Some holiday gift ideas for $50 or lessBuying smart in this economy can mean spending a little more on the people who raised you, the people you're raising and the person with whom you sleep, but there's no need to sacrifice your non-nuclear world if you stick to $50 or less.
By: Leanne Italie, Associated Press
If you haven't already shopped big and early for the holidays, retailers are offering deep discounts and perks like free shipping as they duke it out for every cent you've got.
Buying smart in this economy can mean spending a little more on the people who raised you, the people you're raising and the person with whom you sleep, but there's no need to sacrifice your non-nuclear world if you stick to $50 or less.
"I mean, who really wants to spend more. It sort of puts people in a potentially awkward situation in feeling they need to reciprocate," said Elise Loehnen, editor at large of Lucky magazine.
Some ideas as you wrestle your gift list to the ground:
Green gifting is tricky. It can mean sussing out exactly how much repurposed material was used, or researching the level of sustainability. It can mean chasing exactly how an eco-cause spends your dollar and whether a nonprofit lives up to its reputation.
If all of that makes your head hurt, offer a gentle reminder about the importance of saving the planet instead.
For kids in need of a nudge to save money along with the environment, Greenergrassdesign.com sells a green flocked piggybank for a suggested retail price of $18. It looks like it's made of grass, but in a good way. "They kind of look like a Jeff Koons sculpture," Loehnen said.
Plush wild animal toys called Greenzys are made of soy fibers and nontoxic dyes. They sell for $19.99, complete with a code to be redeemed for a tree planting in a child's honor, along with a certificate, at Greenzys.com. The line from Kids Preferred also includes books. Look for the stuffies at Fao.com, Fred Segal or on Amazon.
Adorable animal-design storage baskets can harness kid clutter, and little ones won't even mind that you've gypped them out of a toy, which by the way are everywhere in some eco-friendly form or another. The soft baskets from 3 Sprouts retail for $38 at Abesmarket.com. All are made of heavy organic cotton canvas and felt from recycled water bottles.
Speaking of the jillions of water bottles clogging our lives and landfills, the BPA-free reusable plastic Bobble has a clear curvy body, jewel tone sport tops and replaceable carbon water filters in matching colors. A 13-ounce bottle retails for $8.95 and an 18.5-ounce size $9.95. "It's so great for travel," Loehnen said. "You can just fill it up in the airport." Each filter will last more than 300 uses, the Bobble people estimate.
Got a green thumber to buy for? Boskke's stoneware ceramic Sky Planters hang upside down from the ceiling. A locking mechanism and mesh hold the plant and soil in place and an internal reservoir system feeds water gradually to the roots. Smalls sell for $35 and extra smalls for $25, plants included. "It's sort of crazy looking and cool," Loehnen said.
Mounted planters are popular. Woollypocket.com offers Wally, a breathable pocket system lined to protect interior walls for $49 and unlined for exterior use at $39. They can be combined to grow a whole lotta green and come in a variety of colors, mounts included. Also made of recycled plastic bottles.
Plants are pretty gifty for under $50. Etsy is filled with awesome terrariums, Loehnen said. "They're so cool and unusual, and cat resistant." Pottingshedcreations.com sells amaryllis and paperwhites bulbs in a bamboo grow box elegantly packaged with a bow for $45.
MEN (and the other gender, too)
Personalize iPhones or iPads with a Zagg skin using the custom image uploader at Zagg.com, starting at $19.99. Starting at $29.99, choose a chic leather skin in black or brown. For $34.99, make the handheld of a sports freak look like a baseball or a football in textured leather, complete with bumpy stitching and adhesive that doesn't leave a mark.
Sleeves, cases and carry bags in unique styles for laptops and handheld devices are all over Etsy. If you're thinking designer, also plentiful, you might get lucky with sales this year.
Books: "Life" by Keith Richards. Also available, as are many new releases, as an e-book. Richards himself, along with Johnny Depp, reads the audio version. There's the new presidential biography "Washington: A Life" by Ron Chernow. In hardcover, at 904 pages, it lists for $40. Or the latest from "Seabiscuit" writer Laura Hillenbrand, "Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption," a true story based on the life of Olympic runner and bombardier Louis Zamperini.
Loehnen loves Timex watches. Even if your giftee already has a watch, or doesn't think he needs one, he may love one as a gift, especially a less expensive one he can bash up without worry. Enter the company's Metal Field watch at $50. "I have one and my brother took it off my wrist," Loehnen said.
Loehnen suggests going for a nicer version of something small that he already owns, like a new scarf or gloves. Quality leather at $50 or less is doable. How about some chillax wear from Uniqlo? They have men's plaid flannel shirts and corduroy jeans for under $50.
Please his palate with a bottle of his favorite wine. Or go for a music-inspired bottle at Wines-that-rock.com, where you'll find Mendocino-made Rolling Stones' Forty Licks Merlot, Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon Cabernet Sauvignon, Woodstock Chardonnay and The Police's Synchronicity, a red blend. The site has two bottles in a gift box for $49.99 and three-bottle boxes for $50.97. Very cool labels.
Your dude's not into rock, or wine? How about Dan Akroyd's Crystal Head Vodka in a clear skull bottle. Ludacris, aka Chris Bridges, has a cognac called Conjure.
