Cheap Gifts: 55 Inexpensive Christmas Gift Ideas

Need some quick, easy and *cheap* holiday gift ideas? We’ve got 55, plus more in the comments.

Back by the overwhelming demand of anonymous Internet searchers (who are already far ahead of their holiday gift planning than I am!), here’s our list of no fewer than 55 inexpensive holiday gift ideas.

For even more gift ideas, check out our other holiday gift guide, with ideas ranging from the under-$50 to the $100 range and some alternative ideas to store bought presents.

A note: “It’s the thought that counts” is a cliché—a facile way to excuse bad or lazy gift-giving. But, as you’ll see from these picks, it’s really not money, but thoughtfulness, that distinguishes a so-so gift from a great one.

For the home
1. A nice poster or print in a good frame

If your friends are anything like 95 percent of the people in their 20s, their walls are totally bare, or covered up with unframed posters left over from college. Picking out decor for other people is always dicey, but the Internet is full of a lot of talented artists making really cool stuff.

Are they really into music? Maybe find a nice concert poster from their favorite band. Are they really into Doctor Who? The Internet is overflowing with fan art.

Here are some poster ideas to get you started:

Pink Floyd 1972 concert poster
Doctor Who Tardis poster
World map poster
2. Recipe cards

Recipes from a book or the Internet are great, but there’s something especially wonderful about recipes you get from other people. And no need to worry about spilling canola oil all over your iPad.

You can create your own recipe cards with this 60-card set.

3. A kitchen tool or two

Image via Williams-Sonoma.

It takes a long time to stock your first kitchen, especially with stuff that’s going to last. For that friend who needs basics, think a can opener, potato peeler, or corkscrew. If you want to get fancier, you could go for a garlic press, a potato masher, or a pastry cutter.

Maybe throw in a pretty tea towel for some color.

4. Scented candles

In those weeks leading up to Christmas, everyone’s house smells of delicious pine. In the weeks after, when that pine tree’s desiccated corpse has been tossed out into the street for trash pickup, a nice scented candle can fill (with a lovely aroma) the void it left behind.

5. Christmas tree ornament

We all had those favorite ornaments as a kid, the ones we fought with our siblings to be able to put on the tree ourselves, the ones whose origins we didn’t know but whose presence was a cherished part of our childhood.

Now that we’re all grown up, it’s time to start building Christmas ornament collections of our own. With each ornament you give, you’re helping your friend get one step closer to not having to throw a whole bunch of those gold balls (that always fall off) on their tree.

Here are a couple beautiful ornaments to give you a few ideas:

Harry Potter Christmas ornament
Personalized pet ornament
Hummingbird ornament
6. Small gardening tools

Image by Garry Knight.

Gardening tools are great for new homeowners suddenly faced with caring and tending to their own garden.

7. A great cookbook

A great way to save money is to make meals at home, but the sheer number of cookbooks available can be overwhelming.

For novice chefs, I recommend the Budget Bytes cookbook, which is designed for people who are new to cooking and who want to save money. The focus is on simplicity, with a lot of basic recipes that can be adapted or modified however you wish. Plus, with the endless food blogs we have these days, you can give your recipient a book that already has a built-in community, where they can seek out further recipes as well as tips and tricks.

8. A photograph in a a nice picture frame

Image by Rodrigo Baptista.

Do you have a mother? Does she love you? (Of course she does.) Do you know what she’d love almost as much? A nice picture of you in a good frame that she can hang up in the living room or put on her desk at work.

9. A photo calendar, coffee mug, or a good old-fashioned scrapbook

Image by Lewis Minor.

True story: At the end of seventh grade, one of my best friends moved to Iowa. I spent that entire year taking really bad (yet cherished) pictures of her and our other friends and put them all together in a scrapbook. In hindsight, it was maybe a little creepy, but my friend loved it.

And now, with services like Shutterfly and Snapfish, you don’t even have to put those precious memories into a scrapbook. They can go on magnets, coffee mugs, mousepads, and to-go cups. Or just on a big poster.

10. Lunar calendar

If you don’t want to go all out and get a calendar printed, lunar calendars are a cool addition to any home. It’s exactly what it sounds like—a calendar that tells you the phase of the moon each night. Perfect for your friends who are into astronomy/astrology.

11. Nice stationary, a quality pen, and a few stamps

Image by Kathryn Rotondo.

Now that our e-mail accounts are mostly just digital landfills full of listserv emails and one-time offers you somehow still get three times, it’s time for good ol’ pen and paper to make a comeback. Writing letters is more intimate than e-mail or the dreaded Facebook message. It’ll last a lot longer, too.

12. A journal or notebook with a personal note

Image by matryosha.

Keeping a journal can help increase focus, promote mindfulness, and boost memory. An empty notebook is also just full of promise, especially for a person of a creative or analytical bent.

Apparel & accessories
13. Hat, mittens, or scarves

Unless you live in Florida or Southern California, it’s probably cold where you are. And cold-weather accessories are, at least for me, always the first things that go missing just when you need them. They fall out of a pocket, or somehow find their way under the seat of your car, or you toss them in the back of the closet and only rediscover them the following summer when you’re looking for some long-lost piece of sports equipment.

What I’m saying is people always need more hats, mittens, and scarves.

14. Nice socks

Socks are always portrayed as the ultimate lame Christmas gift, but grownups know that good socks—especially warm ones with fun critters on them—are key to a good life.

15. A nice tote bag

You can get literary tote bags, art tote bags, and many more, so there’s no end to who you can give this gift to.

16. Travel pillow

Ever been trapped on a six-hour flight with nothing but the headrest to comfort you? Then you know the pain you are sparing your friend by giving them a travel pillow.

17. Creative key chain

This is another one of those nice-to-have items that almost no one buys for themselves. Most of us have our keys attached to a keychain from a now-defunct bank from 1998, or from our dentist, or from whatever commercial enterprise thrust one into our hands as we left their establishment at some point in a foggy, distant past. A nice, light keychain is an easy way to spruce up anyone’s daily routine.

18. An action figure or some other kind of figurine

Work can be depressing enough without a dreary, barren desktop. Give your friend or loved one a reminder of their favorite TV show or book to bring a little fun to their workspace.

19. Costume jewelry

Cheaper than the sterling silver stuff, and often more fun, costume jewelry is great for your dramatic friend with the colorful wardrobe who wears nothing but “statement necklaces,” or for the budding diva in your family itching for her (or his) first closeup.

20. Wallet

Image by Heather.

A wallet is another essential that often goes neglected, until the poor wallet is dusty, dirty, and warped from all those years of being stuffed in a pocket (or a pocketbook). There are lots of fun options, including card wallets, or more full-bodied options for people who still carry cash around.

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