OK, so I've talked a bit about the fact that this month my beloved Toddler will turn 4. We've long had an agreement in this house that each child would be allowed three blow-out bashes before they begin 'birthday teas with 5 friends', and that's all fine. Baby still has two more big celebrations ahead of us for me to plan (yay!) and if we're blessed with another child then, woo, even more parties in my future!!
This post is more about gifts, how we choose what we're going to purchase for each of our children for birthdays (and Christmas)
Whichever way you choose to celebrate, huge party or small birthday tea, you also have the expense of a birthday gift and when it comes to gifts, you are their parent and you know what makes them smile. It's really easy to get pulled into the birthday hysteria and somehow find yourself on the eve of the big day sitting down with a glass of wine to wrap and realising you have inadvertently bought 32 items and somehow spent a small fortune. Don't know about you, but if I went out and spent a huge sum of money in one foul swoop I'd feel bad, obviously, but there's something so sickening about pulling more and more and more gifts out of their hiding places around the house so that the pile you have to wrap is threatening to turn into a small tsunami and slowly realising that you've spent waaaaay more than you intended...it makes me feel all wibbly.
It's not just the cost either. It's the excessive nature of it all, I suppose, the greed?? My children are extremely lucky and fortunate boys who want for nothing really. Their playroom is full of educational and stimulating toys, they own enough books to start their own library, they have enough clothes to wear a different outfit every day for 2 weeks...They need absolutely nothing, and the problem with buying for children who have everything is that people feel that they must buy something, so they buy tat. I hate tat. I would much rather people turned up to a party empty-handed (I don't mean that to sound snobby, I just genuinely truly honestly hate plastic tat and would genuinely truly honestly prefer you not to buy it for my children, I invited you because I enjoy your company anyway!!) This doesn't just apply to friends either. Husband tries this every year, he would go crazy buying random bits and pieces for the boys 'because it's their birthday'! Aargh!
I also don't like the mindset of spending a shed load of money for the sake of it. We used to have a friend who set a budget for each of her three children and would spend and spend and spend until she reached it. Literally, she would just buy ANYTHING that vaguely worked until she reached the budget and only then would she stop. Her logic was, then it's fair, each child gets the same amount spent on them. And while I believe that's a valid argument up to a point, I didn't really understand the way she went about it? I'd argue that Toddler loves his free happy meal minion toy more than his iPad...you work out how much each one cost!
The other thing is that we have a lot of generous and kind friends and family members who choose to treat the boys on their birthdays. By the time it gets to present opening time I need a pencil and a piece of paper just to keep track of who bought which item. Husband and I physically don't need to buy them a thing really, they get more than enough from friends!
Anyway, all this leads up to my main point, which is how we do our birthday and Christmas shopping. I read about it years ago, way before children, and it instantly struck a chord within me. I knew that this was how I would always shop for my kiddos...
We buy each child four gifts.
They come under four categories which are 'Play, Read, Want and Need'.
Obviously, sometimes we see something amazing that we both agree they would love so we bend the rules slightly. And sometimes, even if I know I've already bought something under the category of 'play', I think of something else brilliant and try to convince myself that the aforementioned gift (say, a bike) could also be considered as something he needs, therefore 'play' is free again and allows me to buy this trampoline...you see how it goes.
It's not a hard and fast rule, and I totally appreciate that it might not work for all families out there. But it definitely works for us. It helps us stay focused when we're thinking of gifts, means that hopefully we avoid the scenario described above where you slowly realise you've bought way too much, and helps to keep the costs down. We don't really set a budget for birthday gifts, Baby had a climbing frame for his first birthday because we knew they would both use it all summer long and it would last for years, Toddler had new spiderman socks one year because he had been asking for them for months... swings and roundabouts! But I can definitely see how easy it would be to blow a tonne of cash. They're your babies and you want them to have a wonderful day opening loads of wonderful gifts...eeshk it's so tempting!
Anyway, this year I have purchased / spent:
Play - a batman dressing up costume from Asda £10
Read - some starting school books and some picture books £15
Want - some vintage Transformers off eBay (Husband's choice) £50
Need - some salopettes for his ski lessons £32
I think he will be one very happy boy. No longer a Toddler. Boo!!
How do you decide what you're going to buy / spend on your little ones for special celebrations?? Share below, would be interesting to see how other people work it!!