I love giving gifts, which means I’m always on the lookout for things my people will love. As such, I have to keep a budget in mind, and I’ve found that, for me, the trick to getting the best deals is to shop thoughtfully, all year long.
I have bins where I keep the kid gifts hidden. During the year, I buy things I know they will love, leaving at least four or five gifts to buy closer to Christmas. I also use some of the presents in the bin for their birthdays, bribes, rewards, etc.
Shopping year-round takes the financial hit out of holiday giving. And I’ve always got something handy for birthdays, too. Here’s how I keep track of purchases throughout the year, avoid spending an astronomical amount of money, and (most importantly) keep everything hidden away.
Put together a tracking list on your phone.
Use a spreadsheet if you want to get fancy, or just list things by person. Even if you don’t use the “Want, Need, Wear, Read” method of gift giving, these four categories may be useful in your list making. I use them but don’t limit it to one item per category. I track gifts for my husband and my mom this way, too
The lists I keep include my kids’ current sizes. If I find a pair of shoes at a great price, I want to be sure to get their current size or the next size up. I do the same when shopping for seasonal clothing.
Know what you have.
Tracking everything has been especially helpful for me recently, as I have one child who is much easier to shop for than the other. My son loves all military toys, and I have found so many great deals on those at Ross, Walmart, and Tuesday Morning. My daughter is harder to shop for. She loves Roblox and has for years, so that feels like the safest bet when shopping early for her.
Keep longevity in mind. The key here is to choose things you’re sure they’ll still like by the time their birthday, Christmas or whichever gifting holiday you celebrate is coming up. Minecraft, Roblox, and military toys aren’t going to fade in interest for my children anytime soon. But my daughter’s obsession with Bluey may not last through Christmas.
Shop out of season and check those aisle end caps and clearance bins.
If your children wear uniforms, always check the clearance aisles. I have found many uniform clothes out of season in the clearance racks. Just be sure to size up. I have also found some cool character T-shirts to gift my kids from the clearance section.
One of my favorite tips for toddler parents is to shop the Halloween clearance section for costumes for dress-up play. We have found so many fun costumes at 70% to 90% off. Remember to size up!
Know where to search for deals.
I can almost always find toys my children will love at Ross, which surprised me initially. But searching through the mess of their toy shelves always delivers. The assortment is unpredictable, but I have scored big on Fortnite toys and art sets there many times. Watch for BOGO, B2G1, and similar sales, especially for brands like Nerf, which can get expensive fast when you pay full price. Check Facebook Marketplace, your local Buy Nothing groups, and resale shops, too.
Do you bribe your children or are you a unicorn? Call them rewards if the word “bribe” bothers you. We have a special bribe stash. We keep smaller items in their own opaque container up on a shelf. In our house, the tooth fairy usually leaves one small toy such as a Hot Wheels vehicle or a Lego figure, as well as one dollar or a few quarters. Thankfully, there are always a few items ready to go. These small gifts make for good stocking stuffers or the odd bribe, I mean, reward, too.
Hide the evidence.
We use large plastic storage bins for this. You will want to use one per child or whatever works for your budget and your space. Toys go in these tubs first. Layer books, shoes, and clothing over the toys. Then throw a few old baby blankets or towels on top of that just in case someone is feeling nosy about what mom keeps in that big storage bin at the back of her closet. Usually, the sight of old towels and folded clothes will get rid of any interest they had. Take extra care with toys that talk or make noise. If packaging prevents you from turning them off, consider storing them separately so nothing shifts and sets them off. Stack the tubs in a space that you can find easily.
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Do you love giving gifts, too? How do you keep your gifts organized throughout the year?