Minimalism, Zero Waste Living

What is a fiver party and how to throw one (includes a party invitation wording guide)

My son recently turned four, and this year was his first ‘friends’ focused birthday party. When he turned one, we did a huge party- basically to celebrate us as parents getting through the first year- kidding. Kind of. 

Birthdays two and three consisted of small family get-togethers, where gifts were coming in smaller quantities and people requested ideas. 

But four. Four included 11 other friends (and would have been more but we were restricted by our venue) PLUS family. I know the ‘correct’ answer here is that we don’t expect any gifts. And we don’t- we honestly don’t. But, we also are realistic and know that *most* people are going to bring gifts.

We also know that we don’t live in a very big house, and my son’s toy situation is already at the brim. 

Related: How to declutter toys for good (+ save money and reduce waste)

Enter the fiver party. Since you’re here, I’m guessing you’re wondering ‘what is a fiver party’? Or maybe you’ve heard of a fiver party but want to know how to word a fiver party invitation, or explain what one is, or want tips on how to throw one.

Good news: you’re in the right place. 

Want to listen to this content instead (or in addition)? Check it out on my podcast Raising Eco Minimalists.

My husband and I decided to try out a fiver party and I’m here to tell you alllll about what it is, and how it went for us. 

What is a fiver party?

A fiver party is basically a party where gift giving is common – likely a kids birthday party – and the host (you) specifies that if there is a desire to give a gift (an important piece), instead of giving a traditional gift, the receiver would like $5 to go towards a bigger toy, membership, experience, etc. 

Really, that’s it. 

I know, I know, you’re not supposed to talk about receiving gifts, and that definitely means no specifying the type of gift you want. I’ll discuss this further on. Just bear with me.

Related post: 10 ways to graciously tell someone: ‘no gifts, please’ (with actual examples)

How are fiver parties different than regular parties? 

In terms of the difference between a fiver party and a regular gift giving/receiving party, there really isn’t much difference. The only difference is specifying that you or the gift receiver would prefer a specific type of gift if someone feels inclined to give a gift. Usually, this is done on the invitation, and that’s it. 

The party itself is the same. 

In our instance, my son’s birthday party was structured the exact same way it would have if we had not decided to throw a fiver party. The difference is in the invitation wording itself (examples are given below). That’s it. 

How to explain a fiver party?

Since the fiver party concept is still relatively new, there may be a number of people in your life who aren’t familiar with the concept. Here is a guide to explaining what exactly it is to the different groups of people you may come into contact with:

  • To guests: A simple explanation on the invitation is all that is needed (see verbiage guide below). It basically is just an explanation of what you are requesting (in this case $5 to go towards a specific gift) if someone feels inclined to give a gift (yes, I’ve said it a bunch already, but it’s an important piece). 

  • To your family/partner: I approached my husband and told him the premise of the fiver party (again – that we’re specifying gifts are not required, but if the potential gift giver feels inclined, asking for $5 to go towards something bigger in place of another gift). As we’re both trying to actively keep the number of toys in our house down, he was totally on board. If you’re coming up with resistance, talk about the benefits of hosting a fiver party – which I talk about below. You can also talk about the benefits of less toys– which research supports.

    Here’s something else: you can try it out one year and based on feedback, comfort level, and how it actually ends up manifesting, you can decide not to do it again!

  • To your kid: Since this was my son’s first friend’s birthday party, he hadn’t experienced the mountain of gifts that can sometimes accompany these events. Therefore, it was a bit of a different scenario versus if he had experienced that in the past. 

From this perspective, we just talked to him that his friends might (notice we did not say he would for sure be getting gifts) want to get him a gift for his birthday. Since he is only four, we kind of directed the conversation towards some of the bigger ticket items that $5 could go towards, as we had an idea of the types of things he would want/like. In the end, he requested that the money go towards a zoo membership. 

We made sure to emphasize the importance and purpose of the party, which was to gather family and friends to celebrate that he was born. We did not make it all about the gifts. I think this is an important piece here, because it lessens the impact of NOT getting a ton of gifts. 

That being said, if you are in a situation where your kid(s) is expecting a lot of gifts, talk about the benefits of having money go towards a bigger item. Maybe offer to pitch in the remaining amount as part of their gift as well so they can reach that goal. From what I’ve heard from others, this tactic seems to be just as desirable for kids as getting a ton of smaller gifts (at least after the fact). 

