When my son turned 5 this year, I wanted to do something different when it came to birthday gifts. We really have very generous friends and family and they all really spoil him like crazy with more gifts than he can really process and way more than he really needs (trust me, our house is a toy store in itself!). In the previous years, we’ve asked for donations to various charities in lieu of gifts. That was fine, but I found that it took the fun and joy out of opening presents for him. We are really blessed with so much and there are so many others out there that cannot afford the simplest things. After much thought my husband and I decided this year was the year to start teaching our son a bit about the stewardship of money and about the world around him.
This is what we decided:
- we asked family and invitees to give $5 instead of a gift ($5 because he was turning 5)
- half of all the money given to him for his birthday was set aside for him to spend, save, and/or invest in whatever manner he chooses
- the other half, which my husband and I would match dollar to dollar amount, would be donated to a charity or organization of his choosing
We started telling him of the birthday gift plan a couple of months in advance to prepare him and to get him excited and thinking about the important decisions that need to be made with regards to his birthday money. And though he didn’t understand fully or clearly the entire process, he couldn’t wait to turn 5.
It’s been about a month since his birthday and he still hasn’t decided on what he wants to do with his portion of the birthday money, though we’ve made several trips to Toys-R-Us already. He’s also grasping the concept that things cost money and he can’t just have whatever he sees he likes on the toy shelf (like that $100 Lego set he keeps eyeing). I am amazed at his patience and his ability in not making a rash decision and buy impulsively the first thing he sees.
As for the other portion of the money, we’ve had to help narrow down the donation choices for him. We’ve talked to him about a few different options and it looks like we’re thinking about the Kiva organization (which allows you to loan money to entrepreneurs in developing countries and when the loan is repaid back to you, you can re-loan that money out again to another entrepreneur). Kiva is not like your typical charity, it’s lend-and-payback philosophy allows the giving to continue indefinitely. In this process of deciding how to spend the giving portion of the birthday money, it’s truly fulfilling to see my 5 year old show empathy to those in need as he, and we, become more conscious of the world around us.
I recently ran across a website called DreamBank with sort of the same concept. It’s a more refined structure than our little birthday moolah thing. You post a dream gift (a specific item or goal) and than people/family/friends can contribute money towards it, in lieu of an assortment of gifts that you may not need or want, via PayPal. Environmentally it helps cut down on the accumulation of unnecessary stuff. In addition, DreamBank will donate 10% of its revenues to selected charities. The only drawback is the fees involved: a cost of $2.25 per contribution and a 2.5% fee of your total dream fund when you cash out. I have yet to try out DreamBank and I don’t know the ins-and-outs of it, but the concept is intriguing.
What do you think about this concept of people contributing to one item/goal in lieu of presents? Are there other organizations or websites out there like DreamBank that you know of?