50 Christmas Gifts for $50 or Less
So many people to shop for this holiday season -- husband or wife, boyfriend or girlfriend, children, mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles, friends, colleagues (and don't forget pets). Relax. Here is Cheapism.com's ultimate Christmas gift guide for 2015: 50 gifts, none costing more than $50. The array includes goofy stuff, practical stuff, and charitable stuff -- in other words, stuff for people of all ages and interests.
Amazon's new Fire tablet ($50; out of stock on Amazon but available at Best Buy) impresses with a 7-inch display, Wi-Fi capability, a rear/front camera, and 8GB storage. Aside from its very low price, CNET cites access to all of Amazon's special features (e.g., Amazon Underground apps, Mayday screen sharing, and unlimited cloud storage) as one reason to buy the Fire. Others include the option to expand the device's storage and a user experience akin to a pricier Android tablet. One negative: Users need an Amazon Prime membership to reap the full benefits.
This cutting board from Uncommon Goods ($48) celebrates a classic combination. Crackers can be arranged in an ampersand cut into the solid maple board, leaving prime space for cheese and condiments. This fun, functional gift is produced by a family-owned company in Vermont. Some buyers may be tempted to keep it for themselves for holiday entertaining.
When Lilly Pulitzer's line debuted at Target earlier this year, shoppers thronged the aisles for a grab at budget-priced goods by a high-end designer. The madness over Pulitzer's products speaks to their desirability, and this travel mug ($15 at Nordstrom) is a prime example of the colorful aesthetic that appeals to so many at a low price. The 20-ounce reusable tumbler with straw comes in four signature, preppy prints and is BPA-, lead-, and phthalate-free (hand-wash only).
For anyone who fears the challenge of boiling up a perfect pot of rice, this stylish stainless steel rice cooker from Aroma ($32 on Amazon) is the answer. It makes 2 to 8 cups of cooked rice (1 to 4 cups uncooked) and features programmable digital controls for different types of rice, with a 15-hour delay timer. It also steams vegetables and meats while the rice cooks down below. The inner pot has a nonstick surface, and the parts are dishwasher-safe. More than 4,800 reviewers assign it an average 4.3 stars.
One of the world's top chocolatiers, Godiva has been making gourmet chocolates and candies since 1926. The company offers a popular holiday mix: the 36-Piece Gold Ballotin ($50). (Ballotin is a term for a fancy box containing chocolates.) The gift box includes an assortment of milk, white, and dark chocolates with a variety of fillings, including caramel, nuts, ganaches, fruits, and pralines, in unique flavors; see the website for a complete list of the contents. With its seasonal red ribbon and gold box, this would be a generous workplace or host gift.
The family's resident gamer, young or old, will be thrilled with this novelty backpack, a piece of officially licensed Minecraft merchandise from ThinkGeek ($40). The 100 percent polyester bag, in the unmistakable shape of a Minecraft Creeper, features three compartments with double zippers, adjustable straps, padding, and a top loop for toting.
This well-stocked DIY beer-making kit (about $33 on Amazon) will delight beer enthusiasts and home brewers. The Deluxe Edition includes a BPA-free 2-gallon durable keg and a classic American light hopped malt extract. It also comes with a no-rinse cleanser and instructional DVD. All the equipment can be reused with malt extract refills for unlimited brewing.
Babbling water cues a dog or cat that, hey, maybe it's time for a water break. This simple fountain ($29 on Amazon) replaces a lame water dish with a continuously flowing stream; the fountain holds 50 ounces. It's a boon for pet owners who leave furry friends home alone for extended periods and worry about providing fresh water to keep them hydrated.
Whether it's date night or a workday, this eye shadow palette ($45 from Tarte) with 12 exclusive shades will come in handy. The makeup is made with Amazonian clay and contains mineral pigments and vitamins E, C, and A. Dozens of 4- and 5-star reviews at Sephora, Ulta, and Macy's speak to how much users relish the colors.
In an inspiring project called "Humans of New York," photographer Brandon Stanton captures regular folks going about their business in New York City and teases out poignant, and occasionally hilarious, stories from their lives. The snapshots claim millions of followers on Stanton's Instagram account, Facebook page, and blog, and now he's put together his third book, a New York Times best-seller ($16.50 on Amazon).
