Here is my most recent post for Mint.com. It’s pretty practical and you know how much I love fake shopping online, so I thought I’d share it here, too.

10 Gifts for $10 or Less

Are you one of the millions of Americans who are taking a conservative approach to gift giving this holiday season? Me too! And you know what? We aren’t alone.

The National Retail Federation’s holiday spending survey found that over 52% of holiday shoppers are scaling back on their holiday shopping for 2012, with most citing the economy as the main factor.

According to NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay, “More than half of Americans this holiday season will feel the impact of the economy and will compensate by doing what they’ve been doing for several years – looking for ways to cut any corners, comparative shop online and in stores more often, and even planning to travel less or not at all,” stated Shay.

Despite the recent shift towards better spending habits, consumers still plan on spending a good chunk of change on the holidays. According to NRF’s holiday consumer spending survey conducted by BIGinsight, the average consumer will spend $749.51 this holiday season, with gifts accounting for the largest portion of that figure.

That’s a lot of candy canes!

To all my dear family, friends, colleagues, and Secret Santa/White Elephant gift exchange recipients: I am not spending $750 on the holidays this year. In fact, I’m shooting for a figure more like $150.

I know how hard it is to stay on budget, especially during this time of year. It’s even harder to find holiday gifts that are unique, thoughtful, and inexpensive.

But, just because you are on a tight budget, doesn’t mean you have to go the predictable gift card route or risk cutting your fingertip off making a felt flower brooch for your sister-in-law (true story).

I’ve scoured the earth (ok, the Internet) high and low, and here are ten awesome holiday gifts that are $10 and under.

Theo Caramels by Theo Chocolate in Seattle, WA – $9

These fair trade, organic specialty caramels come in holiday flavors like gingersnap with milk chocolate (a peppery molasses caramel) and apple cider in dark chocolate (a fresh apple cider reduction and mulling spices).

Illustrated Stateside Tote by Madewell – $5

These totes feature fun state facts that have been translated into illustrations. State bird? Local delicacies? World-record-breaking pie eaters? Yup, they’re all here—on a sturdy canvas designed to be taken everywhere (12 state designs available).


5 Life Playbook by Dan Zadra — $10

Where will you be 5 years from today? This “playbook for life” features thought-provoking quotations and real-life examples to serve as both a spark and a road map for your life. It encourages you to celebrate and embrace the “want to’s,” the “choose to’s” and the “I can’t wait to’s” in your life.

Slang Flashcards – $10

A perfect gift for the “tragically un-hip” (Dad, I’m looking at you), these highly educational flash cards will introduce you to the exciting world of contemporary slang. Complete with pronunciation guide, part of speech, definition and handy illustrations.

Bamboo Salt Box – $8.99

Bamboo is a grass that grows to a harvestable height of 60 feet in 3 to 5 years. It has an extensive root system that continually develops new shoots (thus, not requiring replanting) making it an incredible self-renewing resource and a brilliant alternative to the wide spread clear cutting of our world’s hard wood forests.

Christmas Coal Soap – $6.50

Did someone make the naughty list this holiday season? This vegan Christmas “coal” is unscented handmade soap which has been colored jet black with Australian black clay. You will receive 25 cubes of coal (approx. 2 oz. total) in an unbleached 100% cotton muslin drawstring bag. (They are taking pre-orders for Christmas NOW, so get your order in before it’s too late!)

Bogobrush – $10

Not only will you look good while brushing those pearly whites, but this ultra sleek, biodegradable toothbrush gives back, too. When you order a Bogobrush, the same toothbrush is sent to one of the more than 80 million of Americans without access to adequate dental care.

Feather Bookmark (set of 2) – $4

Just four dollars buys you two bookmarks with still life images and art on both sides. This is a perfect small gift for the book (or feather) lover in your life.

iPlunge Smartphone Stand – $6.99

High-tech meets low tech and the coolest accessory for the smartphone was born. Squish it against the back of any device with a smooth hard surface, sit back and smile.

Tea Bag Buddy – $4.99

This little helper holds your tea bag while it steeps and traps the heat in the cup in the process. After the tea has steeped, lift and squeeze excess tea from the bag. Turn it over and it holds your used tea bag.

How much are you budgeting for holiday gifts this year?