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"Cash Only, Please"

The urbanMamas community has proven to be a wealth of wisdom when it comes to birthday parties. Perhaps you have some suggestions for Meliah, who is looking to funnel relatives' generousity toward her daughter's college savings account:

I am hoping to get some tactful wisdom from the baby/toddler birthday veterans out there. My daughter is turning one in a month (yea!) and we are getting ready to send out invitations. I mentioned to my husband the idea of adding a "No gifts, please" note on the bottom of invitations. She's 1. She doesn't really NEED anything, especially not more clothes! or toys! So I was telling him about some various ideas (book trades, tree planting, donations to pool and give to a charity, etc) that can be done in lieu of gifts at a birthday party. My question is, is there any respectful, non-tacky way to ask for monetary donations for my daughters college savings account? If anyone has any ideas or experience with this, I'd love some feedback so that I can adjust her invitations accordingly before sending them out. Thanks! Oh- BTW, her birthday is going to be a small (15 people or less) family affair. More of a special family dinner than a "birthday party". Thanks again!


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In my experience, relatives are either already in the mindset that college savings plans are good and they are eager to contribute - or else they are not. And for the latter (especially if they didn't set up plans for their own kids), there's not a lot you can do except mention it one time and hope for the best.

IMO, a first birthday is the perfect opportunity to do that initial mentioning. I think it's fine to say on the invitation something like:

"A good education is the greatest gift we hope to give our daughter. Baby doesn't need any more toys or clothes at this point (thanks to all of you!) If you'd like to contribute to her college fund, please send your gift to: etc.

Ok, I'm a writer and I can't help revising:

"A good education is the greatest gift we hope to give our daughter. Thanks to all of you, Baby has a wonderful collection of toys and clothes. We'd be very grateful if you'd consider marking this momentous occasion with a gift to her college fund, instead. (info)."

My daughter just turned one and we seriously pondered this very issue ... how to politely tell relatives that we don't want her to have tons of *stuff* (most of which tends to be clothes or toys that I don't care for)? And what we really want for her are college contributions! In the end, I couldn't bring myself to do it because I realize how much pleasure it gives (I'm mainly talking grandparents) to go to a store and pick something out and watch the baby open it, and hear the parents ooh and aah, see the baby wear it or play with it etc. My mother in law in particular drives my batty with this - she wants lots of photos with the toy or dress, needs excruciating detail about much the gift is loved - but then, I conclude, this is her grandmotherly right and why withold the pleasure? My one limitation we've had to express is that we don't want LOTS of stuff - keep it to one or two gifts please.

That said, though, my real wish is for college savings contributions!

We struggled with this when we got married actually. We were hoping that instead of gifts that people would donate to our favorite charity. What we thought was noble and selfless ended up angering many of our relatives who didn't want to be told how to spend their money. I guess there are two sides to this issue and have since read in an etiquette guide that it is not in good taste -- for what it's worth.. Since having children we have recieved many gifts for our children that we didn't want or need. We've tried to steer well-meaning grandparents in the right direction but we recently came to the realization that for us, the best thing to do is let them enjoy giving the gifts that they choose and say thank you. When we can we return them or give them to charity.

I also have a college fund for Asher and did exactly that last Christmas - just put a note to the main gift-givers that Asher had a college fund now, if anyone wanted to contribute, and I gave them the information for the account. Everyone was thrilled, and i didn't have to deal with unwanted gifts! However, I only really put it out there to his grandparents/uncles that generally give large gifts or large sums of money.

Additionally, a college fund for a baby is much more personal, I think, than a charity of choice, so I think the chances of offending people are much less (as Robin experienced), as they still get to give a gift to the babe that they love.

That's a good point Sadie Rose, I don't know why I didn't consider that in my comment. It is more personal than a charity and therefore less likely to offend. Then again, it's hard not to offend my relatives;) I also like your approach, just giving the account info. and letting your relatives decide whether they want to contribute or not..

Not on topic as to cash, but a great solution to the perpetual Too Much Stuff, and the issue of parting gifts/jealousy.
Book exchange. One of DS's friends started this, and all the kids love it. Every kid brings a book, every kid leaves with a book.
I believe some "Re-gifting" has occured, and that's cool too.

I started this at the baby shower stage - I asked in lieu of a baby shower that people contributed to the Hurricane Katrina Relief Fund - this was 6 months after the hurricane hit - but I said we are very fortunate & if you are feeling generous the children of that region really need help.

When my son turned 1 a few months ago - we had a party with family & friends and my hubby just could not get his head around the fact that I wanted to say no gifts necessary & if you are feeling generous to give to charity X. So we ended up saying on the invite - the only "presents" we ask is yours. We told our family (which is small) please contribute to the college fund & they did that. Unfortunately my MIL also bought a really big plastic/ walker/ bike combo. Ugh!

What a great idea for a first birthday gift! And I love Zinemama's quote. Seems like all you need now are the cute invitations to print it on.

As far as all those unwanted but graciously accepted baby & toddler gifts, most of those go by the wayside. Folks that love your baby & spend time with your family will be in on what is important to you for the baby's sake and will see what "style" you have going on so they’ll want to follow suit. (for example: learning toys, natural fiber clothing, organic food, etc.)

Of course, not everyone will “get it” and you may have an auntie on your hands who brings over a bag of crap every holiday. So be it, as long as the love is there.

