Buying the perfect gift on a budget is never easy, but here’s a hack that can help you narrow down the possibilities: You start by taking your budget, and then slashing it. Stay with me here.
Start by dividing your budget by four. So if you have $100 to spend, you’re going to look for $25 items that your giftee would actually use. They don’t have to be fancy or gift-y; in fact, it’s best if they’re not. What do they currently have in their life that probably cost about that much? Bonus points if it’s something that will eventually break or get used up.
Now, do a little research on what is the best version of that thing you can buy for your actual budget. To be clear, we’re not going for something that’s expensive just to look expensive, as you’ll find in a lot of overpriced “gift sets” this time of year. We want the thing that will actually last, or that is actually good quality. For example: if our person could use a flashlight, the flashlight community (which exists, apparently) might recommend a $100 Olight.
Here are a few other options to get you started, which I’ll list with the approximate price range of your actual budget. Yes, these are expensive for their category; you could easily find socks or pens at the dollar store. But these are the versions that will last and will be more enjoyable to use.
Some other options with more variable price ranges could include:
- A good quality water bottle
- A phone-charging battery brick big enough for multiple charges
- Quality art supplies if you know that your person will use them (Prismacolor makes great colored pencils, but Caran d’Ache is arguably even better)
- A good toaster oven (with convection and air-frying features), like the one I raved about in our kitchen gadgets slideshow
With anything that is specific to a recipient’s hobby, either ask them up front about it, or (if it must be a surprise), ask somebody who knows the recipient’s style and who knows their hobby for recommendations. For example, I’m into watercolor painting, but gifts of paint and brushes often miss the mark. One year I made a specific request: I’d like a size 8 Kolinsky sable brush in a travel case. That sucker was $50—yes, for a single, small paintbrush—but it’s still going strong and it’s legitimately the best brush I have ever used. That’s the kind of gift we’re going for here.