Sweating Less at Birthday Parties


This is how birthday party invites usually go down at my house.

1) One of the girls bring home a birthday party invitation.
2) RSVP and check to see whether they’re having cake or cupcakes so I know which allergen free version we need to make.
3) Con Jack into baking said cake or cupcakes.
4) The day of the party, there’s a whirlwind of stockings and dresses, because one must wear a dress and stockings to a party. Honestly, not sure why I bother buying these girls pants, ever.
5) I remember that we have to pick up a gift. Then I berate myself for not just ordering one two days prior on Amazon and saving myself a trip to the store.
6) Run to the store. Procure gift. Run to the gift wrap aisle. Grab a gift bag and tissue, because nooooobody has time for wrapping right now. Snag a card. Head to the checkout. The gift wrapping material + card costs nearly as much as the blinky, noisy, light-up plastic thing in primary colors, perfect for angering parents and delighting children.
7) Make weird noises, because this stress/madness could have been prevented.

I really like my mental health, so here’s what I’ve done to avoid doing last minute birthday party attending prep (which is not only the most stressful option, but also the most expensive).

Step 1: Set phasers to stun. Just kidding, actually it’s just buying some gifts online. Generally speaking, stocking up on gifts that are appropriate for kids ages 4 to 8 covers almost any birthday party we attend. I like gifts that are easy to wrap (boxes, not like, hippo shaped… or those packages where only part of the gift is under cardboard. LET ME LIVE, FISHER-PRICE).

I like to have gifts in varying price ranges, depending on the situation. I don’t know if this even makes sense, but depending on how close we are to the child, we might give a little more. (Is that weird? I can’t tell if that’s weird.) I make them easy to pair up (you’ll see in a minute), and then just pick out a gift when party time comes.

Some go-tos that are easy to wrap, are within that 4 to 8 age group, and are all within the $10 – $20 price range (which many of you stated is your range of preference):

Sweating Less at Birthday Parties

1) Sequence for Kids
2) Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes (This is a favorite in our house!)
3) Wooden Dinosaur Stamp Set
4) Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors?
5) Trouble
6) LEGO 3 in 1 Creator Red Rotors
7) Wooden Alphabet Stamp Set
8) Wooden Animal Stamp Set
9) Dragons Love Tacos
10) Sorry

Uh, can you tell that I like giving the stamp sets? They come in a great box, and I swear it does not matter if a child is 3 or 7 or is a boy or a girl; stamps are a hit. I usually stack a book with another book or a small non-book gift, like UNO or a paper pad and these cool crayons.

Step 2: It all comes in the mail, Toys R Us lines be damned, and then I take a night and dub it “Chill with some snacks and watch a movie and wrap some gifts” night. (Name in progress.) On a night that Jack is working late, I tuck the girls into bed, pop in a movie, and wrap all of the gifts at once. I keep a stock of brown kraft paper, because you can do so many things with it – draw on it, write the recipient’s name, stamp patterns on to it, let your kids color all over it, etc.

Sweating Less at Birthday PartiesI like wrapping gifts, actually. It’s probably the only Pinterest-y thing I can get into, besides eating everyone’s Oreo truffles. However, little kids are not impressed by my folding techniques or calligraphy skillz. A preschooler’s just like “Why did you wrap my gift with a grocery store bag? Are you poor?” JK they don’t say that, but I’ll always snag a couple of rolls of kid friendly wrapping paper at a decent price, because kids are more enthralled with store bought wrapping paper of dinosaurs eating trees than they are a hand painted bicycle with a basket and a baguette in the basket on brown paper, you feel me? The girls are in charge of creating a birthday card via crayons and construction paper.

I label each gift with a sticky note so I know what’s inside, put all of the gifts in a bin in a closet, and when a birthday party arrives, I’m all chill and no one has to see me speed race a shopping cart full of children down the toy aisles or eat my emotions via birthday cupcakes. (Yellow cake + chocolate frosting all day. CARROT CAKE IS NOT CAKE.)

