Last December, I was sitting on my couch, stringing up sparkly lights and watching movies with my family. I took my toddler to the mall—but only for Starbucks and the obligatory photo with Santa. See, we didn’t holiday shop at all in December…because all of our gifts were already stashed away, wrapped, marked, and ready for a stress-free Christmas morning! That’s right…I was done with my shopping in August. How’d I do it? I’m here to share my secrets with you, so you’ll be able to revel in the stress-free delight (and fun!) of gift shopping year round!

1. Never stop looking for a deal!

My friends joke that I look for gift items even at the grocery store, but it’s true. I scour consignment shops, thrift stores, and even the bins at the grocery store for clearance items that are in pristine, new-in-box condition. Philosophy Candles at Target for $2.38? Check. Brand-new baby clothes at a yard sale for $0.50? Yes, please! Get over the phobia of buying used and giving as gifts; there are so many deals to be found new in their packages at thrift shops and yard sales! I found a giant Melissa & Doug bead set for $2.00 at a consignment sale when I was looking for a coat for my daughter. And last time my husband and I went on a date, I scored 75% off a Leapfrog animal toy I found in the clearance bin at Barnes & Noble—my girls are going to love it! You better believe I bought those babies right up and stashed them away for Christmas!

2. Save everything that can be gift-able

We live in a small townhome, but I have a special bin and cupboard for gift items. One is for Christmas items, and one is for everyday gifts like birthdays or graduations. I got some lovely chocolates from a friend, but my husband doesn’t eat chocolate, and so I set them aside. When graduation season rolled around, I filled a great coffee tumbler (on sale for $2.38 at Kohl’s!) with them, and we gave it as a thoughtful gift to a graduate. Everyone gets bath products they never use, so save them in their packages, add a pretty candle, and brighten someone’s day. I also save versatile items like photo frames, bath soaps, and home décor items if I don't use them.

3. Think creatively

You know those multi-packs of earrings that you can find on clearance at Target sometimes? Usually they have an earring or a pair missing. But there’s also 2-3 perfectly good pairs left! I buy them when they get cut down in price, and I save them. I cut cardstock into little squares, hand-write sayings or quotes on them, and attach a pair of the brand-new earrings. Voila! Lovely earrings made gift-able, and I can get 2-3 presents out of one frugal purchase. You’ll have to change your way of thinking to stay on a budget and still buy for everyone on your list.

4. Organize everything

If you buy a ton of gifts but have no idea where you put them, it won’t do you any good. I keep a running list on my iPhone and on paper of who I need to buy for (for Christmas or birthdays). I have even used a great spreadsheet (nerd alert!) which helped me keep very organized. When I buy something, I always have a purpose in mind. I attach sticky notes or tape with a person’s name to every gift I buy. Never buy a gift without a purpose or you’ll discover you wasted precious money (even $2.00 adds up), and still don’t have the presents you need. I always draw from my gift stash for birthdays, graduations, showers, and Christmas! Think months ahead, and you'll never break your gift budget again by scrambling to the mall and paying full price.

 

This is a guest post by Grace from Medford, OR. 

Never Break Your Gift Budget Again with These 4 Tips!