By Sarah Lorge Butler for CBS MoneyWatch.com
By May 1, my friend Annie will have either attended, or dropped her boys off at, nine birthday parties this year. Nine afternoons watching 4- and 5-year-olds pin the tail on the favorite animal of the birthday child and bludgeon each other trying to crack open piñatas. And that's at the survivable parties, the ones parents give for their kids at home.
Annie's not complaining - she's too sweet for that, which is probably why she and her popular kids keep getting invited to all these parties - but if it were me, I'd demand a margarita, a bottle of Advil, and a stipend to pay for all those gifts.
Annie, I hate to break it to you, but if this keeps up, your kids will go to 27 birthday parties in 2010. She tells me she aims to spend about $20 per gift, more like $30 if it's a close friend or both her older boys attend. So at this rate, she'll shell out at least $500 this year for gifts, not including wrapping paper and cards.