It's that time of year when retailers remove the gloves and try to empty out our wallets. Coupon Sherpa wants to make sure you have some cash left for 2010, so we've compiled a list of 55 inexpensive gifts that require a minimum of effort on your part.
Nor will you find a single junk gift on our list. The idea is to make both you and the gift recipient happy. We've found a wide variety of modestly priced gifts to suit your girlfriend, co-worker, husband or wife, family member and even the postman (sorry, "postal carrier").
1. Disposable cameras: Young children may be too young and seniors too old to deal with digital cameras. A disposable camera with prepaid development envelope allows them to catch the excitement of Christmas Day.
2. DVDs: New or used, there's a special movie DVD out there for everyone. You can pick up a used DVD at DVD4Music.com for less than $5.
3. Magazine subscriptions: Buy one subscription to a magazine and you often receive a second subscription for free. Subscriptions also are provided as freebies or at a greatly reduced price for filling out survey forms, subscribing to online newsletters, etc. If the recipient really loves the magazine, you'll have an evergreen present that can be repeated year after year. Magazines.com is just one place you can find subscriptions to a wide-variety of magazines for less than $10.
4. Special events: Instead of heaping presents under the tree for your children, buy tickets to a special event tailored to their tastes and spend an entire day or evening with them. You could also take your young daughter to a Build-a-Bear Workshop or a sports nut to a regional game.
5. Discount gift cards: A $20 gift certificate needn't cost $20 anymore. Check comparison-shopping gift card web site GiftCardGranny.com, for discount gift cards and save anywhere from 5%-50% on gift cards.
6. Books: The right book will provide hours of enjoyment and almost any book can be purchased online. Christmas price wars have seen prices on popular titles tumble to $10 or less. Recipe books are welcome in many households and will be on hand for many years. You can find like-new books at cut-rate prices on Amazon.com. Just click on the "Used" button for each book's page.
7. Dress-up boxes: Clean out your closet and visit your local thrift stores to create a dress-up box for the young children in your life. You can include the ingredients for everything from superheroes to a princess, depending upon the preferences of the child.
8. Personalized calendar: Bring rare and treasured family photos and a list of important dates (i.e. birthdays, anniversaries, etc.) to your local copy shop. They'll whip-up unique calendars for your entire family. Just be sure to begin the project early. You can also create calendars online with a minimum of fuss at FedEx Office.
9. Coffee or tea: Combine gourmet coffee with a personalized mug or a teacup with herbal teas.
10. Gourmet chocolate: Chocoholics always appreciate quality chocolate bars wrapped in a ribbon.
11. Wine or sparkling cider: You can find good wines for less than $10 a bottle these days. Sparkling cider makes a good substitute for those who don't drink or if you're uncertain of the recipient's preferences. Slip the bottle into a nice bag from the dollar store to dress it up.
12. Food: You can rarely go wrong with food, although it's best to avoid the monthly club gifts, which are expensive and don't always deliver on quality products. On the other hand, gourmet popcorn, a pound of pistachios, homegrown herbs and such may never make it home.
13. Frame a child's artwork: What grandparent wouldn't love a nicely framed piece of their grandchild's artwork. It's fascinating how much more professional a child's work looks in a nice frame. Your child will enjoy having their work appreciated for many years.
14. Frame a photo of yourself, your family or an event important to the recipient. Picture frames measuring 5x10 or less are fairly inexpensive and you can reprint photos for $0.50 to $2.
15. Flashlight with batteries: This may not seem very "gifty," but the recipient will bless you the next time the lights go out.
16. Reusable Shopping Bags: Most grocery stores and many big-box stores sell reusable shopping bags for $1 to $3 a bag. Pick up five of them for the perfect eco-chic gift.
17. Restaurant.com gift certificates: A $25 restaurant gift certificate usually costs $25, but restaurant.com holds frequent sales that allow you to purchase a $25 certificate for as little as $5-$10.
18. Road Atlas: Your traveling friend or family member may already have an atlas, but chances are it's gotten pretty tattered over the years. A new atlas also includes the latest information on roads. A small world atlas that can be tucked into a suitcase comes in very handy for world travelers.
