Requesting Cash At Toddler Birthday Parties Is A Trend I Can Get Behind

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)

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  • Michelle

    The only thing I can think of with this being bad is that when buying a toy at least they can only guess how much you spent on it. When you bring cash they know exactly how “giving” you are. I know it sounds tacky that I thought of that but I know people that go around saying how much or how little their kids got. I like the idea though!

    • MommyK

      I know what you mean. I like to buy gifts on sale when possible (Toys R Us often has half price toys), so then I can get them a better gift and/or save a little money. I bought a beautiful hardcover children’s book that is normally about $20 for a baby gift, but I got it on sale for only $5! I paired that with a pair of baby booties, and got them an awesome gift for about $15.

  • ipsedixit

    It seems a little tacky to request any sort of gift, but especially cash.

    Either stick with “no gift” (less the qualification) or don’t put anything at all.

  • Crystal

    I agree with the first two posters. I think it’s tacky to specify what kind of gift you want to receive. That said, if it’s more convenient to put cash in a card (or, to take one step away, a gift certificate) I think that would be okay to do for any party you’re invited to. Many grocery stores and drugstores have a good assortment of gift cards for purchase now.

  • Jenni

    This didn’t start when I was a toddler, but when I was about 5 or 6 my dad and grandparents would give me money for birthdays. My dad and i had an agreement; I could either keep all the money, or I could invest however much I wanted into a savings account and he would match it 50 cents on the dollar. So if I put $20 into savings, he would chip in an additional $10.
    As I grew up, I started using this method more and more. It was a good lesson for me to weigh the benefits of saving my money or spending it immediately.
    I credit this as the reason I don’t have student loans.

  • Megs

    My toddler is turning 2 next month and has too many toys to count. She has 9 sets of aunts/uncles and 4 sets of Grandsparents so the gifts she could potentially get from this next birthday are too many to count. I was actually thinking of putting on the invite, “No Gifts, but if you woud like to get her something, please feel free to donate $10 towards her 529 college saving’s plan” and giving folks the link to that plan. Not sure how tacky that is, but at age two, she’s still too young to realize what birthdays are (including the gifts!) and that donated money will add up tremendously (tax-free!) over the next 16 years!

    • Mel

      I think putting money toward a college savings plan is a good idea. The tacky part is requesting a specific amount. Let the person donating decide how much they want to spend.

  • Eileen

    This sounds okay for family, but not for friends. Unless you’re good friends with the parents.

  • Kelly

    I think any gift request, other than to the response of “what do you want for your birthday?” is horribly rude.

    • YourTacky

      PLEASE read the article again. There was no ‘Gift Request’. In fact, the parent said Gifts weren’t required!

      You know whats rude… Posting a comment on an article without actually reading it. My suggestion: Go back to school and learn how to read. It will save everyone a lot of time, and it will save you from more embarrassment.

    • specialK

      You know what else is rude? Telling people to learn how to read when they have an opinion different from yours. Also, using the wrong “your” in your user name – you wanted you’re as in you are.

  • Carolyn

    There is actually a service started by two moms who were sick of the waste involved with birthday presents ….It’s called Echoage. Each guest is invited to make a contribution to the party – half going towards one of their partner charities, the other half going towards one meaningful gift. It’s brilliant – no need to drive around, shop for and wrap a gift. Simply make an online donation and it’s done. And the birthday child’s parents get a tax receipt for the charitable donation too. My children have had echoage parties for years. It’s fantastic.

  • Robbie

    I personally like the idea of money for toddlers and small children, especially if they put a portion or it to charity. There is also a happy side effect of giving money and not toys- I have distinct memories of recieving toys as a little kid and my friends or sister trying to play with them first, and the tantrum quickly follows. My parents got better at opening gifts after everyone left, and we learned proper birthday manners, but anything that helps avoid the drama of “But it’s MY present!” is a good thing :)

  • Dana

    I actually blogged about this a while back. Apparently, it’s quite the trend in Canada – there, they ask guests to bring $2 – one for charity, one for the kid to use to buy themselves a gift with. I think this is great. Not only does it teach the kid money management and philanthropy but it’s so much easier (and cheaper) for guests. No last minute runs to the store buying expensive toys the kid already has or will soon tire of, no more frantically wrapping gifts right before the party… I think that when kids get just a couple of gifts, they’re more meaningful as well.

  • Katie

    So manners and etiquette just don’t exist any more?

