Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Frugal Friday - Do You Have a Gift Closet?

Do you have a gift closet? It doesn't have to be a whole closet - mine is really a couple of rubbermaid totes with freebies and gifts I've found and put away for holidays, birthdays and even rainy days! We used to spend a lot of money on children's birthdays. I like to give nice gifts that I think the recipient will enjoy and have fun with. I actually love the giving part of Christmas more than the receiving. I find a lot of joy in picking gifts for people and thinking about how much it will be loved. If I ever win the lottery (not that I ever play the lottery except when my sister-in-law calls me and reminds of a huge jackpot), I'll be in trouble! I always want to buy everything for everyone! But, of course, my budget tells me otherwise. So I started keeping a gift closet. It started when my son was born. Friends and family were more than generous in the gifts they gave...but as most moms know, sometimes babies don't get to use or wear everything that they receive. And new moms don't always have time to exchange and/or return gifts that are given. Instead of opening everything right away all the time, I put things aside so that there would be new things for him to use/wear another time. Sometimes we never got around to needing some items, so I started keeping a bin of baby gifts. It was mostly extra sets of bibs, binkies, onesies, things like that. It was so awesome to be invited to a baby shower and have some little extras to throw in with the gift I purchased. Eventually, I had another child of the opposite sex (pink was so fun after 3 years of blue!) and started collecting girl items, too. Then I started sale shopping and couponing...and learning of awesome deals I've never heard of. In January I hit the Target Toy Clearance at 75% off and stocked up my closet with a gift for every child whose birthday I could think of. Carrie at Money Saving Methods keeps a list in her purse all the time, with names and birthdays of family members she will need to buy for throughout the year and for Christmas. When she sees a great deal, she whips out her list and crosses them off. I am not this organized - yet- but this is a great way to stock up but not go crazy spending money on items you don't need just because it might make a nice gift. It's also nice because you are buying with a specific recipient in mind - after all, it is the thought that counts and I like to think just because a gift is inexpensive, I still put some thought into who I was purchasing for.
Here are some tips for starting a gift closet:
1. Go to CVS/Wags/Rite-Aid and get the bargains! Sometimes people don't want to buy things they don't use but those items might be great in a gift closet and much appreciated by someone as a gift...yes, it's unusual to give All or Tide as a birthday gift...but it would make a nice bridal shower gift, wrapped in a basket with a bunch of other free or nearly free items such as cleaning products, health & beauty items, etc. that may stock a newlywed's new home! Also, these items are great if there will be a wishing well at the shower! Watch these stores for their end-of-season and after the holiday markdowns - sometimes up to 90% off. Sometimes there are hidden deals that are not advertised - recently CVS marked their Essence of Beauty items down to 90% off in some stores. EOB Bathrobes and totes were selling for $1.50 to $3 each! Fill the tote with a robe, some free nail polish and body wash and you've got a really nice "pamper yourself" gift for a friend for under $10.

2. Watch for toy/clothing sales all year round. At the Target Toy clearance sale, I picked up items I could give my own children for Valentine's Day and in their Easter baskets. One less thing to add to my to-do list around those special days. Also, I picked a few items that I knew boys of 6 or 7 would like for any school-friend birthday parties my son might be invited to for the rest of the school year. This is such a nice alternative to running out at the last minute and spending $20 on a gift - it really adds up if you have a lot of birthday parties to attend. Also, it really helps to spend a little money each month instead of a lot of money all at once! And, I hear the Target Toy Clearance happens 2x a year - in January and in July (great time to start Christmas shopping!).
*Check out the Disney Store Online here if you need to shop for any Disney fanatics today...they are having a B1G1 on Adult graphic tees ($12.99 for 2) and they also have a tab on their site called $5.99 or less. They have some kid clothes and toys here!
*Stay tuned in to here or sign up for their email list - they often have B1G1 Children's dvd's with free shipping. We stocked up in October with 4 Thomas DVD's with Thomas trains for $$15.

*Amazon has some great Deals of the Day, Toy Deals of the Day, etc. Check out the Amazon "widget" in our sidebar that will feature daily toy deals. Click to go to Amazon and search for other items. We'll be featuring hot Amazon deals when they pop up as well.

3. Free Samples/Free Trial Offers - they make nice additions to gift bags! My family is always so generous at the holidays with gifts for our kiddos...but I have a serious Christmas budget - a certain dollar amount for each person we buy for that keeps me from overspending (as much as I'd like to pamper everyone for everything they do for us throughout the year). This year, thanks to free samples, I was able to pad everyone's "big" gift with fun little extras to go with it - like chocolates, coffee, little calendars, etc. Also, if you don't have a baby, sign up for baby freebies - they will be appreciated by any new moms. Extra bottles, formula coupons, sample bottles of baby shampoo and baby wash are nice "padding" for Welcome Baby gifts! Here are few free samples and free trials to get you started (for trial offers, don't forget to read the terms and call to cancel your trial membership within the specified time frame so you don't get charged):

Gevalia - Free baby stuff

Pampers Coupon

Free Baby Stuff from Planning Family


4. Free Magazine Subscriptions - These can't go in your closet but great free subsciptions pop up all the time - I currently receive Woman's Day, Shape, Self, More, Wonder Time and Family Fun for free. If you see one that a friend would like just before Christmas or when his/her birthday is coming up, think about signing them up instead of you! Keep in mind that it takes around 6-8 weeks for the subscription to start arriving (Oh Martha Stewart Living, where are you?) so for Christmas ordering, order about 6 weeks before. Next time you're grocery shopping, pick up one issue of the magazine to roll and tie with a ribbon with a little homemade gift card to anounce that the subscription will be coming!

Be Creative with your Gift Closet Ideas! Post suggestions here! I'd love some new ideas to add to the list!

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