Guest Post: Please Stop Spoiling My Kid

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Today we have a really excellent guest post from Chelsea over at Mama Fish Saves, a personal finance blog for families to provide simple answers to all the money questions we didn’t get answered in school.  Chelsea is a mother, wife, investment professional, and personal finance nerd.  She hopes to help parents feel empowered about their finances so they can achieve their dreams and raise financially smart kids!  Enjoy the read!

 

When I was pregnant with our first child, I remember my father-in-law saying to me, “All a kid needs is a ball, a stick, and a piece of string.” We laughed, and then my mother and mother-in-law continued to tell me to put more things on the baby registry. Sitting here now with a 15-month-old, I can tell you he really would be happy with any one of those three things from Grandpa. Usually, he doesn’t even need those things and is just happy to dig his fingers into the soil of the garden bed, pull Tupperware out of the cabinet, or chase the dog. Yet, we remain surrounded by plastic, singing toys and well-meaning friends and family who regularly bring him even more gifts to gather dust in his toy corner.  So, I’m finally saying it. PLEASE stop spoiling my kid. I’m begging you.

 

Raising a financially responsible child

On my son’s first birthday, I sat down and wrote him a letter about everything I wished to teach him about money. I talked about spending responsibly, knowing needs versus wants and living a life in constant pursuit of knowledge. But as I wrote, I recognized that his first 12 months on this planet (and the several months before his birth) hadn’t started him off on the right foot. While my husband and I were on the same page with trying to keep his stuff to a minimum, our tribe of family and friends was not. We felt bad saying no, or returning gifts from loved ones, so for a while we let it go. This is what happened.

 

The baby shower tsunami

My son is the first grandchild on both sides. When it came to baby gifts, we knew we would be fighting a losing battle. We could choose the most minimalist baby list we wanted, but it wouldn’t matter. The gift storm was coming. The gifts spread from grandparents to other family, grandparents’ friends, and our own friends. My mom threw a beautiful baby shower. My in-laws threw a big, fun party after the baby was born.

stop spoiling my kid

While we had a great time seeing all the people we loved, the shower of gifts became a tsunami that we couldn’t stop. When we said we had too much stuff, my husband and I were told, “You don’t want to seem ungrateful,” and “They are just excited for you!” Somehow, asking for no gifts became worse etiquette than asking for gifts.

 

And I get it! Everybody loves to buy baby gifts! The clothes are tiny, the toys are fun, and the blankets are oh so soft. You want to help the people who love celebrate. Plus, it is just a small $20 gift, it isn’t like it takes up much space!

 

The thing is, while one gift might not take up much space in my son’s room, everyone’s gifts took over the house. When all was said and done, there were 175 things purchased off our registry. Many of those items were books, but the number is still insane. Adding in the crib, dresser, stroller, and car seat, which weren’t on the registry, there was $4,138 spent on this 7-pound baby before he was even born! This was before bottles, clothes (we received almost no clothes), and diapers. Think of the money that could have gone to his 529!

 

All the things we didn’t need

This whole post could be a list of things we received as baby gifts or got told we had to have on the registry, then never actually needed. But here is a sampling…

stop spoiling my kid

Sophie the Giraffe: If you are a parent, you have seen these $25 teething toys that are supposed to be a blessing for teething babies. It could just be my kid, but he never chewed on it. He never chewed on any teether. His preference has always been a cold carrot or damp washcloth.

 

$60 baby thermometer: A high-quality baby thermometer was on every single baby registry list. Someone recommended the one for their ears and gifted it to us. We’ve never used it. Partially because our son has just been a healthy kid, but mostly because when he is sick, the free rectal thermometer we got from the hospital is easier to use and more accurate.

 

Velcro/zipper swaddles: These things were recommended everywhere! They were as expensive as they were popular and I think we ended up with four or five total. But if there was one thing my son hated, it was being contained. Those things made my good sleeper wriggle, squirm, and scream until we ultimately passed them on to a friend.

 

Stuffed animals: Fuss Fish has two toy boxes full of stuffed animals. Bears, fish, cats, sea turtles, giraffes, you name it. While he occasionally goes on a hugging spree where he has to take them all out and hug them each individually (yes, it is adorable), the only one in the house who wants to play with these things is the dog.  

