A creative gift for a tween birthday

The Tween Shoebox Birthday Gift

by Alicia Z. Klepeis

Related Articles

Fun, Inexpensive Gift Wrap

Gift Ideas for Teen Girls

The Birthday Box

With the start of the school year comes the gift-giving season, or so it seems. Just when you think your budget cannot be stretched any tighter, it arrives in Jimmy's backpack: the first of this year's birthday party invitations. Now there will always be the parents who believe that unless the gift is expensive and wrapped in store-bought wrapping paper with a store-bought card, there has been a crime committed. Luckily, there are the rest of us who know better than that.

Where do you start? My idea for the birthday in a shoebox came out of necessity when my tween daughter wanted just the right, cool-enough gift for a friend of hers. Had it been her best friend, she would have been happy to decorate a pillowcase with fabric markers, fill a Mason jar with penny candy, or even make stationery. However, in this case, there was a clear "keep up with the Joneses" feeling in the air.

I asked my daughter what her friend was interested in. When American Girl® and iTunes® cards were mentioned, I knew it was time to take action. Since school had just started, I still had several sized shoeboxes on hand. "What kinds of things," I asked, "could you fit in this box for Katie? Jot down any ideas you can think of." Upon reflection, the list included the following:

  • art supplies
  • nail polish
  • shower gel
  • ponytail holders/clips
  • notebook
  • lip balm
  • window decals
  • gum/candy
  • jewelry
  • candles
  • DVD
  • cards/paper
  • stickers
  • bubble bath
  • hot cocoa packets
  • magnets

Because we keep a gift box in my closet, we always start "shopping" at home. When there are sales on markers or crayons, I grab a couple of packs. Hair accessories? Ditto. My daughter took a couple of items and placed them in the shoebox. Not too bad for an inexpensive start.

I soon found out that Katie loves chewing gum. After digging through my coupon file and scanning the sale prices at our local drugstore, we had a few different fun flavors of gum to add to the box. And Wegman's, the big grocery store in our area, has an international food section. Nothing thrills a kid (or an adult) more than getting some candy, chips, or a bottle of soda from another country. $1.29 might buy a candy bar from Britain or a strawberry soda from Latin America.

To my surprise, my daughter got into the spirit of the hunt. She scored a coupon for some nice-smelling body wash and found a three-pack of lip balms on sale. Before we'd spent much money at all, the shoebox was full, wrapped in aluminum foil with crazy colored ribbons we'd saved, and a $.50 birthday card from a dollar store to finish things off. (Well, that was my concession to pleasing a tween-aged girl.)

How did the birthday shoebox work out? It was a big hit and Katie loved it. Whew… mission accomplished. If you are shopping for another age group, the same idea can apply. All you do is vary the contents a little. You might want to include bath toys, sidewalk chalk, Matchbox® cars, etc. You're only limited by your imagination…and the size of the shoebox. Know anyone who has a baby with size 3 feet?

Take the Next Step:

Share your thoughts about this article with the editor.

Stay Connected with TDS


It's tough raising kids today!

Dollar Stretcher for Parents is a weekly newsletter designed just for parents that will help save your family both time and money.

Little Luxuries

And get a copy
of our ebook
Little Luxuries:
130 Ways to Live Better...For Less
for FREE!

Your Email:

View the TDS Privacy Policy.

Get Out of Debt