The holiday season can be full of joy and fun but buying holiday gifts can lead to extra money stress: You want to get something nice but you don’t want to kill your budget.
That’s why we chatted with a few of our favorite personal finance experts to find out the best inexpensive gift they’ve ever received. From the practical to the meaningful, there is something for everyone on your list and that something won’t break the bank.
1. A fancy notebook
A notebook can be a multi-purpose gift for nearly anyone. It’s a good gift for a writer, an obsessive journal-er, or for people who prefer to keep track of things on paper.
“Recently my wife knew I was on the lookout for a fancy notebook as I keep track of my health and fitness each day with pen and paper. Instead of spending money she gave me a beautiful leather bound journal that she received from her work,” says Steven Donovan, Money Coach at Even Steven Money. “She had plans to use it herself but knew I would get the most out of it. The gift was free, the thought behind it meant something to me, and I use it every single day.”
I recently got a notebook with a cover that said “Screenplays About My Cat”, which was absolutely perfect for this self-described crazy cat lady. You can get the notebook I have for $9.54 on Amazon.
2. Fabric defuzzer
Have you ever had a nice sweater, you wash it, then there are pills and pieces of fuzz everywhere? How do you even get rid of that? A fabric defuzzer, truly one of the most useful gifts that you can give.
“The best affordable gift I have ever received is a fabric shaver. For $12, it removes all of the pills, fuzz and lint on my sweaters and has saved me from having to buy new sweaters all the time,” says Liza Grando, President at The Moss Tucker Group. “It meant so much to me to get this from my boyfriend’s family as it’s useful and surprisingly satisfying to get rid of all that pilling and fuzz. Such a great gift and one of those things you’d never think to get for yourself.”
3. Magazine or newspaper subscription
Do you have a friend who just loves The New Yorker or obsessively reads The New York Times? How about someone who is a business geek who would love a Forbes subscription? A magazine or newspaper subscription is a fun gift that keeps on giving.
“In the mid-1970s, shortly after I’d started a two-year business-related master’s degree program at a nearby state university, my favorite uncle gave me a wonderful Christmas present: a two-year gift subscription to Forbes magazine,” says Timothy G. Wiedman, D.B.A., PHR Emeritus at Doane College. “That first issue arrived roughly 40 years ago, and I’ve been a loyal Forbes reader ever since. And while I believe that two-year gift subscription only cost my uncle about $11.99 in the mid 1970s, that was a Christmas present that had lifetime implications!”
4. Photography lens for a smartphone
Have a budding photographer in your life or someone who loves getting the perfect selfie? Though smartphones have pretty good quality cameras these days, you can take them to the next level with a photography lens.
“About six or seven years ago I was starting to get interested in photography, and for Christmas my wife got me a set of three lenses to use with my smartphone camera. I think she spent $30 to $40 on the set,” says Marc Andre, personal finance blogger at Vital Dollar. “It was a great gift because I knew she had put some thought into finding a gift that I would like. She knew I would be interested in something photography related and she took the time to find something fun. I had never seen lenses for a smartphone camera so it was definitely a gift that surprised me.”
Check out these options from Amazon ranging from around $14 to $40.
5. Packing cubes
Do you have a travel lover in your life or someone who travels for work all the time? Getting them the gift of packing cubes can make a huge difference.
“As a business owner in the insurance industry, I do quite a bit of travel. A friend of mine bought me packing cubes from Ebags, and they are the best thing ever. You can separate out undergarments, socks, swimsuits, pants, etc.,” says Danielle Kunkle Roberts, Co-Founder, Boomer Benefits. “When you get to your hotel, unpacking is so easy because you can throw the whole cube in the drawer. For $50, you can’t beat it. I’ve since bought the same gift for other people in my circle who travel. They are always a hit.”
You can get Ebags for around $50 right now. I actually have some Ebags that I got from my mom a few years ago and it does make travel a breeze and I don’t stress about packing anymore.
6. Swiss Army backpack
Another gift for travelers or people on-the-go is a Swiss Army backpack.
“My best gift was a Swiss Army backpack with a padded pocket for my laptop. It was around $60 and a few months later I started traveling full-time and used it every day for a couple of years,” says Pauline Paquin, blogger at Reach Financial Independence.
“As a general rule, my favorite gifts have been things I use on a regular basis. They don’t clutter my house and make me think of the gifter every time.”
There are various options available starting at $40 and above in different styles.
7. Gift certificates for something practical
Sometimes you get something and you can feel disappointed in the moment because it’s a little too practical. This happened to blogger Tori Dunlap.
“My grandma gave me gift certificates for oil changes last year and at the time I was disappointed but now I’m on board,” she says.
I mean, do you really want to spend your hard-earned dough on stuff like that? Probably not, but it’s necessary. I feel the same way about Trader Joe’s gift certificates that I’ve gotten from my parents. They help free up some room in my budget on things I’d already purchase.
8. Mug warmer
If you have a coffee lover in your life, buying coffee or Starbucks gift cards are nice. But something a little more unique and useful is a mug warmer. I didn’t even know they existed until a friend got me one a few years ago. It was great. No more lukewarm coffee or cold tea!
Melanie Lockert is a personal finance expert, the blogger behind DearDebt.com and author of the book “Dear Debt: A story about breaking up with debt.” Melanie paid off $81,000 of debt and is now on a mission to help others do the same.
Feature Image: Twenty20