So many people to shop for this holiday season -- husband or wife, boyfriend or girlfriend, children, mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles, friends, colleagues (and don't forget pets). Here is Cheapism.com's ultimate holiday gift guide: 50 gifts, none costing more than $50. The array includes goofy stuff, practical stuff, charitable stuff -- in other words, stuff for people of all ages and interests.
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Youthful Pokémon enthusiasts will be thrilled with this novelty lunch bag, a piece of officially licensed Pokémon merchandise from ThinkGeek ($20). Made of 100 percent polyester, with a lining that keeps food fresh, it features a silver Poké Ball pattern and a card holder under the main flap to identify the owner, should the bag get misplaced.
It wouldn't be the holidays without a hot Elmo toy. The Playskool Love2Learn Elmo kicks things up a notch by connecting to a smartphone app that lets Elmo "memorize" kids' favorite things, help them learn preselected subjects, and even give them reminders about brushing teeth and eating healthy. This $60 toy for kids 18 months to 4 years is selling for $40 on Amazon.
A pair of fun socks is always a welcome gift, especially these days when socks have become a way of expressing yourself under the standard suit-and-tie uniform. Check out The Joy of Socks for oodles of options, from classic to quirky, many priced at $12 or less a pair for men, women, and kids.
The Force will soon return (to theaters, that is), and this Artoo Tea Too teakettle ($40 at ThinkGeek) is just the right celebratory holiday gift for Star Wars fanatics. It holds 36 ounces of liquid -- no electrical transistors, so users need not worry. It's also dishwasher-safe and made of high-quality ceramic. And it boasts an official Star Wars merchandise license.
Don't want to hand over that iPad? The LeapStart Interactive Learning System for preschool and pre-kindergarten gives kids ages 2 to 4 an interactive learning experience in a durable, portable package. It's compatible with 16 activity books that kids navigate with a large, easy-to-grip stylus while working on letters, numbers, shapes, and more. The toy retails for $40 but sells at Target for $30.
The more irreverent version of the family-game-night favorite Apples to Apples sells for $25 on Amazon and at many game shops. A printable version of Cards Against Humanity also can be legally downloaded for free at the game-maker's website. Although it takes about an hour and costs about $10 in ink and paper, it's a frugal way to get your hands on a popular gift. Six expansion packs, three holiday-themed packs, and three additional variety packs are also available for $5 to $10 each. The expansions and downloadable version include blank cards for creating unique questions and answers.
Give the gift of a fancy dinner courtesy of Omaha Steaks. The Warm Welcome Collection sampler ($45) includes two top sirloins, four Omaha Steaks burgers, four gourmet jumbo franks, a pound of Omaha Steakhouse fries, and four caramel apple tartlets. Meat eaters salivate at this combo, which ships for free in the U.S. The food is frozen and packed in a cooler with dry ice.
For anyone who fears the challenge of boiling up a perfect pot of rice, one of Cheapism's top picks is a stylish stainless steel rice cooker from Aroma ($33 on Amazon). It makes up to 20 cups of cooked rice (10 cups uncooked) and features programmable digital controls for different types of grains, with a 15-hour delay timer. It also steams vegetables and meats while the rice cooks down below and doubles as a slow cooker. The inner pot has a nonstick surface, and the parts are dishwasher-safe.
Even in today's electronic era there's room for old-fashioned pen-on-paper writing supplies. Start with several attractive pens in a variety of ink types, including ballpoint, fiber tip, and gel. Add a couple of blank-book journals or standard notebooks -- a three-pack of Field Notes portable memo books costs $10 -- and present the gift in a basket.
Photo gifts are a good way to give a unique gift without forking over too much dough. Walgreens will put photos on a mug for a coffee lover for $12 or make them into a wall calendar for about $20, with each month highlighting a special memory. Many stores also have kiosks for uploading, ordering, and printing favorite shots that can be given as gifts in matted frames.
Kids can multitask with the Light 'n Go 3-in-1 Activity Walker, which can be used as a walker and floor toy by babies and an activity table by bigger kids. There are more than 70 activities, songs, and sounds to interest children 9 months to 3 years. The walker lists for $40, but Target's latest selling price was selling $30.
