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Are you spending too much money on kids' birthday gifts?

The definitive answer of how much to spend.

An illustration of a person wearing a party hat opening a box full of money Credit: Reviewed / Tara Jacoby

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If you thought baby showers were draining your wallet, just wait until those babies get a little bit older. As any parent can attest, kids’ birthday parties have a tendency to take over the social calendar, with one seemingly every weekend.

And with no registry to speak of, how much to spend on a kid’s birthday is a common dilemma. You don’t want to bust your budget, but you certainly don’t want to appear cheap. So what’s a well-meaning parent to do?

How much to spend on your own child’s birthday gifts

An illustration of four wrapped gifts in a line from smallest to biggest
Credit: Reviewed / Tara Jacoby

Budget for at least $100 when it comes to gifts for your own children.

For your own child, a $100 budget allows for a great blend of toys, books, and clothing, says Jennifer Porter, a Seattle-based etiquette coach and party planner.

When budgeting, don’t forget to factor in the cost of a birthday party. According to a recent survey, the average parent spends approximately $400 on a birthday party for their child. If an all-in cost of $500—or more—sounds like a budget-buster, consider gifting an experience in place of material items and a party, suggests Porter.

How much to spend on other children’s birthday gifts

An image of four wrapped packages in a row, from biggest to smallest
Credit: Reviewed / Tara Jacoby

$25 is the ideal amount of money to spend on a gift for a classmate or friend.

When it comes to buying birthday gifts for other kids, experts agree that $25 is the sweet spot—no matter the relationship. You can’t go wrong in the $20-$30 range, says Porter. “Opt for an active gift that will get used—a STEM kit, board game, or a fun sports game."

While most etiquette experts agree that $20-$30 is perfectly reasonable for a child’s birthday gift, you can spend up to $100 on the child of a close friend or relative, says Helen Holden, founder of Counting Candles, a website that helps parents plan birthday parties. For these bigger spends, Holden suggests to “try a bit harder to really find out what the child wants.”

What is a "fiver" party?

An illustration of three birthday cards with $5 bills sticking out
Credit: Reviewed / Tara Jacoby

Fiver parties are a trend that makes sense.

Some parents are opting for "fiver" parties to make gift-giving easier: At a fiver, guests bring $5 in a card. With the collective pot, the birthday celebrant can choose their own gift like a Nintendo Switch, a trip to an amusement park, or even choose to save the money for a bigger purchase down the line.

Though some parents balk at the idea of gifting money, others say it’s a great way to keep kids’ birthday parties relatively inexpensive for guests. It also gives the celebrant something to look forward to, while teaching them the value of budgeting, saving, and carefully planning purchases.

The bottom line

While $20-$30 is a safe place to land for kids' birthdays, if you feel inspired by the gift and not the price tag, let your own budget guide your decision about how much to spend, says Porter. “Gifting is a way to show our care, and there’s no price for that.”

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