It’s the most wonderful time of the year and for many of us, it’s also the most expensive. Finding the ideal gifts can be challenging and end up hurting your wallet more than you’d like. It’s enough to fill even the most savvy shopper with dread.
You might have been able to avoid buying some gifts last year since your office probably didn’t have a holiday party with a white elephant gift exchange, and your friend group may have skipped the secret Santa due to concerns about COVID.
But 2021 is different. While the pandemic is still with us, people are more comfortable gathering now that vaccines are available.
The pandemic will affect gift-giving in other ways this year, though. Factory shut-downs early on in the pandemic caused shipping companies to cut their schedules to accommodate for what they expected would be a lower consumer demand.
But instead, people around the world started buying more stuff than ever online. Items for the house in particular were selling like crazy. This caused a supply chain issue that is still a concern today, and it’s expected to make holiday shopping harder than ever, as items you might typically buy (including the hottest toys) may sell out much earlier than usual.
Despite all this, finding the best gifts or stocking stuffers for your friend or family member doesn’t have to stress you out. (Although it’s a good idea to start shopping early, if you haven’t already, to make sure the gifts you want to buy are in stock.)
Here are 40 cheap gift ideas for $10 or less that will please even the pickiest of recipients at your next gift exchange.
Note: All prices are accurate as of Nov. 7, 2021.
Around the House
These great holiday gift ideas will please everyone on your Christmas gift list — not just the homebodies. And to make it even better, these are all practical gifts as well! Pretty much anyone on your gift list would be thrilled to unwrap one of these presents this year.
1. Novelty Tea Infusers: $9.99
Got a sloth-loving tea enthusiast on your list? This tea infuser is dishwasher-safe, super cute and the best gift idea.
Or try this adorable Mr. Tea infuser, who looks like he’s enjoying a hot soak in your cup, also for $9.99.
There are several tea infuser options to choose from depending on the tea lover’s interests. This is one of the best gifts (and the most practical) for your friend who sips tea all winter long
2. Cat Coffee Cup Cozy: $10
Who doesn’t love sipping a hot cuppa while curled up on a frosty day?
For the friend whose lap cat will inevitably complete that picture, consider this cute hand-crocheted cozy. They could even use it at coffee shops and help save paper sleeves.
3. “Corki” Wine Stopper: $9.99
If your friend is more of a dog person than a cat person, this corgi-shaped wine stopper is the perfect present for keeping bottles of wine fresh between glasses.
A wine stopper makes the perfect stocking stuffer for a gift recipient who loves wine, and you can find affordable ones to match your friend’s personality.
Oh, and don’t forget …
4. Drinking Buddies Glass Markers: $9.99
— so your friends won’t lose their drinking glasses at parties. These “Drinking Buddies” glass markers feature men in uniforms so your friends remember whose glass is whose.
5. Cheese Knives: $7.95 each
If you thought the perfect gift for the cheese-lover in your life didn’t exist, think again. Just one of these cheese knives takes a plate of cheese from an appetizer to a display worthy of any get-together.
Or, you know, a fancy Friday night by themselves. We don’t judge!
6. Kitty Ice Cube Molds: $6.99
Did you know that you can get ice cube molds in a variety of fun shapes, including kittens? If your friend isn’t into cats, you can choose from penguins ($4.80), fish ($4.99) or even pineapples ($7.98).
In addition to using the molds for ice, you can also use them to make novelty chocolate or gummies! Talk about a two-for-one deal.
7. Bonsai Tree Seeds: $4.21
Who knew bonsai tree seeds were so cheap?
If you know someone with a green thumb who’s interested in making a new hobby of an ancient tradition, these bonsai seeds might be perfect — although the planting material and container are not included. You could pick those up to make a gift pack, or club together with some mutual friends to keep the cost-per-person down while giving your friend everything they need to start their bonsai tree hobby.
8. Ceramic Planter: $5.95 plus plant
It doesn’t take a green thumb to throw a plant into a pot.
With this cute planter and the succulents you can buy at Trader Joe’s or Home Depot for $2 to $3 apiece, you’ll spend about $9 per recipient of each adorable final display.
If your gift recipient is still working from home, this is an ideal gift to help them decorate their desk and make it feel more homey. Even your gardening-challenged friends can handle a succulent or two.
9. Handmade Soaps or Bath Bombs: $3.50+
There are tons of options on Etsy or at your local craft fair, but higher-traffic brick-and-mortar stores offer quality products at only slightly higher prices. You may even be lucky enough to find cute handmade beauty items at your local grocery store.
10. Stretchy Bookmark: $8
Do you know a bookworm who frequently loses their place? No more with this stretchy, silicone bookmark, which will point at the exact line where they leave off. It’s designed to fit around the entire book, which will hold it in place even if a kid or pet gets hold of it, so your book-loving friend will never have to worry about trying to remember where they left off again.