If you and your family have values that fall in line with putting emphasis on experiences or living with less, for example, you can talk about how a fiver party falls within those values. 

Related post: How to host a toy swap or toy exchange (with swap invite wording)

Is a fiver party right for my kids birthday?

This of course is going to be family and kid dependent. 

I talked about some of the values above that my family and I have that make a fiver party a good fit for us. And honestly, that’s what it comes down to. 

The other piece is that we wanted people to be able to come and spend time with the birthday boy (again- putting emphasis on spending time with people instead of getting things) without our friends and family having to worry about budget or finding something that he hopefully would like. Again – the point is to celebrate WITH THEM, not put anything extra on them, when that extra doesn’t always fall in line with our values. 

One final thing to consider is if there are a lot of kids within the same friend circle, going to a ton of parties throughout the year can really add up. And sometimes it can be really hard to figure out something the kid will like, especially if you don’t know them all that well. A fiver party can be a great solution. 

Note: I absolutely do not mind parties where we give a gift. I know I don’t have to bring one if I don’t want to. But I like to (honestly, I LOVE giving gifts). And if getting gifts matches your family values, I absolutely respect that. 

Why are fiver parties a good idea?

Here are some of the major benefits to throwing a fiver party: 

  • Less waste: Less toys = less waste. Less toys = less packaging = less waste. 

  • Less clutter: Less toys means less toy clutter! Less toy clutter means less time spent cleaning (or arguing with your kid(s) to clean). Less clutter also means a clearer mind for you and your kid(s). 

  • Kids get overwhelmed with gifts and too much stuff: There is a ton of research out there that showcases kids benefit from having less stuff. I won’t get into the details here, but if you do a Google/Ecosia search for ‘kids and too many toys’ you’ll find a ton of articles. Just know that studies show kids can concentrate longer, get less overwhelmed, and develop skills better when they have less ‘stuff’. 

  • Less stress/anxiety for attendees: Specifying that no gifts are expected, but leaving it in the hands of the potential gift giver, you’re giving that person an easy option AND/OR the option to opt out all together gracefully. This means one less thing on their to-do list. It also means that if they are on a tight budget, they don’t have to worry about either not attending or what to give. 

  • Encourages positive money habits: Receiving a bunch of cash is a great way to teach kids positive money saving and spending habits. For my son, we are having him save half, and then the other half will go towards the zoo membership. My husband and I have offered to cover the rest of the cost of the membership. 

  • Donate money instead: A fiver party is a great way to collect money for a donation in lue of gifts. Maybe the ‘big ticket item’ you put on the invite is actually a donation to the birthday person’s favorite charity. This is a great way to teach kids how to give back. 

  • Puts value on time spent with friends and loved ones instead of gifts: As I mentioned above, a fiver party is a great way to put emphasis on spending time with friends and family instead of making a party all about gifts. Just be sure to have a conversation about it beforehand, so there are no surprises. 

  • Saves time on having to give away/sell items: Ok, before you come at me with the pitchforks, know that I realize I’m tip toeing on the tacky line here (see below). But the reality is (and if you’re on a minimalist journey, you know), that sometimes you or your kid(s) get things that they aren’t going to play with. It doesn’t mean you aren’t grateful for the item and to the gift giver, but it just isn’t for you. You don’t owe them anything, except gratitude that the gift was given (which you hopefully expressed). And in that case, you need to do something with it (responsibly). By specifying a specific item up front, you run less risk of getting something that doesn’t fit your family, or the upfront option for them to opt out of giving anything at all, which for some may be a relief. 

Related post: 30 Shows, Movies, and Documentaries for Young Kids about Earth

Are fiver parties tacky?

Ah, the million dollar question. 

Obviously, I am biased, but I don’t think they are tacky. I think they are brilliant. But, the concept also falls in line with my family’s values. Additionally, I’m not offended by the topic of gift giving or talking about gift giving. 

That being said, when I posted about the fiver party idea on social media, the biggest concern I saw was that people would be concerned they would offend someone or it would appear (or that it was) tacky to specify and/or make it seem like you are expecting a gift. 

Here are my responses to that:

  • It’s all in how you word it on the invite: I’ve provided specific wording ideas below, but ultimately, in my opinion, it all comes down to how you word it on the invite. Obviously, you’re not going to say something like: “you must come with a gift and it has to be x, y, z” (at least I hope not). 

