How much to spend on a present to take to a children’s party

how much to spend on a present image by anna langova

Awkward Situations

A frequent question and difficult to quantify, as everyone’s circumstances are different, is how much to spend on a child’s birthday present?

Parties have changed over the years. Where once a child would maybe go to one or two parties a year, now the whole class is often invited; therefore a child could potentially attend 30 parties, not including friends from outside school. Spend on average £10 on each present, well… even my maths is capable of working that one out.

So what amount is reasonable?

And how do you make sure you’re not over or under spending on a present for a child.

Well firstly, let’s take a bigger picture.

Who is the recipient?

Are they a close friend or relative of your child?

Are you friends with the parents?

Do the children come round to play regularly?

Do they play together every day in the school playground, or just occasionally mention each other – or have they never mentioned them at all?

Have a conversation with your child. If they have never talked about the birthday child before, ask if they really want to go to the party. If they are still adamant that they want to go then the best way to consider the present is as a buy-off for someone looking after your child for a couple of hours – if that’s what you can afford. Maybe it’s best to explain to your child that they have to skip this one, especially if you have no intention of inviting the birthday child to your child’s party.

Think it’s already getting complicated? I’ve only just started.

So your child has barely mentioned the birthday child before but the party sounds incredible so of course they want to go, and all their best friends will be there. Now what?

Decide how much you can realistically afford. Don’t be pressurized into spending more. Or be intimidated because the family are quite well off and their child already has everything under the sun. Give what you can afford and want to give.

Now, again. Look at the bigger and the long term picture. Is your child, or are you, likely to know this family in a few years time when all the children are at Secondary school? Not likely? Are they ever going to grumble and say… “Do you remember that child who brought a £3 present to our son’s party?!’

No. Really, they are not.

I remember however my children getting £20 notes in a card from class mates they were barely friends with. My child was always delighted, of course, but I couldn’t help thinking it wasn’t right. I could never reciprocate. What I could do however, is spend time looking for the right present.

A cheaper present bought with my child in mind, by the invited child, wrapped by the invited child (I’ll come back to this at a later date) was always nicer.

Isn’t one little present of something nice better than a bigger something that isn’t? For example one nice dinosaur, or doll’s house piece is better than a ‘cheaper-looking’ set that costs the same. This is especially true when the whole class is invited as they’ll have so many toys to unwrap they’ll be bored unwrapping them all, and remember – the recipient needs to put them all somewhere!

If it’s your child’s birthday soon and you’ve invited the whole class perhaps you can set up a page for less fortunate children, see a recent post about How a birthday party can help a charity here – it’s an idea worth remembering. Or you can donate to Lumos here.

Note update Jan 2016: The Lumos links have changed since we first wrote this post (The Lumos web page: how to dedicate your party no longer exists) but sadly the need has not –

Please go to the page above to set up a donation, I’m sure your help will still be very much appreciated, however small. Many thanks.



  1. laura dove 9th February 2016 at 7:21 pm - Reply

    Great post! This is something that I always worry about especially with my youngest three just being invited to parties and I’m not sure of what is expected! My eldest (11) and his friends always just give eachother £10 but with little ones, especially when there are three of them, and they are being invited to up to 30 a year, that is fast going to cost me a fortune!!! #Abitofeverything

    • Acting the Party 10th February 2016 at 4:42 pm - Reply

      Yes, we have three children and we found party presents soon added up. You don’t want to disappoint your children and say they can’t go, but there has to be a limit.

  2. Jess Powell (Babi a Fi) 9th February 2016 at 10:02 pm - Reply

    I think when my daughter gets older (she’s only one at the moment and her only real friend is the dog, lol) I’m going to put something on the party invites about not getting presents. She will have more than enough stuff anyway! A little donation to something like that is a lovely idea, or to something like sponsoring a child or adopting an animal. That way you get the letters and whatnot too. x #abitofeverything

    • Acting the Party 10th February 2016 at 4:45 pm - Reply

      Sponsoring a child or an animal is a good idea. I don’t know if there are any that allow your child to be a pen pal but that would be nice. Better than having so many small bits of plastic around your house.

  3. Random Musings 9th February 2016 at 11:22 pm - Reply

    This is a tricky one! I think the key is to find something you think a child of that age will like, that is within your budget. The child is likely to be happy with something they can play with, they won’t care how much it costs. #TwinklyTuesday

  4. Tracey Abrahams 14th February 2016 at 11:22 am - Reply

    This wasnt so much of a problem when my boys were growing up as birthday parties were a rare thing.
    Thanks for sharing with us, Tracey xx #abitofeverything

  5. Acting the Party 14th February 2016 at 2:37 pm - Reply

    I bet your boys treasured them and were excited to go. The anticipation is all part of it.

  6. jera 2nd October 2017 at 9:33 am - Reply

    It’s important to give something the kid’s want and doesn’t have to be expensive. Great post!

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