Christmas Gifts Under $5

Oh how I love a great gift, especially if it can be found at fabulous price.  No need to fret if you don’t have the budget to spend wildly on Christmas gifts for everyone this year, cutting back is a trend that’s here to stay. Even with a tight budget and plans to spend less, there are some really awesome gifts available for $5 or less that are perfect for just about everyone on your list.  Here is a list of no stress great ideas to get you started.

1.  Bath and Body Works Slatkin and Co. candles are available in 1.6 oz sizes that burn up to 30 hours.  Priced at just 3 for $5 they are a steal and come in delightful fragrances like Pear Cranberry Belini, Lavender Vanilla, Twisted Peppermint, Fresh Balsam and many more.  I’ve purchased three already and can’t decide which one to burn first.

2.  I first tried Toothy Tabs from Lush about a month ago.  When I first saw them, I had to try them because they’re such a great idea and so novel but completely useful.  They’re all-natual tablets that turn into toothpaste when they’re moistened.  Honestly, they’re pretty cool and great for those who like to travel light.  They come in flavors like Ultrablast, Sparkle, Atomic and more.  Each box contains 40 tabs for only $3.95.

3.  Awesome children’s gifts can be found at fatbraintoys.com, where smart, interesting and carefully chosen toys bring great experiences and education to kids all year long.  The mini Etch-a-Sketch, Doggy Incredibubbles and mini vehicle are all $5 or less and are sure to lead to hours of fun.  Keep an eye open for free shipping.  It is one of my favorite places to shop online for children’s gifts.

     

4.  A friend sent me an iTunes gift song this past summer which I thought was just amazing!  Why had I never thought of this?  What a great way to give a gift on a budget.  If you’re not into sending Christmas Cards, send a song instead.  Visit iTunes and make your song selections, send along a greeting and voila!  A gift that keeps on giving…

5.  A $5 gift card might seem like a cop-out, but this couldn’t be further from the truth, especially if the card is for a coffee drinker.  It’s holiday latte time.  This is when Starbuck’s serves Eggnog, Peppermint and other delish lattes and seasonal drinks.  Even McDonalds, Dunkin Donuts, Caribou and others get in on the holiday beverage action.  And the cards are printed in beautiful holiday designs.  Really a great gift.

6.  The Container Store has really unique stocking stuffers and small gifts that are useful, practical and even fun!  Anyone who wears eyeglasses will love Nosy.  It’s even perfect for holding your sunglasses and is just $4.99!  There’s also the Mini Micro Fuzzy Finger Mitt. You’ll find yourself cleaning everything from your smart phone to your shades.  It a steal at only $2.99, wow!

7.  Stop by Sephora for stylish styling tools.  I love the folding duo brow brush and lash comb and use it almost daily.  The face complexion brush is a gentle way to clean and exfoliate the skin.  Both are just $5 and make great gifts for the guy or girl in your life.

 

 

8.  This 12 days of Christmas from Crate and Barrel is even more lovely up close and a real steal at $4.95.  In the spirit of renew, reuse and recycle, this would make a great gift wrap for a nice bottle of wine or a jar of Christmas jam.

 

 

 

Christmas Gift Ideas Under $10

Great gift options are plentiful at $10 or less this year.  Just take as stroll through stores like Pier 1 and  Crate and Barrel or scroll through the pages of Amazon.com and be prepared to be amazed at just how far your money can go.  Shopping smart is a priority for most people these days, and for me that means finding great quality merchandise at a price that doesn’t break the bank.

From a beautiful decorative bowl filled with delicious treats to fantastic trays for his or her toiletries, all items below are $10 or less.

Where’s your favorite place to look for great gifts at fantastic prices?

Happy Shopping!

1.  Crate and Barrel  is one of my favorite places to pick up fantastic gifts for $10 or less during the Christmas season.  This year it looks my favorite reindeer has been replaced by the Jingle Elf, and he’s just as cute.  This sweet little appetizer plate and cup for both adults and little ones is so delightful and would make great gifts.  How will I resist the Norwegian Chalet Latte Mug or the partridge plate?  Check out the Menswear trays from West Elm, a classy gift for a guy or girl.  These and many other great gifts are available for $10 or less at Crate and Barrel, West Elm, Pier 1 and stylish retailers everywhere.

  

 

                     
        

2.  Fun and seasonal kitchen towel make a great gift and adds a little holiday life to your own kitchen.  I love Crate and Barrel’s holiday towels, they never disappoint.  And check out the coolest spatulas I’ve come across anywhere from Dean and Deluca.  For the wine lover, a great bottle of wine all bundled up for the holidays is sure to bring lots of smiles and warm thank yous!  Festive towels, spatulas and other items can be found at  Crate and Barrel, Dean and Deluca, Pier 1 and Pottery Barn, online or in stores.

