We buy a lot of gifts. A lot. Parents, grandparents, siblings, nieces, nephews, cousins, our kids, our friends' kids, our kids' friends, and on and on. It can be overwhelming to stay on top of buying all those gifts. Not to mention the cost.
A few years after we got married, my husband and I started buying gifts in advance and we continue to do this now. It saves us time, stress, and money. And it helps spread the costs of gifts throughout the year. Both our families also do this to varying degrees, so we come by it naturally I guess.
As an example of how we save money by buying gifts in advance, here's a great deal we found on a whole set of Little House on the Prairie books that we bought for my daughter. Here's her bin of gifts for when she's a bit older:
See that price tag? Yep! $20.00 for the whole set of 9 books, in a cute little chest. Individually, these books are close to $10. Big savings! I loved those books when I was younger (still do!) and can't wait until my daughter is old enough to enjoy them too.
So, here's how and why our gift purchasing works:
1. Whenever we see something that we know a particular person would like, we buy it. Saves having to find that "perfect" gift when a birthday comes around.
2. When we see a great deal on something that we want to give to someone, we buy it. Saves money, which is important when we're giving so many gifts.
3. We watch flyers for sales and specials and we shop at a lot of warehouse sales so we often find great deals.
But, while buying gifts in advance has its advantages, it means needing to store these gifts. Here's my current system:
Yes, there are 10 bins with gifts... I told you we buy a lot of gifts!
My system for organizing our gifts has changed a bit over the years but that's the beautiful thing about organizing: as your needs change you can revise your organizational system to accomodate the changes!
Initially I kept our pre-purchased gifts in one large bin in our closet. But as the number of people we were buying for grew, I had to expand to more bins. It was getting overwhelming to keep track of what I had though. So, I began grouping the gifts in the bins to make it easier. I had a bin for my family, a bin for my in-laws, and a bin for friends. Better.
But then our families and friends' families expanded again. We had kids, our siblings had kids, and our friends had kids. As the number of gifts we were giving (and buying in advance) increased, so did my number of bins. Again. It became overwhelming if the bins were too full, because it was hard to see what I had, so I found having more bins with less in them was easier.
I started a bin for baby gifts since we were giving so many baby gifts. And I started a general bin for gifts that were not for anyone specific but could be used for anyone. I also started a bin for gifts for kids under 3 and a bin for kids over 3. This is what's currently in the 3+ bin:
And I started bins for each of our kids.
I can't show you the contents of all the bins because some of the intended recipients read this blog, but I guess the secret's out now on how much we save by buying gifts in advance :)
With all these gift bins, I needed an inventory system. I started a list of the contents of each bin and kept it just inside each lid. That really helped me to know what we had and identify people that I still needed to buy things for. As time went on though, I wanted a more portable version so I typed up a master list that I could keep with me when I was shopping. Keep reading - I've got a free printable inventory list you can use!
The biggest issue with all these bins was finding space to store them. I used to just stack them but it was such a pain having to move bins to get at others and of course every time I needed a bin it was on the bottom! The best solution I found was to store the bins on shelves. The large Rubbermaid bins I was using didn't fit on the storage shelves so I switched to flip-lid bins.
The location of those shelves has moved over the years. When we bought a closet organizer for our closet, the storage shelves no longer fit so we moved them to the basement. It wasn't pretty having them in our closet anyway! They've moved since then to a few different places in our basement, but I think I have them in the best spot now. It's easy to access the bins where I have them now, which is good because we go into them several times a month. And my gift wrap bins and greeting card bin are on the shelves right beside these so everything I need is handy.
I recently switched all the gifts into medium sized coloured Rubbermaid bins because the flip-lid bins I was using were clear and you could see the gifts inside. That was fine in our closet, but not in the basement where people could see what they were going to get! (You can see the flip-lid bins in use on the shelves beside these for seasonal storage and books.) I had the medium sized coloured bins for storing other things under the basement stairs but we recently purged and reorganized all our bins in an effort to organize our cluttered basement so I did not need to buy any (which is why the colours don't match but I think it adds character!)
So, here's what I currently have for bins: 2 for each of our kids (one is for things to give them soon and the other is for items when they get a little older). We have lots of occasions throughout the year for them, plus we also keep little activities in here that we can pull out on long road trips or on a rainy day.
I also have 1 general bin and 3 bins for our families (I blacked out their names for privacy).
And, I have a bin for kids 0-2 (including baby items - less of those to buy for these days) and a bin for kids age 3 and up.
I also have a small bin on the storage shelves in the furnace room that contains Christmas gifts (specifically Christmasy things that we will only give people for Christmas).
So, here's the printable I promised you.
Click on the link and then you can download it from Scribd. If you have lots of gifts and are looking for an organized way to keep track of what you have, this list will help you. You can label each bin with a category that identifies what's inside and then list the items. I hope you find it useful! It's been a lifesaver for me.
So, that's how my pre-purchased gifts went from overwhelming to organized. If you don't already do so, I highly recommend pre-purchasing gifts to save you time and money. I never have to stress out about buying a gift when one of our kids gets invited at the last minute to a birthday party because usually I will find something in our gift bins.
How about you? Do you buy gifts in advance or as needed? If you buy them in advance, how do you store them? Do you use an inventory list to keep track of what you have? Or do you have an example of an organizational system that has evolved over the years? I'd love to hear your ideas!
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