20 Under $20: Birthday Presents for Everyone

BIRTHDAY GIFTS TO TREASURE

The one day a year everyone gets to feel extra special is the perfect opportunity to show your love. Choosing just the right birthday gift for partners, family, and friends can be stressful, but finding more than a trifle when constrained by a tight budget only adds to the anxiety. If you buy the notion that dollar signs are no measure of how much you care, these inexpensive gift ideas signal to the people in your life that giving truly comes from the heart.

FOR ROMANTIC PARTNER: FLOWERS

Tried and true, a bouquet of flowers can brighten anyone's day. Whether it's a few long stems with blooms in exotic colors or a large bunch of everyday daisies, beautiful flowers for $20 or less are an easy find at a city bodega or suburban grocery store.

FOR ROMANTIC PARTNER: CHOCOLATE

Humans and chocolate go together like, well…the candy's chemical compounds produce a euphoric effect in our brains, making it the perfect gift for a special someone's special day. Opt for a raw, or virgin, chocolate bar that retains even more of the feel-good compounds. Even the best examples, including a truffle chunky from Fine & Raw, cost less than $10 a bar.

FOR ROMANTIC PARTNER: LOVE LETTER

An artfully composed missive is proof that the best things in life are free Writing a love letter costs nothing (assuming you already have a pen and paper, of course) and must come from the heart. Tell your sweetie all the things you love about him or her, how they have changed your life for the better, and what you look forward to doing together. Precious words are long remembered.

FOR ROMANTIC PARTNER: SENSUAL MASSAGE

FOR ROMANTIC PARTNER: SENSUAL MASSAGE Show your loved one how much you care with a massage. Knead deep into muscle tissue to release tension and transport your partner to a state of bliss. Set the mood with a scented candle, soft music, and filtered light. Pick up a scented body oil to give the experience an authentic and indulgent feel; aromatherapy oils start at just $10.

FOR ROMANTIC PARTNER: HOME-COOKED MEAL

Cooking for the one you love is a delicious and centuries-old way of expressing affection and tenderness. No need for a fancy meal -- even a well-planned and low- cost dinner party menu costing less than $5 a person plus a bottle of inexpensive red wine keeps the total tab below $20.
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FOR FRIENDS: BOOK

Hard cover or digital, a book that reflects the interests and passions of a friend is a thoughtful way to remind them how much you care. Not sure about their latest hobby? Choose a book packed with humor because everyone needs to laugh now and then. Browse the vast array of books priced below $15 and score this birthday gift for under $20, shipping included.

FOR FRIENDS: T-SHIRT

Think of your friend's favorite movie or superhero character and buy a themed T-shirt. This is a gift in the $15 price range that's not only practical but also sentimental: It will remind your pal of your friendship every time he or she wears it.

FOR FRIENDS: MUG

A decorative mug for $10 or so is a thoughtful gift that will never wear out or go out of style. For morning coffee, afternoon tea, hot toddies in winter, and soup when sick, a mug is a constant companion. Choose one in a favorite color or with mementos of a favorite city.

FOR FRIENDS: NOVELTY SOCKS

A pair of fun socks is always a welcome gift, especially these days when socks have become a way of expressing yourself under the standard suit-and-tie uniform. Check out The Joy of Socks for oodles of options, from classic to quirky, all for no more than $10 a pair.

FOR FRIENDS: FANCY SALT

Weather your friend is a salt aficionado or novice, specialty salt is a gift that will have them thanking you with every home-cooked meal. Gourmet salts enhance the flavor of foods immensely. Go for a plain mineral-rich flake salt for more conservative friends and something wild, like habanero or espresso salts, for more adventurous pals. The Meadow has all of your salt needs covered; a selection of two or three gourmet salts costs less than $15.

FOR KIDS: BALLOONS

A colorful bunch of different shaped balloons or one giant balloon is sure to fill a child's heart with joy. The best part is that helium-filled balloons are cheap -- about $3 each for simple varieties and up to $20 for really large ones -- and last for several days to a week. They are sure to remind the child how special they are after all the cake is gone and the presents opened and stored away.
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FOR KIDS: ART MATERIALS

A pack of colored pencils and a drawing pad may cost you just a few dollars -- figure $15 or less -- but it's enough to inspire a special young person in your life. A gift of creative materials encourages the growth and exploration of imagination, one of the best gifts a child could receive.

FOR KIDS: CUPCAKES

Definitely not an everyday event, birthdays are the perfect excuse to give in to this indulgence. A big, bright fancy cupcake with sprinkles and funny faces and gobs of icing topped off with a candle makes every kid feel special. Not to mention that you will definitely be regarded as the cool adult for presenting such a sweet treat -- and all for less than $5.

FOR KIDS: FRIENDSHIP BRACELETS

Being a child can be lonely, and a friendship bracelet reminds them that they have friends of all ages. This simple and inexpensive gift lets them know you are a fixture in their life, in the good times and trying times, and available for support and nurturing. This gift will set you back about $5; if you're so inclined, check out one of the many online DIY tutorials.

FOR KIDS: STUFFED ANIMAL

A soft, cuddly friend can become a treasured and comforting item for many little ones. There are thousands of stuffed animal options costing less than $15, including bunnies, sheep, and a family of pigs, available at online and bricks-and-mortar vendors.

FOR RELATIVES: FRAMED PICTURE

It may seem like a blast from the past but a real printed photo is still a welcome and appreciated gift. An attractive and simple frame costs $10 or so, and printing out the photo from your phone, digital camera, or Facebook page adds just a few dollars more.

FOR RELATIVES: HAND-WRITTEN NOTE

Sometimes a hand-written note on a pretty piece of stationery or blank card letting someone know you remembered them will make their day even more special. This inexpensive gesture is becoming a lost art, but it won't be lost on family members. Don't take the easy route by substituting this under-$5 birthday gift with an e-card.
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FOR RELATIVES: RECIPE BOOK

Take some time to gather a few favorite family recipes. Enter the details into your computer and format each nicely. At the local copy shop have the file printed out on good quality stock and bound in a bright cover. A thoughtful gift for less than $10, the recipes are sure to delight current and future generations.

FOR RELATIVES: INSULATED TRAVEL MUG

This is the perfect $20-and-under gift for folks who commute to work. An insulated travel mug will keep their hot morning beverage of choice hot for hours. Coffee and tea addicts, in particular, will appreciate the offering.

FOR RELATIVES: CUSTOM CALENDAR

Modern technology makes gifting on a budget easy in a lot of ways. Upload 12 of your own photo images and instantly create a custom calendar. For a starting price of $16, this is a gift that lasts all year long. Of course, it's best suited for people born in December and January.