         

              

3.  The list of wonderful foods and beverages to give for the holidays is almost without end.  They can be given in pairs, in themes, or any other creative way you can think of.  Homemade items like cookies and candies make fantastic gifts as well.  One of my newest favorite treats is Peanut butter and Company’s Dark Chocolate Dreams.  Pair with gourmet crackers and a cute little spreader and you have a great budget friendly gift.  The one gift that never gets old and is almost always appropriate is wine.  If you’re challenged in the area of making the right selection,  get a little help from wineexpress.com.  Most food items below are available from  Dean and Deluca, ilovepeanutbutter.com and thinkgeek.com.

                  

4.  There is absolutely no shortage of budget friendly gifts for the little ones.  Learning toys are my favorite gifts for children, a great book or a colorful puzzle like the ones from Melissa and Doug below are perfect.  The Skip Hop, ‘Dunck’ bath rinse cups are sooo… cute and make baths pure fun. They also come in a blue, green and yellow combination.   Melissa and Doug puzzles and Skip Hop, ‘Dunck’ rinsers are available at Nordstrom.com.

     

5.  Anthropologie is such a cool store.  It’s a little bit throwback and a little bit retro, but 100% chic.  The selection of bowls, cups and other useful items like decorative drawer pulls and dainty kitchen towels make great gifts at various price points.  The Homegrown Monogram Mug and Inside Out bowls are gorgeous.  The Fleur De Lys cup and saucer is a steal at $10 and makes an absolutely incredible gift.

      

6.  I know, I know, who needs a pad for notes and lists when smart phones are everywhere?  When it’s Kate Spade, completely darling and under $10, we all do.  And surely everyone needs an instant can of snow from Pier 1!  So cute.  If you haven’t ventured into the incredible minds of the inventors and distributors at Kikkerland, you must visit the website.  The five minute shower timer and head massager from Kikkerland are just two unique gift options for the person on your list who appreciates unique and novel gifts.

               

7.  Cosmetics, Cosmetics everywhere.  From Philosophy’s sweet Candy Cane sparkle for lips to unbelievably fragrant solid perfumes sold by L’Occitane and Anthropologie, there are oodles of cosmetic gifts that are the perfect way to say Merry Christmas.  We all love little fragrant luxuries.

                   

8.  Decorative items like the large rattan gold star from Pier 1, the sheet music and onion shaped gold sparkle ornament from Pottery Barn make beautiful hostess gifts.  A thoughtful ornament never gets old.

            

9.  Oh the joy of sparkle and jingle.  Find these well priced beauties and baubles at Nordstorm and Pier 1.  So cute!

      

10.  If you like humor, Thank You Notes by Jimmy Fallon will have you laughing out loud!  It is hilarious!  On the other hand, The Shack will give you plenty to think about.  Both books available for $10 or less in paperback at Amazon.com.

Christmas Music 2011

There’s always an abundance of new Christmas and holiday music to choose from and 2011 is no exception.  Yes, it’s only October but Christmas music started being released in September!!  If you appreciate eclectic flair and a little global flavor, check out the Christmas music from the ever fabulous world music company Putumayo.

Be sure to visit Music, Movies and More to see the top 15 traditional Christmas songs, Christmas in July +, and Christmas Mood Music for more sounds to get the season off to a festive start.

From Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward’s She and Him classic sounds to Carole King’s very first holiday cd, there are some serious classics available this year.  A soulful surprise could turn out to be Justin Bieber’s Under the Mistletoe.  Bieber has duets with Mariah Carey, Boyz II Men, Usher and Busta Rhymes, how’s that for soulful!

I heart classic Christmas music with a soulful and classic spin but Putumayo has expanded my horizons with their world and jazz and blues Christmas music.  From Latin jazz to African rhythms, it’s all in here and some.  So much fun!

Christmas Shopping Facts

1.  Free Shipping: It’s no longer an extra.  Shoppers expect it.

2.  Black Friday doorbusters:  Getting earlier and earlier each year.  Why even go to sleep?

3.  Mobile shopping:  Smartphones let shoppers compare prices in the palm of their hands.  

4.  Pop-up shops:  Toys-R Us and FAO Schwarz opened temporary holiday stores in malls.

5.  24/7:  For the past four years, Macy’s has opened select stores around the clock through Christmas Eve.

