Leona O'Neill: Fiver parties – what's wrong with sticking some cash in a card?

With a trend for asking for money in lieu of birthday presents, Leona O'Neill weighs up popping cash in a card against the pressures of traipsing through a toy shop for what might ultimately be considered more plastic tat

Kids can be a tough crowd so it doesn't necessarily pay to skimp on a birthday party

THERE'S a birthday party trend doing the rounds and it’s started what is commonly referred to in these parts as a ‘whole handling’ in parenting circles.

Fiver parties are children’s birthday parties at which, instead of trawling through toy shops to purchase your child’s friend a present they might not like, parents stick a fiver in a card and be done with it. Parents have taken to stipulating on their birthday invitations that they want money instead of gifts.

The birthday child gets to spend a good bit of the money on something that they really want or save it, and parents aren’t left with a pile of plastic tat that the child doesn’t even want. And I suppose they are a way of teaching kids to enjoy get-togethers, putting the emphasis on people instead of stuff.

As is the way in these things, some people loved the idea, others thought it was the height of tackiness and said they would certainly not be complying with fiver party parents.

I can see the two sides of the fiver birthday argument. Putting cash into celebration cards is not a new trend. People have been putting notes into wedding cards for years, telling people that they have everything they wanted and just wanted cash in lieu of gifts. It’s a practice that has become so commonplace that no-one now bats an eyelid.

Parents have modified this practice and are sending out invitations with instructions for party goers. You might, in the future, get an invitation that reads "as wee Johnny already has all the toys and clothes that he needs we are asking instead for a small donation towards the cost of the party. They would much rather celebrate their day with you than a gift".

Some call a move like this forward, cheeky, presumptuous and tacky. Perhaps they might source their presents in sales, or regift – that way the birthday child’s parent would never know how much was spent on their gift. And some people just don’t feel comfortable handing over money.

But I can also see if from the viewpoint of the fiver-party throwing birthday child’s parent. Kids' parties cost an absolute fortune. If you hold it in an children’s adventure centre, for example, it costs at least £12 a head. If you have 15 of your son or daughter’s friends there you’re looking at a bill of at least £180 plus the price of a cake.

If you decide to have a party in your home and maybe hire a bouncy castle you’re talking £100, plus the price of food, a cake, decorations and entertainment and the bill could be hitting £200.

Yes, people can go home-made all the way and if they are lucky enough to have and know arty kids, an arts-and-crafts party might fly. But kids are a tough crowd, they demand entertainment, particularly at birthday parties, and they don’t be long telling you that something is rubbish and boring. Ask any stressed-out clown-party entertainer.

I honestly wouldn’t find it cheeky to see an invitation asking for money. Parents in this climate are struggling and many of them might be struggling to keep things normal for their children. Some parents have lost their jobs, some are finding it difficult to put food on the table and heat their homes. If they prefer money to help them put on a party for their child, fair play to them. It’ll save me driving myself mad scanning the aisles in the toyshop wondering what’s in with seven-year-olds this year.

Birthday money isn’t what it used to be when we were kids. I normally stick £20 in a birthday card for my children’s friends. Some kids these days are like mini Donald Trumps and, depending on their friends network, could pull in a £400 profit in birthday money, like little tycoons.

As far as fiver parties go, I’m going with an each-to-their-own approach. I wouldn’t ask for money myself but I wouldn’t think another parent tacky for doing it. In fact I think we should stop being so judgmental of each other. Parenting is hard enough without turning even birthday celebrations into a battleground.

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