    • koolchicken

      Sadly it appears those who were brought up with manners are a dying breed. I’m a big fan of the blog Etiquette Hell. If you think this article is bad you should check out some of the doozies they have over there!

    • lawcat

      I *LOVE* Ehell!

  • koolchicken

    This is beyond horrifying. Will bloggers PLEASE stop trying to make this sort of tacky behavior acceptable? First off it is never, ever okay to include gift requests of any kind in any invitation. Secondly, the topic of gifts should only enter the conversation if the giver asks what you (or your child) might like- and no you may never ask for cash. Finally, children should be taught not to expect gifts from anyone regardless of the occasion. That is unless you’re hoping to raise greedy entitled brats.

    • Emily

      Thank you, koolchicken. Asking for something specific, no matter what it is, is tacky.

      I love teaching kids about money – seriously, folks, the nation would be better off right now if more people had decent financial knowledge – but asking others to foot the bill for that is just… icky.

      Also, my kids *love* giving gifts. Here are some that we have found to be big hits!

      * MAKE the card. No one should be spending $3 on a paper rectangle when they have a budding artist at home. It’s going to get recycled within 5 minutes, anyway.

      * The creative stuff tends to be consumable, so does not clutter up the house: paints, beads, etc. for the craft-inclined; baking kits for the little chefs; cardboard playhouses that you decorate and then recycle are super fun.

      * If the family is overloaded with toys, try something experiential. Take the friend with you to a museum, a movie, etc. So much fun!

      Unless it is a super close friend, chances are that you really don’t need to go out and shop specifically for that party. Pick up extras when you see stuff on sale or are out shopping anyway; pull out of closet as needed.

    • MommyK

      Love the ideas, thanks!

  • bl

    I think it’s a nice thought, but it’s just rude to tell people what to bring to the party. What if a kid wanted to make a gift? Nope-cash or nothing everyone. Plus, if you really want to teach your kid money management, do it yourself without relying on other people to contribute their cash to the effort. Get them started on a chore/allowance/savings program daily, rather than having the lesson at a once a year event.

    Also, people were saying that this is an ok request for family but not friends. I guess it depends on the individual relationship, but I know I’d be much more disappointed that I couldn’t get cute outfits or toys for my niece or nephew because I was instructed to give to the college fund. Getting a gift can be much more personal if you’re close, so money requests seem worse to me, though of course I would donate to the college fund as well.

    • MoneyIsntEverything

      Why do we have to gather everyone together and celebrate another spin around the sun? Whats the actual point? Oh, there isn’t one. It’s another way that big businesses can suck the money from your pockets and make the rich richer while the stupid morons of the world think it’s an amazing idea.

      It’s just like Christmas. Look back through history and you’ll find that good ol’ Saint Nick isn’t the good hearted, elf loving, jolly fat man that everyone thinks he is. Some countries believed that “Santa” (or their version of) would claim the lives of naughty children. Gifts for the good kids? They got to live… So when did it become all about spending hundreds and possibly thousands on useless presents that are only going to make it till Easter? BUSINESSES! They want your money, and they know what buttons to push to make you give it up. Why? Because you’re gullible and you believe that physical possession is more important than spending time with your friends and family.

      If you want to keep the Birthday Party game alive, make it about getting together to have FUN. You don’t need to spend a ton of money. You just need to get off your lazy butt and use that gooey mess inside your skull.

  • dtknuppe

    I think that it’s a wonderful idea. Kids have entirely too many toys now a days, and all of them are expensive. With people struggling to make ends meet, sticking two dollars in a card would be much more feasible then buying a 10 dollar toy that the birthday child might not even like. Besides, think of this, hosting a party takes a lot of time, work, and money, which in turn can give a lot of parents a break. Why get fussy over someone requesting money? It’s not the end of the world, your child can still eat cake and have fun.

  • Celena

    I do this sometimes too. (In Canada) We call it a “two toonie” party. Each guest brings two toonies and the birthday child gets half of the funds and the other half goes to a charity. My daughter had a barn yard themed party and donated her funds to the SPCA. She’s doing it again this year because she’s having a joint party with two other kids in a park with a bouncy castle, and some of our joint friends know all three kids and there’s no way we’d expect them to shell out presents for all three kids. So, each guest brings two toonies (a twoonie is two dollars) and half gets divided up three ways between the birthday kids and the other half will go to a charity. (The kids haven’t decided which one yet.)