One of the world's top chocolatiers, Godiva has been making gourmet chocolates and candies since 1926. The company offers a popular holiday mix: the 19-piece gold ballotin ($32). (Ballotin is a term for a fancy box containing chocolates.) The gift box includes an assortment of milk, white, and dark chocolates with a variety of fillings, including caramel, nuts, ganaches, fruits, and pralines, in unique flavors; see the website for a complete list of the contents. It comes in a gold box with choice of ribbon.
There's likely at least one movie in theaters next year that everyone will want to see. Give a movie pass to a nearby theater chain or a gift card from the ticketing site Fandango. There's a $2 fee to receive a physical card, but a printout of the fee-free e-mail version also fits nicely in a stocking.
A do-it-yourself beer-making kit (from $43 on Amazon) will delight beer enthusiasts and homebrewers alike. The Mr. Beer Craft Beer Making Kit includes a durable, BPA-free, 2-gallon keg and a choice of 15 different styles of beer, including American ale, porter, and lager, among other favorites. It also comes with a no-rinse cleanser and instructional DVD. All the equipment can be reused with malt extract refills for unlimited brewing.
In an inspiring project called "Humans of New York," photographer Brandon Stanton captures regular folks going about their business in New York City and teases out poignant, and occasionally hilarious, stories from their lives. The snapshots claim millions of followers on Stanton's Instagram account, Facebook page, and blog, and now he's put together his third book, a New York Times best-seller ($19 on Amazon).
Even guys like to keep their skin smooth and soft, so help them out with a set of body-care products from Plum Island Soap Co. ($48). The lotions and potions -- hand butter, soap, baby rum oil, and shave gel -- are handmade and give off fresh, spicy, masculine scents. Neatly packaged in a suave black paint can, the kit also comes with a body mitt.
This epic fantasy series by George R. R. Martin (from $31 on Amazon) inspired the popular "Game of Thrones" TV series on HBO. Fans waiting for the show to return for a seventh season next summer can crack the five hulking paperbacks in the set: "A Game of Thrones," "A Clash of Kings," "A Storm of Swords," "A Feast for Crows," and "A Dance With Dragons."
Help grandparents stay limber and active by giving the practice of yoga. A "Yoga for Seniors" DVD ($15 on Amazon) includes three complete yoga practices, including an introductory 26-minute session that is performed while seated in a chair. This DVD is designed to help improve balance, flexibility, muscle strength, and even mental clarity in older practitioners. Pair the DVD with a new water bottle and make time to practice together.
Cutting, dicing, and slicing are hard for some, even if hands are limber and knives sharp. These unusual five-blade scissors from RSVP ($10 on Amazon) make it easy to chop fresh herbs and make a useful stocking stuffer. More than 700 customers give the tool an average of 4.2 stars in reviews. The scissors are dishwasher-safe, and a silicone handle provides a comfortable grip.
The Star Wars Interactech Imperial Stormtrooper figure has a motion sensor that triggers 65 phrases and sound effects. The toy for ages 4 and up is also compatible with an app that lets toys star in their own movies, complete with laser blasts, explosions, and other special effects. The $30 toy is selling for $23 at Walmart.
An entry-level or refurbished iPad can easily cost a couple hundred dollars, but old-fashioned magazine subscriptions are a relative bargain. Make this cheap gift more meaningful by selecting titles that cater to the recipient's hobbies and interests. Subscriptions to Car and Driver, Architectural Digest, or The New Yorker, to name a few, are available for less than $25 (although that price may not buy a full year of some titles).
For grandparents who live far away, create and give a custom print featuring grandkids' names and the states where they live ($20 on Etsy). Locations, background color, and design details can be customized upon request. Print the digital copy on your own, or order an 8-by-10 print for $10 more.
Four potential crash zones make for exciting play with the Hot Wheels Criss Cross Crash Track set, which features more than 16 feet of twisting track. The toy for ages 5 and up also has motorized boosters to keep cars moving and several parking spaces. The toy lists for $45 but sells for $36 at Walmart.
Soothe aches and pains away with an herbal neck wrap from Herbal Concepts ($22 on Amazon). The soft wrap is filled with a relaxing blend of herbs, including lavender, white willow, chamomile, spearmint, and rosemary. It can be worn hot or cold. Fifty reviewers have rated it about 4 stars.
