personal-finance

Great gifts you can afford for $25 or less

Nov. 27, 2012 at 8:56 AM ET

marblesthebrainstore.com /
36 Cube is a game that challenges the mind. Think 3-D Sudoku.

You don’t need to spend a lot to find nice holiday gifts for everyone on your list. You just need to know where to shop. The editors at ShopSmart magazine searched the web and found 25 sites that have unique gifts for $25 or less.

“A lot of gift guides start at $50, but we thought we should go lower,” said deputy editor Jody Rohlena.

“We looked for websites that people may not know about that offer a variety of great gifts at the $25 price point.”

Here’s a sample of what they found and recommend:

MarblesTheBrainStore.comlets you give the gift of intelligence for both kids and adults. The games and puzzles they sell are fun, but meant to build brainpower and increase creative thinking. A few examples: the Modern Art Memory Game, 36 Cube (think 3-D Sudoku) and Solitaire Chess.

Hipcycle.comspecializes in green gifts that anyone would like. Everything it sells is made from stuff that would have gone to the landfill. They call this “upcycling.” The items are cute, clever and unusual. For less than $25 you can get a colorful bracelet crafted from reclaimed tin, picture frames built with old shipping pallets or a cheese platter made from a flattened wine bottle.ShopSmart ordered a bowl made out of chopsticks. “It’s beautiful,” Rohlena told me. “The chopsticks were arranged so artfully. You have to see it to believe it." 

SetBoutique.com features a wonderful assortment of clothing, jewelry, bags and housewares from socially responsible manufacturers: bowls carved in Kenya, organic cotton tunics from Peru and silk handbags made in Cambodia. Spend $20 or more and the site will donate $5 to the charity of your choice.

Pier1.com is what you’d expect from this well-known retailer. This new website sells Pier 1’s eclectic mix of merchandise: from elf aprons to flashing lightbulb earrings. They also have a large selection of unusual salt and pepper shakers, including nutcrackers, chubby cats and flying pigs. For just $8, ShopSmart bought “gorgeous” brass candle snuffers, hand-crafted in India.

Wag.com has reasonably priced pet products for the furry friend on your gift-giving list. Whether it’s a hoodie for the pooch, a mouse-shaped rope toy for the cat or a hand-woven bungalow for the rabbit in your life, they’ve got you covered.

OldTimeCandy.com specializes in retro candy. And who wouldn’t want to get a box of candy from their childhood for a gift? Choose from a variety of old favorites:  Pop Rocks, Mary Janes, Atomic Fireballs, Turkish Taffy, Pixy Stix, Bit-O-Honey,  Zagnut, Goo Goo Clusters and many more sweet treats. Pick a favorite or put together your own collections. Smart Shop got two pounds of candy for $24.

Vat19.com sells what it describes as “curiously awesome” products. These tongue-in-check gifts include a giant Gummy Bear on a stick (90 times bigger than the original), a flying alarm clock and a wine glass large enough to hold all the wine in the bottle.

Because ShopSmart is published by Consumer Reports, every recommended site has been vetted to make sure it’s a legitimate business, has a good privacy policy and user-friendly customer service. The editors also ordered several items from each site to see the merchandise themselves.

25 Great Sites for Gifts Under $25” is in the December issue of ShopSmart Magazine.

Herb Weisbaum is The ConsumerMan. Follow him on Facebook and Twitteror visit The ConsumerMan website.

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