Who doesn't need to write stuff down on real paper every once in a while? Field Notes are light, portable and come in colors with graph, ruled, plain or mixed paper. A three pack is $9.95.
Make a hiker, camper or climber happy with Tanka Bites, a preservative-free trail snack inspired by the Lakota Indians. The spicy blend is made of pounded dried buffalo meat, dried cranberries and peppers, including habanero. The editors of Backpacker magazine recommend them. The cost: $6 for two, 1-ounce bars and $15 for two, 3-ounce packs at Tankabar.com.
WOMEN (and the other gender, too)
Consider limited edition art. Loehnen likes 20by200.com, which offers a great selection from working artists. Prices range from $20 to $5,000. The site features new prints every week and includes photographs and illustrations. "It's packaged really nicely and you get a signed certificate of authenticity," Loehnen said. "There's stuff for everyone." Click on Collector Guides for gift suggestions, staff picks and artists' recommendations.
Books: "Simple Times: Crafts for Poor People" by Amy Sedaris. It's funny. Sedaris fans will know why. It's a hardcover that lists for $27.99. Nora Ephron's "I Remember Nothing: and other Reflections." Ephron still feels bad about her neck, but she feels even worse about her memory. Also hardcover, $22.95. Pulitzer winner Stacy Schiff is well reviewed for her new "Cleopatra."
For the book lover who has everything she needs to read, Penguin is marking its 75th anniversary with a box of 100 postcards of vintage book covers. $25.
Chocolate: Can you really go wrong? Every town has a sweet shop with a few nice bites in a fancy box. Mariebelle.com has lots for $50 or less that include the New York City shop's rich hot chocolates and colorful silk-screened bites of ganache in flavors that included passion fruit and lavender. Fruit confiture and tea combinations are also available.
Gardening gear is easy to find at $50 or less. There's another unusual planter scheme, this one from Australia. They're terra-cotta pots called Down Under Pots. Plants go in at the open bottom but the pot is hung rightside up and the plant grows around the outside as it seeks light from above. Hanging wires included. In a variety of colors.
Jewelry and apparel can be problematic, but who can complain about a fancy lotion? Crabtree & Evelyn has a sampler box of six hand lotions in travel sizes for $22. Scents include rosewater, citron and honey combined with coriander.
Anybody who's seen James Franco in "127 Hours" has a new respect for Swiss Army Knives or a multi-tool that includes a sharp edge. Standard versions under $50 come in some great colors, including purple. Shop around, and know the right recipient won't think you're weird.
KIDS (toys and books)
A lot of kid gifts are driven by obsessions: Lego fans want new sets, including one timed to the latest Harry Potter movie. Arts and crafts lovers light up at fresh or unusual supplies.
Loehnen is a firm believer in buying books, especially classics like "Blueberries for Sal" or "The Hobbit" series, scheduled for its first movie next year. There's a book for just about any kid. The charming and lyrical "Amos & Boris," about a whale and a mouse, by William Steig. Sandra Boynton's new "Amazing Cows: Udder Absurdity for Children" includes bovine poems, pictures and games and would be great on a trip.
Jeff Kinney has a new "Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth." In time for the 75th anniversary of DC Comics, Little, Brown has a spectacular pop-up: "DC Super Heroes: The Ultimate Pop-Up Book." There's a light-up bat signal and a towering final spread. Try Cornelia Funke's "Reckless" for kids 10 and up or "Glee: The Beginning," a prequel by Sophia Lowell.
In the wacky world of toys, it's anybody's bet — and God help you if you forget the batteries.
One toy popping up on lists this year is WowWee's Paper Jamz guitars. They're paper thin and have no actual strings, but a Guitar Hero used to nothing but air might like the idea of an actual fake guitar for a change. For $25, the battery-operated guitars — and flat drum sets sold separately — rely on hidden touch sensors to play music. Each is loaded with three classic rock songs that can be played in different modes, including freestyle for real chords.
Good Housekeeping's 2010 toy picks include ThinkGeek's Electronic Guitar Shirt for $30. The wearer can strum the front of the shirt with a magnetic pick to produce chords.
For Sesame Street fans, there are wearable video USB drives in the shapes of Elmo, Big Bird and four other popular characters on stretchy wristbands, loaded with full-length movies, storage space for 400 photos and 400 songs. $24.99.
Imaginary play, the tot variety: There's not a one who doesn't love fake food. Plan Toys has a wood breakfast-in-bed set (they're never too young to serve you) with a huge meal on a cool tray for $24.95 — salt and pepper shakers included.
Looking for plush? Small Ugly Dolls can be had for $10.
The Land of Nod sells a good-looking classic magic set for $35. Velvet bag, magic box, wand and more.
Board games: Among holiday picks from the consumer guide Toy Insider is Pressman Toy's Diary of a Wimpy Kid Cheese Touch Game, for three to six players who travel through categories that include guessing how others answered such questions as, "If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?" $24.99.
Scrabble Flash, $29.99. Players move around five electronic tiles to make as many words as they can in a minute. Letters change from game to game.
Monopoly Revolution, $39.99. No more paper money in this round-shaped electronic edition with new high-tech pieces, sound effects (hear the door slam behind you when you go to jail) and music.