When shopping for holiday gifts, deciding how much to spend on each person can be really hard. How much do you really want to spend on Aunt Susan (who never fails to give you unsolicited advice on your love life)? Should you splurge on your brother-in-law because you like him best (sometimes even more than your sister)?
Over the last couple years, I’ve found a way to work around that painful exercise: I fix a single budget across the board, an outer limit, if you will—for all my family and friends. This year, somehow, I’ve landed at $30. And I think that might just be the magic number! With a gift around $30, you’re giving more than a stocking stuffer, but not an investment item. You can afford something substantial and thoughtful—a present that’s more original and less fleeting than a bottle of wine (although no one would scoff at that!).
And as I’ve discovered, there are countless treasures to be found under the $30 mark, from flaky sea salt to tortoise shell barware and disposable cameras. And because I’ve done the homework, you don’t have to. So here are my 30 favorite gifts under $30, sorted from “price: low to high.” You’re very welcome.
1. WizGear Air Vent Magnetic Phone Mount, $8.99
This magnetic phone mount clips into your car’s air vent and attaches to your phone via a thin magnet you place at the back of it. Now you can follow directions or change the music without ever picking up your device.
2. Maldon Sea Salt, $10.95
Counting chefs and home cooks around the world as devoted fans, this 137-year-old English sea salt is a magical seasoning agent, with the ability to transform a dish instantly.
3. Tortoiseshell Barware, $10.95
Just like your favorite sunglasses, but instead, an upscale addition to any bar cart or glassware cabinet.
Collectors of writing instruments will no doubt fawn over this wooden mechanical pencil (that also comes with a sharpener and extra lead). Its design is something like American schoolhouse meets Japanese simplicity and it glides across paper like a dream.
Playing cards never go out of style. This deck of 52 features contemporary artistic renditions of the country’s iconic natural wonders. As a bonus, a percentage of the sales go to the National Parks Conservation Association.
Ella Frances Sanders uses intricate illustration and thoughtful articulation to ask and answer the big questions about the universe, the solar system, and the world, marveling at the way nature works in a way that’s both visually and intellectually powerful.
7. Carhartt A18 Watch Hat, $16.99
A wintertime gem since 1987, the A18 is a classic beanie that started its life as utilitarian workwear but has come to symbolize stylish streetwear.
8. Fujifilm Disposable Camera, $18
You know how every time you go on a trip, you wish you had a disposable camera, but then never actually buy one? Well, now you can fill that void.
9. Moglea Painted Journal, $18
Iowa-based letterpress studio Moglea specializes in beautiful hand-painted paper goods. This 50-page journal offers is just begging to be filled with poems—or scribbles.
Seedlip is intent on making sure that partygoers who don’t drink don’t feel left out. Spice 94 is a warm, aromatic (think cardamom and allspice!) non-alcoholic spirit that plays very nicely with ginger ale and a lime wedge.
11. Five Two Wool Dryer Balls, $20
The gift of a lifetime of fluffy laundry. Imagine that! These colorful wool spheres will also cut drying time down by 25 percent, so you're also giving them the gift of time.
12. P.F. Candle Co. Sandalwood Rose, $20
This candlemaker’s scents draw directly from nature, and I'm partial to the smooth, floral, and woody Sandalwood. Apothecary-inspired, amber-colored jars sweeten the deal, as does the fact that the candles are vegan and cruelty-free.
Arguably one of the most adorable varieties of dried stems, these little bunny tail-shaped grasses are right at home with any style of decor.
14. Sleep Master Sleep Mask, $21.95
Even people who find sleep masks wildly uncomfortable will fall for this one. No more pesky elastic strap! This mask goes all the way around the head, completely eliminating light and reducing sound.
15. Vintage inspired food ornaments, $22
I cannot think of one person who wouldn’t love one of these food ornament sets. My favorite? The coffee and bagel set, for the New Yorker. Or New Yorker at heart.
16. Ekobo Bento Lunch Box, $22
This color-blocked bento lunch box is made of bamboo fiber, a durable, eco-friendly material. It’s ideal for meals on-the-go, with removable containers to separate out your foods.
17. Standard Baggu Set of 2 $24
There’s nothing quite like a standard Baggu (or two!), and their array of whimsical patterns make any grocery schlep more bearable.
These reusable silicone sandwich bags are a fun, sustainable alternative to the single-use plastic storage bags of yore. Dishwasher- and microwave-safe, think of them as the pastel, non-toxic home for snacks and leftovers.
19. Stojo Collapsible To-Go Cup, $25
Everyone's favorite lightweight, easy-to-store, even-easier-to-carry, collapsible cup in an extra-roomy size! For double your morning smoothie or piping-hot coffee.
20. Five Two Silicone Straws, $25
We don’t need to rant on about the problem of single-use plastic, because you know it well already. These carry-everywhere-you-go silicone straws are bendable, eco-friendly, and ever so pretty.
From cheese board to condiment display centerpiece, the uses for this acacia board are endless. It has a natural, forest aura that adds beauty to any table.
22. Pop Wallet+, $25
This small-but-mighty item is more of a lifesaver than you’d even think. It keeps cards tucked close to your phone, and flips open as a Pop Socket to keep a solid grip or prop your phone up.
All the white space on these modern still-life puzzles makes them deceptively challenging—and all the more worthy of a frame after completion.
24. Stone Match Striker, $28
This little stone match striker solves the inevitable problem of match box paper losing its oomph. Plus, it’s delightfully small and holds a collection of matches at the ready.
25. Sanctuary Fashion PPE Masks $28
Masks are like socks now, and since we all need them, they might as well coordinate with our outfits. These soft and breathable ones are very highly rated—just like you once you give them as a gift.
26. Hydro Flask 10oz Wine Tumbler, $29.95
Take it to the mountains, the poolside, or the fire-pit. This wine tumbler maintains wine’s temperature with its double wall insulation, holds two standard glasses, and prevents spills.
27. Criss Cross Slipper Sandals, $29.95
Slipper sandals are the absolute best of both worlds—they keep feeties nice and toasty, but not too toasty. Surely you can picture anyone on your list shuffling around in these all work-from-home-winter long.
28. Thera Cane Massager, $29.95
A professional Swedish massage might be out of this year's budget, but this cane-shaped massager will work out all your knots and comes in just under. The aerodynamic design of this tool allows you to target trigger points to relieve tension—no help needed.
29. Kaws Magnets, $30
For the art collector and newbie alike: everyone loves good street art, right?
30. Ginkgo Japanese Butter Knife, $30
Cold butter has nothing on this expert shaver. Watch bricks of hard butter yield to its touch, turning into delicate curly tendrils. Your toast will thank you.
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