(Note: I am working on a slightly different format for my New Orleans recap but in the meantime, I’ve been doing a lot of gift curating lately and wanted to share some guides in a timely manner while we’re all scrambling to find presents for the holiday season!)
Happy Chanukah! Are you remembering that Chanukah involves gift-giving and you are scrambling? Do you have a White Elephant gift exchange coming up? Maybe you need to find something for a Secret Santa you don’t know very well?
I was recently tasked with finding some fun gifts to raffle off at a holiday event, with my only real constraint being that it had to come with Amazon Prime free 2-day shipping. While I am conflicted about using free 2-day shipping when it’s not necessary, the holiday season is one of the better times to use it for those of us who procrastinate or haven’t found the right thing in stores.
Without further ado, a list of gifts that were available on Amazon Prime for no more than $20, whittled down from perusing a lot of other online gift guides.
Note: Some of these items may no longer be in stock by the time you go to purchase them. The links included below are affiliate links.
Let me know if you buy any of these gifts and what the reaction is!
Do you have any requests for gift guides? It is late in the year to be asking but I’ll do what I can for you! (And if all else fails, I’ll have it ready for you by next year, or at the next gift-giving holiday of your choice…)
For a lot of people, December brings about a lot of gift anxiety. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I put a lot of pressure on myself to buy gifts for people. Either I know them really well, so I want to make sure the gift is something personal that reflects how well I know them, or I don’t have a close, personal relationship but still want to make a nice gesture without being too weird about it. For some folks, you know exactly what to get them. But more often than not, the holiday season comes around and we’re not sure what to get for our managers, our extended family, our children’s teachers…
And gift exchanges can also be their own can of worms.
Finding the right store to look for a gift can make or break your gift-buying excursion. A lot of very different stores often have a gifts section that is great to look at. If you don’t want to buy something from that section, it might give you a great idea with regards to a gift you can get!
Places that I find myself visiting —online or in-person— even if I don’t buy anything, are: (Note: I tried to include screenshots that have products for both genders, as some of the gift pages tend to be geared towards female recipients.)
TJ Maxx / Marshall’s / Ross
Discounted department stores are one of my favorite places to start looking for gifts. In December, in particular, they will start keeping lots of easy-to-gift items at the front of the store. It can be easy to get overwhelmed because of the variety, but some items you can look for – depending on the people you are shopping for – include:
Fitness, e.g. yoga mats, foam rollers, water bottles
Self-care, e.g. face masks, sleeping masks, hot water bottles for aches and pains
Pets!, e.g. the large selection of pet toys that are available
I love browsing ThinkGeek when it comes to my nerdy friends and/or my friends who are really into a particular movie franchise/TV show/video game. Even if I am not familiar with the fandom itself, I can get some inspiration as to what kind of merchandise is available for it and what people are interested in buying. You can get anything from T-shirts and mugs to more specific gifts to the interest. When my friends get really into a video game, or I often discuss shows like Game of Thrones or Doctor Who with them, I go to ThinkGeek and start getting ideas for what kinds of things to get. Even if you don’t think your gift recipient has any super nerdy interests, you might still find something that’s just really cool to receive!
I have never purchased clothing from UO but I love browsing the gifts and non-clothing items they have. They have books, candles, cute kitsch, or Instax cameras, but because the collection is so eclectic, you can also get ideas for gifts to look for elsewhere if nothing specific jumps out at you. Stuff I’ve gotten for gifting include really cute Korean skincare products and a grow-your-own bonsai tree kit! It’s one of my favorite places to browse for gifts and get ideas.
The store is more geared towards women, but their gift section is really cute. This is also a really good place to look if you have a bride-to-be in your life, as they always have some great gifts for brides in the store, as well as the incredible cat-themed section of the gifts table. If you are shopping for someone who really embraces how they fulfill some “basic” stereotypes, you might want to check out Francesca’s.
Barnes & Noble
Definitely a good place to look for a book lover in your life, but they also have a lot of other things you can look through as well. Not only do they have a lot of craft + skill books (e.g. origami books, recipe books, etc.) that are great for gifting, but they have board games, figurines, puzzles, journals, planners, book accessories, and tables of themed gift-type items! Around this time of year, they are usually Christmas-themed items. One year, I got a cute mug with peppermint hot cocoa mix and a teensy little whisk.
Drugstores (CVS, RiteAid, Walgreen’s)
The gift aisle of drugstores is king for two types of gifts for sure: mug sets and face/body sets (e.g. lotion + body wash, nail polish sets, etc.) . In recent years, I’ve seen the sets get less generic and more fun! For example, one year, I got Ben a Darth Vader-shaped mug that was filled with Hershey kisses. We were more interested in the mugs, so I ended up getting the rest in the Star Wars collection of head-shaped mugs. They have a lot of different gifts, so you might be surprised by what you can find that is a safe gift for someone you don’t know as intimately, for a white elephant gift exchange, or to donate to a gift drive. It’s also another reliable spot if you’re looking for a gift within a stricter price range.
