Gift Ideas from $0 to $15 for Everyone on Your List

I have love/hate relationship when it comes to giving gifts. I love that moment of finding the perfect gift for someone and knowing how much they’ll like it, but I hate the sometimes arduous process of actually figuring out what the perfect gift is, not to mention the how much lighter my wallet feels after every holiday season.

Fortunately, after much trial and error, I’ve come up with a list of gifts that are both inexpensive and thoughtful. You’ll be able to survive the holidays with both your rent money and your relationships intact.

For Your SO:

If you’re crafty: An “I Love You” craft = $0-$10 (depending on supplies needed)

There are tons of blogs and posts online with instructions for inexpensive romantic crafts that any significant other would love. My personal favorite (and my SO’s favorite) was this “Valentine Lightbulb”. It wasn’t nearly as difficult as I expected it to be, and the result was beautiful. You could also try making some homemade paper for a letter or to use as backing for a sweet picture of you two. There are tons of explanations online about how to make homemade paper, but I liked this one the best.

If you’re not: A box of hearts = FREE

This is a cute little gift that my SO loved when I gave it to him on our anniversary. I cut out dozens of paper hearts, wrote sweet things on each one, put them in a box, and then sealed it. Now, this may sound like it’s crafty too, but it’s really not if you don’t want it to be. All you do is find a box (any old box will do, shoebox, Amazon shipping box, whatever), find some paper (when I did this, I cut all my hearts out of the massive amount of junk mail I was receiving at the time), cut out hearts (it’s not that hard, I promise), and then write something nice on them. Your SO will adore it, and the fact that you put in the time and effort for a handmade gift will mean so much.

For Your Parents:

If you live nearby: A gift of time and energy = FREE

If you’re lucky enough to live near your parents, there are plenty of gifts you can give them that won’t cost you a thing. Stop by for a visit and help out around the house. If you usually sleep until noon on Saturday, show your parents how much they mean to you by making plans bright and early, because you know that’s what suits them best. Make breakfast for them, and then spend the day doing the things they like to do, even if you don’t necessarily enjoy those things. Does mom like to garden? Grab a spade and ask her to show you the ropes. Does she bake loads of cookies for holidays? Grab the rolling pin and help. Does dad scrapbook? Have him show you the ins and outs of the craft. Your parents will appreciate you showing an interest in their lives and hobbies, especially since for most of your life, it’s probably been the other way around.

If you don’t: Heartfelt letter = ~$0.50 (cost of a stamp)

Your parents (hopefully) already know that you love and appreciate them, but chances are, it’s been a while since they’ve actually heard you say it. Take some time and write out a letter telling them honestly that you care. Don’t just jot down a quick “I love you,” really tell them what it is that you appreciate about them. Everyone knows what it’s like to feel overlooked, so let your parents know that you’ve noticed everything they’ve done for you over the past couple decades. You’re off on your own, in your very first apartment, and you probably couldn’t have done it without them. Trust me, a thoughtful, heartfelt letter will mean more than anything you could buy them.


If you’re close: A Roommate “Date” Night =$0-$15

Plan a dinner and movie for yourselves! Tell you’re roommate that you’re going to make a nice dinner for the two of you (or at least attempt to–if you’re not a good cook, remember that it’s the thought that counts–you can laugh about it later!), and then rent a movie that you know they’ll enjoy. Pop some popcorn and enjoy the chance to catch up and spend some time together. If you really want to splurge, get a big back of candy or junk food to share.

If you’re not: Chores. FREE

No one actually enjoys doing chores, which is why taking on someone else’s share is such a nice gift. Tell your roommate that to celebrate the holidays, you’ll take care of all of the week’s chores instead of just doing your half. It might not seem like much of a gift, but believe me, when they get to sit back and relax while you’re scrubbing the kitchen, you can bet they’ll think its a pretty good present.


If you’re a chef: Cookies! = less than $5

Pull out your cookbook and whip up a favorite recipe. When you go to deliver your gift, include a little note explaining why you picked that recipe specifically. Maybe those cookies are a holiday tradition in your family, or maybe you just really love snicker-doodles and you wanted to share. Either way, that little personal touch will really add to the gift.

If you’re not: Still cookies! = less than $5

Buy a package of break-and-bake cookies and put them in the oven. Homemade or not, everyone loves cookies, especially surprise cookies that someone else made (and anyone who would reject free cookies because they came from a package instead of a cookbook doesn’t deserve them, anyway). Bonus points if you can time it so that they’re still warm when you make the delivery.

That person who you’re not super close with but it would be weird if you didn’t get them something:

If they have a pet: A pet present = less than $10

People who own pets generally tend to adore their pets more than anything else, so getting a present for their pet is a surefire way to make sure your gift hits home. You may not know what Sharon from work likes to do in her free time, but you do know that she loves her chocolate lab. So, go ahead and stick a bow on a tub of dog treats or wrap up a squeaky toy, and you’ve found a gift that can’t go wrong.

If they don’t: A dollar store candy mug= $2-$5

We’ve all had that moment when someone you weren’t expecting a gift from hands you a present. Wait, they got me something? I didn’t get them anything! What do I do now?? It’s this kind of situation that has lead me to keep a collection of dollar store mugs (both travel and regular variety) and assorted candies in my closet around the holiday season. Just take a mug (because who doesn’t love mugs? I love mugs! Who would have thought that you could find such pretty mugs at the dollar store?) and fill it to the top with Hershey’s Kisses. Slap a bow on, and you’re done! If you need something a little more, spend an extra dollar or two and toss in a few more personal touches–A pack of pens, a cute key chain, or anything else that catches your eye.


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Taylor LaSon is a recent Hamilton College graduate who is currently living in Memphis while seeking her Master’s Degree in Speech Language Pathology. She and her cat prefer a quiet, introverted lifestyle full of Netflix binges and arts and crafts, but when she does go out, she enjoys rock climbing and making silly faces at small children.

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