3 Tips to Build a Gift Stockpile

Guest post from Liz of Catholic Deals

My family gives lots of gifts.

My husband and I both come from big families, and we have also been blessed to be able to share in the life event celebrations of many friends — from bridal showers and weddings to baby showers and baptisms. Now that my children are school-age, they also are frequently invited to birthday parties, and we need teacher gifts as well.

We really enjoy blessing our friends and family with presents, but the cost of many gifts can quickly become a financial hardship. That’s where a gift stockpile comes in. Instead of purchasing gifts only when I have a specific event to attend, I buy a variety of gifts whenever I find them at good prices and store them until I need them.

Over the past few years I have refined my gift stockpiling system so that gifts take up only a small portion of our budget, yet we are still able to give appropriate and thoughtful gifts. Plus, I rarely have to run out and purchase a present before a party; I just choose and wrap something on hand!

If you want to build a gift stockpile of your own, here are three tips that I have learned over the years:

1. Purchase only items that are appropriate for your gift-giving needs.

Think about the events that you are likely to attend or people with whom you usually exchange gifts. That crystal vase may be 75% off and would be a perfect wedding gift, but if you haven’t attended a wedding in five years it will probably sit in the closet.

For several years I kept a plastic bin of baby clothes and gifts, since I attended so many baby showers and baptisms. However, now that my friends’ children and my own are older, I have mostly stopped purchasing baby items. With my oldest in school and attending frequent birthday parties, I instead started concentrating on looking for deals on toys.

2. Know your target prices and sale opportunities.

The point of building a gift stockpile is not only to have gifts on hand, but to be able to purchase them for much less than you would if you had to run out the day before a party. Therefore, you should know the best price range that you are able to find with some regularity and only purchase gifts when they hit that target price.

For birthday party gifts, I currently try to spend no more than $5 per gift. I know that if I watch the toy clearance at my local Walmart and Target I rarely have to spend more. I also know to watch clearance sales closely after major holidays, and I have learned the mark-down systems used by various local stores.

I almost completely fill my kids’ Christmas stockings and Easter baskets with items purchased after the holiday the previous year.

3. Limit your stockpile.

Even if you pay your target price for a gift, it doesn’t really save you money if you don’t use it for years, either because you have too many items or you can’t find what you have.

I have found that the easiest way for me to limit my gift stockpile is by space. I have one plastic bin for children’s gifts and one for adult gifts, plus a smaller under-the-bed bin for small stocking stuffer and Easter basket items for my own family. If these bins are filled, I avoid buying more items until I have space. I also clean out the bins every so often.

My personal limit for storing future gifts is about two years. If I buy something on clearance after a holiday, I assume I will use it the next year. If I don’t end up using it, I don’t mind hanging on to it for one more year. However, beyond that I strongly reassess whether I will ever use it, and I sell or donate items that I decide to purge.

My gift stockpile has been a blessing to our family and I hope to our friends and relatives as well. I hope that these tips help you bless your family with your own gift stockpiling system.

Liz McGuirk is a wife and mom living in Northern Virginia. She blogs at Catholic Deals, where she shares savings on Christian and Catholic books, media, religious articles, and much more.

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  1. Jessica says

    I just went through my stockpile of gifts and donated most of it and packed up four boxes (small ones) to send to my cousin’s kids. Her family has a meager income and no money for extras, so I made birthday surprises of stickers, coloring books, crayons, games, story books, hair accessories and the like. The items I donated had been sitting in my basement for much too long. We’re hoping to move and I just wanted the clutter out of there!

  2. Heather says

    I have bins too, but I also have a list of gifts that I have given to my preschoolers classmates, friends and cousins, when I have multiple of one item that I got on a screaming good deal that could span 2 years before I have used up my stash. (For example, I picked up 10 of the Eric Carle Catapiller game for .83cents at Target last June) I just tape my list on the inside of the lid of the tub to track as I have misplaced it before and hated to guess.

  3. Jen says

    I am all about having a gift stockpile, it’s something I learned from my mother. It just makes sense, so long as you have a little extra room to store things. The one thing I try to keep in mind though is if I would have no use for something as a gift, I’m not going to give it to someone else no matter how great the price is. (This is more along the lines of anniversary and wedding type gifts I guess, kids are easier to get things for, to me at least).

