Party time! How to buy birthday gifts without breaking the budget


It’s a wonderful feeling when your little one starts being invited to birthday parties, but if the invites start to stack up, it’s not so wonderful for the wallet! Sharon Mitchell from MayDay Mummy shares her ideas for keeping the birthday boy or girl happy without breaking your budget. 

Isn’t it funny how kids forget to unpack their school lunch box when they get home, but always remember the party invite stuffed in the front pocket of their bag!

For kids, birthday parties are all about the fun, food and friendship. But for parents, the occasion can also mean shopping for the right gift, wrapping it up and driving across town with both the present and your excited offspring in tow.

Did you know there is a growing trend among Kindy classes to invite everyone in the class to birthday parties? With the average number of students per Kindy class being 20, the shopping, wrapping and travel all add up for already-exhausted parents.

What kids parties can cost

I’m not an accountant, nor have I ever kept to a budget, but these numbers for one child shocked me:

  • Approximate number of kids party invites per year = 25 (includes neighbours, cousins and mothers’ group)
  • Total cost of gifts for the kids = $500 (using $20/gift per party average) 
  • Total cost of wrapping and cards = $75 (using $3 average per gift)
  • Travel cost = $30 (approximating petrol and tolls to shops and then to the party)

TOTAL = $605 

This is the approximate cost for one child. If you have 3 fun, friendly and popular children, your total birthday party gift giving costs could be $1815- that’s more than a return flight to Paris or paying a fortnightly house cleaner for a year!

The solution? Present drawers!

Let me share my little secret. I confess – I have a “present drawer” and I’m not ashamed! In fact, I’m keen to share the benefits of this system with others. There are many time-poor mums that have been buying, storing and selecting unique gifts from their “present drawer” for years. 

You can save time and money and still have the perfect kids’ gifts ready for the next party.

Essentially, you save time and money by buying gifts in multiples when they’re cheap or your find a bargain. Markets, fairs and small online businesses often have creative gifts that are inexpensive and unique. Consider buying a few in various colours or styles. If your own child would want the gift, their friends are sure to think it is the perfect present!

A “present drawer” might be; a cupboard shelf, a storage container in the garage or a couple of boxes under a bed. 

This system helps you avoid trips to the shops for last-minute gifts. Just open your “present drawer” anytime. Take advantage of post-Christmas sales and restock with fantastic little gifts ready for a new and happy year of children’s birthday parties! You could even continue the savings, and start a box of birthday cards as well. 

More on life with little ones…


Sharon Mitchell lives in Wahroonga and is mum to two girls (age 16 and 14). She also runs Mayday Mummy – providing a prompt response to families needing urgent care for their children. Sydney families requiring “a mother’s care when you can’t be there” can call Mayday Mummy from 4am.

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