Benefits of Shopping Ahead and Having a Gift Closet

One of the biggest ways I save money is by buying items ahead of time while they are on sale, usually for 75% off or more.  I do it with groceries, clothing, toys and gifts.  Since, the Target Toy Clearance will be starting soon, it makes for a great opportunity to start a gift closet.   I am sharing some of the benefits I have found by shopping ahead of time for toys and gifts.

Saves Money

One of the biggest reasons to shop ahead of time, is that it can save you money.  I have 4 boys, and ALL of them have been HUGE Lego fans.  If I went out and paid full price (or even a sale price) for a Lego set I would be spending a ton of money on Lego’s.  I have been able to find Lego sets for 75% off, so I am able to spend LESS money on their birthday and Christmas gifts.

An important point to make here, is that just because you bought something on sale, it doesn’t mean you have to buy more. Some people have the mindset that they “have” to spend a certain amount of money on a gift.  If you buy more, you aren’t really saving any money, you are just getting more.  Kids don’t really need more!  I prefer to give them a nice quality gift and stick with that. We actually only give our children one gift for Christmas. Yes, you read that right, just ONE GIFT from Mom and Dad!  They also get a gift delivered from Santa, and a gift from each of their siblings too, so they end up with more than one gift on Christmas morning.

By purchasing items ahead of time, it saves me money that I can use on other important things, like family vacations, groceries, charitable donations, and even super fun stuff like braces for my children.

Saves Time

If you do clearance shopping every time you head to the store, you are bound to find some great deals sooner or later.   When you have a stockpile of gifts at home, you won’t have to run to the store every time your child get’s invited to a birthday party.   It’s quicker and easier to run out to the garage to grab an item than it is to run to the store searching for a gift.

This also is a huge time saver at Christmas time!  With the majority of my Christmas shopping done I can spend more quality time with my family enjoying the things that Christmas is really all about.  I don’t have to spend the majority of the Christmas season running around trying to find the perfect gift.

Allows for Generosity

I have fond memories of going to the mall with my Mom at Christmas time and choosing a name off  “The Giving Tree”.  Both my sister and I would get to choose the item for the children that we selected.   We did this every year!  I still remember the item I bought when I finally purchased my first Giving Tree item with my very own money – it was a Cabbage Patch doll!

I wanted to do the same thing with my children that my Mom did with me and my sister.   Money was a lot tighter during our first years of marriage, but I still thought it was important to teach our children to be generous.  So, I did same thing that my Mom did with The Giving Tree, only I did it in reverse.  I would purchase items at 75% off and save them in a bin at home.  When Christmas would come around, me and the kids would see what toys we had and then go find a name on the tree that would be a great match for the gifts we had at home.

At the end of the year, I also like to go through the gift closet and anything that I don’t already have plans for can be donated to Toys for Toys or given to a family in need.   Shopping this way has allowed our family to be more generous than we would be able to if we just bought the gifts when they were needed.

Helps Others

My family knows that if they ever need a gift for a birthday, they can come to me.  My sister has 3 kids, both her and her husband have their own businesses, so there is not a lot of time left in her schedule for gift shopping.   She can call me up and let me know what type of party she is going to, and I can usually help her with a gift that I have bought previously.   Plus, it is usually 75% of the cost she would have paid at the store!  If you have the time, money and space to create a gift closet, let it work for others too!  Everyone loves to save a little time and money.

Tips for buying ahead:

  • NEVER go in to debt to purchase gifts ahead of time (or anytime)!   You aren’t saving money if you are incurring interest charges.
  • Make sure the item is worth the money. Just because an item is 75% off, it doesn’t automatically make it a great deal. I always check reviews on Amazon, if something I bought didn’t get great reviews, I return it.
  • Stay away from “themed” merchandise that may only be around for a year or less. I am not talking about classic items, like Star Wars, or Sesame Street.  When you have a gift closet, things may stay there awhile before you have the chance to give them to someone. Find items that will be popular gifts at any time.
  • Buy the classics like Lego’s, Playmobil, or other brands you personally love.
  • Make sure you have the room to store the gifts. I now have a closet in my garage, but I have previously kept the gifts in a Rubbermaid storage tote.
  • Make a list of what you have.  It’s so easy to forget that you already bought a gift for your someone, and you end up buying another.
  • Set a price point for yourself.  For instance if I am buying ahead, I always aim for items that are 75% off.  I will go 50% off for certain Lego’s, but I never pay more than that.  I always know that if I miss out on one thing, another great deal will always come around.

Let’s hear your thoughts on buying ahead of time and having a gift closet.   I’d love to hear if you do the same thing, where you store your items, or let us about your favorite find.

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  1. says

    This is great advice! My husband and I are DINKS but we have a tight knit extended family living close by and there is at least one birthday or holiday to buy gifts for every month. I can’t imagine what it’s going to be like when we have our own children!

    I usually wait to do my Christmas shopping until Black Friday…but I might start early this year and start stockpiling gifts I know friends and family will like. Thanks for the tip! :)

  2. says

    I have been doing this for years and it’s saved me many times! When my kids get invited to a birthday party, we go to the closet and “shop’ for the perfect gift. I always hit the clearance toy racks after Christmas. Many of the gift sets can still be found and are great gifts all year!

