Budget-friendly last-minute gifts can shine – if they’re chosen thoughtfully and presented beautifully. If you’ve waited too long, even Amazon may not be able to help get it there by Christmas, but you should be able to find these items in stores as well.
This year, with almost everyone plugged into some device or other, portable rechargers are a good bet. This one is compact, inexpensive, has universal compatibility, and gets good reviews. It’s about the size of a cell phone and would easily fit in a pocket or a purse.
An extra set of earbuds
Another nice gift is the Panasonic earbuds that the editors at Cnet described as the best you can get in the budget price range. Friends or relatives who are still using really cheap earbuds will appreciate the upgrade.
For cooks and foodies, you’ll find several varieties of exotic sea salts in bulk packages, including French or Himalayan. Get some pretty jars from your nearest dollar store, fill them with the salts, then wrap with pretty ribbons and perhaps a nice ornament, and you have a gift that I would welcome.
For friends who don’t cook, follow the lead of one of my family members and bake some Toll House chocolate-chip cookies using Nestle’s chocolate chips and the classic recipe that has been around for decades. These are incredibly easy to make – I started baking them in grade school – and when they’re packaged in attractive tins or boxes (again from the dollar store), they make delicious gifts.
Another semi-homemade gift that packs a punch is a pretty tin or box (yes, the dollar store) of brownies, made from a Ghirardelli brownie mix (several varieties available). I discovered these exceptional mixes several years ago and found the brownies richer and better tasting than the ones available in local bakeries. This makes a really budget-friendly gift, especially compared with some of the brownies selling online for about $50 for two dozen.
For friends who love all things organic, I shop at Trader Joe’s, where organic oils (coconut, walnut, etc.) sell for as little as $5.99.
Health and beauty items
Useful and welcome gifts can be found in your local drugstore. Dermatologist-recommended Neutrogena products like the bath and shower gels are appropriate for both men and women.
Lips take a beating this time of year, so if you have friends who are constantly reapplying lip balm, they may be using a brand that actually dries lips. Surprise them with highly-rated Beessential’s Lemon Lavender All Natural Beeswax Lip Balm.
Another excellent lip balm is Smith’s Rosebud Salve, which you can find at various stores. Choose a few varieties, pop them into a decorative container or a mug (dollar store, naturally) and wrap with shiny paper.
Pretty greenery and decor
A final suggestion for anyone who has a holly tree in the backyard (or in the backyard of a generous neighbor): Buy a pretty vase (you know where to find those) or choose one from your own stock, if you do as I do and buy these throughout the year from garage sales. Fill with holly, wrap the neck of the vase with gorgeous ribbon – and you’ll have a gift that anyone would be proud to display.
Presentation is everything
As I mentioned earlier, presentation is key in making a small or budget-friendly gift shine. I learned this years ago from a friend whose gifts were always inexpensive but beautifully wrapped. Take the time to make everything pop, whether it be with eye-catching ribbon, a sprig of holly, an inexpensive ornament or some other personal touch, and your gifts will be noticed and remembered, whatever the price.
Related gift guides:
Living on the Cheap gift guide roundup
Stocking stuffers for grownups
Cheap practical gifts friends and family will love
What to give mom when you’re all grown up
Homemade soup gifts warm the heart
6 homemade food gifts (with recipes!) that are cheap and easy to make
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Homemade gifts: 11 easy ideas for drink & sweet mixes
Make your own easy holiday gift bags
More gift guides:
10 cool gifts for kids under $10
Inexpensive stocking stuffers for kids
10 best kitchen gifts under $25
Great gifts under $25 for organic gardeners
50 White Elephant gift exchange Ideas
A+ teacher gifts