Love ’em or hate ’em, there’s one thing the holidays almost always are: EXPENSIVE. You’ve got your list of presents to buy for your mom, your dad, your sister, your brother in law, your brother in law’s mom… you get the picture. And while you may be tempted to spend an arm and a leg because thats what we’ve been conditioned to do in our consumerist society, you may actually end up with a bleeding wallet and a handful of recipients that would have been just as satisfied with a less expensive gift. So, here’s something that might help you avoid overspending this holiday season: a list of 25 of the most meaningful, fun, and useful gifts under $25 you can get your loved ones. They’re all things I’ve either personally given or received, so I know what’s good (and what’s total junk).
25 Meaningful Holiday Presents Under $25
1. A thermal coffee mug
There’s no denying that people
turn into demonic creatures without LOVE their morning coffee (or tea, no judgment). But when work and life get in the way and it’s difficult to sit down with your cuppa joe, it can make for a really disastrous day.
Enter the thermal travel mug. It’s basically a steel tank that holds your golden caffeine and keeps it warm for several hours (enough time to get to work, sit down, ask your cubemate Barbara what she had for dinner last night, and open your laptop).
The best part? You can gift one of these bad boys for less moolah than a week’s worth of coffee at Starbucks.
We Recommend: Zojirushi Stainless Steel Mug. It comes in all different colors and is solid as a rock inside a work bag, on the bus, or in transit.
Every year my significant other and I do a book exchange. We each pick one book that we think the other would like and then we spend some quiet time each day in the New Year reading together. I LOVE giving and receiving books as holiday presents because books are knowledge and knowledge is power (and because books are gifts that keep on giving!).
We Recommend: Buying books on Amazon! Some recent reads I’d recommend include:
- A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
- You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero
- The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
**But ONLY YOU can decide what your loved ones will enjoy!
I’m the kind of person that’s obsessed with notebooks, and I thought I was the only one until one day, my colleagues and I were on a business trip and decided to use our lunch break by perusing a notebook store. And yes, we were ALL enthralled by the different bindings, page linings, and designs. I think the notebook frenzy is actually a more widespread thing than people would like to admit, and this is why I think a high-quality notebook makes an excellent (and budget-friendly) gift.
We Recommend: Leuchtturm Dotted Hardcover Notebooks. They feel luxurious to the touch, they’re sleek, and the dots are a wonderful and minimalistic page style that feels modern and simple. My bright purple dot notebook is my go-to now. Honorable mention goes to Moleskine because they’ve got a great variety of notebooks and I’ve used them forever.
You might look at #3 and then look at this one and say “same, same.” But au contraire, mes amis, planners are TOTALLY DIFFERENT than notebooks. I think of notebooks as places to document the present, but planners help you document the future. They’re basically time travel machines but in bound, paper form. If the loved one in question loves to stay organized and plan out their weeks, months, or entire year on paper, a planner is a really meaningful gift that they’ll receive just in time for the start of the new year.
We Recommend: The High Performance Planner. It’s a planner that was created so you can live your best life and get sh*t done. That’s my kind of present! (But if you aren’t into the high-intensity stuff, there are a bunch of cute planners here.)
5. A fun one-month subscription trial (to anything)
Subscription boxes are a fun way to get surprises every single month. And who doesn’t love surprises?! It seems like there are subscription boxes for everything nowadays, from make up to gardening to brain puzzles and more. Usually, the first month comes at a discount, so why not give your loved ones a taste of surprise with a subscription box that they’ll be sure to love?
We Recommend: Oh gosh, there are so many! For cosmetics, ipsy and Dollar Shave Club are awesome. For education, Skillshare is a fantastic option. Spotify and Netflix are two that will surely be put to use. Or, if your recipient is more of a visual person, classic magazines always do the trick.
6. Photo prints or books
Let’s be real: everyone likes to decorate their homes and spaces with photos of their loved ones
to prove they have friends to constantly be reminded of them every day. 🙂 That’s why getting some framed photo prints or books can be one of the best gives that $25 can buy! Printed photos are such a luxury these days, where everything is digitized and Instagram becomes your photo reel, so consider going analog and getting a few beautiful photos printed for your loved ones instead.
We Recommend: Snapfish is a well-known printing service that will print your photos into beautiful bound books. Or, if you prefer to frame them yourself, here are a few beautiful, modern frames you can use in your house.
7. Souvenirs from abroad
If you happen to be traveling abroad sometime in the foreseeable future, one of my favorite things to do is pick up a few inexpensive things for my family back home. Even if those items are small, being thoughtful about your loved ones while traveling goes a long way. And they’ll most certainly appreciate hearing about their gifts in the context of your broader trip!