 

His first birthday

Foolishly, I thought this gift brigade would end when he was born. It was only the beginning. People sent second gifts once we brought him home. They sent Hannukah and Christmas gifts. We tried telling the grandparents they could each get him one thing for the holidays. My mother-in-law gave him three for Hannukah and five for Christmas. Direct quote, “Only this one is his gift! The rest are just fun!” I almost praised my mom for following the rules, until she snuck in three more gifts from her car Christmas evening when I was putting out dessert. Since my son’s birthday is in February, only a few weeks after the holidays, I was ready to lock down this insane situation.

 

No gift birthday parties aren’t a thing?

When I sat down to make birthday invitations, I debated how to ask for no gifts. I asked colleagues, friends, and family how they handled it. The answer? You can’t do it. Every parent I talked to who had tried it said that some people just won’t listen, or won’t believe you, and will show up with gifts. This makes your other guests feel uncomfortable and unlikely to follow the rules next time.

 

I asked what would happen if we asked for a donation in his name instead. Everyone said guests would bring gifts, and some would also, maybe, donate to the charity. My husband and I felt frustrated and decided that for his first year, we just wouldn’t mention gifts. People could do as they wished and we would deal with it afterward.

 

Something has gotta give

On the day of my son’s birthday party, we were ready to go. We did the standard gift bags filled with pencils and random crap, we set up a DIY photo booth, and I made the little man a smash cake. His godmother flew in from California and his godfather got a weekend pass from his military base, flying from Texas for the weekend. We had survived our first year of parenthood with a happy, healthy boy and could not have been more excited to celebrate this tiny person who had become the center of our world.

 

Then, towards the end of the day, when we sat down with a tired toddler to open gifts, I got overwhelmed. And if I was overwhelmed, I can’t imagine how he was feeling. He sat on the floor between his dad and I surrounded by gifts. His cousins and little friends circled six inches around him and oo’ed and ah’ed as the presents came out of their boxes. He didn’t know where to look, and I didn’t know what to say.

 

The truth was, I felt more stuck and frustrated than I did with the invitations. I was wishing we had powered through with a “no gifts” party. Our plan was to return things we didn’t need, but family and friends were helping the kids open the boxes to show my son the toys inside. They handed him the next gift before he had even processed the prior. This meant he mostly stared around and I lost track of who purchased what present. For my husband and I, the gifts sucked the fun out of the day. The game had to change.

stop spoiling my kid

He doesn’t need things, he just needs you

After talking to a lot of friends with kids, I don’t think we are alone in our overwhelm. I truly believe most parents don’t know what to do with 80% of the crap that sneaks into their homes. We could all do with one less singing truck to step on when the baby finally falls asleep. And now that we are talking about baby number 2, with the potential of a whole new onslaught of gifts, I’m ready to be the mean mom. I’m ready to enforce new rules, no matter what names it makes you call me.

 

The new rules

Rule Number One: If you wish to get our son something for a holiday, birthday, or random event, ask first. Understand that in 95% of cases, we will either say he needs nothing (which is the truth) or that you can donate in his name to the New England Aquarium, his absolute favorite place.

 

Rule Number Two: If you choose to get a gift without asking, please do not be offended if we return or donate it. We love you and appreciate the thought. But he has far more than he needs already.

 

Rule Number Three: The best gift you can give him is being there for him. Come over for dinner, leave an email with advice or a memory at his email address, or FaceTime for a few minutes. Take him to the library or to the park. That will matter far more to him over the years than stuff.

 

The hardest thing about implementing the rules will no doubt be the grandparents. We can’t control their behavior and don’t want to be constantly bickering with them. Luckily, another mean mom recommended a great rule. If it is from Grandma or Grandpa, it stays at their house. He can be spoiled there, it is basically their right, but it doesn’t need to stay in our home.

 

Making it easier for parents to raise financially smart kids

When you pick up a book focused on teaching children about money, almost every single one discusses the gimmes. It has become a broad-based assumption that kids just have to ask for stuff. While I have no data to back this up, I’m starting to believe that this is really our fault, not some inherent behavior.

 

Kids are sponges, particularly in their first two years. They may not be able to communicate easily, but they are watching everything we do. And in those first two years, when we think they don’t really understand, we spoil them the most. They get gifts on birthdays, toys in the checkout line, gifts for visiting Grandma. We think we will clamp down when they understand, but the gimmes are a sign that they understood all along. They get stuff. Whether they really want it or just want it for 30 seconds, they get it, and the sooner the better.

