Forget 'Fiver Parties', How About Saying This To Parents Instead

It's all about "presence, not presents", as one mum suggests.
Fiver parties raise a lot of questions among parents – especially in the middle of a cost of living crisis.
Jasmin Merdan / Abhishek Mehta (Getty Images)
Fiver parties raise a lot of questions among parents – especially in the middle of a cost of living crisis.

Fiver parties are nothing new. The idea that you ship your kid off to their friend’s birthday party with a fiver in a card, rather than a physical present, seems to spark debate among parents on an annual basis.

There are benefits, of course: you don’t have to spend ages searching the shops for a suitable toy; it’s better for the environment if you don’t have 20 or more parents buying cheap tat; it enables the birthday boy or girl’s parents to buy them one (or a couple) of really good toys – or clothes, or books, or whatever they fancy.

But these are swiftly outweighed by the cons, the biggest of them all being that you have to physically ask other parents to send their kids with fivers so you can buy your child a better present. Pretty mortifying stuff.

What’s more, with the cost of living crisis raging on, fiver parties are also going to be excluding lots of families who simply can’t afford to spare that kind of cash this winter.

When Netmums shared a recent article on Facebook about fiver parties “saving parents a fortune,” thousands flocked to share their thoughts on the subject.

One commenter, Danielle Ilishia Aye-Pe, said it was a good idea but that she wouldn’t be able to do it. “Some parents are in a position right now they can’t even afford £5,” she said, “and I think to save the embarrassment they may not show.”

Abby Leadbetter agreed: “I had my son’s party one year and had someone message to say they couldn’t afford a present so their child couldn’t come! I, of course, told her he didn’t need a present and having her son there was more important than any present. This just puts too much pressure on people.”

Pam Lyons added: “I don’t know what planet some folk live on. Families are really struggling and it’s about to get worse. For some, £5 is completely out of the question.”

Instead, she recommended simply sending out party invites that say: “Please don’t bring gifts or money, we just want [name] and their friends to enjoy their time together.” Her suggestion clearly struck a chord, gaining over 1,000 likes.

While there were some who favoured buying presents and putting money in cards, lots of parents agreed that simply turning up to a child’s birthday party should be enough, with zero expectations for cards and gifts. As Mel Jayne says, it’s all about “presence rather than presents”.

It prompted other parents to reflect on alternative gift ideas that won’t break the bank. Brodie Jessica Goring revealed how she’d had an invite to a children’s party asking kids to bring an old toy for a toy swap – meaning everyone gets a new gift. “I thought it was a brilliant idea! And better for the environment,” she said.

Mum Catherine Nash said when her son was little, they’d throw a ‘no present party’ where, instead of people turning up with gifts, they’d ask for donations to raise funds for their local children’s hospice.

“Everyone saved up their coppers and placed their box on the table anonymously,” she said. “Some gave £10+, others just a couple of pounds.

“We got about £100 and the charity mascot visited his class and gave out chocolate lollies and a certificate. It was by far the most memorable party and all the parents seemed to love the idea and there was no pressure to bring a present.”

Sadly, there were plenty of tales of parents feeling incredibly judged for not buying gifts (some had put money in cards but were still looked at like they’d not contributed anything).

Perhaps we can all agree as parents that going forward we won’t expect anything from those attending our children’s birthday parties. If a kid turns up with a gift or some money in a card, that’s really nice, but equally seeing them show up to play with your child on their special day is the greatest gift of all.