  • It’s no different than having a birthday list. Yes, I realize that a birthday list is something that is usually requested from a potential gift giver, instead of including a gift list on an invite. However, as a gift-giving lover myself, I know that I want to make sure that the item I’m giving someone is something they’d actually want and use. And if they had something specific in mind, I would want to know. I think most people who give gifts want it to be something the other person actually likes. If someone is not that type of gift giver, I feel like there are other things going on. 

  • People don’t have to follow it. A fiver party is a request for something specific. People don’t have to follow it! And guess what. In our instance, we had a mix of both. Did we have hard feelings because of that? Of course not! 

What to do if you’re worried your kid will be disappointed

Having an honest conversation beforehand is KEY. And not just once. Talk about it over and over to ensure that there are no surprises. If your kid does end up being disappointed, consider talking about other parts of the party that were really fun. Ask them to name at least three things they enjoyed. 

Another way to combat disappointment is to start a gratitude practice as a family or an individual (kid age dependent) before the party. It may seem odd, but gratitude has been shown to make us aware (it literally rewires your brain to search for the good things) of all the good things we have in our lives. 

Additionally, if your kid is old enough, you can talk about the benefits of having less things (mentioned above). Ask them about how they feel when their surroundings are clean and clear of clutter. They may not have an answer right away, but may start to notice the benefits for themselves and come around. 

If the values that align with a fiver party are what your family practices or strives for, use this opportunity as a way to learn and grow. It may be that your kid is a little disappointed this time around, which can be hard as a parent. But it will (in my opinion) be beneficial in the long run. 

Related post: 11 Ways Minimalism and Zero Waste Living Are The Same

Fiver Party Invite Wording

Now that you’ve got all the details about a fiver party, the tricky part becomes how to actually word the invitations so you don’t come across as tacky or rude.

Note: these are all created by me, so feel free to copy and paste (and adapt) as needed. 

Here is what we wrote on ours: 

“Additionally, your presence is the only present that we need, but should you want to give something to the birthday boy, please consider giving $5 that he can put toward something special. Right now he is thinking a Zoo Membership!”

I ordered a customized electronic invite off of Etsy, which I emailed to the invitees. After the invite, I included a blurb with details about the party, and then the fiver party wording was listed at the very end. 

I tried to make it as casual as possible without coming off that we were expecting a gift (which wasn’t super hard, because we weren’t). 

Here is another wording option: 

“We are working on teaching the value of celebrating (the birthday person) together as friends and family over receiving gifts. No gifts are expected, but if you feel inclined to bring one, please consider $5 towards (insert big ticket item here).”

And finally, one more:

“Celebrating the birth of (insert birthday person here) with family and friends is a gift in itself, and therefore, your presence is all that is needed. However, if you feel called to bring a gift, please consider $5 towards (insert big ticket item here). 

Note: Etsy has fiver invite templates if you’re interested in getting something pre-worded. 

The results of our fiver party

So, how did our fiver party go?

I think for the first time, it went really well. I wasn’t expecting 100% of people to comply, and they didn’t (which is totally fine). Being flexible and having no expectations is/was key here. 

Here is the breakdown:

  • Grandparents: got their own meaningful gifts to give which were very nice and that we were/are very grateful for. All three sets asked for ideas/recommendations, however, but wanted to give specific items. 

  • Three families: gave $5, but also gave a little something along with it which included: a book, a puzzle, and a lollipop. 

  • One family: made cupcakes for the party

  • One family: gave $5 

Feedback: We only got feedback from one person, a friend, who said she LOVED the idea. We didn’t hear anything else on either side of the aisle.

Bottom Line: Will we do it again? Absolutely! My son was lucky enough to get enough money to be able to save some (an important money skill we value) and also get a zoo membership, which is something that we will be able to enjoy for an entire year. 

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3 years ago

Enjoyed the article. It’s a good idea. We’re in the same position, a little one with toys everywhere, grandparents constantly buying new things and a serious lack of space. We don’t want to dread birthdays, but the new influx of toys does that! We may well look at a fiver party next time.

3 years ago

I had never heard of this before such a wonderful idea.

Sharon Mullery
Sharon Mullery
3 years ago

I don’t like the idea. I think your starting point is wrong. I think you need to start with the number of ‘guests’. When my boys were small we started a number of guests rule. Once they had their own friends they could invite as many guests as their age so fourth birthday = 4 friends, fifth birthday = five, all the way up to about 13. This means you invite close friends not just aquaintances (or the whole class as some people do). Their close friends may change over the years but there’s usually a familiar core. I should… Read more »