 

Unteaching a behavior or habit is much more difficult than teaching it. If we can show kids early on that they have everything they need, and a few things they love and really want, they’ll be able to make better choices. They’ll still be tiny humans with short attention spans and the same Keeping up with the Joneses propensities we do, but it will be significantly easier to explain the right way if that is how you’ve always done it.

 

Let’s stop spoiling our kids

So let’s agree to reduce the stuff and stop spoiling our kids. We’ll raise more creative kids who actually play more with fewer toys. They’ll be better global citizens by valuing what they have and creating less waste.  We’ll suck less random toys into the vacuum cleaner. And importantly, our kids will know things have value and be more likely to differentiate effectively between needs and wants. Since that is the basis of financial success, they’ll be off to a great start.

 

But most of all, let’s try to respect parents wishes. Your friend who says no gifts and is disappointed when gifts come in the door isn’t ungrateful. She’s just trying to raise a happy, unspoiled kid in this consumer-driven world. It isn’t easy, and she needs your help.

 

If you enjoyed this post, visit her blog, Mama Fish Saves, and follow along here.

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48 Comments

  1. I love the new rules! We should probably do something similar at our home. We are already actively trying not to have people bring gifts, but we might need to up this a bit more!
    For our daughters third birthday, we took her to a thrift store and let her chose a couple gifts herself. She could not have been happier and we only spend a few euro’s. Clear win-win. Albeit we did end up also buying her a used kitchenette as well, still loves and uses that too.
    That being said, it is very easy to get too many things in the house really quickly. Great post!
    Team CF recently posted…The Perfect HeistMy Profile

  2. It is very overwhelming. Our family has been pretty good so far but she is only 8 months. I can see that changing quickly once she is a toddler. At this last Christmas, we did get a few donations to her 529. We should probably go ahead and start implementing your rules. The thought of having one of those entitled spoiled brats as a kid is scary.
    Grant @ Life Prep Couple recently posted…5 Reasons To Pay Off Student Load Debt FAST!My Profile

    • It is awesome that you got some donations to her 529 as gifts! We got 2 before he was born but everyone has opted to give physical gifts since. And I definitely recommend a no gift first birthday party. It might be hard to implement, but even if it means a few less gifts it would be worth it. Thanks for reading!
      Chelsea @ Mama Fish Saves recently posted…Please Stop Spoiling My KidMy Profile

    • I think the whole baby and toy industry thrives on selling parents things they don’t need. They know Mom is going to put that whole kit of Tommee Tippee bottles on the registry, only to discover her baby doesn’t take to that brand and will probably have to buy a whole other set.

      I think your method sounds great, as long as the stuff always gets out of the house. My struggle is always two-fold; (1) we are better off financially than many of our friends and family and I don’t want them spending money on things we don’t need and plan to just give away or resell, and (2) I often end up feeling too guilty to give it away.
      Chelsea @ Mama Fish Saves recently posted…Please Stop Spoiling My KidMy Profile

  3. Great post MFS!

    As my wife and I have gotten older we’ve done more and more no-gift-birthdays for ourselves and our daughter. As a family we’ve decided that experiences are more important to us. So rather than drop $500 on “stuff” we’d rather reallocate that money to a weekend trip together or some sort of experience we can all share. We enjoy the “gifts” so much more now with this mindset.
    Financial Coach Brad recently posted…4 financial benefits of downsizing (and 3 non-financial ones)My Profile

    • Thanks, Brad!

      Experience gifts are so much better than material gifts. We love doing adventure days for presents. I also personally love gifts made by my husband or son. For the holidays this year my husband built me custom shelves for my craft room, set up to hold fabric and yarn just how I like, as well as a small shelf for thread and bobbins. It is amazing – so much better than anything he could have bought.
      Chelsea @ Mama Fish Saves recently posted…Please Stop Spoiling My KidMy Profile

  4. For baby showers I tend to give a target gift card, because mom & dad can also use it to snag food for one of those exhausted nights. Babies have an uncanny ability to not care about the trendiest bottles etc. A gifted let’s them get a different style, or diapers what they find out they need, vs what they imagine the baby wants.
    I asked my friends for consumable gifts this year. Joe got me wine & the gals got me a bag full of snacks. L & T treated for dinner, and C brought the cupcakes. I was very happy. 🙂 I would rather spend the afternoon at a park or museum and do lunch or dinner. Memories last much longer than another knick knack. 🙂
    Happy Friday!