  • Jennifer

    I think this is a great gift and not rude at all. I WISH that most kids’ parents would teach them money management and philanthropy instead of EXPECTING whatever is the latest toy…

    It also eliminates fights for the latest “must have” toy that’s dictated to parents by someone’s marketing department. I just wish this trend continues into christmas, easter, etc.

    The only thing I would change is 1/2 to charity and the other 1/2 is – buy one toy, the rest goes in the bank…. never too early to teach a kid how to save

    • Ipsedixit

      Etiquette would say otherwise. Unless someone inquires what a kid would like, it’s rude to tell people what gift is acceptable. It’s tacky to request cash on an invitation.

      If you don’t want gifts or want to teach the kids not to expect gifts, put “no gifts,” not “no gifts, but….”

      You don’t need a gift giving situation in order to teach kids money management. If you do, it should be done with money the parents give the kid, not by taking up a collection.

    • ThinkForYourself

      “Etiquette would say otherwise” – Who created these rules of etiquette? WHY is it wrong? You say it’s Tacky, but you don’t give any justification other than “Etiquette says otherwise”, which is nothing more than a lame excuse.

      “t’s rude to tell people what gift is acceptable” – Did you even read the article? The parent said “There was absolutely NO NEED TO BRING GIFTS but if you were so inclined, to please CONSIDER a cash DONATION. This isn’t telling people what to bring as a gift, it’s suggesting that you don’t waste your time buying a crappy present that the kid and parents are most likely going to return for cash anyway!

      Next time, read the article before you post a response. If you can’t read, perhaps you should CONSIDER going back to elementary school.

  • MoneyIsntEverything

    So many people are saying this is Tacky and Poor Etiquette. Why is it Tacky or Rude? Because people that aren’t alive anymore think it’s wrong? Your all Tacky for thinking that what other people believe is the “Be All, End All” of Etiquette.

    If you read the article you would have noticed that the parent said Presents aren’t required, but DONATIONS are acceptable. By your logic, all non-profit organizations that ask for a Donation are Tacky because they are asking for something specific. It’s this crap logic that keeps wealthy people in control of the money, and you poor saps in the workforce.

    Maybe you missed the part about Donations. My suggestion would be to pull your head out of that dark hole between your cheeks and start thinking like a person instead of thinking like other people tell you.

    • MoneyIsntEverything

      Just to push this one step further, wouldn’t it be “Tacky” and “Poor Etiquette” to teach your children to create “Wish Lists” and “Christmas Lists” because they are ‘asking for something specific as their gift’.

      I’m glad you all have such poor logic skills. Maybe you should go back to your elementary school teachers and thank them for turning you into another zombie that can’t think. Instead, you just do what your told and it has to be right because “Someone else said so”.

  • Tejah

    American contradiction: You tell your kids to believe in a fat white
    man, and make a wish list so that he can deliver gifts while they are
    sleeping. You tell them to put teeth under a pillow for a tooth fairy to
    give them money for no reason. You fuss about the kids being
    materialistic but you promote it at the same time. When people get
    married, have a baby shower, and now even for birthday’s …they have
    gift registries. It is said that placing these registers in the invites
    to such events is tacky. ??? Then when people ask for money instead of
    material items, that’s tacky too. They choose to use the money for a
    goal or investment purposes. So how is this different from people asking
    for investors or donations for those fake NONProfits people give
    money too?

  • Kitkat32

    Wow talk about obviously an advocate for cash gifts. You’re so transparent. This coming from the person who’s name is moneyisnteverything. Get a life.

  • Kitkat32

    Etiquette is what stops people from saying stupid things and making themselves look like beggars to others. Asking for cash Is tacky. Just because you think otherwise does not make it correct.

    Take your narcissistic opinions somewhere else you tacky troll.

  • Rainee

    Well for little kids it takes away the fun of picking out a gift for their friend… and I think it is important to make sure your child is not going to every single party that happens and that they don’t invite every single person in their class etc… I have a limit of five friends and those same friends if so inclined can invite my child to their party. I like to pick out some clothing rather than a toy for which most of them have far to many anyhow. I always get something with a gift receipt and try and stay around 20 dollars as you can’t get a toy for less than that anyway and Children’s Place etc… always have clothes on sale so if the item bought is not appropriate it can be exchanged!

  • Emily

    I absolutely love this idea!!!! What a beautiful time saver, nothing could be less rude than that!!!! I would LOVE to get an invitation like that!!!!!