We Recommend: Pillowcases. There are so many beautiful textiles and designs that can only be found in foreign countries, and pillowcases enable you to display a little piece of those traditions in your own home. They’re light and easy to transport, too. (In my bedroom alone, I have pillowcases from Thailand, Peru, and Guatemala!)
People who dream of faraway places (like me) often have a fixation with maps. And why not? Maps capture the details of the world from a bird’s eye view, and they can be fascinating to have around the home as a conversation piece or as a memory of former adventures. If your loved ones are avid travelers, or simply love to read and learn about the world, a map can be an excellent gift.
We Recommend: This ADORABLE scratch off world map. Your loved ones can scratch off and keep track of the places they’ve gone in the world as they go.
9. Soaps and cosmetics
What’s a better gift than something people will almost definitely use every day? That’s right, I’m talking about soaps, shampoos, lotions, etc. It might seem weird, but beautifully scented soap and self-care products are a gift that will continue to give for a long, long time.
Some of the best gifts I ever received were solid shampoo (perfect for a frequent traveler like me), lavender soap (amazing for night time relaxation), and a bath bomb (which I broke in half and used twice because a steaming hot bubble bath is amazing after a long run).
We Recommend: Ethique soaps, shampoos, and conditioners. Waste-free and they smell like heaven. Your gift recipient will be thrilled to know they’re saving the environment and using some of the highest quality stuff out there.
10. Local concert tickets
There are SO many great shows and events going on in any city, at any time, but a lot of times we overlook them when we’re living in a place. Attending a local concert can be a really fun way to get out on the town and enjoy your city like a tourist. While big-name performers often cost a lot to see live, you can often see local bands or smaller performances for much less. Sometimes you’ll hit the jackpot and find some incredibly talented, under-the-radar groups!
We Recommend: Looking through the listings on your local tourism board’s website, and checking for last-minute deals on StubHub.
11. Paint by number kit
OK, this is maybe a bit out there, but I actually think paint by number is really fun…anyone else? (*Crickets*) Okay, well anyway, paint by numbers is a really fun way to make fun visual art if you’re not an artist. It gives us non-creative plebeians a chance at making something beautiful. And yes, every time someone I know has received one of these, they’ve loved it.
We Recommend: There are a bunch of paint by number kits here, many of which are less than $25.
12. Re-gift one of your most beloved items
Easily the most cost effective and potentially the most meaningful gift is something you already have, that your recipient would use more than you do. For example, my mother gave me an old, khaki colored Burberry trench coat that used to be hers, but that she never used. She even offered to help pay to get it tailored for me! I still have it to this day and it will be an essential part of my wardrobe for years to come.
We Recommend: Think about what your loved ones want, then doing a closet cleanout to see if anything you already own matches that description. If it has been a while since your last “stuff purge,” you might be surprised at what you’ll find!
13. Make a hand-crafted item or card
One of the very few things I’ve kept over the years is thoughtful, hand written cards. They still make me tear up a bit when I read them. In the digital age, we tend to forget how meaningful analog forms of communication (like letter writing) can be. However, I’m much more likely to feel loved (and keep my gifts forever) if I’m given a specially-made card, rather than an email or a generic gift card.
We Recommend: Use multicolored cardstock for an extra bright greeting card! Or, get together with friends and throw a holiday card making party. You can even try learning some origami to jazz your designs up a bit!
14. Warm, wooly socks
People like to make fun of socks as a present, but let me tell you: every pair of cozy socks I got as a gift, I’ve actually USED. Wooly socks give the user a cozy, warm feeling, and that’s what makes a good pair of socks the perfect gift. Extra points for a fun pattern (pizza, anyone?) that your gift recipient will love.
We Recommend: Smartwool socks. Cozy, comfortable, and they come in all kinds of patterns and colors. They’re also great for hiking and outdoor adventures.
15. Delicious coffee or tea
I’m convinced that the best gifts are ones people can use every day, and COFFEE (or tea) is one of those things. While many people tend to try and save money by buying cheap coffee, they’d absolutely appreciate and use something a little more upscale. You might need to do some recon to find out what types of coffee or tea your loved ones like.
I’ve always thought of learning how to cook from an expert chef, especially now after watching food shows like Chef’s Table and Parts Unknown. While cooking classes can run you a pretty penny, cookbooks are a wonderful gift for someone who dreams of learning how to prepare different kinds of food. From desserts to vegan meals to steaks and salads, there are SO many different kinds of cookbooks to offer.