    • For baby showers I usually ask the parents if they would like a handmade quilt for the nursery, based on their theme. Otherwise, I like Amazon gift cards or Shutterfly gift cards (there are so many photos of your baby you don’t know what to do with them!).

      Cool idea on consumable gifts! Sounds like you had a great birthday!
      Chelsea @ Mama Fish Saves recently posted…Please Stop Spoiling My KidMy Profile

  5. Excellent post. When our kids were little (we have four) they had SO, SO many toys, and almost zero of them were purchased by us. Now that they’re older (17, 14, 12, 11) they almost always ask for and get CASH for birthdays and Christmas. It gives us an opportunity to teach them good money management skills firsthand, and it keeps clutter low. 🙂
    Laurie @thefrugalfarmer recently posted…3 Ways to Avoid Discouragement During Debt PayoffMy Profile

      • We used to make them save ten percent. Now that they’re older, we don’t tell them how to spend it, but we do remind them that it’s probably not a good idea to spend it all because of potential upcoming opportunities. I think they’ve all got it mostly down now. When they first started getting money, we had 2 or 3 that would blow it immediately. Now they’re more thoughtful, although I do have to encourage one or two of the girls (we have 3 girls and a boy) not to spend all of their cash on clothes. 🙂

  6. We struggle with this, especially with my mom. After Christmas at my house it looks like toys r us dumped their latest tractor trailer at my house. We’ve tried a bit of everything to no avail. So we’ve settled on a taking some of what’s arrived and regifting it to other kids or donating to charity. We haven’t paid for a child’s birthday in three years. We actually tried his last bday party as no gifting. People gifted anyway.
    FullTimeFinance recently posted…Why You Should Never Buy an AnnuityMy Profile

    • Yeah, no gift birthday parties are so hard. People really just don’t want to listen. Now that our son’s first birthday is over, I think we are going to do very small, family parties for his next few birthdays until he is in school. I suspect a smaller gathering may be easier to control, but you never know with grandparents!
      Chelsea @ Mama Fish Saves recently posted…Please Stop Spoiling My KidMy Profile

  7. For a long time, I am also stuck with how to manage my kids’ toys in the house. It’s everywhere. For most of the toys, I don’t think that they are playing or using it at all.

    I have not tried to set rules at birthday parties as we were hosting the event in smaller and smaller groups. Hopefully, I will have more success for my son’s upcoming birthday.
    Leo T. Ly @ isaved5k.com recently posted…Lessons From A Young EntrepreneurMy Profile

    • I read a study recently that the more toys a child has, the quicker they switch from item to item. The lack of focus on one thing limits their ability to get almost any educational benefit from any of the toys. We are working on paring down our son’s toys and rotating them so he only has a couple each day.

      Good luck with your son’s upcoming birthday!
      Chelsea @ Mama Fish Saves recently posted…Please Stop Spoiling My KidMy Profile

    • I think the perception is that older, higher income parents spoil there kids but there is a split with higher income parents like there are with all income levels. I would argue there are a lot of high income parents that are aware of personal finance issues and try to clamp down on gifts with their kids early. I even have a colleague who didn’t buy her son a single Christmas present until he was 8, because she knew her mother would buy him too many gifts and didn’t want to pile on.
      Chelsea @ Mama Fish Saves recently posted…Please Stop Spoiling My KidMy Profile

  8. I saw a local story recently where a 9 year old asked for no bday gifts at his bday party, just bring dog or cat food to donate to the local humane society. Now some people still brought him gifts, but most just arrived with dog & cat food for the cause and enjoyed some birthday food. This was a great idea to move the emphasis from giving to the birthday boy to giving to a cause that’s dear to his heart. And who doesn’t want to help animals! win-win

  9. We had to work our families over slowly. First it was gifts are fine but we’d rather have money added to a 529. But finally when our son was 2 we were able to say with out push back, “either buy something off this Amazon wish list of 3 things, 529 or nothing at all.”

    We both agreed anything else would be returned or donated.
    What’s funny is that started rubbing off on my sisters and they started asking for 529 money for their kids instead of stuff!
    Budget on a Stick recently posted…Tracking real estate and networthMy Profile

    • I definitely think there will be a transition period. Besides the holidays (which both sets of grandparents are just crazy about), our families have actually been pretty good. We rarely have family members showing up with gifts on a random Tuesday like some of our friends face with their families. I’m hoping we are able to sell them on 529 plans and experiences as gifts.

