7 Wonderful Winter Holiday Gifts That Won't Break The Bank
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7 Wonderful Winter Holiday Gifts That Won't Break The Bank

A Guide for People on a Ramen Budget

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7 Wonderful Winter Holiday Gifts That Won't Break The Bank
Marie Claire

This is inspired by a recent article I saw, which listed holiday gifts under $50. Now, for many of us, there is very little chance that $50 is going to be spent on any one individual this holiday season- unless they were very, very good this year. Instead, the perpetual struggle is buying cheap gifts that don't look all that cheap. Sometimes, the best idea is to go for something simple, sometimes it works to mix and match. In any case, here is a slightly nicer list of gifts that really won't leave the checking account bare (really).


  1. Nice Soap. Let's be honest – everyone can use soap. While you might not want to get an 8-pack of Dove for the risk of sending the wrong message, if you get some pretty glycerin soap from Target or opt for a little pricier chunk of heaven from Lush, you really can't go wrong. Go for a charming spicy scent if you want to invoke chestnuts roasting on an open fire, and dress it up in an old box lined with last year's tissue paper. 2016 best choices: Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps All-One Hemp Lavender Pure-Castile Soap ($4.69 Target.com), Primal Elements Holiday Soap ($4.99 at Target), and Snowcastle Soap ($7.95 for 3.5 oz at Lush.com).
  2. A Paperback You've Never Read. I read on a recent GQ article that a man will basically never read a book that his lady has already read and recommended (which is probably why Water for Elephants is still gathering dust at my fiance's apartment). Instead, go to Half-Price Books and grab one of the bestsellers being sold for a fraction of the original cost, or nab up a trilogy for $1 per book (the real price I paid for my Lord of the Rings set). The best part is that all paperbacks are sold at half the publisher's price. Wrap it up in a newspaper to make them read before they even open it. 2016 best choices: Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee for the literary one, The Chemist by Stephenie Meyer for the one who liked Twilight, and Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov for the one who likes to read weird things. (True to my own advice, I have not read any of these suggestions.)
  3. An Ornament. Whether you're Christian or not, it's likely that you still decorate your house for the winter holidays (whatever holiday it might be). Everyone can appreciate an ornament that captures the spirit of the season. While it can be really nice to give a homemade one (you can buy sets of six clear glass baubles at Michael's for around $6), not everyone has artistic talent or the time to use it. Thankfully, major retailers have tried to remedy this by providing whole seasonal sections where you can pick out any ornament that suits your fancy. Again, swing by Michael's, Target, Walmart...anywhere, really. Best given with a sentimental card. 2016 best choices: this one's up to you, but you can't go wrong with German-style blown glass. You can get a nice piece for less than $10 just about anywhere.
  4. Classic Mug-and-Candy Combo. This one is tried and true, especially for colleagues, classmates and neighbors. Go to the local dollar store and pick up a mug for $1; if it's got a winter theme, even better. Put a piece of colorful tissue paper into the mug so that the ends stick out, then fill the mug with big chocolate pieces, like Reese's Mini Peanut Butter Cups. Not only can you get one bag of candy and stretch it out over several mug gifts, but this one is a keeper because it has two elements: instant gratification (candy) and usefulness (mug). Best wrapped in a gift bag stuffed with tissue paper. 2016 best choices: like I said, candy, but if sugar is a no-go, try a half-dozen quality bags of tea, sugar-free cocoa mix packets, or instant coffee. Or a $5 coffee shop gift card.
  5. Something They Collect. Sure, your cousin has about a million snow globes, but in all likelihood, they don't have one from you. There will be bonus points if the collected item is from a cool place that the intended receiver has never visited. However, skip this gift option if 1) they collect something really expensive or troublesome, like cats, or 2) you know nothing about the thing they collect. Your brother will not appreciate getting another piece of rose quartz for his crystal collection just because you thought it looked pretty. 2016 best choices: Hatchimals (just kidding).
  6. Music. Music is truly the gift that keeps on giving. Even better – it can be shared without ever diminishing. My brother got me a guitar for Christmas a few years back, but there is no need to go that far unless you love this person more than two weeks' worth of paychecks (kidding, a little). For most of us, the better option by far is a CD (store-bought or home-mixed) or a gift card to a popular music source, like iTunes. While a CD might seem like a simple gift, music is immensely complex and can invoke all sorts of memories and emotions (think the Beach Boys CD from the Adam Sandler classic 50 First Dates). Wrap this one with some shiny paper, and tie a candy cane to the front with curling ribbon. 2016 best choices: Pentatonix – A Pentatonix Christmas ($11.99 at Target.com), Grace VanderWaal – Perfectly Imperfect EP ($5.99 at Target.com), and heck, The Beach Boys – Sounds of Summer ($7.00 at Amazon.com).
  7. Fandom Merch. It's rare to find a young adult who isn't into at least one pop culture phenomenon such as Star Wars or Harry Potter. Most of these people would be absolutely psyched to get anything that plays into their geeky obsession. While T-shirts are certainly an option, it's unlikely to find a quality one for under $20. Instead, get something small but boldly nerdy. Try to tie in the gift wrap with the theme, even if that's by decorating it yourself. 2016 best choices: Captain America Shield and Stars Knee High Socks with Wings ($9.98 at Amazon.com), Funko Pop vinyl Newt Scamander figurine ($9.37 at Hot Topic or major retailers), R2D2 Star Wars Inspired Hair Bow ($8.50 at Etsy.com).


The holidays can be a huge headache, but in the end, it really, truly is the thought that counts. Your loved ones don't want you to go broke trying to impress them. Besides, without the giant credit card bill looming over January, everyone will have a lot more fun in December.

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