gift in your child's artwork. Free up some space on the fridge and help your child wrap the gift with some of their most colorful artwork.

Try other alternatives to paper.  Wrapping gifts in the newspaper comics is still practical.  Old posters, travel maps, or sheet music make a creative presentation.  Dress up used packing paper with a festive ribbon or some creative stamping or coloring.

Place the gift inside a beach bucket, storage basket, or wicker basket. Skip the plastic wrap or tissue paper, or plan to keep it hidden until gift time if you want to make it a surprise. And who can't use an extra storage basket in the playroom?

Box it up. Decorative boxes or a treasure chest make a fun presentation and can be used again for gift giving or to store toys.

Swap paper gift bags for reusable canvas or fabric gift bags.  If you're crafty, you can make them yourself… even without a sewing machine.  Lucky for those of us who don't have time for DIY gift bags, we've found some of the most adorable prints and colors from Living Ethos. So simple, and you can use them over and over.

We always want to hear your tips on how to give your gift a little greener.  Tell us your ideas or your biggest complaint when it comes to kids' birthday parties here, or come talk to us on Facebook.

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  • Sue Graber

     I love this post, Amity.  I can see myself in doing this many years ago when getting gifts for parties for the girls!!   Lots of good points and also encourages everyone to be more organized!!  It’s so easy to spend extra when you’re doing things last minute, which I do more than I care to admit; however, I am working on this!!!

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