Bring on the gift ideas, please (small and inexpensive)

For the past few years, I’ve had a tradition of giving small gifts to the people I’m physically going to be with on Christmas day. These are not anyone’s “big gift”, just small fun stuff that everyone gets. They can be all the same, or all mostly the same.

Three years ago, everyone got a box of chocolates wrapped in decorative foil.

Two years ago everyone got a “twisted nails” type puzzle. I didn’t label them, it was just “everyone take one and unwrap it.” The idea was for everyone to solve their own puzzle and then swap them. The reality was that my genius niece solved all 6 of them and no one else solved even one.

Last year everyone got a desk calendar with a personalized theme. For instance, my other niece got an “Oragami project of the day” one, and my BIL got a football one complete with a tiny football and goal posts.

This year…?

Ten dollar bottles of Asti or champagne are a go-to for me. People can pop them on New Year’s Eve. If they’re snobs, they can pop them once they’re too drunk to care that it’s $10 champagne.

Target always has a display of $5 and $10 gifts in the men’s department. They’re things like multi-tools, whistle key fob finders, head lamps… fun and useful stuff. As a bonus, they all come in perfectly rectangular red boxes, easy to wrap and festive enough to just be stuffed in a stocking.

ETA: Target always has them at Christmas time. Not at other times of the year.

Batteries for the kids, duct tape for the adults.


Gift cards tailored to the recipient, elaborately wrapped. Really unimaginative, but they always get used.

Small, “everyone gets one” gifts I (or my husband) have done in the past:

Luggage tags
Measuring spoons
Fridge magnets
Dog or cat treats (depending on pet of giftee)
Ear muffs (the kind that wrap around the back of your head)
Home-made soap
Little flashlights (or purse flashlights for the women)
Buttons (campaign button-type buttons. I bought myself one the year I did this with Rosie the Riveter on it. I still wear it!)

I’d like that idea if my family were big drinkers, but they’re not. And whatever I bring has to go in my suitcase and in the baggage check. Bulky and breakable is not an option.

I’m not a big fan of gift cards.

Sattua, I don’t have a Target near me, but you’re on the right track. I’ve had great luck in bookstores in the past. Something like swiss army knives might be nice.

As for “for the kids” ideas, the ages I’m buying for are 20, 23, 51, 55, 73, and 78. Both sexes.

And I don’t want to get food items if possible.

A pretty pen, or decorative notepad. That’s the sort of co-worker gifts we’ve exchanged around here.

Also! I forgot keychains and coffee mugs, which I’ve done too. Retro Planet has lots of fun inexpensive gifts.

Retro Planet looks very cool!

I’ll have to think about pens. That’s a good idea.

I got pens with a Celtic knot design for my Scottish buddies, and pens that say “Grammar Police” for my co-workers (we’re technical editors).

I wonder if they still make those hoochie girl pens; you know, girls in bikinis and when you turn the pen upside down they turn naked? I used to think those were so naughty, but now they just seem hysterically funny.

Since most of my family still live close together and I travel to see them from another city I try and give something made locally, generally consumables.

This year I’m giving hand made chocolates from a local shop. One year it was coffee from a local roaster, another everyone got tins of Rosebud Salve with the explanation “it’s a Maryland thing.”

Really, really good socks, the kind you wouldn’t buy for yourself.

I make shortbread. It’s butter, sugar and flour, basically. I’ve got a range of cutters and the favourite seems to be the teeny bite-sized heart shapes. I’ll do a mix of plain, chocolate and chocolate chip cookies and that’s the go-to present for anyone not getting a personal gift.

During the year I’ll find nice containers. I picked up some nice little tins this year and decided they were too small, so my mum is using them for her fudge. But woven baskets, themed plastic plates, gold-sprayed baskets, cellophane bags - anything you like the look of will do.

The only problem I’ve had with this is that everyone requests them now - even people who get ‘proper’ presents as well.

Christmas tree ornaments, maybe that reflect each person’s interests?

Since you brought up flying, how about TSA-approved luggage lockslike these? Luggage inspectors can examine your luggage without busting the lock.

Purse/pocket Advil, small packs of hand wipe things, pocket Kleenex, all in a little case to keep in the car was something one year. Game, trivia or puzzle books was another.

I was about to suggest games, remembering that when I stocked my household a few years ago they were surprisingly cheap. However, running the numbers on Amazon, they ain’t.

Maybe they’re cheaper at Wally World. It would make for a fun family Christmas to have a bunch of games-for-a-crowd to play. I was thinking Apples To Apples, Pictionary, Balderdash, stuff like that. I was also thinking they were in the $8 - $12 range. El wrongo.

That’s really along the lines of what I was thinking. I don’t want to give anything useful or needed. I want to give fun stuff. Everyone needs a toy on Christmas morning.