50 Father's Day Gifts for $50 or Less
Dad may say he wants nothing but your company this Father's Day (or to be left alone to take a nap), but surely he'd appreciate a thoughtful gift on June 19. It may seem like a challenge to come up with something that won't get buried in his closet or sent back to the store, but here are 50 ideas for $50 or less.
Louis DeNicola and Jennifer Magid contributed reporting.
DIY jerky is often made with flank steak, which sells for less than $8 a pound. Marinade and spice mixtures cost less than $15. Present them to dad along with jerky-making instructions from a source such as The Kitchn, and try it together. The process is straightforward: Cut the meat into strips, remove the fat, marinate the slices, add seasonings, and dry in a dehydrator or oven. Total elapsed time: a bit more than a day, and there should be plenty of ingredients left over for repeat performances.
If the idea of homemade jerky would churn dad's stomach, turn to a classic meat alternative: tofu. UncommonGoods sells a tofu-making kit for $19 that comes with GMO-free soybeans, a mold, and cheesecloth. The only other necessary supplies are a blender and a lemon. Dad can customize the firmness of the tofu exactly to his liking. A 1-pound brick is ready in less than an hour to be added to a stir-fry, slapped on a grill, or marinated and baked for snacks or salad toppings.
If dad's the go-to guy to fix a leaky sink or help hang pictures, make sure he comes prepared with the Craftsman Evolv 23-piece tool set ($28.50 at Sears). The carrying bag contains a claw hammer, slip-joint pliers, an adjustable wrench, a torpedo level, a snap-off knife, a tape measure, and a screwdriver with 16 bits.
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An enclosed garden may be just the right gift for a dad with a green thumb. Terrarium kits start at about $10 on sites such as Etsy and Amazon and can always be enlarged by adding unique finds -- a special moss from the garden center or a few trinkets from a flea market, for example. Some kits come with a container; if not, buy a mason jar at the dollar store or a decorative glass vessel costing $10 to $20 at a craft store. Once complete, one of these miniature wonders can brighten his day at work or his favorite room at home.
Even an entry-level or refurbished iPad can cost a couple hundred dollars, but old-fashioned magazine subscriptions are usually a bargain these days. Make this cheap gift more meaningful by selecting titles that cater to dad's hobbies and interests. Subscriptions to Car and Driver, Men's Health, or The New Yorker -- to name a few -- are available for less than $20 (although that price may not buy a full year of some titles).
Dad's smartphone may have a camera, but there's still something special about using a device made specifically to take pictures -- especially when dad makes the device himself. Lomography's Konstruktor camera kit costs $40 at B&H and comes with all the parts necessary to build a working single-lens-reflex, 35mm camera. The kit earns good customer reviews on the sites where it sells (and sometimes sells out).
This classic idea may not seem inexpensive, but if dad fancies himself the second coming of Tiger Woods, daily deal websites can bring the gift of golf within reach. Use Yipit to search sites such as Amazon Local and Groupon, where dedicated sports categories make relevant deals easier to find. There are also plenty of low-cost golf courses nationwide, and some offer nine or 18 holes for between $10 and $50.
Give to a charity dad admires or a cause that is important to him, then let him know with a thoughtful card. Some charities will send an acknowledgment for this feel-good gift that resonates in the world.
Take a charitable donation a step further and buy access for dad to a charity event he admires. Wine tastings, beer samplings, golf tournaments, and silent auctions with entertainment are often hosted in the name of charity, especially in the summer and fall. Find an event he would enjoy for a charity he supports and scoop up a set of tickets.
A bottle of whiskey is a tired gift. Instead, let dad infuse store-bought liquor with flavors he likes. The possibilities range from a classic limoncello (made with vodka) to a more outré habanero honey whiskey. Infusing takes anywhere from a day or two to well over a week, depending on the recipe. The Homemade Gin Kit ($50) comes with all the herbs necessary to transform vodka into gin in 36 hours. For a more customized finish, dad can use fresh produce from a farmers market and follow steps laid out by Bon Appétit. When buying the booze, don't bother with the good stuff; a fifth of serviceable vodka costs $8 to $12.
For the father who likes the peaty things in life, barrel aging adds an extra touch of mellow to a preferred spirit. UncommonGoods sells two barrel-aging kits: a $30 version intended to age a bottle of whiskey or rum already on hand and a $35 version with a glass bottle meant to hold a favorite cocktail mix. Place the wooden staves from the kit inside a full bottle of liquor and let it sit for one to three weeks, according to taste.
If dad is more of a beer guy, there are still plenty of DIY opportunities, including a home-brewing starter kit from Northern Brewer for $50. This small-batch kit makes about 1 gallon, enough to wet dad's whistle, and has six recipes to select from, including pumpkin ale, Irish Red, and American wheat.
Related: How Home Brewing Can Save More Than 50% on Craft Beer
At least give a favorite beer guy a gift card to use at a local growler station. These are popping up in pubs, breweries, stand-alone joints, and even grocery stores all over. Search online to find one nearby and let dad decide what brew to put in the glass jug -- kombucha and coffee taps are increasingly installed as well, and a fill can cost as little as $5 depending on location. (Note that some places fill only their own branded growlers, which can add significantly to the cost.)
Certainly not every watch is budget-friendly, but there are standout watches for reasonable prices. The trick is knowing what to look for. Choose one with a mineral crystal, which scratches less easily than the more common acrylic crystal, and keep an eye out for quartz movement, the most popular mechanism for low-cost watches, which should keep accurate time as long as the battery holds out.
Is dad a champion pancake maker, or could he live at the grill? Turn the tables by making his specialties for him. This is a chance to show his cooking skills are admired or invite him to teach you a thing or two, and the price is nothing more than the cost of ingredients.