The Force has returned, and this Artoo Tea Too teakettle ($40 at ThinkGeek) is just the right celebratory holiday gift for Star Wars fanatics. It holds 36 ounces of liquid -- no electrical transistors, so users need not worry. It's also dishwasher- safe and made of high-quality ceramic. And lest the receiver undervalue the gift, it boasts an official Star Wars merchandise license.
Even guys like to keep their skin smooth and soft, so help them out with this set of body-care products from Plum Island Soap Co. ($48). The lotions and potions -- hand butter, soap, baby rum oil, and shave gel -- are handmade and give off fresh, spicy, masculine scents. Neatly packaged in a suave black paint can, the kit also comes with a body mitt.
Architectural Digest ($25 for 12 issues) features gorgeous, jaw-dropping photography of interior and exterior spaces designed by professionals and amateurs around the world. Issues also provide tips on landscaping, home décor, travel, and culture. DIY buffs and admirers of design and architecture will delight in the photos that show up in monthly issues.
This epic fantasy series by George R. R. Martin ($27.50 on Amazon) inspired the popular "Game of Thrones" TV series on HBO (slated to return for a sixth season in April). The five hulking paperbacks in the set are "A Game of Thrones," "A Clash of Kings," "A Storm of Swords," "A Feast for Crows," and "A Dance With Dragons." The box features photos from the TV version.
With more than 1.3 million participants, microlender Kiva enables donors around the globe to lend money to others who need capital for projects such as growing a business, attending school, and adopting clean energy systems. The smallest loan is $25, and when repaid, the funds can be loaned out to someone else as a gift that keeps on giving. Send a Kiva card to someone on your list, who will choose the recipient.
Anxious hands will surely appreciate Crazy Aaron's Thinking Putty (starting at $9), designed for kneading away nerves -- and just for fun. Kids and adults alike will get a kick out of the goofy tin and the durable, USA-made formula that promises never to dry out. The putty comes in a variety of colors, some of which glow in the dark.
It's hard to go wrong with a classic piece of jewelry. These faux-gem square stud earrings ($38 at Nordstrom) by Kate Spade hit the mark. Available in 12 colors, including fluorescent pink, turquoise, beryl green, and clear crystal, the simple and basic studs pair well with casual and even dressier outfits. The posts are 14-karat-gold-filled.
Unlike "Goodnight Moon, "Goodnight Clementine" probably won't show up on the shelves of a local bookstore. But Nordstrom can make it a reality with a personalized children's book ($35). "Goodnight Little (Me)," by Jennifer Dewing, is a bedtime story with a title that grandly shows off a child's name (in place of "Me").
Heifer International, a nonprofit organization dedicated to alleviating poverty and hunger, provides animals to families in need around the world. A donation of $20 on behalf of someone on your list sends a flock of geese, ducks, or chicks, along with a personalized card, to a family who will use the livestock as food and a source of income.
Gussy up before-dinner cocktails with this three-piece set ($39 at Urban Outfitters). The glass decanter (graced by a stopper) reads "ours" and the two double old-fashioned glasses read "yours" or "mine." This is a practical gift for folks who enjoy entertaining and collectible glassware.
Currently the project with the most backers in the history of Kickstarter, this quirky card game ($20 on Amazon) comes from the folks behind the web comic The Oatmeal. Two to five players draw cards until an Exploding Kitten comes up and wreaks havoc. The game is recommended for ages 7 and up and boasts an average rating of 4.7 stars from nearly 2,500 reviews.
Think of all your friends and family members who enjoy Asian cuisine. Then think about the claim by activists that disposable wooden chopsticks add to the planet's deforestation and may contain toxic chemicals. Avoid the guilt -- and splinters -- with reusable and lightweight titanium chopsticks from HealthPro ($15 for a set of two on Amazon).
A wall calendar displaying stunning photos is a go-to gift for someone who is hard to shop for. This 2016 calendar from National Geographic ($15) focuses on elephants and provides educational information on every page. It's made of earth-friendly materials: FSC-certified paper and soy-based inks.
A sleek, foldable, and retractable utility knife ($10 at Home Depot) is a highly rated home improvement essential for the DIY guy or gal on your list. Designed for one-handed use, the Dewalt Folding Retractable Utility Knife (DWHT10035L) features a blade that cuts at various depths and can be switched out quickly with an access button; there's a compartment for storing extra blades.
