Minimalism, Resource Guides, Zero Waste Living

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

Updated February 23, 2023. Originally published October, 2019.

When my son turned four, we threw him his first “friends” focused birthday party (which also was his last until fall of 2021, because, COVID).

His first birthday was mostly for my husband and I are parents, to celebrate 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 asked us for gift ideas. 

But four. Four included 11 other friends (and would have been more but we were restricted by our venue) PLUS family.

When it comes to gift receiving, especially as an eco-minimalist raising kids, it can be challenging to know how to navigate. Is it rude to talk about gifts? Can I specify something about gifts on the party invitation? How do I graciously say “no gifts, please?”

Basically: how can I ensure that I don’t lose my mind, clutter up my house, and make it all about the ‘things’?

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.

Luckily, there is a solution. And that solution comes in the form of a fiver party. It’s a win-win. Let me explain.

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. Maybe you just want to know how throw a fiver party.

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.

Contents hide

What is a fiver party?

A fiver party is basically a party where gift giving is common – like 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 in an invitation. GASP.

I’m encouraging you to keep an open mind if you’re starting to feel resistance, and to keep reading. If you’re feeling incredibly giddy, also keep reading.

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 (as the person being celebrated) or the gift receiver would prefer a specific type of gift if someone feels inclined to do so. Usually, this piece is mentioned on the party invitation, or if someone asks for gift ideas.

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 decided to not throw a fiver party.

Again, the main difference is in the fiver party 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 idea.

When it comes to explaining a fiver party to various groups of people, in my personal opinion, the key is honest, consistent, and open communication. Most people are genuine in their gift giving, and do really want to gift something the recipient is going to enjoy.

What do I mean by that? Well, if you send out fiver party invites that specify that your kiddo doesn’t need any gifts, but if the person is adamant, they can give $5 to go towards ‘x’ toy your kiddo is saving up for.

Once those invites go out, that message needs to stay consistent.

You’ll likely have people email, text, or call you asking for gift ideas (yes, even if the fiver party text is on the invite). If you tell the people who ask one-on-one something different than the fiver party text you had on the invite, the whole thing is likely not going to work.

Consistent. Honest. Open.

Here is a guide to explaining what exactly it is to the different groups of people you may come into contact with.

How to explain a fiver party to guests

A simple explanation on the invitation is all that is needed (see verbiage guide below). It basically is an explanation of what you are requesting, which, in this case, is $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). 

If people ask for more information, you can list some of the benefits of a fiver party off which I share below. For example, teaching the kid the value of money, saving, donating, less clutter focusing on spending time with family and friends vs the birthday focus being solely on gifts, etc.

How to explain a fiver party to your family/partner

In my case, 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).

At that time (and still to this day), we’re both trying to actively keep the number of toys in our house down. Luckily, he was totally on board.

If you’re coming up with resistance, talk about the benefits of hosting a fiver party (mentioned briefly above, and more in depth 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!

Related: How to live zero waste and be a minimalist when your partner isn’t

How to explain a fiver party to kids (yours)

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, we had that advantage going into the party.

Three years later, that may be a different story. As he is getting older, we would first casually broach the subject of having a fiver party and some of the advantages. We would have to have a lot of conversations ahead of time to make sure we were all on the same page and had the same expectations going into the party.

Knowing my son, I think we would likely focus on saving for one bigger ticket item, as he has demonstrated that he is OK with saving money for something he really wants.

I’ve even heard of some parents/guardians offering to contribute any remaining cost for the ‘big ticket item’, which seems to be pretty motivating for some kids.

One the other hand, if you’re in the situation where the kiddo has NOT experienced a present filled birthday party, you can talk to them about the fact that friends might (notice we did not say he would for sure be getting gifts) want to get them a gift for their birthday.

This is the way we went with our son. Since he was only four, we 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 personally think this is an important piece, because it lessens the impact of NOT getting a ton of gifts. 

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

Is a fiver party right for my kids birthday?

The answer to this question is going to be kid and family dependent. If your family values experiences vs things, and/or spending time over “stuff”, then a fiver party could be a good fit.

If you’re actively working to declutter for whatever reason, a fiver party could be a good fit.

If you are concerned about the environmental impact of items and consuming, yep, you guessed it, a fiver party may be a good fit.

Or, if you just want to simplify, the party, your life, whatever, a fiver party may be a good fit.

The last and arguably the most importance piece in determining if a fiver party is right for you, is flexibility and managing expectations.

It is likely (especially for the first time) that not everyone will comply with the fiver party rules. You can’t control what other people are going to do, only suggest. Flexibility is key here. If you have expectations that everyone will comply and think you may have a hard time being flexible in navigating that, a fiver party may not be a good fit.

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 consumption = a healthier planet.

Three cheers for 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). 

Three cheers for less clutter!

