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Do your kids get invited to a lot of birthday parties?

If your family is like ours, between friends and family, it’s probably not uncommon to have some months with multiple parties for kiddos!

Of course, each one of those parties has an aging guest of honor who needs a gift from your child and/or family.

Oh, the happy and fun times! Oh, the budgeting horrors!

But what if I told you all those parties didn’t have to be a strain on your family’s budget?

You really can get awesome gifts for kids and still stick to your budget. In fact, it’s a lot of fun and rewarding!

Let’s be real here. If you’re being honest with yourself, you know that most kids have way more toys than they could possibly ever need.

BUT they still deserve to feel special on their special day! So you’re going to get them something. And you still want to get them something that they’ll love and won’t require that they practice their polite “thank you.”

You want the excited “thank you so much!” Maybe even some “oohs” and “ahhs,” or squealing and jumping around.

So how do you make plans for all the birthdays, get gifts the kids will really like, and still stick to your family budget?

It’s actually quite easy.

Just follow this two-step process.

Take a few minutes to do each of these:

  • BUDGET for gifts. First of all, when making your budget plans for each month, take note of all the birthdays for family and friends that you DO know about and decide a budget for each one ahead of time. To make it easier, answer these questions:
    1. Who do you know you’ll need a gift for? List them out.
    2. How much money total can you afford to set aside for gifts this month?
    3. Based on what you have budgeted for gifts that month, place a dollar amount next to each person (or divide your budget amount by the total number of people if you want to just keep it even).
    4. Be sure to set aside an extra amount per month for surprise parties. This is key to sticking to your budget each month. I always start by subtracting a surprise party amount from the gift budget before dividing up the rest among the known parties.
  • BRAINSTORM gifts. Second, go down your list of kids and get into the mindset of each birthday kid. Quickly brainstorm gift ideas based on what you know they like. It’s best to do this with your own kids to help with this process. It gives them an opportunity to be more thoughtful with gift-giving. Answer these questions:
    1. What do they like to do?
    2. How do they like to spend their time? Any hobbies? Collections?
    3. What are their favorite toys, tv shows, books, movies?
    4. Do you know their favorite color, favorite animal, or favorite food?

Frugal Thumb Tip: our family has an extra “surprise gift” category in our monthly budget for any unexpected events, including birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, etc. It’s $50 that we set aside just in case we need it and, if not, then we saved that money that month.

Now that you know your budget and have gift ideas, you’re ready to go shopping!

But how do you get the best prices for the gifts?

Do you need more help to identify gifts that are sure to please any kid and buy them at the best prices? Read on for ideas, tips, and tricks that I use.

Affordable gift ideas that always go well

There are two main categories for gift-giving to kids that are sure to be winners:

Toy gift ideas and Outing gift ideas.

I mean, you can get clothing too, but I’m not that brave or stylish enough to pull that off successfully so I can’t help you with that kind of gift in this post.

So what do I mean by toy and outing gifts?

By “toy” gifts, I mean things like stuffed animals, board games, puzzles, craft kits, etc. You know, all the things.

And by “outing” gifts, I mean doing something like a trip to a local aquarium, museum, book store, movies, favorite restaurant, etc. You know, leaving the house.

Save on Toy gifts and Outing gifts for kids:

Do you know what store you’ll be shopping at? Get a discounted gift card first.

Here’s what you need to do to save big:

  1. Start at Ebates and then search for Raise.com.
  2. Go to Raise from Ebates so Ebates will give you an extra 1% cash back on any discounted gift card that you buy from Raise. And sometimes Raise has gift cards for over 20% off already!
  3. Once you have your discounted gift card, go back to Ebates and then search for the store you want to shop at (like Target, Kohl’s, JCPenney, Best Buy, etc).
  4. Go to the store from Ebates and get another 1% or more cash back when you order online. Many stores have free store pickup for online purchases too so you can save on shipping costs.

Are you going to be shopping for toys? Get the best prices.

Save on Birthday Gifts for Kids - toys

Frugal Thumb Tip: At any store, remember to check out the clearance sections for toys!

Recommended stores to save on Toys:

