Instead of entering a mad, last-minute rush for birthday or holiday presents, keep a gift closet that you can pull from year-round! #CentSai #frugaltips #frugallifestyle #holidaytipsDuring the holiday season, the stress of finding the right gifts might be a weight on your shoulders and on your bank account. If it is, you’re not alone. In cases like that, a gift closet may be a great way for you to lessen the costs.

Consumers often expect to spend nearly $1,000 over the course of the holiday season, according to the National Retail Federation, which can be a significant financial burden for families. This brings with it all sorts of negative emotions and expectations that come during a time that should be more about family and friends than anything else.

Gifts may be a big part of the holiday season, but how are families supposed to afford a $1,000 hit to their budget, on top of any other financial surprises? What can you do to make sure that you don’t destroy your budget for a gift for your loved ones?

Thankfully, there are ways to afford gifts, while also maintaining your budget. Using a gift closet can help reduce stress and save you big.

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How a Gift Closet Helped Me

I have maintained a gift closet for years, and it has saved me thousands of dollars, not to mention the stress of paying full-price because of last-minute shopping.

A gift closet is a simple concept. It’s as easy as setting aside some space in your home (I’ve used a shelf in an armoire, a drawer or two in a dresser, and even a shelf in a closet).

When you come across a great deal on something that will make a great gift, snap it up and stash it in your gift closet.

Once a birthday or special occasion comes along, there’s no need for a trip to the store, and you certainly shouldn’t have to worry about cobbling together the funds for a gift. Just look at your gift closet and pick out something that the person will appreciate and enjoy.

Maintaining a gift closet makes presents easy, available, and affordable at a moment’s notice — but it requires a degree of personal financial discipline.

Given that you’re spreading your shopping over the year, you can stand to check the clearance aisle without the necessity to purchase something at the moment. Plus you can seek out gifts that are more expensive, wait until they’re on sale, and then pick them up.

Alternatively, you could keep checking stores throughout the year to see if there is anything your loved ones might like. With a gift closet, you don’t need to rush your shopping and compromise.

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Though you want to save by spreading your gift shopping costs across the entire year, you also want to be sure that you can get your friends and loved ones something they’ll enjoy. Ensure that you’re not just purchasing a gift because it’s on sale, but that it’s also a good fit for a specific friend or family member.

In short, a well-maintained gift closet lowers stress and your bottom line, while holding presents for everyone in your life. Here are five examples of situations in which my gift closet has saved me a headache:

1. Gifts for Children

You know how expensive it can become when your children start getting invited to birthday parties. Maybe I’m super cheap, but I never wanted to spend more than $10 or $15 on a present because there were so many birthday parties. I wanted to treat all the kids fairly to the best of my ability.

This is where the gift closet helped me the most. There have been so many times I have gotten nice presents from some awesome clearance racks for a fraction of the original cost.

I’ve also purchased brand-new, still-in-the-wrapping toys from garage sales — including one that would have cost $25 if I bought it at a store. No one ever knew that I only paid a buck.

In addition to toys, I’ve found books to be a great purchase. A brand-new hardcover children’s book can cost $15 or more. I regularly look at the clearance sections in bookstores and department stores and have snapped up award-winning children’s books for a dollar or two.

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2. Gifts for Your Coworkers

It isn’t a stretch to say that you probably don’t know your coworkers quite as well as you do your family and friends. Coming up with gifts that they’ll love can be much more difficult than checking the clearance section for interesting toys for kids.

If your office does Secret Santa, it can be even more difficult. How are you supposed to know what to get for a coworker you may not even be in the same department with?

A gift closet resolves these issues. If you already have inexpensive gifts stockpiled, you can get rid of all of the stress of gift buying. Just open up your closet, look for a present you think your coworker might enjoy. It doesn’t need to be expensive, and you don’t need to be close friends with your colleague to notice that a gift is right up their alley.

Quick suggestions might include scented candles, winter blankets, wine, a fancy pen, or a gift for their pet or child.

Plus, this means you won’t need to spend too much during the holiday season, which can help you preserve your budget when it might otherwise be slipping down the drain.

3. Gifts for Friends

Odds are that you know your friends pretty well. You know if they’re a sports fan, a lover of home decor, an outdoorsman, or interested in something else entirely. You know what they like, and you know it year-round.

But, if you know their interests years in advance, why not buy their gifts in advance?

If you notice something on sale that you know your friend will love, consider picking it up. You can store it in your gift closet and save it for the holidays, a party, or their birthday. When you decide to give it to your friend, you can be happy knowing your inexpensive gift was still thoughtful, personalized, and discounted.

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4. Housewarming Gifts

We all want to be able to bring a gift when someone moves into a new home or invites us over for dinner, but it’s hard to give something nice without spending $25 or more. Again, not in my budget.

That’s why, whenever I’m in a home decor store, I take the time to dig through their clearance racks. I’ve found nice candles, tea towels, and handy kitchen gadgets that make great hostess gifts. It’s so much fun to take an unexpected gift that you found a great deal on.

5. Other Holiday Gifts

Around the holidays, we have a ton of people we want to remember with a gift: teachers, doctors, the mail carrier, the garbage collectors, etc.

Shopping the day after Christmas is a jackpot that usually you don’t want to miss. Now, I’m not talking about risking life and limb for next year’s holiday gifts, but I am saying you can find the cutest things even after the crowds have died down.

One year, the department store near my house had an incredible amount of leftover Christmas decor and beautiful glass ornaments. I didn’t make it there until the 28th, but I still loaded up on all sorts of items. In fact, I still have a few things to give for next year!

My biggest mistake early on was buying things that were a great deal but really didn’t make the best gifts.

Those things ended up being given to Goodwill or became a part of my garage sales.

I’ve learned my lesson, so I’ve started buying things with specific people in mind, and now rarely end up with something I can’t gift.

The Bottom Line

You don’t need to spend thousands to show your loved ones you care. Just think about the holidays in advance, and you won’t be taking out too much debt at once.  Plus, if you do collect the gifts early, you don’t need to run around searching for cheap gifts, when you could be organizing an event or preparing a holiday meal.

Stocking and maintaining a gift closet is a simple and easy way to be generous to friends and save money — all at the same time.

Additional reporting by Lauren Shayo.

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