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How to Build a Gift Closet and Give More Generously

When I was younger, I thought I was the first person ever to have come up with the idea of a permanent stash of gift items you keep in your house for those "just-in-case" moments. I pictured a chest of drawers with purchased and homemade gifts and gift wrap for those inevitable birthday party invites my future children would have.

Well now, in the age of the internet, I can see just how truly unoriginal I am! Plenty of resources exist for helping you determine if and how you can go about creating a gift closet of your own. However, I wanted to concentrate today on our own gift "closet" here at the City Rental, and how I believe it helps us to give more generously.

First off, our gift closet is actually a gift cardboard box (a vodka box no less!). While I think one day we'll graduate to a larger stash, for the time being this is a manageable size for our two-person household. Plus, being nice and small, it's easier for me to maintain an inventory of what's on hand.

Once you've determined whether or not this idea will suit your household, budget, and gift-giving style, you'll need to go about stocking it. In my opinion, these are the things we stock which I continue to find helpful time and time again:

1. All-Occasion Greeting Cards

Many times, for out of town family and friends, we at The City Rental tend to acknowledge milestones by sending a card. I purchased a set of all-occasion cards at the Target dollar spot a year ago for $3 (24 cards). I love knowing that I've got a stash of cards on hand without worrying about running to the store at the last second.

If you prefer more personal or specific cards, I also have ideas. You can buy all-occasion packs of themed cards (like Disney characters, etc) online, or you could consider making a bunch of cards ahead of time in a marathon crafting session. Alternatively, theDollar Tree has cards 2 for $1 every day, so you could potentially go through and buy one or two cards representing the major holidays or occasions your family usually acknowledges.

2. Brown Paper Packages, and the Strings to Tie Them Up

They say all women one day become their mothers, and certain things I do or say confirm this for me—like obsessively saving gift bags and tissue. My parents have always saved and reused this type of gift trimming, and they passed the habit along to me too. As such, I have a pretty good stash of bags for every occasion, as well as ribbons, bows, baker's twine, and whatever tissue is still in great condition after the Christmas morning madness.

Additionally, I have kept some small baskets (the kinds holiday bath sets are frequently packaged in) in order to create my own gift baskets for the people on my list. I've also held on to jewelry, gift card, and shirt boxes if they are in excellent condition—this keeps me from having to buy my own in the gift wrap department.

3. The Gifts

There are two schools of thought when it comes to which gifts to stock in your gift closet.

School One abides by the rule of generic gifts: Have a few gifts in certain categories so that when an occasion arises you can reach inside and grab something appropriate. I love the simplicity of this approach, but I actually stock my own gift closet differently.

I'm more aligned with School Two: I buy specific gifts for the people and occasions on my list. This allows me to have personalized gifts, specific to each family member and in line with their interests. This method takes a bit more planning, but I like it because my family's gift-giving style has always been to give less, but with more meaning.

If this style suits you and your family as well, here is how I go about it: I start with a list of the people I typically buy for, and the occasions which I have a present for them. For instance, for most people on my list, this is usually just a birthday and Christmas, but for our parents it includes Mother's/Father's Day and maybe their anniversary as well. For The Husb, I'll also include Valentine's Day (unless we are celebrating without spending money, like we did this year). Throughout the year, I purchase items for the people on my list when I see them at a great price, and then I mark them off my list. In this way, I avoid redundancy and having a lot of things in my gift closet I can't use.

So what constitutes a "great price?" Many blogs I've consulted on this subject say you shouldn't settle for anything less than 50% off. That sounds awesome to me, but I personally just don't shop often enough to always happen upon such great deals. I don't shop out of boredom either online or in stores. I'm only browsing if I need something. So in this way I save money on impulse purchases, but I don't often have the opportunity to snap up deep discounts. For my own gift closet, if I feel I couldn't get this item for a cheaper price, and it fits my needs, I'll buy it. Done deal!

Do I Keep Any Generic Gifts?

The answer is yes! There is one generic gift item I always keep on hand: wine! Wine is such a great go-to gift to keep on hand in my opinion, because it is so versatile. It's appropriate for lots of different kinds of celebrations, from housewarmings to going away parties to engagements and more. And it's something that won't suffer by being stored for awhile. I wait for a great sale at the grocery store and then stock up on a few different varieties. Pro tip: keep wine-specific gift bags on hand in your closet as well for occasions which call for a little more than a naked bottle.

How Does This Help Us Be More Generous?

The gift closet helps The Husb and I to be mindful, resourceful, and frugal at every step of the process. Because I've thought about the card, gift, and wrapping ahead of time, I've been able to essentially dictate my own price instead of being at the mercy of the shops at the last minute. I know that this savings of time and money have helped us to give to our friends and family whether we were in a temporary phase of lack or plenty.

Obviously, our loved ones never have any expectations that they need gifts from us, but it's nice to know we have been able to express our love and thanks in this way, since we both love giving gifts so much.

If you love gifting as well but are looking for a way to help it fit more within your budget, I hope you'll consider this option! And as always, if you have any questions or suggestions of your own, please post them in the comments below!

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