11. Scarf Hanger: $9.97
If your loved one struggles with storage tactics for their plethora of scarves, here’s a gift that’ll help get them organized. They likely don’t even know they need a scarf hanger.
This hanger displays and organizes scarves (or belts! or ties!) in your closet so they’re easily accessible and wrinkle-free. Plus, it’ll make your closet look much more tidy and organized, and might even encourage you to organize the rest of it!
12. Lip Balm Set: $7.99
Lip balm is a great gift because it’s practical, but you can also get it with fancy scents and packaging to make it feel more special.
This organic lip balm six pack is a steal at $7.99. You can also check out this one, which was on sale for $7.95 at the time of writing. Alternatively, check out the beauty aisle next time you go grocery shopping for even more options. You can even grab a pack of hair ties for a couple of bucks to make a super practical beauty gift.
13. Scented Candles: $9
A beautiful scented candle can brighten any space. You can find them in a variety of scents to fit any mood or preference.
If you’re shopping for 50 or more people, you could even check out listings for wedding favors and get a really nice gift quite cheaply (like a bit over a buck a piece).
14. Moon-shaped Ceramic Dish: $7+
Whether it’s to wrangle stray jewelry or set down a spent tea bag, these little moon-shaped dishes come in a variety of colors and work for anyone on your list. As an added bonus, they won’t cost you much at all.
15. Personal Photos: 12 Cents+ Each
There’s just something about a tangible personal photo that the digital file lacks. You can get prints of your best memories online at vendors like Mpix for cents on the dollar; or you can check out what Target and Walmart have to offer.
You don’t have to buy a frame — you could string up your photos with wooden clothespins for a cheap, but romantic, option. Many vendors also sell canvas prints or other configurations of your photos at good prices.
If you do go shopping for frames, though, you can find cheap ones in a variety of sizes. They make the best gifts for the friend who loves to display photos around the house.
16. Just Crunch Anti-Soggy Cereal Bowl: $7.99
Nothing ruins your Raisin Bran like a slightly too-long milk bath. Get the breakfast lover in your life the Just Crunch Anti-Soggy cereal bowl to keep them crunching all the way through the Saturday morning news — or cartoons.
On a similar note:
17. French Fry Dipping Cone: $5.99
Dishwasher safe and not just for fries, the french fry dipping cone is a convenient and attractive way to serve finger foods and dip. Your lucky recipient can make burger and fry night at home feel like a night out at the local diner!
Less mess on the cheap! What’s not to love?
18. Flexible Pot Clips: $8.99
Flexible pot clips are the perfect gift for your aspiring-chef friend who’s still a little messy in the kitchen. Help them get organized and stop splattering chili on their countertops with this convenient gadget.
You might even want to add an extra one to your cart if your cooking style tends to include a lot of splatters.
The way to pretty much anyone’s heart is through the stomach. Even if you’re no gourmand, you can give awesome edible gifts this holiday season! These are sure to be the favorite gifts for the foodies in your life.
19. Beer Marshmallows: $8.50
Um, yum? You can get a dozen Guinness beer marshmallows for less than $10.
While you’re at it, grab a few sets for yourself to roast over the open fire this holiday season!
20. Good Chocolate: $3 to $5
This listing on Amazon for Ghirardelli chocolate with sea salt is $33.48 for 12 extra-dark chocolate bars, which means you’d spend about $3 on each lucky recipient (and maybe even keep a bar for yourself). But you can head to your local grocery store and stalk the candy aisle for lots of options for less than $5.
If you want to get really fancy, some single-origin, small-batch chocolate bars can cost up to $10 or even more — but are well worth the price to the true chocolate snob on your list.
21. Good Tea: $10
Shop around; there are tons of flavors available for good teas. You can find a large selection of flavored tea bags online or even at the store while you’re grabbing your weekly food haul.
Plus, lots of tea bags come in pretty, reusable tins that serve as decorative organization — all for less than $10.
22. Really (Really) Good Honey: $9
Stubbees specializes in raw, creamed, flavored honeys. Pioneered by a 21-year-old beekeeper in the Jacksonville, Florida, area, this honey isn’t just delicious; it also supports a cool small business co-founded by a young entrepreneur.
The cinnamon flavor is a popular one, but there are tons of flavors to choose from, including seasonal flavors like pumpkin spice and vanilla bean.
If you’d rather shop for local honey, check out this website to help you find honey farmers in your area. Local honey is said to be good for seasonal allergies, so this can be a wonderful gift if your friend or family member suffers from allergies.
