It's all about reducing stuff, stress, and spending, which makes everyone happier at the end of the day.
There is a new trend in kids' birthday parties that is wonderfully minimalist in its philosophy. Instead of expecting guests to bring gifts, they are told to bring a small amount of cash to contribute to a single gift for the birthday kid. In the UK it's referred to as a "fiver" party; in Canada (where we're clearly more stingy) it's a "toonie" party, referring to our iconic $2 coins. (An article in Today's Parent refers to Canadian "two toonie" parties, but I can't say I've heard of those before.)
My kids have brought home a few of these toonie party invitations, and I have to say, as a parent, they feel like a breath of fresh air. Not only does it save a pile of money, but it's simple and fast. A trip to my wallet takes ten seconds, compared to the half-hour required to trek to the local toy store.
But the brilliance of the idea goes beyond making life easier for parents. It allows the birthday kid to choose a single present that they're actually going to love and use, which is a valuable lesson in minimalism. It shows a child that a single thoughtfully-chosen, high-quality item is a better investment than a heap of random, cheaper toys that have been given out of obligation.
Of course the most minimalist approach would be a no-gift party, which is something else I'm seeing more of (and loving). But this can be a hard sell for young kids who've grown up attending parties with heaps of presents and may wonder why they're excluded from the fun.
Plus, there are always those guests who feel they can't show up empty-handed and bring something anyways, which makes it awkward for the others who followed the directions. This is another reason why the fiver/toonie trend is a good one -- people are likely to follow along.
Keep this in mind the next time you're planning a birthday party for your kid and dreading the thought of an influx of unnecessary stuff into the house. A fiver or toonie party will make everyone happy at the end of the day!