My kids get way too many gifts & toys throughout the year, but I found that when I told people "no gifts," some were offended thinking that maybe I thought their gifts weren't good enough. So, what I started writing on birthday invites is, "Gifts are not necessary." This way, everyone can come and have a good time without feeling obligated to bring a gift, and those who are into giving can exercise that option. What has happened is that the elder generation has opted to give money (often designated for a college or "savings" account), and many others have started giving things with sentimental value ("this was mine when I was your age"), or hand-made gifts and cards. I think "gifts are not necessary" really allows every invitee the opportunity to participate and give within their comfort zone. And it is an important lesson to learn that friendship is the best gift of all, and a person who takes the time to come to your party is a friend!

I think the practice of gift giving is an important life lesson for kids and should be encouraged. It allows the kids the opportunity to think of someone else, work with a little budget and feel joy when the person happily recieves their gift. It doesn't need to be expensive.
About family, I think overmanaging and directing gift giving is a bit presumptuous. I think that to casually offer that helping with their college account sounds great. But it's up to them and I really feel that there should be gratitude for any all gifts. So what if it gets returned or donated. It takes a little joy away from their process of gift giving to strongly direct them in any one direction. Just my opinion.

Great topic! I have also struggled with this issue! I do not want to appear tacky or greedy, but it's so true that college savings or a charity donation is a more appreciated gift than yet another toy. (Though I must admit, it makes me a little sad to think of my daughter not experiencing the thrill of those colorfully wrapped packages on her special day, once she's old enough to appreciate it ...)

I think my solution for my daughter's first birthday will be advance word of mouth - "We're setting up Baby's college savings plan ... amazing to think about how tuition costs are rising, isn't it? So, what's new with you?" My husband can tell his parents, I can tell my family, and I'll mention it in passing during conversations with the closest friends who will be invited. And along they way, as other's kids birthdays come up, I'll be casually asking if they are planning any kind of savings account for their children, because I'd like to contribute in lieu of a toy ... maybe they'll get the hint when our turn rolls around. We won't discourage other types of gifts, but at least people will be aware of the option.

I also LOVE the book exchange idea. It so perfectly solves the problem of those out-of-control goodie bags ...

FYI, if anyone is looking for a neat "donation" gift idea, the Heifer Project is fantastic. Your recipient gets a card explaining that "a pair of ducks" or "a hive of bees" etc. was given in their name to a village in need. Kids get into this because of the animals involved and the idea that it's helping a whole community. On the web site, you can see examples of how these livestock donations really make a difference, which makes for rich family conversation: http://www.heifer.org/

And mamas, don't forget to help your child write thank you notes! I'm so glad my mother ingrained this in me ...

We were talking about this at work regarding a coworker that just lost her mom and I hate to give flowers. When I was a kid, we always had trees planted in Israel in our names for special occasions. I have no idea where they are, but it's nice to know that they are there. It would be a nice idea to help reforest needed areas in the name of a child. Does anyone know of a project like this in the US? I would be inclined to give this sort of thing as a gift given the state of our planet these days.

Thanks so much for the input! There are some great points here, things I will def. be taking into consideration. Its great to hear from different perspectives! Thanks again!

In response to Debby's query, check out http://www.mercycorps.org/mercykits. They are a nice way to give the gift of a MercyCorps donation focused on a particular area of need. For example, there are a $20 "Kid's Food Kit," a $125 "School Supplies Kit," and a $35 "Family Garden Kit," among many other options. A personalized card or email announces the gift to your chosen honoree.

I love the sentiment, but think its tacky to tell people what to buy you unless they ask. So I'd ixnay it on the invite, but when people call you could say "oh you don't need to bring anything..." or to close family "a little bit for the college fund would mean so much to us..." and smile if they bring something bright and noisy :)

Family that are close really won't mind gift input because they know from speaking to you that the kid can't play with the amount of toys they have, or some girls don't like dolls, some boys like specific toys. Same is true of clothes.

I used to make up a gift list. Tacky? Maybe. Those close to me appreciated knowing the different clothes sizes / colors for my kids. They wanted to know which "it" toy my kids wanted. Those that gave money actually liked that I set up bank accounts for the kids and that almost all of the money got saved for a car or whatever. I maybe let them spend no more than $50.

My relatives had a set amount that they gave. When the kids got older, the "it" gift was more expensive. They would send the check to chip in for the high priced item. Any extra cash got put into the savings.

At Christmas I shopped for extra gifts; the relatives always said, you pick something; you know what the kid likes. This worked since I knew the amount and was able to finish shopping by October.

Most also sent / brought a small gift. This gave the kid something to open. Kids that small have no clue how much things cost and were really happy opening the small ticket item wrapped in the prettiest bag w/ ribbon.

I really feel that grandma would rather buy "Missy" clothes that fit then to have me send them back to her to exchange, or ask for the receipt. A few times doing that, they will be happy to "just send a check" lol

I had this very same question & got a great tip from someone, sitting at a College Savings Workshop. Use, "Any cash will be contributed towards ___'s College Savings Fund!" This is a nice way to ask because it's not demanding they give you cash, but it plants the seed that you are thinking about their college savings. & you have one set up. If all fails, let people buy what they want & return for cash for the fund :)

I love zinemama's suggestion for the invite and will do that for my daughter's first birthday. It is a very tasteful way of requesting the donations.

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