Help a bacon lover truly appreciate pork in all its glory with the Original Bacon Kit ($20). It comes with a curing bag, the cure, maple sugar, a thermometer, and directions. All you need to add is 5 pounds of pork belly, currently selling for about $5 a pound at a local butcher. The bacon can be made in an oven or a smoker and the entire family can reap the benefits.
What's movie night at home without a bowl of homemade popcorn? The stainless steel Whirley-Pop Stovetop Popcorn Popper ($25 on Amazon) makes 6 quarts of popcorn in about three minutes. The pan features a two-sided lid and an old-fashioned wood crank attached to a stirring system. It averages 4.3 stars from more than 3,200 reviewers.
The 450-watt Ninja Master Prep ($40 on Amazon) blends, chops, purées, and dices. It comes with two jars (one holding up to 48 ounces and the other up to 16 ounces), two storage lids, four- and six-blade attachments, and a power pod that fits in the palm of a hand. The Ninja is dishwasher-safe and BPA-free and averages 4.5 stars from more than 9,400 reviewers.
A roadside emergency kit like the AAA 42-piece roadside kit ($24 at Home Depot) contains the basics needed to get a vehicle running if something goes wrong. The kit comes with jumper cables, a flashlight, and a safety vest to wear during roadside repairs -- all packed in a handy carrying case designed to fit in the trunk. This is one gift you hope she'll never use.
Harried home cooks can create an unending variety of meals with minimal effort when using a 6-quart programmable Crock-Pot ($48 on Amazon). With digital controls for setting the cooking time and temperature, there's no babysitting required. Contents cook for as little as 30 minutes and up to 20 hours; when cooking's done, the temperature shifts to "warm." The oval stoneware pot is dishwasher-safe and can go in the refrigerator, oven, or microwave.
There's no need for an eyeglass hunt with a quirky, stylish eyeglass holder on a living room side table or bedroom dresser. Handcrafted in India, this design sold by Cost Plus World Market ($6) was inspired by the stone statues of Easter Island. Variations are available, such as a rosewood display stand also handcrafted in India, for $7 on Amazon.
For those who eat a meat-free diet, the website UncommonGoods sells a tofu-making kit ($19) that comes with GMO-free soybeans, a mold, and cheesecloth. The only other required supplies are a blender and a lemon, and the only choice to make is how firm to make the tofu. A 1-pound brick is ready in less than an hour and can be used to enhance a stir-fry, slapped onto a grill, or marinated and baked for snacks or salad toppings.
Treat friends and family with favorite sports teams to something with the logo or team colors. T-shirts, jewelry, glassware, and Christmas ornaments are all good options likely to be available under $25. Look for fan gear at local big-box stores such as Walmart, not just sporting goods stores, for the best prices.
Think of all your friends and family members who enjoy Asian cuisine. Then think about the claim by activists that disposable wooden chopsticks add to the planet's deforestation and may contain toxic chemicals. Avoid the guilt -- and splinters -- with reusable and lightweight titanium chopsticks from HealthPro ($12 for a set of two on Amazon).
A 58-inch graphite, maple, and polymer "Hustler" cue (from $43 on Amazon) is an ideal gift for the pool shark but also the movie buff in your life. It's named for 1962's "The Hustler," starring Jackie Gleason and Paul Newman, which stoked national interest in the game of pool.
Everything a binge-watcher needs for a successful night on the sofa can be stashed in a handy organizer that sits right over the arm of most couches ($15 on Amazon). It holds the remote, a cellphone, reading glasses, and much more in six pockets. There's even a snack tray for food and drinks.
Many older cars lack navigation systems, Bluetooth, and other modern apps. Phone mounts for cars let drivers place a phone at eye level on the dashboard, where they can look directly at the screen. A holder usually clicks into a car's vent, no tools required, and one size fits all. On Amazon, reviewers laud the quality of the Atill universal air vent magnetic car mount ($9) and Jamron 2-in-1 universal car phone mount holder ($14.70).
Lumbering and majestic, with a face that's hard to resist, the manatee is a smiling member of the underwater animal world. A symbolic adoption of this endangered species ($25 through the Save the Manatee Club) is an eco-conscious gift. Another $10 buys a 2017 wall calendar and a manatee club magnet.