I’m on record as not being a big fan of birthday parties. Let me put it another way: I’m not a fan of how everyone and their dog has birthday parties every year. I’m hoping to keep each of my kids at a max of about five parties per year that they can attend. And while I’m happy for them to host parties for their friends, I’ve encouraged them to focus the parties around other occasions. It’s working so far.

A few weeks ago, a friend of my oldest daughter’s invited her to a pool party for his fifth birthday. School’s out for summer and it sounded like a great idea to gather the kids from her wonderful junior kindergarten class. The party was awesome and held at a local pool with both a toddler area and larger pool. The parents had a great spread and it was fun to chat with adults while keeping an eye on the kids.

But the reason I bring this all up is that the invitation had something on there that I’d never seen before. It basically said that there was absolutely no need to bring gifts but that if you were so inclined, to please consider a cash donation. The reason, they said, was that they were trying to teach their son about money management. They’d take the money and divide it in half. Part would go to a charity and part would go to a toy or toys he could purchase himself.

It reminded me of the time my sister tried to get her oldest daughter behind a similar thing. My sister, considering how blessed her children were in the toy department, asked her oldest what she thought about having kids donate toys in her honor at her next birthday party. My niece had some clarifying questions but quickly figured out the bottom line: there would be no presents for her from her friends. And she burst into tears. It still makes me laugh.

OK. So I realized that the parents of my daughter’s friend had figured out how to keep their son happy while still avoiding the deluge of plastic gifts that are a hallmark of the modern-day birthday party. And I have to admit, I like the trend, too.

Like most families, we’re pressed for time. Something as simple as going to a store, picking out a gift, coming home, wrapping it, remembering we forgot to get a card, going to get a card, and filling out that card, can send us over the edge. It’s one thing if you’re really good at gift-giving. But mostly birthday parties are about the fun times you have together anyway.

This was the easiest preparation for a birthday ever. I’d been out of town all week. My husband picked up a card at the CVS. We stuck a $10 bill in there and had the kids write their names in it. Voila. Done. Everyone’s happy.

So is there any way we can get this trend to continue? I want all my kids’ friends to ask for cash at their next birthday party. Heck, even if they don’t, I think cash is the way I’m going. Let the parents pick out their own toys. Let the parents buy a couple of beers, what do I care?

But if you do it like our friend did, you help the child learn the value of money and you save everyone else a heck of a lot of time.

What do you think?

(Photo: Steshkin Yevgeniy/Shutterstock)