Pinhole Press makes thick, sturdy board books for kids (starting at $30) customized with family photos and names or basic words. These miniature books can help young children learn the names and faces of family members. Pinhole Press guarantees the books are safe for children starting at age 1, and they're certified by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
What's movie night at home without a bowl of homemade popcorn? The stainless steel Whirley-Pop Stovetop Popcorn Popper ($20 on Amazon) makes 6 quarts of popcorn in about three minutes. The pan features a two-sided lid and an old-fashioned wood crank attached to a stirring system. It averages 4.3 stars from more than 3,200 reviewers.
Give the gift of a fancy dinner to a lucky family courtesy of Omaha Steaks. The Blissful Banquet package ($50) includes two top sirloins, four Omaha Steaks burgers, four gourmet jumbo franks, four stuffed baked potatoes, and four assorted individual New York cheesecakes. Meat eaters salivate at this combo, which ships for free anywhere in the United States; the foods are frozen and packed with dry ice in a cooler.
The PlasmaCar (starting at $45 on Amazon) seems downright futuristic despite its simple design: a ride-on toy with no gears, batteries, or petals, but a turn of the wheel propels it forward and lets kids cruise around flat surfaces effortlessly. Motion comes from centrifugal force, friction, inertia, and steering. (The University of Toronto explains it all.) Appropriate for ages 3 and up, the seat's shape keeps riders secure. The PlasmaCar has won numerous toy industry awards and excellent user reviews.
This pink curling wand by Remington ($20 on Amazon) tapers from 1 inch to one-half inch and is a favorite of Amazon shoppers, with an average 4.4 stars from more than 4,100 reviewers. It features patent-pending ceramic pearl technology and heats to 410 degrees (there's an automatic shut-off feature, just in case). The wand comes with a heat-protective glove for safe styling.
A user-friendly spiral slicer from Paderno World Cuisine ($30 on Amazon) turns vegetables and fruits -- zucchini, squash, potatoes, cucumbers, apples, and so on -- into spaghetti-like, ribbon-like, or thick spiral strands. Just crank the fresh produce through this novelty kitchen tool for "pasta," curly fries, and more. The three blades are easy to switch out and clean, reviewers say.
Alison Green, the blogger behind Ask a Manager, is selling this ebook guide ($25) to applying for jobs, interviewing, and negotiating offers. A useful gift for a recent or upcoming graduate, or for anyone contemplating a midlife career switch, the book comes with two hour-long web seminars crammed with advice on job searching. The deal includes a 30-day money-back guarantee.
The affordable, well-reviewed 2015 Google Chromecast ($35 at Best Buy) lets users stream media onto their TVs from myriad sources, including Hulu Plus, HBO Go, Netflix, and Pandora. Chromecast plugs into an HDTV, connects to Wi-Fi, and streams via any Android or iOS device. A smartphone can function as a remote. For anyone who is contemplating cutting the cord, this is a must-give holiday gift.
A cheap alternative to Oculus Rift, Google Cardboard viewers offer a virtual reality gaming experience through a device made of, yup, cardboard. Slip a smartphone into the viewer and enjoy 3D games and maps from around the globe. Various companies sell viewers certified for Google Cardboard; this 2015 edition from Knox Labs ($24) works with both Android and iOS devices, assembles in two quick steps, and features a large viewing field.
A futuristic caster board combines a snowboard and a skateboard experience that active tweens and teens would consider quite a thrill. The RipStik Ripster (starting at $39 at Target) features a compact pivoting deck suitable for smaller riders or those who favor a narrow stance for doing tricks. Razor recommends the design, which comes in red or blue, for ages 8 and older and up to 175 pounds.
This all-inclusive art kit from Land of Nod ($32) looks like any young aspiring artist's dream. The portable box of art supplies includes 16 fine-point markers, 18 colored pencils, 18 crayons, 14 oil pastels, eight watercolor blocks, two drawing pencils, two paintbrushes, and one eraser and sharpener. A nice extra: The outside of the kit can be decorated. Reserve this gift for children over 3 due to choking hazards; the recommended age is 5 and up.
Audible offers more than 180,000 audiobooks for download, including many new best-sellers narrated by the authors themselves, at the price of $45 for three months. Membership includes credit for one book each month, valuable discounts, and members-only sale opportunities for more audiobook purchases.