    • Erin says

      So true! I don’t have a stockpile of “generic” gifts for adults, but if I do run across something that is perfect for a particular person, I will pick it up and hold it til the next gift-giving occasion (provided there’s no expiration date).

      When I stockpile toys, I always buy with my own kids in mind (because the gifts go to whomever’s gift-giving occasion arises first) and try to stick to classic toys that won’t go out of style and won’t be quickly outgrown (Legos, Melissa and Doug toys, craft/building kits, etc.). I see so many people posting their Target toy clearance hauls on deal blogs–“look what I got!”–but much of it seems like gimmicky junk that just ends up as clutter.

      • Jennifer says

        TRUTH! I do have some adult gifts, but as far as kids go, I try to be very neutral with what I pick up unless I know the child will still love it. Target clearance is wonderful if you can find the right things, otherwise for us its just useless and money spent that we shouldn’t have.

        As far as adults go, I have a family full of people who love my gift baskets from stockpile. My mother gets a body wash/pamper tote each year at Christmas and the aunts and cousins rave over it. That’s the kind of adult gifts I stock on, plus giftcards to places everyone has through my various email/survey places.

    • Whitney says

      So agree! I recently donated a framed picture from my gift stockpile that was a great deal, but was not my taste. My husband said, “You could give that as a wedding gift!” but I told him that if I didn’t want to receive it myself, I probably shouldn’t be gifting it to someone else.

  4. Marie says

    This is the one thing that has SAVED our family’s finances!!! In the past year I have attended several baby blessings, 2 weddings, and multiple birthdays and every gift came from my stockpile. Even Christmas and Easter Baskets came from stockpiling.
    I made a list of all my kids friends and those we exchange gifts with for Christmas. Then I factor in for kids at school that I may not know.
    Another thing I did this year was I found an awesome clearance at Michael’s on foam stickers and other craft supplies that were .30cents or less. my plan is to make craft baskets up to give as gifts.
    You can over due it but I love the idea of if you’ve had it to long DONATE it. We were able to bless a family with 3 kids with gifts this Christmas due to excess. Plus we’ve taken our kids to Ronald McDonald’s House and other missions to donate. They love it and it is teaching them to give.
    Whenever I run to Target or Walmart I “keep my eyes open” for any steals!! I just found a Fisher Price Laugh and Learn monkey for $8 normally, $30. The key is looking for items while your out and about so you’re never making a special trip.
    Target has major clearance twice a year- one in Jan. and once in Aug.

  5. megan haynes says

    I haven’t started stockpiling gifts but do stock up on tissue paper/wrapping paper/stickers after holidays. After Vday I got some red and black solid tissue paper for 75% off. There was nothing Valentines about it other than being red. I grabbed all they had and now it goes in all my gift bags!

  6. Jessica Lamoreau says

    I have just started doing this the past couple of months. I come from a large extended family (14 cousins on one side, 11 on the other) and my husband comes from a large family. I always try to send a little birthday gift to all his siblings and our nieces and nephews since we don’t live nearby. I recently scored a really good deal online for some cute/funky jewelry. I got a couple of pieces for myself and then 10 extras to have on hand as presents. I also have started storing baby items since our family is all started to get families of their own.

  7. says

    I have a gift closet and buy all year for family. However, I’ve never stockpiled generic gifts before. Now that I have a child, I may need to in the future for birthday parties. Probably should for babies, too. Most of my husband’s friends at his new job are in their 20s and are likely to be starting families soon. Because my husband now works for a non-profit ministry, our income is much lower than it was when he worked in the corporate world. I need to start thinking ahead to saving money on some of these gift-giving occasions!

    • Whitney says

      I know some people frown on re-gifting, but I don’t mind receiving thoughtful re-gifted items, and I’ve found that holding back a few new children’s items each year saves me a tremendous amount on gifts for baby showers. They aren’t items I don’t like – just ones that it seems silly to take the tags off just for my child to wear a few times. For instance, my 3-year-old received 5 summer dresses for her birthday yesterday, to add to the large selection I’ve already purchased at garage sales. She’s received an overabundance of certain clothing items every year, and I typically hold back an item or two to add to my stockpile. I also have two boys, which means I have selections for both genders.

      Also, when my children receive duplicates of toys or books, I store them instead of return them. That way I save two trips to the store – one to return the item, and then one to purchase a gift for someone else in the future.

