Ever since I was little, my family had a gift closet — a place where you could keep potential gifts throughout the year. I use one even today. It's one of the many holiday shopping tips I recommend to all my friends.

10 Smart Shopping Tips for Every Holiday. Holiday gifts don't have to break the bank. Check out these smart holiday shopping tips to knock gift-buying season out of the park. #holiday #budget #savingtipsIf you're like me and you shop for holiday gifts all year long, you can save this space to store those gifts, in addition to any other presents you might want to give for birthdays, holidays, and everything in between.

I love buying holiday gifts for my friends and family, but I normally have a tiny budget. This is where purchasing presents ahead of time comes in handy. There’s nothing better than getting friends gifts that they’ll love while saving money. 

A gift doesn’t have to be expensive to be meaningful. If you spend a lot of time thinking about a person, you may be able to find something they will really love at an affordable price. We can feel pressured to buy certain things or spend lots of money on gifts. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

A thoughtful gift — perhaps something you make yourself — can mean so much to a real friend, even if you don’t spend much actual money.

Here are 10 additional holiday shopping tips to help you be a smart gift buyer:

holiday shopping tips: clearance sales1. Check Clearance Sections

Always check the sale section of your favorite stores. One of my favorite finds was in the clearance section at Office Max. It’s not really the first place you think of when buying a present for your best friends, right? But it was offering a huge selection of books and journals that were all at least 60 percent off.

I know most of my friends enjoy keeping a scrapbook, so I bought several of them along with other decorations. As a consequence of buying in bulk, I still have a few journals lying around I can give to other friends as gifts. 

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holiday shopping tips: go thrifting2. Go Thrifting

I’m the first to understand that buying your friend a secondhand present isn’t ideal, but keep an open mind and don’t miss out on any awesome savings you could get during your next visit to a thrift shop. Sometimes, the clothes are brand-new and still have the tags on them.

If you spot something that you know one of your friends or family members would appreciate and it’s a new item, go ahead and add it to your gift closet. Similarly, if you find a rare, vintage band tee for an artist a friend likes, they might enjoy having an old-school collector’s item in their wardrobe.

No one ever has to know you bought it secondhand, unless you want to brag about paying 35 cents for the awesome new shirt you got your BFF for her birthday. Garage or yard sales are also great places to look for unlikely gifts.

3. Find Affordable Home Decor

If you and your friends are renting, you probably don’t have the time, inclination, or funds to decorate your abodes.  Though taste may factor into it, consider niche stuff that your friends are into.

Does your best friend love Star Wars? You can find some amazing affordable artwork on Tumblr, Etsy, or Instagram that they will go gaga over. Buy it, slap it in a frame, and you’ve just given a thoughtful, personalized gift. And you’re supporting small artists, so it’s a win-win.

4. Make a Scrapbook

It costs a couple of bucks from the local craft store, and maybe a few dollars in printing, but there are few things more meaningful — or cost-effective — than scrapbooking.

Grab that ticket stub from the first movie you saw together that you kept for some reason, add references to your shared favorite TV shows and films, plus some candid photos of you together, and voilà — a gift that you can prepare months in advance of the holiday season.

5. Bake!

Imagine your loved one slaving over a hot stove to give you homemade loveliness in the form of bread, cupcakes, cookies, pies — you name it.

You might have some of the ingredients at home already, and following a recipe to create something from scratch is quite a wholesome feeling.

Not to mention, you’ll get to enjoy delicious treats together once the baking is done!

6. Build Small Gift Baskets

Hit up stores like Flying Tiger or Target and build a basket of random tchotchkes as your gift. Stationery, novelty egg holders, kitschy homeware, all snuggled together in a wicker basket of joy that anyone will surely love. Who doesn’t love affordable knickknacks?

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7. Make Mix CDs or Playlists

You’ll have to know your audience very well to take advantage of this holiday shopping tip. Picking songs that you enjoy, but that your gift recipient will like, too, is a challenge. That’s why there’s so much meaning to it. And if the recipient doesn’t have a CD player, create a playlist on Spotify. It’s the thought that counts, right? 

8. Get Some Board Games

You can buy cheap old games at your local thrift store or on clearance, but it’s not about the price. Board games bring people together, and giving a game  — with the promise to spend time and play it with the recipient — is worth more than the 75 cents you may have spent on it. 

9. Show the Pets Some Love

Listen, we all know that your friends and family prefer their pets to you anyway, so why not put together a doggy or kitty treat box for their furry children? It’ll win you some serious brownie points for pampering their precious pets.

10. Spruce Up the Presentation

Remember: It’s less about what you buy than it is about the thought behind it, and more importantly, how you present it. Dressing up even the simplest or cheapest things can make all the difference when you give a gift.

Want to get your dad socks and underwear? Put it in a fancy box with his favorite beer or candy and some nice wrapping paper. Make your mom a piece of jewelry and dress up that tiny cardboard box with ribbon! The possibilities are endless.

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Bonus Holiday Shopping Tips

  • Make sure you’re getting a really good deal — at least 50 percent off the retail price.
  • Don’t buy an item if you don’t know anyone who would like it. (This is super important.)
  • Always remember to check your gift closet before you go out and purchase a gift.
  • Be on the lookout for good deals on wrapping paper and supplies. We get the cutest gift bags at the dollar store!

It is a great feeling to give gifts. It’s an even better feeling to give ones that you got for a fabulous price.

Additional reporting by Kelly Meehan Brown.