19. Staple-less staplers: Perfect for the home or office, these staplers never need to be refilled. If the gift recipient is a fan of the movie "Office Space," make sure the staple is a bright red.
20. Hiking guides: Pocket-sized trail books are now available in many areas, making this an excellent gift for those who love to hike. The guides provide maps to well-known and out-of-the-way trails, along with useful information about the area.
21. Rechargeable batteries and a recharger: Not only is this a fairly inexpensive gift but it will save the recipient money throughout the year.
22. Water bottle: Know someone with a costly bottled water habit? Buy them a high-quality water bottle and help them break the habit. Nalgene 1-quart BPA-Free Water Bottles are very popular with kids and are priced from $7-$14.
23. Membership to a museum or zoo: A good gift for one person or a whole family, memberships usually cover entrance fees as well as special, members-only events. Choose a museum that belongs to the Association of Children's Museums or the Association of Science-Technology Centers and the recipients will also get free admission to hundreds of other museums across the U.S. and abroad.
24. Christmas ornaments: There's such a wide variety of ornaments available it's fairly easy to match a gift recipient's interests to an ornament. You'll find ornaments to match every hobby, animal, breed of dog and cat, musical instrument and more in boutique shops. Most cost under $10. Alternately, you or your children can decorate solid-color or clear-glass ornaments with glitter glue, holiday stickers or craft paints.
25. Plants: A low-maintenance plant for the office or window can make a fun gift, but make sure the recipient has a green thumb and won't resent having to care for the plant. Children will enjoy the Tickle Me Plant, which bends its branches and folds its leaves when touched.
26. Sachets: Sachets that keep clothes smelling good used to be very popular, but they seem to have gone out of vogue as a present. Why not restart this trend? You'll find them in the homewares department of stores or at such stores as Bed, Bath & Beyond. An easy sachet for children to make is an orange stuck over the entire surface with cloves.
27. Golf ball monogrammer: Make a duffer's life easier with a self-mongrammer that makes it easier to identify his golf balls. These make excellent business gifts. Prices start at $10 for a Wilson monogrammer.
28. Homemade screen saver: Compile family photos onto a CD for use as a computer screensaver. If family photos aren't appropriate, create a dream vacation with photos of the recipient's favorite location.
29. Re-gift: Seinfeld may have given it a bad name, but there's really nothing wrong with re-gifting, as long as the gift is unused or barely used and you don't return it to the original giver.
30. Record yourself: Long-distance grandparents might make a DVD of them reading a book or telling a story to their grandchild. This works in reverse as grandparents always love to see their grandchildren at play.
31. Board games: Board games have rapidly increased in popularity, which means the number of games has also increased. Look past Monopoly and Clue for games that suit the gift recipient's interests and skill level. They needn't be complex games. Something as simple as a box of question cards can speed up a road trip. Puzzles also make a good gift for those who like details. BoardGameRatings.com provides reviews, game breakdowns and pictures so you can assess a game without opening the box.
32. Movie Tickets: A pair of movie passes or a movie gift card make good gifts for film fans who can't afford the cinema anymore. Get AMC Theaters gift cards at a discount.
33. Book gift pack: Gather some books that you’ve already read and enjoyed but don't want to keep and pack them together with a ribbon. An unread book is a sin.
34. Car wash kit: For the car lover, create a kit for washing the car with a sponge, tire brush, bug remover, car soap, etc.
35. Sewing kit: Know someone setting up home for the first time? Chances are they don't have a sewing kit. Find a sewing basket, cookie tin or other creative container at a thrift shop and fill it with the sewing essentials of thread, needles, pins, etc. Stick to the basics and this gift can come in under $20.
36. Electronic Money Jar: This handy jar counts change as it's deposited. Children can watch money add up every time they put coins into the jar.
37. Draft stoppers: Long, tubular draft stoppers are placed at the crack between door and floor to stop drafts (thus the name). This is one of those gifts particularly useful to those living in older houses. Cute variations can be found at the craft fairs that pop up around the holidays. If you absolutely insist on making your own draft stopper, a comparatively simple project, ehow.com offers step-by-step directions.
