How to Save Money » Frugal Living

The birthday gift cupboard

Gift Cupboard

“Hey mom, I just found an invitation to a birthday party — and good news — it’s tomorrow!”

Child grins. Mom gasps. Or does she?

Welcome to my Birthday gift cupboard – a stockpile of gifts for such an emergency.

Faster than a speeding bullet, this mom can pull out a fabulous gift for any birthday that arises.

Throughout the year, I collect gifts that are unique, interactive, creative and of course – on sale for a great price.

Cheap Gift Stash

With 3 kids attending an average of 6 parties per year, this could be a substantial part of our budget.

3 kids x 6 parties x $25-$30 last-minute-scramble gifts = $450-$540

Using some creativity, and pre-planning, this is what that number actually looks like:

3 kids x 6 parties x $10-$15 birthday cupboard gifts = $180-$270

That’s easily a savings of over 50% – for just a bit of pre-planning.

Favorite places to find deals on presents:

  • Clearance sections at Winners and Real Canadian Superstore for toys and clothing
  • Thrift stores & garage sales for unopened games/puzzles
  • Dollarama for Playdoh, craft supplies and a stash of wrapping paper & gift bags
  • Shopper’s drug mart for free items with Optimum Points
  • Kijiji & Craigslist for items that are brand new
  • Scholar’s choice often has deeply discounted games if you search the shelves. A $10 annual membership gives 10% off each purchase and 2 x $5 coupons

Cereal box coupons can also be used to provide substantial savings.

Canada Board Game Coupon

Items currently in my birthday cupboard:

I try to collect a variety of gifts for different ages and for both boys and girls.

  • Crayola products – most purchased at Staples during back-to-school sales.
  • Card games – ones that can be added to any larger gift. I just bought Mille Borne’s packages for $1 at Walmart today (reg. $8). I also love classic games like Rook, Phase One, Uno, and Dutch Blitz, which sometimes go on sale ($3-$5 on sale, regular $9).
  • Backpacks – I currently have a Marvel one from Old Navy (bought for $8, regular $20), SK8ER from Winners (bought for $5, regular $20), and Foxy Jeans (bought for $4, regular $14). These are all name brand bags and are of good quality.
  • Froggy Boogie (factory sealed) – from a garage sale (bought for $3, regular $30)
  • Lego beginner bucket – from Winners (bought for $5, regular $20)
  • Monopoly millionaire – Bought at Walmart for $15 and used a $10 Hasbro coupon (found on cereal boxes) = $5
  • Tamiya mechanical Sets (new in box) – from a garage sale (bought for $10, regular $20-$40)

Final touches

My boys thoughtfully select the gift they know their friend would enjoy. They are just as excited to choose items from the birthday cupboard as they would be to buy them retail. We work together to wrap them and they use their artistic skills to make a personalized card.

Top it with a chocolate bar or something else that’s just as exciting, and we are ready to go!

The result

With fabulous finds on hand, birthday giving can be stress-free, and might even bring a reaction like this:

Kids Gift Giving

What ideas do you have to find great inexpensive birthday gift ideas?


  1. Virginia

    I have a gift stock pile too. I started it in the fall when I started Christmas shopping. I picked up some incredible clearance items at Walmart such as Zombie Factory for $5 (regularly $40). I bought a bunch of those since they seemed to be the “it” item last year. Scrabble and Monopoly were on clearance for $5 at Zellers because it was closing so I used my $5 coupons from the Orvill Redenbacher boxes and got 4 of each for free. I also scored some awesome deals on Black Friday and got a bunch of stuff valued up to $60 each for almost free. In most cases the shipping cost more then the item. Its really handy to have a gift stock pile around Christmas time in case people who were not on you list stop by with gifts. I also baked up a storm before Christmas and filled some decorative boxes from the dollar store with goodies and kept them in the freezer as an inexpensive gift for friends, neighbours and unexpected visitors.

  2. teachermum

    I used to when the kids were at that age. Are people really spending $25 or $30 on birthday party gifts? THAT I’d have a hard time doing!

    • Kris

      I’d say it would depend on the relationship. If it’s a close family friend, I don’t mind spending $25, especially since with my bargain hunting it’s really closer to a $50 value. 😉 For school friends, I go for $10 or less.

      • teachermum

        Glad I’m not entirely alone, Kris! We have a different budget set for family but I would never, even now, spend $30 on a kid’s present for a general party. No kid needs that many toys anyhow! I only did parties from about age 5 to 10 and even then, the kids requested no presents for the last few-they just wanted their friends over.

  3. Kris

    I also have a gift stash. I pick up stuff on special or on clearance whenever I see it. Sometimes I buy things with the intention of gifting them to our own 4 kids (birthdays, Easter, Christmas, special rewards, etc.) and other times, it’s specifically for friends’ birthday parties. I love not having to scramble at the last minute when an invitation gets forgotten in the bottom of a school bag!!

    We used to have a Liquidation World in the area and that was the BEST place for inexpensive brand name toys. I really miss it. I missed the Samko-Miko toy sale last fall too…I really hope to make it to the next one because that is another great place to shop.

  4. Tammy

    When I had teenage daughters in the house I used to go to Superstore and Walmart on Boxing Day and stock up on Make-up and Bath Gift Sets as they were good gifts for teenage girls birthdays.

  5. Lorraine

    One of my favourite places for birthday party gifts is Chapter’s clearance items for 50% to 75% off! Occasionally I will also find something good at Superstore clearance or Shopper’s clearance when they are half off.

  6. Nicole

    i shop all year for birthday & Christmas gifts for family & friends and stockpile it. I have a stash of kids toys too for just in case birthday parties as my oldest son is in preschool now. We haven’t been invited to any parties yet, but that is ok. My husband works across the street from a Zellers so he checks the prices & toy availability a couple times a week.

  7. Nicole

    I love to stockpile gifts for different occasions, including birthday parties. I also have my Christmas donation toy pile – we donate to a local charity that distubutes the gifts to less fortunate children at christmas. This past Christmas we donated 18 toys & books including full size Lalaloopsy dolls, Lego sets, barbies, DVDs, discovery toys, board games etc. All for the cost of about $75, and my children really benifit from the joy of giving, and I get to share my savings.

  8. Karen

    Great ideas from Cassie readers. As my children would say, you sound like a “trained professionals.”
    As an aside, Michael’s 50% off coupon that expires March 1st has a lot of great gift options. I just bought one of my favourite Steve Skelton puzzles today (550 pieces) for $7.50. It will be a March Break project to do with my kids.

  9. Cheryl

    I’ve been doing this for years 🙂 I also add things for my kid that I find on sale. Then use them for Valentines, birthday, Christmas presents etc.

    Another good money saving tip is homemade cards. My son’s favourite cards that he gets are always the one’s his friends made themselves.

    My son’s birthday is at the beginning of the year. I save all the gift bags from his presents and reuse them at all the birthday parties he goes to.

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