So the next time you need to buy a gift for someone and have no clue where to start, try checking out of the six spots I mentioned above. I also really like browsing curated gift guides by bloggers and larger websites because they can have a lot of great ideas for gifts as well!
If you’re still having trouble, comment below and tell me what kind of person you’re shopping for or what kind of gift you are looking for and I’ll try to direct you to a place or a gift guide to start you search!
Do you have any go-to places when it comes to buying gifts when you don’t have a specific item in mind?
Secret Santa is fun, but my preferred gift exchange game is White Elephant. It can be a little stressful to get assigned a person to get a gift for, especially if it’s a group like coworkers or a large organization where you might not know everyone that well. Personal gifts are really tricky and you feel like you’re not able to get something a little more generic.
White Elephant is great because you don’t know who is going to go home with your gift. The rules vary from group to group, but it’s a lot of fun to see gifts exchange hands and the different reactions to gifts. What matters isn’t who bought what for whom but the fun in the game.
There are a few approaches to White Elephant. Some folks play the variation my friends call “Pass the Trash”, where you bring in a gift that maybe no one wants. This can result in some troll-tastic gifts. It’s also a great place for rejected gifts from past years to show up. One man’s trash can be another man’s treasure, so this could be great for some folks! It also results in a lot of laughs. Some examples I’ve seen from this variation include a $20 bill superglued in a mason jar, a signed photo of another participant, and the leg lamp from A Christmas Story.
I don’t like playing that way and try to think of something that people will like and have a fun with. (Just not a lot of troll in me…) Here’s three suggestions to help you think of things to pick up for a White Elephant exchange you might be doing that has a spending cap of $10. Remember, with a lot of deals coming up on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, you might be able to make that $10 stretch quite far!
FUNKO POP! VINYL TOYS// Funko makes cute vinyl figurines for every franchise you can think of. Disney? Superheroes? Video games? TV shows? Movies? They’ve got ’em, usually for a little over $9. They can be tricky for White Elephant because Funko Pop! toys are one of my go-to gifts for friends who are in fandoms, and it’s harder to have any one toy appeal to every person participating in the gift exchange. You can pick something that most people are interested in — like a movie or show or game the group has discussed often — and hope that one of the folks who has an interest in it either chooses the gift or steals it! These can be purchased from a bunch of online retailers like Amazon or ThinkGeek and at physical stores like Hot Topic and Barnes & Noble.
FUN DRINKWARE // A lot of us have too many mugs and cups, SO if you are able to find fun drinkware, this works out great! Again, this could be tricky because it can be easier to get a mug or cupfor a specific person, but you are free to be a little more broad here. For example, if your Greek organization is participating, you can get a tumbler with your letters on it. Some fun options include those heat change mugs and cups that have a special shape to them, if you don’t want to risk it with the text or design that is printed onto the item itself.
NOVELTY CANDY // Along with that book, I felt the need to beef up that gift with some Pop Rocks, which, for the record, are always a lot of fun to watch people open up and eat and share. Things that fall into this category are sweets that you wouldn’t ordinarily get but are super fun and enjoyable anyway, maybe for their novelty. Other examples include Japanese Kit-Kat flavors you can’t find in your usual grocery, astronaut ice cream, and anything that tastes like bacon. (Why is there bacon-flavored everything??)
Before this post gets too long, I think I just want to say that White Elephant gift exchanges should not be stressful. If you get anxious trying to pick out the perfect gift for a specific person, this format of gift exchange should relieve a lot of that anxiety. As long as the recipient(s) can tell that you got the gift with their enjoyment in mind, they’ll have fun with it!
(And if it’s better than the box of condoms and can of Spaghetti-Os I once received, you’re solid.)
Note: Links in this post are affiliate links.
What’s the best and worst White Elephant gift you’ve ever received or seen at a gift exchange?
It may seem a little bit early to be thinking about getting gifts for your friends for the holiday season, but there are occasions all year-round for gift-giving and fall is as good a time as any to start that warm fuzzy feeling! (Also, I fully believe you should occasionally get yourself gifts. #treatyoself)
I had the opportunity to shop at Pike & Rose, which I used to visit all the time for the food but was a bit intimidated to shop at. There were just a handful of stores when they first opened up, and it seemed like special occasion shopping with special occasion staff.
As it turns out, I actually wasn’t too far from the truth! Let me break down what kinds of gifts you can get at the stores I visited during Pike & Rose’s inaugural blogger event, where I and many other area bloggers were treated to such a gift through the experience alone! (And then the things we bought for ourselves and our loved ones.)Read More »