      Thanks for sharing how you managed to change things over with your family! Awesome that your rules started rubbing off on your sisters!
      Chelsea @ Mama Fish Saves recently posted…Please Stop Spoiling My KidMy Profile

  10. There are no words to express how much I agree with this. Early on we caught on to the emptiness of this and how it multiplied with every new child we had. We have worked out many of the issues by doing things like asking for passes to the Museum and Zoo when gifts will be given. (I just made a note to post on this later, it’s INSANE the value you can get from your local Museum and Zoo! Well, actually not just the local ones, but I am getting ahead of myself here.) Birthday parties are super simple. Family only, the rest of the family works together to make your favorite cake ($2 vs. $25 and usually tastes WAY better!). Gifts are kept small, usually something they need, like clothing, and then a small ‘toy’. When you turn 10 you get to invite 3-5 friends over for a sleep over, no gifts. I think the key is that we are communicating all this to our kids. They understand ‘why’ we handle it this way, and I think they somewhat get it. As far as I can tell, we haven’t screwed up our kids too badly, but I guess time will prove that out!
    The Tepid Tamale recently posted…Do I have to spend $200/month on hair?My Profile

  11. Agreed! I’ve seen this happen to my sister and my sister-in-law numerous times and it’s overwhelming. The part that gets me is when people disrespect the parents’ wishes. The kids aren’t going to remember the toys; they’re perfectly happy playing on the floor with a spatula. I think people want to feel helpful, and the only way they know how is to buy you stuff, since “babies are expensive.”

    We don’t have kids yet, but I know the “baby stuff” onslaught will be fierce since we’re going to inherit A LOT of hand-me-downs. I’m not ungrateful, but the amount of stuff is really overwhelming.
    Mrs. Picky Pincher recently posted…The Picky Pinchers May Budget ReportMy Profile

  12. I remember last Christmas my sister in law’s two kids had so many presents under the tree it took them 3 days to open it. By the fourth day Baby K came over from under the tree and asked her if she could stop. She had enough and wanted to play instead.
    If you think about it, they’re probably too young to understand the excitement of presents and they just think it’s a chore. They have to be polite, open the gift, take a few photos with it for Facebook etc. I guess it’s a specific problem for first world children who has to deal with abundance.

    I thought it was humorous after she was done opening presents, instead of playing with her new presents, she wanted TO BE a present. She grabbed some used wrapping paper and told us “ok you have to pretend to be suprised and open me.” Hahaha kids! 🙂
    Lily @ The Frugal Gene recently posted…Frugal’s Budget – Free Google Sheets Budget TemplateMy Profile

  13. This is such a great post – for parents and non-parents alike! I’ve always wondered if it was my time spent in developing countries where the kids had very little but were generally happy and found creative (non-consumptive) ways to spend their time. I feel like I have the opposite problem as an Aunt. I have always donated money to my nephew’s 529 college fund, especially when he was very young and wouldn’t even be aware of what gift anyone gave him. But as my nephew gets older it gets socially more awkward to not go with the crowd and give my nephew the “cool” gift. However, since I live two states away, my thought is that I would rather give him fun adventures where he gets 100% of my undivided attention (something that he doesn’t always get from him parents) and money that will make it easier for him to go to college. And as a result my nephew always looks forward to my visits because he knows we are going to do something fun (even if I don’t come bearing any gifts).

    So thanks for fighting the good fight – we need more people doing this! 🙂

  14. Rule Number Four: When old enough, your child has to write handwritten thank you notes including addressing the envelope within one week of receiving a gift. If the child misses the deadline, you take the gift to charity and inform the child that s/he must not want the gift since s/he can be bothered to write the thank you note. No exceptions to the rule…ever. This gets the child to want less (at least in quantity of unique gifts) and/or to feel that gifts carry a burden.

    Rule Number Five: never apologize or feel guilty about culling your child’s toy collection. The truth is always the best answer. “Thank you for your gift but my child had so many toys that s/he cannot play with them all and we do not have space for them. I have donated your gift to Goodwill so that a child less privileged than mine can enjoy it.” I wouldn’t hide the fact that you donated the gift either. In other words, I believe you are morally bound to inform the gift giver that you donated the gift to charity. In addition, a) it reinforces the message of “no gifts” and b) it avoids future awkward moments where the gift giver asks “Why isn’t s/he playing with the toy I gave her/him?”