  8. lori says

    I do stockpile gifts-also limited by a container! I usually by with specific people in mind, so the gift goes for birthdays or holidays. One idea I did quite often when my son was younger was to stock up when all the before school sales happened in August. I put together gifts of markers, glue, construction paper, pads of paper for pennies and the kids always seemed to enjoy the gift!

  9. Sandra says

    I try to listen all year long to comments made by those I gift for ideas, and when I find a deal, I buy it. It’s always fun at the holidays/birthdays when I give a gift that someone mentioned months before for they are usually so surprised and pleased. I also try to take advantage of deals that come my way. I just got an invite from Serve to load $25 and get $25 added. I’ve done so well with the Best Buy Reward Certificates on Facebook that I’ve stockpiled a few gifts and the gift cards I get for $5/$10 here and there really add up.

  10. says

    I do the same thing! My containers are put up in the garage to keep peeking little eyes from snooping.

    Lately my supply has been running low because trying to shop the deals and clearance section with three kids can be a bit challenging. Kids are the easiest to stock up on. My Fred Meyer always has great deals on clearance toys as well as Ross and TJMax.

    Women are pretty easy too. Scarves, jewelry, lotions, etc. are all great sale items. I have to stay focused on who I would be giving to, otherwise things can seem bit generic.

    It’s the men that are the real struggle! Everything they want is so expensive. I come from a large family and shopping for the guys is no fun. Too bad I couldn’t find a clearance section at Lowe’s and find things that didn’t have clearance product written all over them!

  11. Heidi says

    I like to hit up Bath and Body Works semi-annual sales after Christmas and in June. Specifically the 75% off merchandise. This stock pile has been great for so many different occasions.

  12. Randi says

    I stockpile a small selection gifts purchased on clearance…but…then I feel bad giving them to most people b/c I can’t include a gift slip. I know how frustrating it is when my kids receive gifts without gift slips and they either don’t like the toy (i.e they’ve outgrown that character or style of toy although the gift giver’s child might not have) or we already have the exact same thing. So, I feel like it’s not appropriate to do the same thing to others. How do you handle this issue with gift giving (at a discount)??

  13. Emily says

    Do you not give gift receipts with these gifts? With kids, what if they already have your toy gift and can not return/exchange it because it was in the stockpile for about a year? Even if you saved a great deal on the gift, is it a waste if the recipient already has it?

    • sand says

      i just went to BJs ,they had Olay 3 pack shower gel with instant 2.00 rebate for 5.99 ,plus another 2.00 coupon in the book ,plus i had a 1.00 and 2.00 coupon.so for FREE i had to pick it up for a gift.ps they are 3 huge bottles. i alsopicked up the puppy a few weeks ago at target for 5.00, i have an upcoming baby shower in a few months

  14. says

    I used to do a stockpile, but I found too often that I wasn’t using or giving away the items. I ended up donating quite a bit to Goodwill … so now I simply purchase items for a particular person if I KNOW they will love it, and look for good deals for everyone else as the situation comes up. I’ve found I can personalize the gifts a bit more and I really don’t spend a lot more money – in fact, I might spend less since I’m not buying things that I never give away!

    • Julie says

      Totally agree with your comments. I am a bit ashamed to admit that when the deals started appearing on the internet a few years ago I fell prey to the “it’s a great deal so I must buy it” mentality. I ended up with a bunch of stuff I didn’t need and as others have said if it isn’t something you want or need most likely it isn’t going to make a good gift (and yes, I know there are exceptions to this). I remember one year being so elated to find “great” markdowns on the special items Target stocks at Christmastime. I think they were 75% off. I filled my cart all the while patting myself on the back for getting such a great deal. Well that stuff sat around in my house – found out most of the stuff was junk – didn’t even want it for myself and certainly wasn’t going to give it for a gift. So now I do pretty much what you describe Pam. And I agree I probably spend less only buying what I need.

  15. Nicole says

    I have two boys very close to the same age and we get invited to several birthday parties a year, often for the same little friends year after year. I could never remember what I gave each kiddo the previous year so I decided that for each school year, I would pick out a “birthday party gift” and give all the little buddies the same thing. This year it was Lego Hero Factory. I stocked up when they were on sale at Fred Meyer. This saves money and even more importantly a lot time.

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