38. Heating pads: We tend to think of heating pads as useful for reducing muscle strain, but they also can help save on heating costs while reading or watching TV. Slip a pad under you and snuggle up in a blanket. Heating pads also relieve suffering from arthritis. The well-reviewed SoftHeat Heating Pad is available for just $13.
39. Snugglies: Much derided in the media, Snugglies truly are cozy and can help reduce heating bills. They're on sale during the holidays at many web sites and in most large-box and department stores. Target carries cute costume snugglies for children, beginning at $16.
40. Candles: Some people are candle addicts and can never have enough. Others can make do with one candle for blackouts. Make sure you know which category the recipient falls into before giving them a candle. On the plus side, unique and good-smelling candles are available everywhere for less than $10-$15.
41. Earrings: Keep an eye on your girlfriend's ears. What kind of earrings do they wear? When you hit the Christmas holiday bazaars, look for similar earrings, usually the least expensive item for females at these fairs.
FOR THE KITCHEN
42. Reusable coffee filters: Save your favorite java junkie time and money with a reusable coffee filter. Maybe now she can splurge on some better beans. Prices for various sizes of filters at Amazon.com start at $9.
43. Coffee-bean grinder: Even if they only use it on weekends, coffee addicts will enjoy the fuller flavor of freshly ground beans. The popular Krups grinder can be found at Amazon.com for $18.
44. Mini-mixers: These compact mixers are useful for making pesto, chopping onion or mixing up smoothies. The very popular Black & Decker One-Touch Chopper sells for just $13.50 at Amazon.com.
45. Dish towels and dish cloths wear out rapidly in a busy kitchen. Make note of the cook's color scheme and make sure you match it. If you're not sure, white always works.
46. Angled measuring cups: So much easier to read, the inexpensive, angled measuring cups ensure measurements are exact without squinting. Comes in three sizes from a variety of manufacturers. Oxo makes the most popular cups with their Good Grip technology, starting at $6.
47. Kitchen thermometer: Is your mother or grandmother still using the kitchen thermometer she bought in her 20s? Replace that faded relic with an electronic kitchen thermometer featuring easy-to-read dials, shatter-proof clear lenses and a remote beeper, among other options
48. Heat-resistant silicone spatula: Heat-resistant silicone has revolutionized the modern kitchen. One item useful to all cooks is a silicone spatula that can withstand 600 degrees F or more, depending on the brand. Amazon.com has the best online prices, starting at $8 for the Kaiser KaiserFlex brand.
49. Homemade cookie mix: Mothers too busy to bake during the holiday will appreciate homemade cookie mix with instructions for baking. They can just pop the cookies in the oven for a special treat and to fill the home with that delicious holiday smell.
50. Microplane graters: Replace your mother's rusted old grater with a microplane grater and she'll sing your praises every time she uses it. These inexpensive graters speed up food preparation and reduce wear-and-tear on the knuckles. At $12, the Microplane Grater/Zester is an invaluable tool and stores easily.
51. Olive oil sprayers: With so much focus on eating healthy, these kitchen oil sprayers come in handy to reduce the amount of oil used in cooking and on salads. The Misto aluminum sprayer receives the best rating from cooks and runs around $10.
52. The Joy of Cooking: For the new cook, this is the basic bible. Like-new used copies of The Joy of Cooking starting at $12 or used for as little as $5.
53. Latte frothers: When your espresso machine has no umph left in its frother, a hand-held milk frother takes over. Also useful for those without an espresso machine. The BonJour Primo Latte Frother is priced at $19, comes with a stand and works when you need it to work.
54. Collapsible colanders: Colanders are a pain to store since they don't nest well with other kitchenware. Most collapsibles are both stain and heat resistant. If you want to pay a bit more, the Norpro Silicone Collapsible Colander at $14 will stand the test of time.
55. Chopping mats: Avoid cross-contamination in the kitchen with chopping mats specific to the type of food being preparing. These mats can be found anywhere kitchen prod, roll-up for easy storage and come in a variety of styles and colors.
Photos by: Tophee, MrsGooding, Stuck in Customs, N1NJ4, Le Petit Poulailler, cbcastro, Bob.Fornal, ahemier, sean dreilinger