A Lorann Oils soap-making kit ($24 on Amazon) includes glycerin soap base, liquid colors, cocoa butter, fragrances, and a mold and gets an average rating of 4.7 stars in customer reviews. Or assemble a kit yourself by gathering lye (from the local hardware store), oils, fragrances and textures (dried flowers, coffee, or walnuts, for example), mixing bowls, protective glasses and gloves, and a plastic or silicone mold, PVC pipe, or a cardboard box lined with freezer paper. Include very specific instructions, because working with lye can be dangerous.
If the beer and soap ideas sound appealing but still a bit too expensive, Barmaid Beer Soap is sure to be a hit, and dad won't have to make it himself. On top of being a fun novelty, the soaps are chemical-free -- good for dad and the environment -- and cost just $6. Get him several of the beer "flavors" to try.
Pull dad away from flickering screens and spend some bonding time in nature. This gift is totally free, but for the cost of the ride to a trail, and requires no particular skill. There are trails almost anywhere there are woods and streams, but for something more memorable, try one of Cheapism.com's outstanding hikes.
The family that's more into biking than hiking can get dad on the move this summer with a bike tune-up. Half of the work is taking the bike in, so do it without telling dad and cover the cost of any minor repairs. He'll be grateful to be spared the hassle and expense.
The popularity of hot sauce has skyrocketed over the past decade compared with other condiments. If dad likes his food spicy, give a Grow and Make artisan hot sauce kit. This $34 kit contains the ingredients (spices, sugar, peppers, vinegar) to concoct three different hot sauces or three bottles of one type. Supplies (funnel, gloves, bottles, labels, and cleanser) are included.
To spend time with dad this Father's Day instead of offering a traditional gift, set up a scavenger hunt for him. Pepper each spot with small gifts such as golf balls, a framed family picture, a hat for his favorite sports team -- whatever has meaning to him. This would be especially fun to do with young kids who would get a thrill out of setting this up for dad or grandpa.
A mug that says "Best Dad" is so cliché. For a coffee-themed gift, consider Sweet Maria's stovetop roasting kit for $41.50. It contains everything needed to roast coffee at home: a 6-quart aluminum popper with a hand crank, a thermometer, 10 valve bags, and 4 pounds of green coffee beans (choose from espresso or regular; decaf beans are also available). If the kitchen isn't already stocked with a coffee grinder, they're available for less than $20.
Sample boxes are a convenient way to let dad try out goodies related to his interests, and a monthly delivery lets him know year-round what he means to you. Birchbox offers product samples for the man who likes to look good (consider skipping the formal "gifting" option, which costs $10 more a month). Scentbird charges just $15 to send a new designer cologne every month. Bargain aggregators such as Groupon often offer deals to lower the price of appealing but more expensive subscriptions.
Yard work is a tough job, but someone has to do it -- and if it's usually dad, try cutting him a break this Father's Day. Let him prop his feet up with a drink while someone else cuts the grass, edges the walkways, and weeds the flower beds.
Instead of making dad fork over money regularly for a deluxe car wash, get him a car-washing kit to do it at home all summer. The Norwex kit is $47 and comes with only a car mitt and cloth -- and gushing testimonials about how well, quickly, and effortlessly they clean with nothing more than a bucket of water. It's safe for dad and the environment.
Making bacon at home just means there's more of it to eat. The Original Baconkit costs $20 and comes with a curing bag, the cure, maple sugar, a thermometer, and directions. All the bacon lover needs to contribute is 5 pounds of pork belly, which sells for about $5 a pound at a local butcher. Dad can make the bacon in an oven or a smoker, and the family can reap the benefits of his work (if he shares).
Pricey disposable razor blades are sometimes thrown out after only a week. Help dad save money -- and his skin -- with the Blade Buddy ($14 on Amazon), which keeps those little cartridges sharp for months. This gift is good for the wallet and for the planet, and customer reviews give the product an average of 4.3 out of 5 stars.
If dad shaves on a regular basis, some nice aftershave will do the trick, coupled with a Beard Bib ($30 in black or white from Beard King) to catch clippings without clogging the sink or leaving a mess. If he wants to maintain a beard, try beard oil and a brush ($16 and $10 respectively at Texas Beard Co.).
If it's the experience that's important, treat dad to a good old-fashioned haircut and shave. Novelty barbers can be found almost anywhere, and the cost is usually reasonable. The consumer site Angie's List reports that the average cost for a beard trim is about $15 nationwide. A simple haircut can run $20 or less, especially at an old-school, independent barber. These days, even the Supercuts chain indulges customers with a hot towel after a trim.
Manicures and pedicures aren't reserved for women. Treat dad to either or both services. No doubt his fingers and toes could use it, and he's sure to enjoy the relaxing treat. Many salons offer the service for less than $50.
To go with that salon pedicure, or as a gift on its own, get dad a soft pair of slippers to slip into after a long day of work or first thing in the morning. With hundreds of highly rated men's slippers on Amazon that cost less than $25, there is bound to be an affordable pair that matches dad's style.
A day of uninterrupted sleep could be priceless for a parent, especially those with young children. All dad needs is a pillow, a blanket, and a promise that his responsibilities will be taken care of while he rests.
A reclaimed-wood bottle opener painted to reflect dad's interests makes a unique and personalized gift. The Grizzly Bear Creations store on Etsy charges $35 for rustic designs that include football teams and branches of the military, and can be customized by contacting the maker.
A homemade card might be something a dad of young children will treasure. Older kids or adults preparing a present for a parent can sit down and write out a card by hand. Share some favorite memories and explain why you are so thankful to have him in your life. It'll hold more meaning than anything from a store.