Why my kids' invitations always say "no gifts please."
Recession Mama Michele Ashamalla: I have a big party at our house each summer celebrating all my kids' birthdays. I let them invite all their friends and classmates. We have all our family and family friends here, too.
Back (way back) when we only had one child and the party was much smaller, I looked at all the gifts my then three-year-old had received and I felt, well, honestly, physically sick. Looking at everything we didn't need and didn't even know where to store it, when others had so little ... I started prepping her then.
We talked about kids and organizations for kids that could use help, and how we could help. The next year, she chose a local children's museum that she loved to be the recipient of her birthday donations. When she brought in the donations, they asked her what she thought the museum needed, and she said more dress-up costumes. Someone brought out a catalog right then and she got to choose a couple she thought would be good.
The next year, she and her brother chose the zoo, and they sponsored an animal (hippo) and got information about the animal a couple times during the year. Since then, the kids have donated to grant wishes to terminally ill children, save the rainforest, build playgrounds in other countries, and this year, provide kids with their first books. They have become much more sophisticated -- we research charities on www.charitynavigator.org and choose those that are structured to allow most of the donation to go to helping out, instead of going to salaries or fundraising. They are so proud of what they are doing, and I am, too.
Last year my kids raised $2,800 for their charity. Some friends and family make donations of $5 or $10, some over $200. It is an easy gift for the party attendees, and is tax-deductible. They still get gifts from us, their grandparents and aunts and uncles, but they have discovered that it really does feel better to give.
A former state deputy attorney general and current stay-at-home mom, Recession Mama Michele Ashamalla has three kids and ten years of experience stretching one salary to cover the necessities and more. She's all about saving money whenever you can, so you have it to spend on whatever you want!