    Let me pivot and ask a tangential question. What is your thought on birthday parties for children (or adults even) that set up gift registries (like a wedding)? If you think is ok to proclaim “Please bring no gifts” is it also okay to say “Please bring these specific gifts?”

  15. I hear you. If I were a mom I’d want to call the shots on how my child is reared, including what gifts he receives. But when I think about being invited to a party, I cannot imagine showing up without a gift. So I think the new rules are great. The donation thing works.

    Another idea for people who insist on bringing gifts is for you to designate a gift area. Then let them know when they hand it to you — “I’m putting wrapped gifts over there. Feel free to take yours back on the way out because otherwise it will be donated to a charity”.

    Our cousins’ kids are so spoiled with gifts we barely get a thank you out of them for anything. That’s the other side of the equation. Children who have no appreciation whatsoever. But we can’t expect it since their parents go into debt for shiny things, haven’t saved a dime, and let the kids run amok. You’re totally doing the right thing.
    Mrs. Groovy recently posted…Picking Up Trash: And Other Cheap Ways of Having FunMy Profile

  16. Great post. For others so that they know that they can show up without a birthday gift, for your son to read in the future if he questions why things are the way they are, for all the needless environmental waste and for you as parents to get to spend more quality time with your child. I’m sure there are other learning opportunities.

    My kids are 7 and since they could talk, they get to pick one big present for their birthday (they usually pick a LEGO set) and then we pick out 3 or 4 more gifts and have immediate family give them to them. Gifts that we know that they will want, use, need and/or we can use as a family. Anything else gets donated.

    They haven’t had a birthday party with kids yet because I don’t want to deal with all the crap (emotional, physical and such) and they haven’t asked for one. If/when they do, we’ll talk about it and I plan on putting “Your presence at our party is presents enough” on the invitation.

    Besos Sarah.

  17. I think most parents struggle to combat the toy and gift bombardment that comes with raising kids. We haven’t turned anything away, but we have our boys (now 6 & 8) choose old toys to donate to the Salvation Army when new toys come in.

    That keeps the clutter down, teaches our boys to give to those less fortunate, and gives me a tax deduction. Win, win, win!

    Best,
    -PoF

  18. Yes! We only accept store bought gifts from a select few family and like-family friends, otherwise it’s all hand me downs and used stuff. And I’m going to winnow down that select group even more now that JuggerBaby is 2 and zir cup truly runneth over. Ze doesn’t need anything but love, and we are well and truly spoiled on that front for people who live hundreds of miles from any close family or friends.

    We actually didn’t register for gifts at all during baby shower season, we didn’t even have a shower, and we didn’t tell the few friends we hosted for a meal on zir first birthday that it was a birthday party until the cake came out. It’s much harder to do that when your nearest and dearest are just 15 minutes away, though, I’m sure. 🙂

    I saved most of the overflow gifts that we received anyway and have regifted them to other friends. One way or another, they’ll get used.
    Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life recently posted…Just a little (link) love: hedgehog boat editionMy Profile

  19. Love the new rules. It’s really wasteful to have all these gifts and not using them. We have been telling friends and family not to buy gifts for bdays and Christmas. Instead write a letter for the kids to open when they turn 18… or donate money to a charity instead.

  20. I went to a Christening last Sunday, The request from the parents was only books, preferably used, well loved favourites. No other gifts. Everyone complied!. It worked well. She posted a Facebook picture of all the books. Everyone happy.
    On the thank you notes mentioned by Dan. My Mother-in-law instigated a two strikes and you’re out to Thank You letters. One failure to deliver they would get away with, two failures and they were off the gift list.
    We went for a ‘no gifts please’ policy for parties with mixed results… Most complied, some didn’t. The thought of a gift registry doesn’t work for me.

  21. Your new rules are great! I love the donation idea. One year my son had a dogs and cats party and we asked everyone to bring donations for our local animal shelter instead of gifts, but mostly everyone did both. I think rounding up the donations and taking them to the shelter was the most memorably part of his birthday to be honest.
    Thankfully my sons never had a bad case of the ‘gimmies’. They occasionally asked for stuff, but they knew the answer was usually ‘no – we don’t need to buy that right now’ or ‘if that is something you really want, you can ask for that for your birthday or Christmas in X/Y months’.
    For major celebrations, I usually gift cash to parents now and let them decide to save it and or invest it to for the child’s future.

  22. Wow awesome post! I definitely have the bad habit of buying things that I only want for a day or two – something I’m sure I picked up as a child.

