Ever notice how much it can cost to be a birthday party guest? David G. Mitchell of SavingAdvice.com sure did, when his kids were younger. They'd each get invited to one or two parties per month, even if they didn't really know the birthday boy or girl. (Apparently some teachers decree that if one kid in the class is invited, all must be invited.)
In a recent post, Mitchell noted that he and his wife "easily could have spent over a thousand dollars on birthday gifts for children who our own children never saw outside of school."
This rubbed him the wrong way, especially since some of the parties seemed to be "money grabs." At one party his older boy was one of more than three hundred invited guests, and his younger son went to a party with more than 100 guests. Special, huh?
Rather than forbid the children to accept every invitation, the parents tried a different tack: "We told them that if they wanted to go to a party, they would need to pay $10 towards the gift."
This had an immediate effect even though the two kids have very different views of money. The younger boy cut down on his party-going somewhat, but generally felt that "any opportunity to have fun with his friends" was usually worth $10 of his allowance.
The older son went only to the parties of people he really liked, or "if he knew that the party would be 'worth the cost of the gift.'" The young man also tried the time-honored protest, "None of the other kids have to do this!" It didn't work.
On the bright side, the rule required that he learn to budget his available funds.
Some would call the Mitchells' tactic pretty hardcore. In fact, he writes that he has found "very few" other parents who say they make their kids chip in. But he says he's met a bunch who admire the Mitchells' determination to "enforce a regime of fiscal responsibility on our kids."
Personally, we'd call fiscal responsibility a pretty incredible gift in its own right.
How about you, readers: Do you think parents should pay for their kids to attend every party? Or as Mitchell put it, "Is it more important to ensure that your child attends all of the parties to which he or she is invited, or should children be taught that attending a party comes with a cost?"