Group gifts (when you don't have the money) - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 7 Old 08-19-2012, 12:50 PM - Thread Starter
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So birthday season for my group of friends is coming up. There are so many birthdays and in the past we've honored each person with a dinner out & gifted something (usually a gift card) from the entire group of friends. Lots of kids' birthdays approaching too.

I'm really struggling with how to participate this year. These are my closest friends and the only people I feel compelled to gift to, but money is super super tight right now. We aren't making enough to make ends meet, relying on savings to fill in the gap. I don't know how I can even afford a cup of coffee at our celebratory dinners, never mind contribute toward the gift itself. But I don't want to just bow out & I'd feel horrible being the only one not contributing! What do you do? Suck it up & dip into savings further? If we did individual gifts it would be easier to write a nice card, give something homemade, but the trend has been to all pitch in money on group gifts. Any creative ideas for how to participate within our very limited financial means? Or how to communicate this issue to friends with different financial situations, without putting a damper on what has been a fun tradition for everyone? (I'm already the one always turning down social invites due to money or vying for free activities.) Or how to not feel like a jerk or a loser???

And any free or dirt-cheap ideas for kids' gifts? Mostly toddler/preschool age kids...

This is the one thing that makes me feel really really bad about not being financially stable. It's one thing when it only affects my immediate family but another when it extends to others. greensad.gif

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#2 of 7 Old 08-19-2012, 03:41 PM
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I wouldn't go into savings for a gift.  Cheap ideas for kids?  My kids go nuts of a pack of crayons and a coloring book.  What kid doesn't?  Go stock up now.  Target for $.25.  I would probably skip the dinner and have the bday friend over for dessert and give a little homemade something.  My fav for the special ladies in my life is a pair of mittens- I buy wool/angora/cashmere sweaters at the thrift store and sew them into mittens (google for a pattern) and doll them up with buttons or little flowers made of parts of the sweaters or whatnot.  Who doesn't feel absolutely spoiled with an amazing pair of mittens?  otherwise pinterest has loads of ideas.


Or you could be honest.  Perhaps you are not the only one in your group.

Iowaorganic- mama to DD (1/5/06), DS1 (4/9/07), DS2 (1/22/09), DS3 (12/10/10), DD2 (7/6/12) and a new kid due in early 2014

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#3 of 7 Old 08-19-2012, 04:02 PM
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Could you ask the group about having a potluck for the b-day lady?   If you have room you could offer to host.  Maybe everyone could bring a dish/dessert except for the b-day girl.  You could do a theme dinner of the b-day girl's choice...Mexican, Thai, Japanese, etc.   Maybe you could suggest you do an activity together instead of the a girls movie together (b-day girl choice), head to a local park for the potluck picnic or have it it someone's backyard.  I would try and be honest saying that although your budget is tight you really want to spend the special time with your friends on their special day.  Maybe you could brainstorm as a group and see what other ideas there are.  


I would love to hear how this turns out! 

Mama to Ainsley (7/01) , Finley (10/06) and Jade (10/06)

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#4 of 7 Old 08-19-2012, 04:04 PM
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For the kids, could you do an activity gift?  Like taking the birthday child to the park with your family when you would've been going anyway?


I would be horrified if I found out a friend dipped into savings for me.  A possible solution would be to email some of the key people and just be honest about the difficulty in contributing towards the gift card thing.

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#5 of 7 Old 08-19-2012, 05:04 PM
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My sons favorite gifts are craft items. (all totally on rock bottom sale prices with BTS).

$5 can get you  glue sticks, construction paper, markers, 'reward stickers', crayons, fun pencils, and a coloring book.   Check out the $1 section at target, sometimes that area has 'themes' going on.


Another favorite gift was a card, hand made by the kid going to the party and crisp new single dollar bills - one for each year.  So a 6 yr old would get 6 brand new dollar bills.


As for the adults well... you would think adults would be more understanding than kids.  Hey instead of dinner, lets go for coffee.  Instead of coffee lets just rotate a house each  month and do wine/coffee/ dessert.  Presents are nice but really??  I know money is tight in my house and I really dont need/want anything other than a couple hrs with my friends.  Lets take a yr off from gifts  ok?   Or if you did the 'at home party' and every one kicked in $5 for a gift card the party girl could get $25 to someplace.  Ya know?   But dinner out and a gift??  not gonna happen.


Another idea for kids, I kinda knew how many kids parties were coming each year when DS was little.  So I would scour the clearance racks at target for $2-5 things. I had an entire closet dedicated to 'OMG theres a party TODAY??'  "OMG THERES A PARTY AND I HAVE NO MONEY"  I also had mom stuff in there, candles, smelly reeds, hand lotions etc.   I got paper and bags, ribbon and bows after xmas and used that stuff.  Honestly a red present is fine, who cares if its red paper from december or this week?  Add a white bow and some ribbon (all 90% off) and you are good to go.  There are tons of 'holiday neutral' bags come January looking for a closet to live in too ;)

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#6 of 7 Old 08-19-2012, 05:18 PM
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I would really be very honest with adult friends. You are probably not the only one having trouble, especially if there are quite a few of these birthdays lumped together.  And suggest a potluck or other inexpensive alternative.  Might end up enjoying the activities more anyway.  For children's parties, I have occasionally made really good homemade cookies and given them as a gift.  Usually when I did that, it was the only time I actually got a thank you so I think the kids and adults really appreciated them.  Generally that is a gift that is probably only $3 or so.  And kids get so many presents, one more toy is totally lost in the shuffle.  Maybe less since I always buy ingredients on sale.  I also keep a close eye at yard sales or big clearance sales for appropriate gifts.  Someone once gave my dd a homemade doll quilt with matching pillow.  She loved it and so did I! 

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#7 of 7 Old 08-19-2012, 09:58 PM
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Can you sew? Because, assuming you have thread and so on already, you can make kids' gifts for nearly nothing. Buy a thrift store sheet - or some thrift stores sell "proper" fabric dirt cheap - or put the word out on Freecycle - or dip into your own stash - or cut up old clothes.


Depending on your materials, skill and time, and the ages/genders of the kids involved, you could do crayon rolls, aprons (full onesor frilly, girly half-aprons), twirly skirts, jeans (I make baby/toddler jeans out of old jeans), sunhats or winter hats, babylegs, lap quilts, height charts, hair bows (glued to a clip - it doesn't have to be new!), headbands, tote bags (for gym, library etc), pencil cases, hacky sacks, wheatie bags, plushies, cushions, pillow cases, camera cases...


About the friends thing, I don't have any good advice for you, I'm afraid. Yes, you "should" just find a way of telling them you can't do it this year, but I know that's easier said than done. It sucks. Recently we've had to cut down on having guests, or ask them to bring basic ingredients - I'm OK with asking people to bring drinks if they offer, but on Sunday a friend came over for roast chicken and brought the raw chicken! It was that or not have him over. He's an ex-flatmate and offered, so it was sort of OK, but... yeah, it sucks. I always do birthday cakes for my friends, and if anyone has a birthday in the next few weeks I honestly don't know how we'll afford the chocolate and sugar to make one. I hate it.

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