23. Gourmet Barbecue Sauces: $7.95+
There’s nothing like a good barbecue sauce to put the finishing touch on a backyard grilling session.
24. Cookie or Brownie Mix in a Jar: $3
You don’t have to be super-crafty to DIY a great gift like cookie or brownie mix in jars. Mason jars usually come in packages of 12 for a couple of bucks apiece — or, check out your local thrift store to find ‘em for as low as a quarter.
Then, scour the web for tons of creative recipe ideas. In most cases, the ingredients for a single jar shouldn’t cost you more than a dollar, especially if you’re planning to make quite a few and buy your sugar and flour in bulk.
Write an instruction card for your recipient and decorate the jar with ribbon. You just gave someone a cheap, useful and beautiful gift!
For Work Friends or Secret Santa
You might not know some folks on your list that well; maybe you only see them around the office. Here are some non-Starbucks-gift-card gift options.
25. Picture Message Desktop Flipbook: $9.87
Looking for the perfect gift for your office worker friend? Look no further than this desktop picture flipbook.
This flipbook is a cute cubicle addition with 29 messages to choose from, from “Out of Office” to “Longest Day Ever!”
26. The Seven-Year Pen: $8.95
Work with someone who takes a ton of notes? This unassuming, eco-friendly seven-year pen can write five and a half feet per day for seven years! That’s a lot of on-hold scribbling for a bit over a buck a year.
27. Mini Tabletop Zen Garden: $9.99
Got a coworker who could use a mini vacation? Help them relax and focus with this thrifty desktop zen garden.
28. Cute Food-Themed Erasers: $6.99
Come on, these food-themed erasers are pretty adorable, right? A quick, cheap, safe bet for any secret Santa recipient — even if you only ever exchange niceties around the Keurig.
Wearables and Accessories
Buying for a fashionista this year? Here are some independently selected options that make the best gifts.
29. Scarves: $10 or less
You can never go wrong with scarves. They’re fashionable and versatile, and come in enough colors to get your loved ones a couple.
Plus, your recipient will have a use for the scarf hanger listed above!
30.Fingerless Gloves: $8.95
Keep your loved one’s hands warm with funky fingerless gloves — they’re stylish and still let you use your touch screen.
31. Heart Earrings: $10
Tiny heart earrings are unassuming and adorable, plus they’d go with anything.
32. Wildflower Crown Knitting Pattern: $4
If you’re crafty, you could make a friend this everlasting flower crown for $4 plus the cost of yarn. If you know a crafty person, you could give her the pattern itself as a gift!
33. T-shirts: $6
Since there are so many options for novelty T-shirts, you’re sure to find something for anyone on your list. Even those hard-to-buy-for folks who seem to have everything need T-shirts!
Threadless has lots of funky designs and often has sales that take their tees to less than $10.
Novelty Gifts and Other Useful Stuff
From an on-the-go light to blank pages to carry in your pocket, these best gifts will make anyone on your list grin.
34. Pocket Light: $10
Ever get home late at night and can’t get your key in the door? Or maybe you’re out at a bar and someone loses an earring?
No more scrambling to keep your cell phone screen active with a pocket light that’s the side of a credit card. Flip open your wallet and save the day.
35. Cell Phone Propper-Upper: $9.44
Is your techy friend getting carpal tunnel from holding her phone so much?
The cell phone propper-upper holds up your Android or iPhone so you can scroll through the screen with ease.
36. Cable Management System: $7.99
Wires, wires everywhere. How many of us suffer from this problem?
This cable management system is sleek and would help streamline anyone’s workspace.
37. Harry Potter Keychain: $6.98
For the die-hard Harry Potter fan on your list, you can’t go wrong with a Platform 9¾ keychain that costs less than $7.
38. Novelty USB Flash Drive: $8.99
Everyone needs portable storage these days, so why not pick a cute flash drive?
Even better: Fill it with fun personal stuff, like date photos or favorite songs. It’s the 21st century mix tape!
39. Notebooks: $9.80 for six
You can never go wrong with a notebook, even in our deeply digital days. There are still plenty of people out there who like to use notebooks for journaling or writing lists. A notebook might even be the place where your bestie starts the great American novel or your honey scribbles a poem for you.
Moleskines are quality, beautiful and come in lots of different colors, and you get three for less than $10!
40. Gift Cards: $10 or less
A $10 gift card to Starbucks or Panera can actually get you a decent amount of stuff, and you might even be able to buy it for less than $10. Check out our list for discounted gift cards and save even more money.
With a little creativity and out-of-the-box thinking, you can find the perfect holiday gift without breaking the bank. Sometimes, the best gifts don’t necessarily cost you an arm and a leg. Good luck, and happy shopping.
Jamie Cattanach and Catherine Hiles are contributors at The Penny Hoarder.