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A thoughtful, personalized present is the way to my heart — both giving and receiving — but sometimes tight budgets don’t allow that for everyone on my list. So every year, I try to craft an under-$25 grab bag of gifts that can work for different family members, friends, and other important people in my life, with many items actually ringing in at $10 and under.
This comes in handy when attending a White Elephant (or Yankee Swap) party, and continues to save me when I've forgotten that someone’s birthday is coming up. With gifts this thoughtful — from cozy homebody faves to entertaining essentials — there’s something for truly everyone, and if you shop now, you’ll be prepared well in advance of the holiday hustle.
Note: Prices may vary based on retailer.
Gifts For a Little TLC
Send fireworks with a festive bath bomb — $9, LUSH
This Magical Santa Bath Bomb is softly scented and fizzes in a “full-on rainbow fireworks display” once dropped into the bathtub. Grab a few and gather them into a basket of bath bombs to help your recipient ring in the New Year, too.
Deck the halls with boughs of chocolate — $12, CVS
Okay, this tree doesn’t have branches, so they aren’t technically boughs — more like truffle balls — but it does have three different flavors of the classic chocolate confection. There’s the OG Ferrero Rocher (hazelnut milk chocolate), the Raffaello (layered with white almond, cream, and coconut), and a simple dark chocolate called Rondnoir. With 12 pieces, it’s the gift that’ll keep on giving.
Shake up a dynamic margarita duo — about $12
Whether your giftee takes their margarita on the rocks or blended, the combination of a fun glass (like the Libbey Stemless Cocktail Glass for $2.99) and a small bottle of tequila (about $8.99 for 50 ml of Patrón Silver) will get them on the right track. Add some fresh limes and coarse salt if you want to go the extra mile (toward Margaritaville).
Give the gift good sleep — $22, LUSH
New parents, college students, and overworked friends will all appreciate a well-rested night. This Sleepy Gift Set includes a body wash and lotion scented with calming lavender, sweet tonka, and sensual ylang ylang for encouraging necessary rest and relaxation.
Gifts for Expert Entertainers
Bake everything mini — $6/each, ALDI
This is what the kids call a “dupe,” aka a generic version, of Le Creuset and Staub’s mini cocottes. This Crofton Cast Iron Mini Dutch Oven is great for cooking a miniature baked brie, serving mac ‘n cheese or soup, or baking cakes or muffins inside. If you pick up a few, you can gift them to multiple people or get your favorite entertaining guru a set of four for still under $25.
Dispense endless fun with a tree-shaped drink holder — $25, Safeway
It’s a real tree-t to dispense your own punch at a party — especially if it’s out of a beautiful glass tree, complete with a star topper. This beverage dispenser holds a gallon of your favorite punch (spiked or not).
Connect 4 the holidays — $25, CVS
How do you bring people together during the holidays? Competition and board games, of course. This oversized Connect 4 Board Game uses a giant, plush blanket as the board, and instead of inserting chips, you place discs on top of the blanket until someone connects four… or naps after eating too much ham.
Make family feasts an easy feat with a Lazy Susan — $15, ALDI
Spin it to win it! The Crofton Marble Lazy Susan is made of acacia wood and comes in two colorways for marble accents: white or black. At 12 inches, it’s large enough to fit a few bowls of condiments at the holiday table, bread and butter, or a tower of cookies.
Gifts for Cozy Homebodies
Snuggle up with a plush sherpa blanket — $11, ALDI
When the weather outside is frightful, a fluffy blanket is so delightful. The Huntington Home Blue Ribbed Plush Sherpa Throw is a whopping 50 inches by 60 inches — perfect to bundle up in and watch the snow fall.
Keep ’em energized, at least electronically — $15, CVS
Not the most exciting gift, but one of the most practical. This Powerxel Qi Wireless Charging Pad allows anyone with a Magsafe device to set it and forget it for quick charging without the mess of a plug.
Gifts for Your Most Creative Cohorts
Light up the night with homemade candles — $8, ALDI
Instead of buying a trendy bubble candle, let your loved ones do it themselves. In fact, buy two and make it a wicked fun (get it?) night together. Just be careful with the hot wax!
Gift the perfect middle-of-the-night ideas notebook — $25, Staples
This 10-pack of mini notebooks comes in assorted jewel tones so you can gift ’em to 10 different creative people without them noticing you gave them all the same gift. (Or, give one lucky recipient the whole rainbow!) Each has 32 sheets and is pocket-sized (3.5 inches by 5 inches). It’s ideal for people to keep on their nightstands for those random thoughts that wake them up in the night.
Do the write thing — $10, Staples
No matter the age of the person to whom you’re giving these pens, there will be some form of nostalgia. The Paper Mate InkJoy Quatro Retractable Medium Point Assorted Pens come in more fun colors than the multi-color pens of our collective youths — this set of three has lime green, hot pink, bright blue, and more.
Make the world more colorful — $20, Staples
Pair these Staedtler Mars Graphic Duo Twin Tip Calligraphy Markers (the marker gold standard) with a notebook or coloring book for a colorful gift that’ll help heal anyone’s inner child… or delight an actual child.