Kids get overwhelmed with gifts and too much stuff

There is a ton of research ‘out there’ that highlights how kids benefit from having less stuff. I won’t get into the details here, but if you do an Ecosia search for ‘kids and too many toys’ you’ll find a ton of articles.

The TL:DR is this: studies show kids can concentrate longer, get less overwhelmed, and are more successful in skill development when they have less ‘stuff’. 

Less stress/anxiety for attendees

For some, opening an invite to a fiver party and seeing the wording “no gifts or $5” (obviously paraphrasing there) can be a huge source of relief.

Giving them an easy option ($5) or the option to opt out all together gracefully, 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 not attending or trying to come up with something to give. 

Encourages positive money habits

Receiving a bunch of cash is a great way to teach kids positive money saving and spending habits. When we had the fiver party for my son, we are had him save half, and the other half went towards a zoo membership (which we got to use for approximately three months before COVID shut down the world). My husband and I covered the remaining cost of the membership as part of his birthday gift.

An opportunity to teach about giving back

A fiver party is a great way to collect money for a donation in leu of gifts, and teach kids the importance of giving back. Maybe the ‘big ticket item’ you put on the fiver party invite is actually a donation to the birthday person’s favorite charity (as just one example).

Put the value on time spent with friends and loved ones vs gifts

As I mentioned above, a fiver party is a great way to put emphasis on spending time with friends and family versus making a party all about gifts. Remember: communication is necessary here so there are no (negative) surprises. 

Reduce that mental clutter! 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 talking about this (somewhat controversial topic – more on that below).

The reality is (and if you’re trying to live with less, sustainably, 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).

In that case, you need to do something with said item (preferably responsibly).

By specifying a specific item in the fiver party invite, you run less risk of getting something that doesn’t fit your family.

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

Are fiver parties tacky?

Here we go, the million dollar question. 

If you can’t tell, I am biased. I personally don’t think they are tacky. I think they are brilliant, actually. But, the concept also falls in line with my family’s values. Additionally, as you may also have guessed, I’m not offended by the topic of gift giving or talking about gift giving. I also think the conversation around money needs to be less taboo, but that’s a whole separate post.

AND, I also know that some people are likely horrified by the idea that I would even CONSIDER throwing a fiver party.

I’ve seen “conversations” (as much as a conversation that one can have in the comments section on social media) on Facebook and Instagram around fiver parties. People are either in the “heck yes!” camp, or the “OMG HECK NO” camp. There isn’t really an in between.

The two biggest concerns I’ve seen come up are:

  • that people would be concerned they would offend someone by throwing a fiver party
  • or it would appear (or that it was) tacky to specify and/or make it seem like you are expecting a gift. 

Here are the ways I would respond:

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. I’m going to guess you’re not going to say something like: “you must come with a gift and it has to be x, y, z”

It’s no different than having a birthday gift wish list. I said it earlier, but I’ll say it again: most people genuinely want to give a gift that the recipient will love and use. If they aren’t sure what that item is, they’ll ask. Instead of them having to ask, they’ll already have their answer.

People don’t have to follow it. This is perhaps one of the most importance pieces. A fiver party is a request for something specific. People don’t have to follow it!

And in the case of the fiver party we threw my son, not everyone did. By the end of it, we had a mix of people who did an didn’t. Did we have hard feelings because of that? No, we were grateful regardless.

What to do if you’re worried your kid will be disappointed (hint: communication is key)

Ah, yes, that old “c” word that can be so challenging. But I’m going to keep repeating it.

Having an honest conversation beforehand is KEY. And not just once. Talk about it over and over to ensure that there are no surprises.

But what if you talk about it ad nauseum, and you still end up with a disappointed kid?

First, show yourself some compassion. So many times as parents, we do what we think is best, and it doesn’t always turn out that way.

If your kid does end up being disappointed, listen to how they are feeling and why. Let them feel and express their emotions. Validate them.

Eventually, you could consider talking about other parts of the party that were really fun (not in a ‘gaslight-y’ type of way, just as alternatives). From there, you could start to talk about what was learned from the experience, and how to move forward next time.

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 positive things we have in our lives. 

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. 

Finally, 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. 

Fiver party invite wording example #1

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. If you prefer physical copies, you can find eco-friendly options in this post, or Etsy has fiver invite templates if you’re interested in getting something pre-worded. 

The way I structured the invite was to first list what it was and who it was for, then a blurb with details about the party, and the fiver party wording was at the very bottom.

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). 

Fiver party invite wording example #2

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).”

Fiver party invite wording example #3

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). 

The results of our fiver party

So, how did our fiver party go?

I think for the first time throwing one, 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 of who did and didn’t follow the fiver rules (again – it’s all fine, no hard feelings, just sharing our experience):

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 vs just money.

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

One family: made cupcakes for the party as their gift (which was AMAZING)

One family: gave $5 with a homemade card

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 got to enjoy for a few months (still worth it) because of the pandemic.

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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 »