Break away from the ‘not-so-goodie’ bags

Children between preschool and preteen get invited to a lot of birthday parties. At the end of most of these parties, guests receive what is called a “goodie bag.” In fact, I have noticed that my children have come to expect that, although they are not the birthday girl or boy, they will go home from a birthday party with a present. The goodie bag my children received at a recent party really caught my attention. It was a bag full of plastic, well, crap. Things we don’t need, things that don’t work, things that are bad for them—all things that are going in the trash sooner rather than later. At this point, you might wonder why a personal finance blogger is writing about goodie bags. The reason is because I think that if you are going to spend money, you should spend money wisely—no matter how few dollars we are talking about. Birthday party expenses for invitations, entertainment, and food can add up very quickly. In fact, the Evite's party budget estimator puts a mid-range 3-hour child's birthday party with 10 guests at $402 to $535! The last thing parent’s need to do is to spend money and time assembling bags of things that guests (or their parents) are going to throw away as soon as they leave the party. For this reason, I was thinking of launching a one woman campaign against birthday party goodie bags. But first, I thought it would be wise to ask some children what they thought of the idea. The general consensus is that my idea to ban birthday party goodie bags was a bad idea (understatement!) One child went so far as to exclaim “think lady, think!” Because the idea to ban goodie bags was not well received, I decided to try and think of a way to save party planning parents some money and effort while still giving party goers what they want. I think the key is to think outside of the bag. Combining your entertainment budget with your goodie bag budget is a great compromise. For example, during a birthday party my daughter attended last year, the girls decorated aprons before doing a messy cupcake decorating activity. At the end of the party, my daughter got to take her hand-made creation home and it is something she still uses today. Here are a few other inexpensive ideas that do double-duty as entertainment and a parting gift: Finally, don’t underestimate how much fun 6-year-old boys can have with a super cheap whoopee cushion! The moral of the story is that when you are spending money—no matter how few dollars—spend it with purpose. Really think about what you are doing with your dollars. Birthday party spending can get quickly out of control, but with a little bit of thought, the kids can have a great time without breaking your budget.

Kim McGrigg is the former Manager of Community and Media Relations for MMI.