We Recommend: There are thousands of cookbooks I could recommend, but here’s one I personally really love: In Her Kitchen: Stories and Recipes from Around the World by Gabriele Galimberti.
17. A homemade meal
Meaningful gifts come in many forms, but a homemade meal can be one of the most memorable. Cooking a meal JUST for someone is a great way to show them you love them! Light some candles, use that fine china your great-aunt gave you, and bump some smooth tunes in the background for an extra luxe evening.
Even better: you can plan out the recipes and ingredients and cook together. (But if the meal is a gift, I’d offer to do the dishes after…)
We Recommend: Buy ingredients that are in season for an extra special local meal, and include your recipes so your loved ones can replicate the meal later!
Candles are one of those things that practically everyone wants but doesn’t buy because they’re either a) too expensive, or b) too low on the priority list. But they’re a really nice addition to any home, and they can give the winter season the hygge it needs. Just make sure you know what kinds of scents your gift recipient likes!
We Recommend: The Volcano candle (small size is less than $25). It is one of my favorite scents and it’s magical for the home. But if the Volcano scent isn’t your jam, I’d recommend anything from Aspen Bay.
19. Home accents
While I’m actually not a huge fan of giving home accents (because they often turn into junk), they’re a great gift for the right person. For example, if your best friend loves owls and you get her these owl themed bookends, she *might* love you forever. Same with people who REALLY love a certain sports team, or movie series.
We Recommend: Snoop around their house next time you’re over and see what kinds of designs might work best.
20. Collapsible containers
Encouraging your loved ones to be more eco-friendly is a gift in itself, but there’s one even better way to do it: by giving really cool collapsible contraptions. Collapsible silicone comes in a lot of forms, but you can get collapsible “tupperware” containers, cups, silverware, and more. These are great for commuters who enjoy bringing their lunch places, or on-the-go coffee lovers who want to start bringing their own mugs.
We Recommend: This awesome collapsible coffee mug. As a traveler, I love having items I can compress down to a very small space, and this coffee mug does the job beautifully.
21. An eCourse
Education is the #1 gift that keeps on giving, and can help enable your gift recipient to grow or pivot in their careers and build a job that they love. At the least, an eCourse gives your loved ones new skills to use in their everyday lives. Personally, I buy about one new eCourse a month (because I’m a total nerd) and I will continue to do so because I love learning new things. Your gift recipients will thank you later!
We Recommend: Find something they’d love on Teachable or Udemy! There are a ton of great courses to explore, from photo editing to Google Analytics to social media marketing to web design and more.
22. Puzzle or board game
As I’ve grown into adulthood, I have started to love wine and board game nights more than any kind of social gathering. They’re a wonderful way to get together with your friends, catch up, and have a little bit of competitive fun in the process. While there are many, many board games that cost over $25 (rightfully so), there are a few great gems you can get for less!
We Recommend: Avalon is a fantastic (and devious, and conniving, and totally fun) board game under $25 that’s hilarious to play with a group.
23. Foldable backpack/tote bag
This one is more of a knick-knack, but last year I got one and I used it a TON. As a traveler, runner, and frequent commuter, I found that having a foldable backpack pouch was perfect for any situation where I needed an additional bag but didn’t want to tote around something bulky. This is a gift your loved ones on the go will DEFINITELY use!
We Recommend: A pocket-sized foldable backpack. It’s perfect for travelers, commuters, gym rats, and more.
24. Donations to an important cause
While all of the other gifts on this list are things people receive, this gift is all about giving. Donation-based gifts are the perfect, non-materialistic way to give back to your community and support issues your loved ones care about, without having to buy things that will turn into clutter or trash later. A donation can be an incredibly unique and meaningful present, and your socially-minded loved ones will most definitely appreciate it.
We Recommend: Find out what issues your loved ones care most about, and make a donation in their name to a relevant organization. Then, print out the confirmation and include it in a handmade card (see #13) with a thoughtful note about why you made your donation.
25. A meaningful experience
You don’t have to buy things to give meaningful gifts. Often, experiences can be just as (if not more) memorable! Treat your loved ones to a surprise visit to the zoo, or bring them to a new food truck they’ve never experienced before! Even better, combine a few different stops into a big scavenger hunt that you can do with the whole family. You’ll save money, prevent clutter and waste, and create a unique gift that no one else can replicate.
We Recommend: Explore a local museum, market hall, park, or neighborhood you’ve never been to before. Plan a staycation and enjoy your own city with fresh eyes!
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