  3. says

    While I do think saving money is a great thing, I’ll be the lone dissenter in the idea that you should buy toys on clearance and then give them to kids for birthdays and such. I’m all for buying stuff on clearance and donating to Toys for Tots or the like but how on earth do I know what a child in my son’s class NEXT YEAR will like from the Target clearance in january? Plus–if you’re shopping now for a party you’ve not been invited to in November & you give a gift from your stash, that person cannot return it if they have duplicates or don’t like it or whatever. I know this opinion isn’t shared by many but I really think it’s kind of tacky to give someone a gift when you didn’t shop for that person specifically.

    That said, if I KNOW FOR SURE that a certain clearance item would be liked by my nephew or my son, then yes, I will purchase it. But I never just buy random clearance toys just to put in a stash for “someday”.

  4. says

    The other thing tip that I would add (something that I JUST came up with for ourselves) is to take a photo of each gift as it enters the house and keep a “catalog” on your computer. Our gifts tub is located in the basement of our apartment building (which can be a pain to try to get to when you’re the only adult home and the kid is napping for instance) so at least this way I can see what I have and decide if any of the gifts in my stash will work for the recipient without leaving the apt. Also a great idea for cold winter days when bundling up to make an additional trip to the garage is less than appealing. Once I give an item I just delete the photo!

  5. says

    @Dorothy Thanks for sharing some valid points. That is one of the reason why I buy “classic” toys that never go out of style. If my son gets invited to a birthday party, my gift of choice would be a Lego or Playmobil set anyway. Both of these brands are favorites in our house and they are well received by others. I would much rather buy a $20 Lego set and pay only $5 for it, than buy his friend a $5 Lego set when his actual birthday comes around.

    Also, if I don’t have a gift in the closet that will work for a certain child I will go out and buy something. It’s just nice having some items on hand that I know will work no matter who they are for.

  6. Amy W. says

    We have a gift closet, mom taught me that one early, and like you I donate to the local children’s hospital every Christmas things that don’t have a set purpose. (After all it’ll be refilled in Jan when all the toys go on sale.) I also do this with school supplies. Back to school sales are on now, so stock up… but after school starts things like back packs & lunch boxes, and other school supplies, will go on these steep 75%-90% discount so I’ll buy a few then let the munchkins pick the next fall and donate the rest. I hate having to pay $3 for a composition notebook in March when I could have grabbed an extra for $.25 in Sept.

  7. Amy W. says

    @Dorothy- When ever my kids get something they don’t like/can’t return I let them swap it out for something in the gift closet. Then if it’s still there in Dec it’ll get donated to the children’s hospital (Toys 4 Tots, etc) I know they’ll find a child who would love it even if mine doesn’t.

  8. Lyne Blodgett says

    Have to admit that I’m with Dorothy – I don’t buy in advance even classic things because not all parents allow their children to have certain themed things either…even if I find that theme harmless. I also have limited storage space to accumulate things I may someday need.

  9. melissa says

    To each his own…. Personally I clearance shop whenever possible for future gifts, my home, donations etc. I’ve gotten better about not going overboard with multiples unless I have a specific purpose (ie: clothes for the shelter).

    Someone commented that gifts bought so far ahead cannot be returned leaving the receiver in a bind. My thought, be grateful for the gift – if they can’t use it or don’t want it maybe they’ll regift it to someone else. This happens more than you know :)

  10. Kristoffer says

    Excellent advise, especially on the two points of ‘not buying more’ and ‘clearance doesn’t mean its a great deal’. Many times I have bought something at a great price, got online and looked a reviews and realized even at a cheap price it wasn’t worth it.

    At Christmas I would go out and buy more presents for people if I was gifting from my gift closet. For some reason I would feel guilty only spending 4.98 on someone even though it was a $20.00 item. I have slowly gotten out of that guilty feeling for the most part. I was also bad about buying duplicates just because of the savings. Why only buy one Yankee candle for 4 bucks when I can buy 15! I seriously have a closet full of clearance candles, Scent plug ins, etc

    Luckily I like to consider myself a slightly reformed clearance junkie now that times are tougher and money is tighter than normal… so I am not quite as bad as I used to be but I still have a thing for my candles!

  11. Kimberly N says

    I keep a stash of gifts in my bedroom closet. I am running low, and was hoping to re-stock soon. I’m glad you emphasized making sure the item is worth the money. It’s key not to get swept up in the excitement of a sale and get stuff you wouldn’t otherwise give a second glance. I didn’t know about the Target sale until this year, and have checked out the toys several times recently. What I discovered was that I’ve rarely bought toys at Target before, and even at 75% off there’s just not much there that interests me. I think I wrote down 6-8 possibilities, and after reading about them on Amazon, my list was down to 2. I don’t think I’ve been to Target twice in one week since before my son was born. I was definitely catching the clearance fever but I’m on the mend now :)

  12. Kristina says

    I’ve found in the last few years that I can only give gifts from my gift closet to my own kids (unless I donate. I do a lot of that with them too). Around my area it’s become very taboo to give gifts without a gift receipt. People actually talk very badly about the ones who give gifts without gift receipts. I’ve given up and just buy the gifts now when the kids have to go to a party and save the bargains for my kids.


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