To some people's chagrin and others' intense enthusiasm, selfie sticks are all the rage this year. This one from Flexion ($14 on Amazon) fits most smartphones, pairs with Bluetooth, and features an adjustable holder that extends up to 3.5 feet. Weighing only 4 ounces and designed with an easy snap-in setup, it makes taking selfies or photos from any angle a breeze.
The 450-watt Ninja Master Prep ($40 on Amazon) blends, chops, purées, and dices. It comes with two jars (one holding up to 48 ounces and the other up to 16 ounces), two storage lids, four- and six-blade attachments, and a power pod that fits in the palm of a hand. The Ninja is dishwasher-safe and BPA-free, and averages 4.5 stars from more than 6,000 reviewers.
Combine art with practicality in a gift from Society6, a selling platform for pieces created by artists all over the world. Hand-sewn and made of spun polyester poplin, this throw pillow cover ($20) is decorated with ornate, majestic elephant images on both sides. It measures 16 inches square. There's no pillow included, so pick one up at a home-goods or craft store for a few dollars.
Comfy slippers from Minnetonka keep feet toasty warm, whether padding around the house or dashing outdoors in the depths of winter. Some of the company's best-sellers are pile-lined hardsole slippers for men ($46 from Zappos) and Cally slippers for women ($39), which come in more color choices. Both feature suede uppers, faux fur lining, rubber soles, and a leather bow on top.
Give the coffee aficionado a morning jolt with the Aeropress total immersion brewing contraption from Aerobie ($28 on Amazon). The press makes espresso shots to use as the base for lattes and cappuccinos, as well as American-style coffee. Once the water reaches the proper temperature, the brewing process takes less than a minute to make up to 4 cups. The unique design reportedly is easier to clean than a traditional French press.
Long, dark, cold winter nights call for a little levity. The sometimes-wicked game Cards Against Humanity ($25 on Amazon) is a stocking stuffer that can ease the winter doldrums. The 550-card deck offers a seemingly infinite number of possible rounds for six players. Black cards have questions and white cards have possible answers; players try to outdo one another for laughs. A best-selling item in Amazon's toys and games department, Cards Against Humanity claims more than 26,000 fans. This one is for adults and mature teens only, as things can get awkward and perverse.
Bring the uninitiated into the magic of wizardry with a gift of Harry Potter books ($46 at Walmart), the coming-of-age fantasy series by J.K. Rowling. The seven-book box set is available in paperback and features artwork from the original American covers. Kindle and hardcover versions cost more.
Harried home cooks can create an unending variety of meals with minimal effort when using this 6-quart programmable slow cooker from Crock-Pot ($49 on Amazon). With digital controls for setting the cooking time and temperature, there's no babysitting required. Contents cook for as little as 30 minutes and up to 20 hours; at the appointed time, the temperature shifts to "warm." The stoneware pot is dishwasher-safe and can go in the refrigerator, oven, or microwave.
New parents will appreciate a set of four muslin swaddle blankets by Aden + Anais. The 100 percent organic cotton blankets are soft and breathable. At 47 inches square, they're sized for swaddling a baby and can also be used as nursing and stroller covers, burp cloths, and tummy-time surfaces. Shoppers can choose from 16 patterns (starting at $40 for four on Amazon). More than 1,400 reviewers award the blankets an average 4.8 stars.
Many parents have embraced a philosophy of giving children "something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read." Lego's Jungle Rescue building set ($48 on Amazon) falls into the "something they want" category. A guaranteed crowd pleaser for the 7-to-12-year-old set, it includes a whopping 473 pieces, from minifigures to jungle animals. Use the pieces to build living quarters, a mobile medical station, a surveillance platform, a bathroom hut, and a raft boat for a comprehensive safari experience.
A knife block and set is a practical, long-lasting gift for anyone moving into a new place, leaving the nest, or setting up a first home as a recent grad or committed couple. This 16-piece set from Chicago Cutlery ($50 on Amazon) features forged, stainless steel knives with full-tang handles and a lifetime warranty. The set includes a 7.75-inch chef knife, an 8-inch bread knife, a 5-inch utility knife, a 3.5-inch paring knife, a 3-inch peeler knife, eight 4.5-inch steak knives, kitchen shears, sharpening steel, and an espresso wood storage block.