    My wife and I don’t have any kids yet, but are starting to consider it for the next year or so. I feel like I would have just accepted gifts and spoiling as an unfortunate part of life, instead of realizing that we could set boundaries for this kind of thing – so thanks for being bold enough to share these!
    Matt Kuhn recently posted…Taxes Made Easy Part 1: Beginners Guide to Everything TaxesMy Profile

  23. Woah – great set of rules right there. I just read each one of them to my wife. We don’ have kids yet, but we have watched this process unfold for my nice and nephew. What was funny is that at his second birthday party, he received all of these trucks and cool toys. But that day, the gift that had him the most excited was the $1 box of candy someone bought him. He paraded it around and showed he gift to everyone, as if we never had tried the candy or had any clue what it was. The kids don’t understand value, they just want to be happy. Nothing will make them happier than having a supporting family that spends time with them.

    Thanks for the great read!

    Bert
    Dividend Diplomats recently posted…Just Go For ItMy Profile

  24. Oh man, the struggle is REAL! We started off wanting to be really strict and it was so stressful. (Plus, we’re already weird with our kiddos dietary needs, and other things, and to add this to the list just made us feel awful.) Each successive child led to us just saying, “whatever!” Thankfully, with a small space to live in, I have absolutely no qualms about sending things out as we need to. We literally do not have space to keep every toy that enters our domain.

    So far the kiddos do a really good job of passing things out – we frequently talk about how much nicer it is to live with less clutter and how it’s good to pass things on to less fortunate people who may really benefit from things that we don’t really need. We also talk about how material gifts are how some people like to show love, and although we appreciate their love for us, we don’t really have the space/need for so many material goods. So we accept the gifts graciously, enjoy them for awhile and then try to quietly pass them on as we get the chance.

    We’re also shooting for a yard sale in the next couple of weeks and I’ve been so encouraged by how much Ellie has been willing to let go of, and her attitude of, “well, I’ve already got plenty of toys, I’d really like the money to be able to use on other things I want to do.” (The boys have been great too, although I think it’s all still a bit over their heads.)

    On the flip side, I am totally the person who will try to buy the best (but also least expensive) thing I can find to bring to other people’s parties/etc. LOL! I just assume that the person will also pass it on if they don’t want it. There’s something about not showing up with a gift to these things that just feels so wrong, haha! Although if I saw a “no gifts please”, or another option, I would be completely comfortable respecting that wish.

    Anyway, I really appreciate this article (and the comments). It’s so helpful to know how many others struggle with this. I feel like if we were all just straightforward with each other we could change “the system” for the most part… and as for the ones who aren’t willing to change (cough *grandparents* cough), I know they mean well and I guess ya just gotta swing with it the best you can. 🙂

  25. I really can relate to this. What we’ve done is just hide some of the gifts and bring them out at a later time after our boy is bored with the other gifts. Telling people not to gift just doesn’t seem to work well haha. The one thing I will say that is nice about that is we really don’t have to purchase many things for him!
    Mr Defined Sight recently posted…Ditch Your Job Like A Bad RelationshipMy Profile

  26. We have tried no gift parties and still the parties keep coming!

    One trick we have is that we do not open any presents until everyone is gone. No big event opening presents. Then he can open a present or two a day until they are all opened. We (me and my wife) decide that night if it needs to go or stay.

    We also try getting rid of one thing overtime something new comes in. Right now he does not really get it, but soon enough he will.

  27. This would be a great idea. But kids usually compare to one another. If one has something another kid wants it too. And I guess as parents we feel guilty if we don’t get it for them. Plus for parents such as myself who had some things growing up, but had to work at an early age, we want our kids to have more. This is a great topic for discussion, but some of the things are hard to implement.
    SMM recently posted…What’s Return on Equity (ROE) and Why Does Warren Buffett Use It?My Profile

  28. I’m totally with you on this, but I get the other side of it too. My wife and I grew up in completely different circumstances. She grew up wealthy, I grew up poor. I never received any birthday presents, but their family was big on it. Every event, so not only birthdays and the major holidays, had gifting around it. It’s a bit extreme, but they do end up being fond memories. So I’m torn. I think like most things in life, moderation is important.

  29. These rules are fantastic, and I’m reading them in enough time to implement them myself since she’s only 5 months right now! My favorite is leaving stuff from the grandparents AT the grandparents’ house. Absolutely!

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