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A few weeks ago, a friend of mine found herself headed to a housewarming party on a last minute invite. She said she was running around trying to come up with a gift in ten minutes and how happy she was to have candles and wine tucked away in her “gift stash.”
This got me thinking about my own gift “stash” or “closet” and why everyone needs to have a gift closet of their own! It’s so convenient and saves you a bundle. How many of us have spent an exorbitant amount on a gift, simply because we were pressured to purchase something quickly?
We’ve all been there. Moms of kids and tweens know all about the last-minute birthdays, sleepovers and parties. While I try to encourage my girls (and myself) to give meaningfully, mindfully and practically, sometimes you find yourself with no time to make a craft or bake cookies. Suddenly you’re off to Target to grab something quick on the way to the party (plus paying too much for a gift bag and card to go with it!)
A well-stocked gift closet solves these problems, and allows you to give a thoughtful, beautifully wrapped gift every single time….without going over budget.
Here are a few guidelines for creating a gift closet of your own:
Make a List of Occasions
You probably already have a birthday list or calendar somewhere loaded with important dates for family and friends—anniversaries, graduations, birthdays. Make a list of all the possible times when you might need a gift. Do you have some bridal or baby showers on the horizon? Maybe your nephew’s approaching graduation?
Obviously, you can’t predict everything, so last-minute invitations happen (just like my friend with the housewarming party). Add a few occasions to your list to cover these “pop-up” celebrations—parties for your kid’s friends, housewarming parties, welcome gift for new neighbors, etc. Hostess gifts are always good to have on hand.
Once you have your list, copy it to your phone or put it in your family command center. This is a list you’ll want to have at the ready, so you can check it whenever you happen upon good deals.
Assemble Your Assets
Many of us already have a “gift stash” or closet in some form or another. Perhaps you just put extra items in your pantry or in the top of your closet. Pull them all out and assess what you already have on hand.
Go ahead and get creative! Go through gift cards, Swagbucks, Amazon gift cards, Inbox Dollars…any “free money” you already have that might be useful for purchasing gifts. You’ll probably end up with more than one item that might make a good gift itself, like a Groupon for a massage or mani/pedis. You’ll be surprised at all the good gifts you have on hand!
Bring out any homemade gifts you’ve crafted for gifting. If you’ve scored some flea market/thrift shop vases or baskets, add those to the mix. A vintage vase with some sweet flowers from the garden can make a beautiful gift (and costs virtually nothing).
If you’ve purchased extra items on sale, during Christmas, back-to-school or summer sales, add those to the mix as well. The great thing about having a gift closet is you have plenty of time to add extra thought and little inexpensive touches, which add so much more to the gift.
Take Inventory and Organize
Ok, so by now your gift list should contain an inventory of all the items you already have on hand. You may find by simply pairing gifts with recipients, and organizing and taking stock of your on-hand items, you already have a hefty gift closet ready to go! What a relief!
Your gift list inventory is going to be your go-to list when you’re out shopping, especially when you run into great deals. It doesn’t hurt to jot down notes on your gift list either—remember your mother-in-law LOVES anything with butterflies on it and your niece is size medium and “way into” music.
Your inventory can also help you plan your crafting and DIY endeavors. I know when I find a cute idea on Pinterest, I often mark it and then try to think, “Who can I make this for?” Add craft plans to your list, then you can keep your eye out for supplies.
You should also inventory all of the gift bags, cards, wrapping, bows, and baskets you have on hand. Baking some homemade bread is a lovely gift, but it becomes a showstopper when it’s in a festive bag, tied with a bow and given in a charming basket with a jar of homemade jam. Salt scrub is awesome, but in a bag with a bow and a handmade gift tag it becomes really special.
Pick an out of the way, but accessible storage spot, like under the bed in a bin, in the basement, in a storage closet, or any other convenient place. The idea is to have the items organized and inventoried, so you can find them and have them ready when the time comes to give! If your kids are on your list, pick a spot to store items where they won’t peek or accidentally stumble on their presents early.
Bows, ribbon and wrapping paper can be easily stored in bins or even in hanging closet organizers (like the kind you use to organize shoes). There are under-the-bed wrapping paper bins, but you can also do just as well by rolling them up and taping a piece of paper around each to hold the wrapping together. Stack baskets and boxes inside one another and fold bags flat in a file folder.
Is your closet totally stocked? If not, keep your eyes open for great deals and unconventional gifts while you’re out and about. You’d be surprised at how many garage sales, rummages and thrift sales offer literally “new with tags” items—even in the package! I’ve found games, books, puzzles and craft kits for under a dollar—brand new!
My favorite time of year to find great deals on gifts is definitely November & December–I make a habit of checking the Amazon Deal of the Day page every morning, just to see what I can add to the stash!
Another smart habit is to stock up on school supplies (colored pencils, pens and crayons) during back-to-school sales. Coupled with some coloring books or art paper you find on clearance at Michaels or Hobby Lobby can make a great kids’ birthday gifts for nearly zero. The trick is in the planning.
Keep your eye on clearance racks and shop smart. Those baby clothes might be adorable, but if you don’t have any babies on the horizon (according to your gift list), maybe hold off. Avoid trendy or dated items and look for quality, universally appealing and classic gifts. Candles, frames, vases and pretty bowls and tea towels make lovely hostess gifts. Buy your home team’s logo gear after the season is over and you’ll have it ready for next year’s pre-season birthday party. Same goes for summer items—they’ll be cheap in the fall, but the recipients will be excited to use them in the spring!
During your inventory, you may have found you’re also low on wrapping supplies. First of all, get creative and think of ways to save on wrapping paper. You can use maps, newsprint, or craft paper to create lovely packaging for your gifts. Put items in baskets, boxes, or mason jars to add charm. Stock up on ribbon, twine and other accessories you find on sale. After Easter, “basket grass” is often priced to sell and it makes great filler for gift baskets later on.
Right after Christmas, you can find huge rolls of wrapping paper and solid colored bags and boxes. Stock up! Even red and green won’t look like Christmas in July when you add a cute piece of floral tissue. Metallic items are always good choices. You can really soften their sharpness when you add black, pastels or jewel tones.
I love to make cards from photos, which cost almost nothing to put together and look SO personal. If arts and crafts aren’t your thing, you can find clearance cards after nearly every season. When you run across a funny birthday card or greeting capturing the sentiment you’d like to send to your mom, pick it up and mark it off your list! Many stores have .99 card racks and the Dollar Tree has plain and blank cards packaged for just a few cents apiece. It’s really about the message you write inside anyway, right?
The whole idea of a gift closet is to help you save by being prepared for any festivities or invitations life brings your way. It can be a HUGE time and money saver and by simply organizing your closet (or cupboard, wherever), you may find you have quite a few gifty items already on hand.