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  • Reply Shamiran January 27, 2014 at 11:06 am

    I LOVE this idea! We haven’t had many birthday parties yet but I’m sure once my son starts school, we will have an abundance of invites and this will safe a lot of time and stress!

  • Reply Ingrid January 27, 2014 at 11:07 am

    Great ideas. You are so organized woman! Although my son LOVES getting Legos as a gift, I personally despise getting them. I hate Lego construction. I do love the boys getting books and art stuff as gifts though. If they sold Magyver (spelling?) kits, that is what my oldest would want since he creates pulley systems and booby traps out of his lacing cards and shoe lacing toys from Melissa and Doug. I might have to stock up on some gifts like these since it appears to be birthday party season round here and I have a fancy Amazon Prime membership now. Another place I discovered for cheap wrapping paper/bags/tissue? The Dollar Tree! Holla! No more anger over spending 15 dollars on wrapping when the gift was 12 bucks!

    • Reply Cassie January 27, 2014 at 11:12 am

      I HATE overspending on wrapping… it just gets thrown away, plus I bought some super expensive wrapping paper from Kohl’s this Christmas an it was horrible quality… just tore everywhere…

  • Reply Cassie January 27, 2014 at 11:08 am

    This is brilliant, but totally not for me.
    I don’t mind ordering toys offline, but I know a lot of people do, so I like to ask parents who I am close with (usually not my kids’ school friends’ parents) if they want something specific that needs ordered offline- if they’re anything like me, there’s a whole skew of presents the child wants that are just easier to order offline than hunt in 5 different stores for. I’ve never gotten anything less than an, “OHMYGOSH YES PLEASE!”

    I think it’s brilliant that you aren’t including characters in your list. Kids’ interests are fleeting!

  • Reply Emily January 27, 2014 at 11:19 am

    This is a great idea! Love! I am about half way there in that every January-ish and June-ish when there are huge sales I stock up for kids I know we will give gifts to. Clearance plus coupon savings makes me happy! I really should try online too.

  • Reply Kirby January 27, 2014 at 11:43 am

    great idea and I Love Kraft Paper, it’s what we use!!!

  • Reply Hannah January 27, 2014 at 11:43 am

    All the frugal Ladies [all the frugal ladies], wrap yo gifts up!


  • Reply Lesley January 27, 2014 at 11:56 am

    TOTALLY! Yes, I pre-buy gifts (the wrapping thing I am not so good at…), and yes we practice tiered gift giving (cousins $$$ – best friends $$ – everyone else $… and my kids know it and confirm which dollar range we are looking for when we do our buying).

    For me the pre-buying usually springs up during sale season – one of the things I have clued into, and am sure everyone else was on to years before me, I stick to the gifting tiers based on BEFORE sale prices. I was too stupid before and used to think, ‘Oh yeah, it’s on sale, I can get MORE crap to junk up the receiving family’s home.’ I stuck to this new rule for birthdays last year and Christmas giving this year and saved a TONNE OF MOOLAH!!!

  • Reply Rachel January 27, 2014 at 12:51 pm

    Carrot cake, most definitely, qualifies as cake! Mainly because of the cream cheese icing; slap some if that on anything and I may call it cake. Bonus: helping of veggies.

    • Reply Meg January 27, 2014 at 1:50 pm

      I thought the same exact thing!!! Team Carrot Cake, FTW!

    • Reply Jen January 28, 2014 at 9:17 pm

      I would like to join this team and add the fact that carrot cake cupcakes with cream cheese frosting AND filling wins every time. And this is coming from a bona fide chocoholic.

