Only what you need for your baby. Really. (OK – and some fantastic things you don’t that are pretty cool.)
Pages and pages have been written by moms much more organized than I am about how to manage all the birthday parties your child will be invited to and how to simplify the gift-buying process that accompanies all those invitations.
I’m not arts and craftsy, so I don’t have any brilliant creative ideas for inexpensive but time-consuming homemade gifts. If you’re into that, awesome. (Check out Babble’s Top 50 Craft Blogs for some of what’s out there.)
If, like me, you’re not into DIY, here’s the plan that’s worked for me:
1. Find half an hour and sit down with your calendar. The beginning of the year is great, but July is fine too. Google Calendar, iCal, Outlook, Filoafax, whatever. Doesn’t matter.
2. Scan through each calendar month for birthday dates.
If you don’t have them in your calendar already, have a quick think about little Louisa’s closest friends. (If she’s still under three, chances are many of their birthdays fall in the same month as hers, ’cause that’s who she’s been hanging out with!) If you still have no idea, glance back through last year’s calendar for the dates of parties you went to and make a note in this year’s calendar (or, better, create a repeating event in your online calendar so you won’t have to go through this next year.)
3. Create a task on the 15th of each month – or another day when you know you’ll have a little time – and list the birthdays for which you’ll need gifts that are coming up the following month.
This is also handy for managing your immediate family’s birthdays, as well as upcoming weddings, showers and holidays. If you’re like me, this exercise will bring home to you exactly how many gift-giving occasions you’re buying for and motivate you to set a budget for gift giving this year. Buying everything at the last second isn’t just stressful: it also masks exactly how much money you’re spending on all the vents put together.
4. When that task comes up each month, go onto Amazon or head to your local toy or kids book store and don’t leave until you’ve bought a gift for each person on that list. If you are overwhelmed by the cost or because you don’t think you’ve found the perfect gift, be firm with yourself: this will not get easier (or cheaper), so today is the day.
For me, shopping online is easiest because I can see my total before I buy and it keeps costs down. Plus browsing for alternatives is quicker than making another pass through a physical store. (I try to give my local bookstores and toy stores the benefit of my business, but buying for multiple recipients at once is stressful and more than I can handle in a single visit.)
If your total really is more than you can spend, consider declining some of the party invitations and setting up a birthday play date when you can make (or buy!) some cute cupcakes for the birthday kiddo instead. That’ll free up a weekend afternoon and give the kids some 1:1 time to boot.
There. You’re done for another month.
A couple of extra tips:
1. For those of you who really want to stay ahead of the curve, consider pre-buying for multiple months . Or, as I do, create a wish list on Amazon or elsewhere of your own child’s favorites or gifts that were big hits, so you’ll have ideas ready to hand when friends’ children turn her age. (I know this may be a step too far into OCD, but I thought I’d put it out there anyway. Welcome to my world.)
2. Don’t forget to read the party invitations your child receives. About half of the ones we get specifically request that we not bring gifts. If you already have a gift on-hand, great: just put it away for a child on next month’s list and you’re ahead of the game.
3. Don’t spend beyond your budget, even if the other child’s lovely parent brought your child a gorgeous and apparently pricey gift. For starters, you have no idea how much that gift cost, OK? It might be a re-gift or that parent might be a super sale hound. Second, your financial situation is what it is. Don’t stress about it on account of a four year old!