There’s nothing like the satisfaction of settling on the perfect gift – something that shows how well you know the recipient and how much you care about your relationship with them. And contrary to what advertisers will tell you, you don’t have to drop loads of cash to find the right present. In fact, the most meaningful gifts are often the ones that cost less money, but take a little more thought, time, and creativity. Check out this list for gift ideas that tug at the heartstrings while giving your wallet a much-needed rest.
Meaningful Gifts on the Cheap
1. Personalized Playlist or “Mixtape”
Burn a CD of songs that mean something to you and the recipient, make nifty cover art with an easy-to-use template, and print out a track listing. Or, use Everyone’s Mixtape to keep the gift purely digital… while giving a nod to old-school mixtapes.
2. The Gift of You
If you have a skill or some extra time, you have the makings of a super thoughtful gift. Make a coupon book that the recipient can redeem for anything from guitar, to cooking lessons, to back rubs, or even favors and help with errands and chores.
3. Poetic License
Express how you feel about the recipient with a poem or quote. Write it on heavy cardstock (in your prettiest handwriting) and frame it. (Even if you’ve never crafted before, there’s lots of inspiration to be found online.)
Photo by Aylin Erman
5. Dinner Party for Two (or More)
You don’t have to be a master chef to make a delicious, inexpensive meal. Whip up a loved one’s favorite meal and dessert. For an extra festive touch, grab some permanent markers and decorate cheap dishware from your local thrift store.
7. 3D Experience
With Image3D, your favorite images become a 3-D adventure. Upload pictures from your computer and they’ll ship you the reel, a 3-D viewer, and a gift box.
8. Awesome, Affordable Art
Gifting professional art is usually crazy expensive, but how about a quirky, one-of-a-kind print made out of a page from a vintage dictionary? Each 8 x 10 frame-ready prints is just $7!
9. Put a Quote on It
Choose a quotation that means something to your friend or loved one, or is significant to your relationship, and get it lettered on a cool 8.5 x 11 print.
10. Puzzle Plus Partnership
Gift a giant puzzleand the promise that you’ll solve it together.
15. IRL Photo Keepsake
Use a service like Printstagram to print photos from a trip or an event, or order pictures of you and the gang. In a world of online selfies and digital photo albums, a tangible memento has special cachet.
17.Your Own Well-Loved Book, Inscribed
Give a loved one your own dog-eared copy of your favorite book, along with a note dedicated to them, as a touching and personal way to share part of you with them. Bonus: If it’s a work of fiction, it just might make the reader more empathetic.
Photo by Kelli Dunn
19. Cocoa-Dusted Almonds
For just about $25, you can make and give Cocoa-Dusted Almonds, a snack that’s as delicious as it is nutritious: Almonds are a god source of potassium, calcium, vitamin E, magnesium, phosphorous, and iron.
20. World’s Most Fun, Least Expensive Grab Bag
Searching Amazon for “cheap stuff” returns a treasure trove of fun gifts. Do your part to help a loved one get goofy and playful with a bundle of miscellany they might not buy themselves! Need some ideas? A vintage owl pendant, ‘80’s Style Wayfarer Sunglasses, The New York Times Light & Easy Crossword Puzzles, and the game Set totals less than $19.
21. Awesome Stuff, Marked Down
At Threadless, artists submit designs and the community selects which ones will become t-shirts. The result is unique tees with fun, funky graphics. Shop the $10 category for cool and adorable t-shirts for men and women.
What’s the most thoughtful gift you’ve ever received? Share in the comments below or get in touch with the author on Twitter!