It always seems that one of my kids’ birthdays is right around the corner, or someone is invited to another birthday party, or Christmas is coming in just a few short months. Since there’s usually something happening that requires a gift, I had to learn to money on these items as they took up a huge chunk of my budget.
Here is my strategy: I have a small storage closet in my basement that I have named The Gift Closet. When I’m shopping and I find an item discounted by at least 75%, I consider if it would be a good gift for any of our family members. If it’s the right price and I can see potential in giving it to someone in the future, I purchase it and store it in The Gift Closet!
The month following Christmas is one of the best times to stock a gift closet. Holiday merchandise is not all red and green with snowflakes! Last January, I found several Disney Princess items for 75% off (less than $5 each) and they did not look “Christmas like” at all.
I also find a ton of items at “Back to School time” when crayons, markers and other art supplies are on the cheap. For adults, I shop the semi-annual clearance sales at Bath & Body Works, The Body Shop and Victoria’s Secret and snap up full-size lotions and soaps priced at $2 or less each. If I have a high-value coupon for Kohl’s or JCPenney ( like $10 off $10) I buy something in advance. Everything I buy goes into the Gift Closet for future presents.
If you can’t afford the space to give up a closet for gifts, don’t worry! Pick up a few big plastic totes and label them by age. You could simply label Kids and Adults or you could get a few more and sort by Baby/Toddler, Pre-School, Elementary School, etc. Even if you just have one tote and you dump all your gifts into it, you’re ahead of the game and saving money!
If you play The Drugstore Game, you know that you can get some pretty nice free items at Walgreens, CVS and Rite Aid each week. Many of those finds are definitely gift-worthy, especially when grouped with other items! I can put together a lovely gift basket with free body wash, lotion and a $1 bath scrubber, and no one knows that the entire thing costs only as much as the basket and scrubber!
Personally, I like gifts that I can use – I do not need any more knicknacks or trinkets! Food is a great and much-loved gift. My dad truly loves and appreciates a gift bag filled with special snacks like peanuts, mixed nuts, candy, and cookies. These can all be cheap or free if you use coupons and watch for deals at websites like Common Sense with Money.
Shop The Dollar Store or Dollar Section
Sometimes my Dollar Tree has great items for gifts. I have found great cookbooks, kids books, calendars, coloring books, photo frames and other wonderful items that originally cost much more than $1. Remember, lots of dollar stores carry brand-name goods that were liquidated from other retailers. If you start looking, you might get lucky and find some great deals for a dollar.
The “One Spot” Dollar Shop at Target is another great place to find bargain gifts. You can even find this stuff on clearance for up to 75% off at different times throughout the year! Other stores with dollar sections include Michael’s and Toys R Us. Think creatively when you browse through Dollar Stores and dollar departments. Could you put a coloring book with markers and some bubbles into a cute beach bucket for the next toddler party you attend?
I also purchase all of my cards at Dollar Tree. Dollar Tree always has nice cards and they are 2 for $1.00. If I’m in a pinch I know I can find a decent selection of cards for $1 at most drugstores. I never pay more than $1 per card.
My kids also love to make cards for relatives and the recipients always love it! It is a double bonus – something homemade and free! Last year I bought a white piece of poster board for $.25 on sale, and the kids made a huge birthday card for their great grandma. Grandma loved it so much she cried, and the kids were so proud of themselves for making her such a wonderful keepsake.
Wrapping Paper and Gift Bags
I reuse gift bags! Most of the time these are in “like new” condition when my family receives a gift in them, so why not reuse them! After holidays I usually can pick up tissue paper, wrapping paper, and new gift bags for up to 90% off. A solid red or green gift bag can be used for any birthday! The kids have also painted or colored on plain paper bags to make a homemade a gift bag. The recipient really enjoys this as part of the gift too!
People really like homemade gifts. Even if you are not creative there are plenty of things you can still do. You can bake cookies for your child’s teacher, homemade sweet bread for a neighbor, or if you have an elderly person in your life could you help them out with yard work or another job.
Have your child make a special gift for Grandma and Grandpa, they will treasure it more than any store bought gift. If your child is small you could take a picture of him or her and frame it for an inexpensive gift!
My kids think it’s really special when I make them little “gift certificates” for part of their birthday present. Dinner of your choice! Special time with mom! Help mom bake cookies of your choice! Don’t underestimate the power of quality time, and giving kids the Independence to choose when they want to do something really special with you!
Affording Christmas and Holiday Expenses
A different way we make sure we have money set aside to pay for our holiday expenses is to open a “Christmas Club” account at our favorite credit union. We automatically put a small amount each paycheck into this account and it earns interest. I also put “found” money into this account. Rebate checks, cashed in change, etc. It is hard to believe that $5 to $10 can add up so quickly. I use this to purchase items like gift cards and take advantage of special deals that pop up around the holidays. I also sometimes find that my gift closet doesn’t have a gift for one or two people on my list. I use the Christmas Club account to pay for those presents.
Find Deals on Gift Cards
If you have a specific item on your list that can only be purchased at a specific store, you still might be able to save money! Did you know might be able to buy a discount gift card to that store? You can then turn around and give that card as a gift, or you could combine it with a store coupon to buy the item and maximize your savings!
Remember Birthday and Holiday shopping should be in your budget. You should spend what you are comfortable with and not feel pressure to buy if you do not have the money!
Readers, do you have any other tips for saving money on gifts? Please share your ideas in the comments!