The Art of Affordable (and Meaningful) Small Gifting

The Art of Affordable (and Meaningful) Small Gifting

Each year I feel completely in control of my Holiday gifting. Then somehow, without fail, I run into the same dilemma: What am I to do for those few extra people in my life…the ones  I want to show gratitude…those few in which I wish to honor our friendship with “just a little something”…? Every year I completely obsess over this. And every year I overanalyze, drive all over town, and basically totally nerd out on coming up with the perfect gift.

Really, it shouldn’t be that big of a deal (I reassuringly say to myself) – just shop like you would shop for yourself…but you see, when we’re trying to achieve that perfect “little something” AND we have a budget, this is no easy task.

Shopping as you would shop for yourself is, in fact, a key principle to my multi-step process. It should not be overlooked.

But when we also have strict budgets to adhere to, the struggle becomes this: how do we make a gift feel meaningful? How do we make it feel purposeful, curated and substantial enough – even when it truly is just a little something?


Well folks, here is my go-to guide for gifting thoughtfully and aesthetically, while on a budget.

Just in case you too go berserk every year…right around December 15th…

First thing’s first, always consider the person.

If the recipient is a close friend or colleague with similar likes and tastes, make sure that (truthfully) you would love to receive whatever it is you plan to gift, and this is an easy win. If it is someone that you perhaps don’t know as well, or maybe you’re just not sure what to get, stick to global luxuries (I’ll explain this further in just a minute). You might peruse Pinterest or stealthily stalk their Instagram feed for a sneak peek into their wants and interests. This is a great way to gift something that feels personal, even though you don’t have your finger directly on the pulse or know their wish list front to back.


If you really don’t know someone all that well, (or know that they are especially particular and opinionated, and as a result you’re generally afraid to give them anything…) it’s always safe to consider the global luxuries route. These items are really anything falling into the category of things that we as a culture consider little luxuries – things that we wouldn’t typically buy ourselves, or may even set aside for a rainy day, but will at some point or another, inevitably need (and thus appreciate that we now have).

If you’re still completely confused by this, I like to think of them as the following: things you might need if you were hosting a group of people, or, things you yourself always need, and may not always buy for yourself. For example, say you’re hosting a game night. You’ll always need a few simple wine or tasters glasses to serve drinks in. You’ll always appreciate a simple cheese knife to compliment a classic charcuterie board. You’ll definitely need a cozy candle to set the mood. And now you can finally pull out the pretty bottle of gourmet olive oil that you’ve been waiting for just the right opportunity to open – and pair it with some crusty bread and balsamic vinegar, set alongside a curated dish towel from Joanna Gaines’ “Hearth & Hand” line at Target…because these are so tailored and so very pretty, but WAY too impractical for everyday use. At least in my house.

See how that works?

And then there are those few things we enjoy having on hand (especially this time of year) but perhaps don’t buy ourselves…things that we consider a luxury, or things that we just didn’t get around to picking up that last time we went to Target, or things that we stockpile for that one night every 3 months that we set aside for total pampering & self care (guilty! I have, like, 14 single use face masks stashed away for this very reason).

Here we are talking about a repairing hand creme, maybe a hair mask, an elevated chapstick, a single use face mask…you see where I’m going. This could also be something that would be really fun to try, but you just can’t justify purchasing it for yourself right now. Maybe there’s a pair of boot socks that you’ve wanted to buy, but you haven’t felt like adding them to your cart just yet. Or there was that Vanilla-bean infused Maple syrup at Trader Joe’s that you eye every time you pass it in the aisle, but you think “hmm…do I really need this right now?…and you suppose maybe you’ll just get it next time…

This will get you started.

Now, it may sound weird, but my next habit is this:

Always consider the packaging.

I know – why is this even a thing? But trust me, aesthetically speaking, when you’re gifting small little somethings, packaging will make or break the overall impact and continuity of your gift. Ultimately, it’s what makes the gift feel planned, and what ties the gift together (visually). If you stick to items with packaging that is simple, clean and on trend, your gift will feel like a million bucks – even if it’s less expensive than something with busier packaging or labeling.

For this reason, Trader Joe’s and Cost Plus World Market always top my go-to list. They are such a great spots to snag these kinds of gifts to sprinkle in – especially if you plan to mix up a few different items. The soy candles at Trader Joe’s are seasonal and SO affordable, and the packaging tends to be very simple and clean, which makes them look and feel curated. The same goes for their seasonal body butter trio. Even their hand creme. At World Market you can find simple, sweet-smelling candles, in addition to elevated bath and body products with beautiful packaging and a great price point. In this case, the packaging is a huge win, the product looks put-together, and it’s always something nice to have on hand – even if it’s not something you might typically invest in for yourself.

So, let’s do a quick check-in to see if we’re on the same page; say you purchase a seasonal candle from Trader Joe’s with a clean font and a hint of mint green on the label, and then you purchase a small hand creme from Target that is pink, floral and super busy…this for me would be a no-go. But if you found a thin-striped black and white flour sack towel from Hearth & Hand to bring out the black font of the Trader’s candle and the hint of mint is now a lovely accent color…well now you’re on to something.

Here’s the basic breakdown.

Whether you are going for one big-bang item, or are gifting in 2’s or 3’s (usually my preference) each item must fulfill these criteria:

  1. Be aesthetically pleasing to look at
  2. Have a purposeful use
  3. Consider the recipient/be a global luxury

And if it’s a multi-item gift…

It must have a unifying factor. (Visual is a must, by theme is extra-credit.)

I’ll say it again, visual continuity is the key – it is what makes it all work…what makes it all feel like it naturally fits together – so make this a priority! A useful purpose may seem like a no-brainer, but I think what I mean here is, be sure to consider how this gift will be used. If it’s something that is an “every-day” item, what sets it apart? And how will it be used in this scenario? This really is more important if you are attempting the one-item big bang gift, rather than multi-item gifting. I think a good example might be something like a personalized mug, or an elevated water bottle, or a rose quartz facial roller…things that have an everyday use, but they have an additional piece of beauty or personalization that elevates them. For example, I probably wouldn’t gift one single pair of socks…unless they were personalized somehow, or served a specific function other than everyday wear. Well, maybe I would. It would depend on the packaging…

maybe if there was a cute little tag with a personalized poem or rhyme about warm toes. Maybe if they were lined with fleece. Maybe if they had a digital foot warmer…

Maybe then.

*All Images are Linked – Happy Shopping!



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