  • Reply Natasha January 27, 2014 at 12:53 pm

    I’m sending Remmy a Rainbow Loom. I have a stash in my laundry room heyyy. Along with C,S clips. And the coveted tie dye and glow in the dark bands ;)
    We def do tiered gift giving, family friends & family usually get a higher quality gift than school friendsies. I tell you, once they hit 9/10 it gets haaaard. Thank goodness for Lego Friends & Rainbow Looms for real cause that’s our go to.
    And I’m with you on the wrapping-I do save gift bags we get and reuse those, if we have to pick up a gift last minute, I’ll stash a few diff sizes in the car, hasn’t failed me yet :)
    Parties are stressful. *awkward small talk wih parents *

  • Reply MichelleLG January 27, 2014 at 1:03 pm

    Genius. Also, whats wrong with eating my feelings? (Especially if my primary feeling is “yum, i feel like i want another cupcake) :)
    Also aslo, we got the pete the cat “groovy button” book for my niece for christmas and my toddler memorized it during the 2 days it was at our house unwrapped. :) thise books are gold. :)

  • Reply Mandi January 27, 2014 at 1:07 pm

    I’m…. pretty sure you’re a genius. I don’t even have kids yet, but you’ve saved me from years of rushing to the store to buy kid gifts the day-of (which is exactly what my mom did when I was little).

  • Reply Nazzy January 27, 2014 at 1:09 pm

    Brilliant! I used to have just one item in a giftbag ready to go and of course it’d be for the wrong age or something. I can do this from Amazon prime right now. Also, CARROT CAKE IS NOT CAKE FTW!

  • Reply Angela January 27, 2014 at 1:33 pm

    Freakin. Genius.

  • Reply Emily January 27, 2014 at 1:41 pm

    I love this. I don’t have children, but I do something similar for gifts I give to people. After Christmas (or any time stores are having great sales) I keep my eyes peeled for (1) gifts I can go ahead and buy for friends’ upcoming birthdays, or (2) generic gifts that will work for the inevitable white elephant and/or ornament exchanges I’ll get roped into at XMas time next year. I keep them all in one box in the closet, so I know exactly where to look when the time comes. It saves me time, money and sanity. I hadn’t thought about also wrapping everything ahead of time, though, so thanks for the tip!

  • Reply Lindsey January 27, 2014 at 2:13 pm

    We have yet to really enter this stage of regular birthday party invites. I agree with you about the box shaped items, like what the heck with the open front boxes?? If that’s the case my husband wraps it, he is more domestic than I. That book Dragon’s Love Tacos is awesome, one of my favorites to read to Evie. :)

  • Reply Megan January 27, 2014 at 2:14 pm

    1. Vegetables do not belong in desert. Agreed.
    2. I think satan came up with the games SORRY and Chutes and Ladders.
    3. I want to buy the book “Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors” for my son. That looks like a good one!

    • Reply Roo January 27, 2014 at 2:18 pm

      Noooo, Satan most DEFINITELY came up with CandyLand!

      The book is really good. Some cool history in there, too. :)

    • Reply Megan January 27, 2014 at 2:25 pm

      Dessert I mean. Although you probably won’t find too many veggies in the desert either.

  • Reply Megan January 27, 2014 at 3:36 pm

    I love this idea! I also do tiered gift-spending. I think we’re still a few years away from getting invited to a lot of birthday parties, but it will keep these ideas in mind! Also, in general, I agree with you about carrot cake, but my family friend makes this AMAZING carrot cake that I’m sure even you would love. Because I don’t like any carrot cake (regardless of whether or not it counts as cake) except for hers. In addition to the most delicious cream cheese frosting, I’m not sure what her secret is. Probably lots of sugar. :-)

  • Reply Leigh Ann January 27, 2014 at 5:50 pm

    I would have killed for those Melissa & Doug stamp sets when I was a kid!

    I admit, we fall prey to the last minute gift shopping. Once in a while I hit up our local toy store for something more unique, but for last minute stuff, it’s unfortunately the same place everyone else buys all their gifts.

  • Reply Rachel Starr January 27, 2014 at 6:32 pm

    1) This is perfect timing as my daughter just came home today with a birthday invitation.
    2) These gift options are dope!
    4) Amazon Prime 4 LYFE!
    3) Carrot cake is totally cake when there is a 2 in thick layer of cream cheese frosting on it!

  • Reply Diane January 27, 2014 at 7:48 pm

    Great idea~ and thanks for the gift suggestions! Now that my kids are grown, I have a hard time coming up with ideas for the little ones. One thing I’ve found to be popular, but more $$ ($30) is the Razor skooter. My son LOVED his when he was younger and I’ve given them to the younger cousins with great response. That’s my top end amount for family. Any other good gift ideas for kids, please share!

