January is picking up speed, and as we head into a new year, it’s a good idea to think forward to all the birthdays, anniversaries, and other special occasions that are headed our way. While you may be thinking, “I’m all partied out after the holidays, and gift-giving is pretty much the last thing on my mind right now,” those occasions are going to come, and some sooner than you might think. As the kids go back to school and the adults go back to work, life speeds up and it's easy to get caught in a bind gift-wise, so why not set yourself up with some backup in the form of a gift closet?
photo credit: Thrifty and Thriving
SWITCHING SEASONS = SAVINGS
Seasonal closeouts are a great opportunity to snag some nice items at a discount. It's a good move to try to stick with one-size-fits-all items (blankets, scarves, beach towels, picnic baskets, etc.) so you don't find yourself stuck with that one size 3XL shirt that doesn't quite suit anyone. Going gender-neutral is also your friend, although if you have a bunch of girlfriends or guy friends that you know would equally appreciate a certain gender-specific item, it might be a good pick.
DISCOUNT GIFT CARDS
Another neat idea is to go on eBay and see what's on offer in the gift cards arena-- sometimes you can get them for a significant percentage off (although make sure that the seller has a solid rating so you know the card you're getting is legit).
BUILD A BABY BASKET
If you have friends / relatives of the "new baby" age group, a handy tip is to make it a habit to pass by the baby and kids clearance section at Wal-Mart, Target, etc. and get items here and there to build into a gift basket / box (again, probably stay away from items that are size-specific since babies arrive in a variety of sizes).
GENERAL GIFTS FOR KIDS
Puzzles, blocks, educational toys, and many other items make great general gifts for kids. Do sure you're paying attention not only to the item's suggested age group, but also where it was manufactured, how sturdy it is, etc., especially for the little ones who might be putting things in their mouths. (Note: a particularly awesome stuffed animals brand is Gund, a great line of toys made in the USA famous for their softness, durability, and overall excellent quality).
THINGS TO AVOID
Purchasing fad items is kind of a risk; they can be a big hit if you've timed it expertly, but can also become an almost worthless investment of money and time later on (do a quick Google search on the Beanie Babies and Cabbage Patch Kids crazes and you'll see why). It's also probably best to opt out of purchasing something that will become outdated / expire if it sits on the shelf for a while (a DVD of a tv show that came out three years ago or a box of truffles that expired eight months ago don’t really make the best gifts).
Remember also that every item will take up space, so don’t get something just because it’s a good deal. Having too much stuff in the closet can actually be more stressful than helpful, especially if most of it has been there for years (and you certainly don't want to run up the credit card bills either), so if you find something at a great discount, make sure you weigh the savings against the likelihood that you’ll actually end up giving it to someone (and soon!).
DON'T FORGET THE CARD
Remember that if you're giving a gift, you're likely going to want to have a card to accompany it, so go ahead and stock up on cards too. While you can grab them pretty much anywhere, you can save a fair amount of money by swinging by your local dollar store for discounted cards (and yes, they even have some of the more complex ones with ribbons, glitter, etc.). While it's very helpful to have blank cards on hand that can work for any occasion, you can also get occasion-specific cards that you know will come up (birthdays, new babies, etc) so you're prepared. In this case, it's super helpful to have a card organizer-- you can make one out of a plastic ware container, a shoebox, or even buy one like this:
Everyone's gift closet will look different based on the age group(s) of their friends and families, if kids are part of the equation, and, of course, their own gift-giving tastes and preferences. The whole point is to be proactive so you can save some time, stress, and money in the long run, so keep that in mind as you're putting yours together. As long as the gift closet is organized and functional (i.e. it allows you to have LESS stress when you open it), you're doing great!