Monday, May 9, 2016

How to Stock a Gift Closet On a Budget

FTC disclaimer:  This post contains affiliate links.

Several years ago, I began putting things back for gift giving occasions.  I hadn't heard the term "Gift Closet" or "Prize Closet" (as those who enter sweepstakes often call it.)  But I knew the concept.  I also knew our amount of money to be spent was next to nothing.

I started by shopping out of season sales.  I found so many wonderful gift items such as winter clothing perfect for Christmas.  Brand new, and I even found a sweater as low as one dollar.  Gloves, scarves, hats, and slippers often go down to almost nothing after Christmas.  End of summer season toys are great to add to your closet for any summer birthday parties your children get invited to next year.  Halloween candy that isn't in Halloween wrappings can be used for stockings.  I always think about how items on clearance can be used even if it's not the traditional way.  When toys go on clearance, these are great for birthday gifts, Christmas gifts, and even donations to charity when asked to donate something for a child.

Watch for free stuff.  This sounds cheap, but it doesn't need to be.  About twenty years ago, I was buying the cheapest cereal I could after coupons.  That often meant these were marketed at kids, and at that time, there were often small toys in the boxes.  I saved every toy one year and gave to a cousin's son in a box.  He gasped when he opened it and said, "It is just what I needed."  My cost was nothing, but he was thrilled.  Now, there's no longer toys in cereal, but the concept is still the same.  I know Walgreens often offers free 8x10 prints if you pick them up in store.  Add a photo frame and that makes a great gift.

Watch for codes on products.  While trinkets are no longer available in food boxes, that doesn't stop companies from wanting to offer freebies.  If there is a code on an item, it often means that you can enter it online to either save up for something free or to enter to win something.  I have gotten Shutterfly photo books, Amazon gift cards, t-shirts, coffee mugs, and more with saving codes.

Enter giveaways.  I especially enjoy entering blog giveaways to win items for my gift closet.  People truly do win in sweepstakes and contests, and why not you?  I have won everything from a bowl that keeps cereal dry until you put your spoonful in milk to gift cards to games from these types of promotions.

Earn gift certificates online.  I use Swagbucks as my regular search engine, and if I were to save my points and not cash them in on a regular basis, I would likely earn $50 a year in Amazon gift cards -- just for using a different search engine.   Ibotta earns you cash back on groceries.  A friend of mine saved her earnings until she had $100 and bought a bullet blender for her husband.

Watch at thrift stores and garage sales for items.  Most people think items here are always used, but that's sometimes not the case.  I've found new in box sealed items at both thrift shops and garage sales.  If you have an antique lover on your gift list, all the better.  I once found my aunt a copy of a magazine from the 1960s with a story about someone from our town of 1500.  She was so excited with it.  I paid 10 cents, and it was one of her favorite gifts.  Also, watch for unused rolls of gift wrap at thrift shops.  I once found packages of all occasion gift wrap for 10 cents each.  There were about 80 packages, so I'm set for any occasion as I buy Christmas wrap at 75%-90% off after Christmas in retail stores.  I often find new cards cheap during clearance sales, or at thrift stores or garage sales.  To store wrapping paper, ribbons, and bows I purchased a gift wrap storage organizer.  I picked this one because it was low cost, and it can hang.

Watch for bargain tins and baskets through the year.  Many times you can find Christmas tins at garage sales for 25 cents.  These are great if you bake your own goodies to give to others.  Baskets are fantastic to put together a collection of small related items.  One year, I watched for coupon deals online at places with free shipping, and then went through Rakuten to create the Ultimate teen girl's gift basket.  There was everything from snacks, hairbrushes, ponytail holders, earbuds, tons of nail polish, and anything else a teen girl would love to have in this gift.  It didn't look cheap because it was in a pretty basket with a bow,  even though it was a lot of stocking stuffer type items.

Watch for things that are nearly free after the initial outlay.  On Black Friday, the only stores I visit are pharmacies.  Walgreens and CVS are favorites because of their deals of "buy this, get purchase price back for your next shopping trip".  I often plan these stores into my Christmas budget.  There are rules as to how you can use the coupons you get back, but I have combined manufacture's coupons, store coupons, and these register coupons to get some fantastic items back.  I once got all the freebies and then used my register printouts to get a free digital photo frame.  (This was back when they were really pricey.)  You would be amazed what deals you might be able to put together.

Planning a Gift Closet or Prize Station takes time, but it is a huge money saver as well.  There are so many ways you can earn discounts, and it truly helps when you find out last minute you need a gift!

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