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Once your child starts getting invited to multiple birthday parties, you will find yourself cruising the aisles of the toy stores weekly, unless you come up with a plan for finding and buying inexpensive gifts.

The most critical detail is advance planning. Most birthday party invitations do not come as a surprise. You know that your kid's best friend or neighbor will be inviting you to a party soon. The absolute best way to save money on gifts is to stock up on them ahead of time, when they are on sale. Watch the Sunday newspaper supplements and mail-order catalogs for sales on popular items and then buy in bulk. This is especially important for popular toys and games which often go on sale. Other creative birthday party gifts that are inexpensive can include:

- Books - Check out book sales for popular children's titles at a fraction of the cost.

- Stationery - A cute box with a colorful marker is a great gift.

- Baking kit - Buy a cupcake tin and wrap with a box of chocolate cupcake mix, sprinkles and a mixing spoon.

- Movie tickets or video store tickets. Give a gift certificate with a package of microwave popcorn

- Gift certificates for ice-cream stores, mini-manicures, an hour of ice-skating or whatever the child is interested in.

- Arts& Crafts Kits - Rather than buying the expensive pre-packaged kits at toy stores, visit an art supply store and put together your own package from the clearance table.

- Encourage a budding gardener with a package of seed, terracotta pot and a watering can.

- How about a disposable camera and an inexpensive photo album?

- For a summer party gift, give a basket filled with bubbles, sidewalk chalk and a squirt gun.

- For a pre-teen glamour girl, fill a basket with nail polish, washable tatoos and hair accesories.

- Encourage reading with a subscription to a favorite magazine.

If you wait until the day of the birthday party to go shopping for the gift, you will almost always end up spending more money. Try and keep a stash of gits that you've purchased on sale in your closet or basement, so you always have something handy. Take the time to think creatively and you'll wind up giving a better gift and spending less money.