  • Five Below
    • This is my go-to toy store. All the latest fad toys are available at Five Below for $5 each or less. It’s great for small birthday gift budgets! Anything from slime kits, craft kits, and nail polish to hatchimals, robots, and cellphone accessories– they’ve got it. They even have fun pillows and lava lamps! I could go on and on.
    • Not only can you get great discounts on gift cards for this store from Raise.com but you can get an additional 5% cash back plus free shipping if you’re a Lakeside Perks member. Note: I’m still trying out Lakeside Perks membership right now to see if it’s worth the $15 monthly fee.
  • Build-a-Bear Workshop (this doubles as both a toy gift and outing gift!)
    • Not only can you get great discounts on gift cards from Raise.com, but if people take their kid for their birthday (during their birth month), they can buy a stuffed animal for their child’s age. For example, if the birthday kid is turning 7, the stuffed animal will cost $7 (without extras like heart beat, clothing, sound recordings)! Read about this deal here: https://www.buildabear.com/count-your-candles.html
  • Target
    • When you first enter Target, the dollar spot can have some fun items for kids besides the great toy selection in the official toy section.
    • This is another store that I’d recommend shopping from Ebates for an additional 1% cash back. If you have Target’s RedCard, you can also get 5% off all purchases. Or if you don’t need/want a to use a credit card, join their new loyalty program called Target Circle. It’s free and you get 1% cash back on all purchases.
    • If you buy here, you can also get some change back by uploading your receipt in the Ibotta app (“any item” coupon) and FetchRewards app (sign up with my referral code R2MPM and get 2000 points).
    • And last but not least, Target also qualifies for 5% cash back and free shipping through Lakeside Perks.
  • Kohl’s/ JCPenney’s
    • These stores have similar discounts available like Target, but you can also get great coupons in the mail. For example, from time to time, I get a $10 off a $10 purchase or $10 off $25 at JCPenney’s. Or a 30% off coupon for Kohl’s.
    • Additionally, Kohl’s usually offers $5 books and stuffed animals, and the proceeds go to the Kohl’s Cares Charity.
    • These stores also have cash back through Ebates, and cash back/free shipping through Lakeside Perks.

Are you looking for an outing gift? Get the best prices.

For outings, I’m basically going to say get your gift cards for huge discounts via Ebates and Raise so get ready. 😉 Seriously, it’s what I use all the time to save anywhere from 1% to 30% off gift cards!

Recommended stores to save on Outings:

  • Barnes & Noble
    • If you’ve got a book lover on your hands, this gift is sure to please.
    • Go through Ebates then Raise.com to get a great deal on a gift card.
  • Movie Theatre Tickets
    • A trip to the movie theatre is a real treat and special occasion for most kids! And there’s usually at least one kid-friendly movie in the theatre at any time.
    • Never pay full price on movie tickets! Again, you need to go through Ebates (for 1% cash back) then Raise.com. Raise has super discounted gift cards from Atom, Fandango, Regal, AMC… basically any theatre of your choice. You could even include a favorite candy/snack with this gift.
  • Main Event
    • Great for kids who love bowling, video games, and pizza.
    • Discounted gift cards are available through Ebates/Raise.
  • Chuck E Cheese’s
    • Great for kids who love arcades, video games, and pizza.
    • Discounted gift cards are available through Ebates/Raise.
  • Do they have a favorite food? Give a gift card for that restaurant! (Examples: Dunkin’ Donuts, Chick-fil-a, Cold Stone Creamery, Pizza Hut, Dairy Queen)
    • Soo many restaurants with discounted gift cards are available through Ebates/Raise. Not just as gifts–but for yourself, if you’re going to eat out, please look there first.

Now that you’ve gotten the best prices for your toy and outing gifts and your shopping is complete, all that is left is the gift wrapping and a card. These are important final touches and can be done for free!

Add those final touches on a budget – gift wrap and cards

Save on Gift Wrapping

You don’t have to buy wrapping paper to wrap a gift. Get creative! Use newspaper. Or use printer paper and draw on the outside. We once wrapped a birthday gift this way and taped a few origami swans to the top. The kids loved it!

You can also re-use gift bags and tissue paper. I have quite a stash that I’ve saved from any and all birthday and holiday party gifts. We never have to buy new bags or wrapping for gifts!

And a great bonus for wrapping gifts this way: besides saving money, it’s eco-friendly!

Save on Cards

Always make a card. No need to buy. You can get ideas at the store for your card, but then make it yourself or have your kids make them.

For kid birthdays, I’ve found a card to be an important and special touch. (Especially if the card is handmade.) It gives the birthday kid the opportunity to figure out who gave them the gift, read a special note, and thank the giver from the get go.

For adults, I usually skip the card altogether and just give a gift. I don’t want people to spend extra on that for me, so I don’t do it myself either. I know I’m projecting, but I can’t help it. Maybe I’ll get better at scrap-booking one day and start making cards for adults too.

You just learned how to save on awesome birthday gifts for kids!

Now you have all the information you need to get frugal and fantastic gifts for all of your kids’ birthday parties each month and stick to your budget!

Remember: Make your budget, brainstorm gift ideas, then save on shopping with ebates, raise gift cards, coupons, and clearance. Then wrap and make a card for free!

Like a true frugal thumb.

Got questions? Just let me know in the comments and I’ll do my best to help.

From one frugal thumb to another,

Joni S.

P.S. Do you need gift ideas for your partner? Read my post here: https://frugalthumb.com/romantic-affordable-valentines-day/