    I absolutely adore Amazon Prime and I use it all the time. I order makeup, skin care, bath products and keep the house stocked. Never thought of using it for a gift stock, though I order gifts from Amazon frequently. My policy is that if I can get it from Amazon at a good price, delivered to my door~ I’m IN!

  • Reply Sandy January 27, 2014 at 10:16 pm

    Now I want cake.

  • Reply Christina January 27, 2014 at 11:57 pm

    Great idea Roo!! This would also help me stay on budget with my gift giving for the year also. Thanks for the tips.

  • Reply Elizabeth January 28, 2014 at 8:39 am

    1. I am so glad that you posted Sorry! and Trouble. It’s funny that you did that, because this weekend I was JUST wondering if those games still existed since they were childhood staples at my house. I’m only sad that they look so different than they did before. Bring back the vintage-looking versions! (Ugh, am I old enough for those to be vintage now?!)

    2. I once found a link to a blog on one of your posts but I only visited it once and didn’t subscribe. It’s a blog written by a woman who, along with her family, decided to move to a house right on the water in a “bad” area of town to minister to the neighborhood. I’m thinking maybe somewhere in Michigan? Wisconsin? Something like that. Anyway, do you know who I’m talking about? It’s drive me craaaaaazy.

    • Reply Katie February 13, 2014 at 11:42 am

      ME TOO!!!! Yes, I really want to remember who/where that was!!

  • Reply Anonyvox January 28, 2014 at 10:54 am

    Carrot cake is absolutely not cake! It is a sneaky, sneaky vegetable trying to masquerade as a dessert and I WILL NOT BE FOOLED! Same with zucchini bread.

  • Reply Krystyn @ Really, Are You Serious? January 28, 2014 at 11:22 am

    Thanks for the reminder to get a gift for this weekend! And for your Amazon links ;)

  • Reply Jamie M. January 28, 2014 at 11:51 am

    Two years ago I could not stand the thought of another light up hurty thing to step on or yet another freaking stuffed animal in my house. We asked everyone to contribute towards a swing set (seriously some people gave $5 and I was more than happy) and I paid the rest. For thank you cards we took a picture of the kid swinging and printed out cards at Target! Best. Idea. Ever.

  • Reply Kristin January 28, 2014 at 12:08 pm

    I don’t have kids yet, but this seems like a pretty good idea. I do pre-purchase gifts for all the kids in our family for Christmas & always leave the adults for last, haha.

    On your cake note – I LOVE yellow cake with chocolate frosting, but I also LOVE Ne-Mo’s Carrot Cake (which is a company located here in southern California so I wonder if we’re the only ones who can enjoy it or if they ship out of state).

  • Reply Liz P. January 28, 2014 at 1:20 pm

    I’m a big fan of wrapping with plain brown paper. I wrapped a nephew’s birthday gift like that a few years ago, complete with a cute bow and “Happy Birthday!” and his name stamped on the outside (that takes time!) and as excited as I was then, I was borderline mortified that it looked so sad beside all the other colorful gifts. Fail.

  • Reply Kelly {the Centsible Life} January 28, 2014 at 3:03 pm

    We did something similar when my kiddos were little-I would buy on clearance (especially post-holiday) and keep a box in the basement of goodies. Now that they are older (sniff) they go to fewer bday parties and when they do it’s someone they know pretty well so they like to be part of the process of buying gifts. In some cases they go over my budget by spending their own money on the perfect gift for their friend.

    We also found an awesome local toy store (small biz!) that has a great selection of cool and unusual stuff you can’t find anywhere else like awesome Doctor Who toys and hard to find LEGO sets.

  • Reply Ashley January 30, 2014 at 11:03 am

    So, basically every year I come up with one good go-to gift and everybody gets that gift for birthdays. It is always something that spans a bunch of ages and genders. This year, it is a card holder like this: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B007R8LSFO/ref=ox_ya_os_product and two card games. In the past it has been books and board games.

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