Why I Recommend A “Fiver” Party For Every Parent
This past December, my oldest child turned five years old. It seems just like yesterday that I brought him home from the hospital, but at the same time, it seems like he’s been in my life forever. Kids just bring on the most mixed emotions, hence the name of this blog. For his birthday, he asked if we could invite his whole class. Since we have kept his birthdays very small and intimate for the past few years, I agreed that we could make this one a bigger party. Five feels like a milestone to me, so I thought it was fitting. Since his class is around 30 kids, and we wanted to invite neighbors and family too, we decided our house wouldn’t cut it as the party venue. I rented out the indoor playground at our church, which could easily fit 100 kids and adults. It was a reasonable price since there was no cap on number of people and I figured the playground would be entertainment enough for the children. No need for party games and too much planning on my part.
One major concern about having so many people attending a child’s birthday party is the large number of gifts that he would receive. I’m not opposed to receiving gifts (after all, gifts are my love language), but I find the types of birthday gifts my kids have both received (and given) over the the years are the quickly used/discarded types of gifts that will eventually end up in a landfill. There seems to be a consensus that the $20-$25 range is a reasonable amount to spend on kids birthday gifts and frankly I find it difficult to buy meaningful, long-lasting toys in that price range. I think you can purchase practical things like clothes, school supplies and gift cards for that amount, but those are not the most “fun” gifts to give.
So this year, I sat down with my son and brought up the idea of having a “fiver” birthday party. Basically, in lieu of gifts, kids are encouraged to give $5 for the birthday boy/girl to save up for something they really would like to buy. I know some people might think this is tacky asking for money instead of a gift, however in my invitation, I explicitly said “gifts are not required, but if you would like to bring anything, we encourage just throwing a fiver in a card.” Plus, I figured I was doing most parents a favor by having one less thing to do on their list (shop). I think the idea of getting less “stuff” and just a bit of money to save up or spend on others was both an attractive option for my son and I. I’ve been working hard at becoming more intentional and minimalist in what we bring inside our home, so fewer toys (read: clutter) really appealed to me. My son is a giver at heart and he loved the idea of being able to buy things for others for Christmas with his own money. He also had a few ideas of bigger ticket purchases he wanted to save up for. We don’t do allowances for our kids, so really the only way he’s going to get money is by receiving it as a gift.
After booking the venue, I sat down to write out 30 cards for his classmates and sent out another 30 via paperless post to neighbors and family. All in all, we had about 50 people attend. I ordered about a dozen pizzas plus a cake to feed an army (thank you Costco), and called it a day. I also put together a little loot bag of my son’s favorite things (stickers, paratroopers, snap bracelets, made good granola bars and popcorn) and gave them to each child as they left. In hindsight, I could’ve gotten “greener” lootbag items, but my son really wanted to share these things with his friends, which I thought was a nice way to personalize the party. But it was overall a pretty minimalist party with no bells and whistles. The more important part was that the kids all had a great time. With so many kids (and at the recommendation of my son’s teachers), I did encourage parents to stay since it would’ve been hard to manage 30-plus kids on my own, but it turned out to be a great opportunity to meet the parents of my son’s classmates.
Best of all, when we were loading up the car with leftover pizza and cake, there were very few physical gifts to pack up. A few families did insist on giving toys (i.e. my mom) which we were still grateful for, but overall most people got the memo and gave $5 (with some giving slightly more) in a card. When my son got home, he divided up his money between his piggy bank, which has a giving, spending and saving section each. We had a talk about how much to allocate to each, then the following weekend, he excitedly went shopping (with me) for Christmas gifts for family and a little something for himself. It was a really invaluable experience to be able to discuss with him the fundamentals of money (where it comes from, how to use it, etc.) while also teaching him about delayed gratification. A few times, he would ask if he had enough money to buy something. If I said no, we calculated how much more he would need and that he would have to continue saving for it. A really positive outcome of these money discussions is that if he sees something at the store he wants, instead of continually nagging me to buy it like in the past, he is now satisfied with hearing ” if it’s something you really want, you can save up for it.” He acknowledges what I’m saying and mentally tucks it away as a savings goal.
Overall, am I satisfied with how this fiver birthday party went? 110%! We had very little clutter, which is a huge feat after inviting 30 plus kids to a birthday party. And I was able to have a really meaningful discussion about spending and money in general with my son, hopefully helping him become a more mindful consumer for the future. This is something I struggled with for a long time, and still do from time to time if I’m honest. So if I can teach my son to avoid the mistakes I’ve made with money and set him up with a good financial foundation, then I will use what opportunities I have to do so. How about you? Would you consider having a fiver birthday party? If you’re a minimalist or one in the making, you will definitely want to consider it!