Chances are the holiday party invitations are rolling in. As any good guest knows, showing up empty-handed is a social no-no. But there are only so many bottles of wine and boxes of candy that even the most gracious host will appreciate. So forget about the tried-and-true and set your sights on small gifts a host might find useful. Here are 13 ideas to get you started.
Related: Dazzle Your Guests: 16 Budget-Friendly Christmas Dinner Entrees
Heading to a dinner party? Treat the hosts to a set of Scotch glasses that can be engraved with a personal message or monogram ($10 each at Things Remembered).
A five-piece set of holiday hand towels ($10 each at Bed Bath & Beyond) is certainly useful when cleaning up party spills and messes. Target, Kohl's, and other retailers stock many options under $10.
WOODEN COOKING UTENSILS
Cooks can never have enough utensils. A set of bamboo spoons and spatulas ($8 on Amazon) that don't scratch cookware will get a fine workout over the holidays. Add a big red bow for a festive touch.
SILLY COCKTAIL NAPKINS
Draw chuckles from host and guests alike with funny cocktail napkins. An assorted four-pack bundle is available on Amazon for $17, so bring along two or three different kinds.
WINE GLASS CHARMS
Help wine drinkers keep track of their pours with festive wine charms to affix around the stems of their glasses. A set of six holiday-themed charms costs about $10 at Pier 1.
Fancy soap adds a fresh scent to the guest bathroom. World Market sells a six-pack of Christmas Geo Bar Soap for just $7. The soaps come bundled up in cute little packages with velveteen ribbon for a festive touch.
CUSTOM NOTE PAD
A personal touch on notes or even shopping lists is a nice change from random pieces of scrap paper. Send in a picture along with the host's name, and Shutterfly will produce a 75-page notepad for $15.
HERB GROWING KIT
For the host who covets fresh ingredients, give the gift that keeps on giving: a kit to grow herbs at home and a cute planter set that would look perfect on any kitchen window sill. Amazon sells this four-piece ceramic planter kit for just $16. Package it with a collection of organic herb seeds, also available online (there are several options, most of which cost about $13).
A homemade gift of potpourri can simmer away and sweeten the party air. Combine cinnamon sticks, dried fruit (lemon or orange slices work well), bay leaves, whole allspice, and nutmeg. Tie everything in a baggie with a nice ribbon or in a Ball jar ($9 for 12 at Target). Buy ingredients in bulk and prepare one jar for each party. Include a set of instructions: Bring to a simmer in water and replenish water as needed.
PLANTS AND GREENERY
TABLE TOPICS CONVERSATION STARTERS
Help your host break the ice at the party with Table Topics ($25), the ultimate conversation starter. There is a slew of sets to choose from, including questions for dinner parties, family meals, and more.
NATURAL BAMBOO CHEESE BOARD & CUTLERY SET
You don't have to be an artisan foodie to appreciate some good cheese. This cheese board set ($60 on Amazon) is perfect for the host that's an expert cheesemonger or just your average cheese head. It comes with a slide-out drawer and four quality pieces of cutlery.