6.  Bargains before bites:  Select Gap, Old Navy and Sears stores opened on Thanksgiving Day last year.

7.  Black Friday deal sites:  Websites start leaking Black Friday bargains weeks in advance of circulars.

8.  Gift cards:  Take the pain out of shopping.  And you can buy them everywhere, even at the grocery store.  

Reference:  Chicago Tribune, Sunday, October 2, 2011.  Holiday sales forecasters seeing cloudy conditions

Holiday 2011 Sales Unpredictable

    

Reporter Sandra Brown summed up holiday sales forecast sentiments in a fantastic article in the October 2, 2011 Sunday issue of the Chicago Tribune.  Much like in recent years, retailers are concerned about the biggest shopping season of the year.  For many retailers, November-December is when they make 20%-25% of their annual revenues.  This number climbs to 30%-40% for jewelry and toy stores.

Brown’s article points out that consumer behavior is getting harder and harder to predict in the long aftermath of the recession. Retailers placed orders in the spring for the holiday season when consumers optimism was on the rise.  Since that time, US and world economic conditions, including continued high unemployment, have left people worried.  Research indicates that consumers are still shopping but placing value on what is most important to them which doesn’t always mean the lowest price. The example given in the article by one retailer is of customers who routinely splurge on $20 olive oil but cut back in another category that’s not valued as much.  This makes the task of predicting buying habits very challenging. An Atlanta-based firm has seen consumer spending predictability go from 78 to 20 percent from the start of the recession to now.

What’s bad for retailers can end up being good for consumers.  When retailers are worried they might be left with tons of goods, consumers could see deep discounts across the board like in 2008 after the financial crisis.  On the flip-side, the following year led to smaller orders and less merchandise for buyers to choose from.  Of the forecasts that have trickled in, fourth quarter sales are expected to increase around 2%-3% this year, compared to 4%-6% in 2010.  With all of this said, shopping is an emotional activity with one strategist reminding us that consumers want to be disciplined, but end up buying when they go into stores.  I think this is especially true during the holiday season.

Even if our coin is worth less or we don’t have as much to spend, many of us will dig deep and head to the stores to find the perfect gift to say to our loved ones, Merry Christmas!  I chose this just for you, from Santa.

ReindeerDreams

The Greeting Card Dilemma

Has sending greeting cards become passe?  I can’t help but notice that we just don’t send greeting cards like we used to. In the days of old (um..just a few years ago), it was part of the holiday ritual to pick up a box of greeting cards to send across the miles or across town conveying our best wishes for a Happy Holiday Season. We dutifully addressed and stamped our cheerfully signed greetings making sure they were mailed in time to arrive before Christmas.  Nowadays many greeting cards have been replaced by electronic messages that announce their arrival onto the screens of smart phones, iPads and other media devices starting in the wee hours of the morning on Christmas Day .  These greetings from friends and family begin even earlier on social media like Twitter and Facebook with enthusiastic and heartfelt tweets and postings of Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

What does this all mean for greeting cards?  Are they on the seeming path to extinction like book stores and DVDs? According to an article in the Chicago Tribune last December, the fading practice of sending Christmas cards is collateral damage of the digital age.  Christmas card sales have slowed since 2005 and declined even more between 2009-2010.  A study of the 20-30- something Y generation revealed that they are not too keen on sending things like thank you notes and RSVPs.  In the minds of researchers this doesn’t bode well for the future of  Christmas card greetings.  Younger generations have simply grown up in an environment where communications are electronic and instant, making older ways of communicating seem inefficient and generally a waste of time.

The number of Christmas cards sent by Americans in 2009 was approximately 1.8 billion and that number fell to about 1.5 billion in 2010.  It is unlikely that a miraculous recovery will take place anytime soon with further declines expected in the number of greeting cards sold and mailed in 2011 and in upcoming years.  However, the tradition of sending holiday greeting cards will surely be around for some time to come.  According to the Greeting Card Association, More than 2 billion boxed and individual Christmas cards were sold in the U.S. in 2010, this is very good news for the greeting card industry.

The range of options available for communicating our wishes for Happy Holidays and Seasons Greetings continue to expand giving consumers many choices.  Sending greeting cards with lengthy family updates have given way to e-cards, collages, streaming video and many other e-options.  With so many options to choose from, we should never underestimate the pure delight of receiving a beautiful signed Christmas card followed by a text on Christmas morning with wishes for a Merry Christmas!  This just might be the best of both worlds.

Best Holiday Greetings!

ReindeerDreams

Greeting Card Facts

  • Americans purchase 7 billion greeting cards every year. Annual retail sales of greeting cards are estimated at more than $7.5 billion.
  • The average person receives more than 20 greeting cards in a year, about one-third of which are birthday cards.
  • The exchange of greeting cards is one of the most popular and widely accepted customs in the United States. There are cards for virtually any occasion or relationship.
  • Nine out of 10 U.S. households buy greeting cards, with the average household purchasing 30 individual cards in a year.
  • Women purchase an estimated 80% of all greeting cards. Women spend more time choosing a card than men, and are more likely to buy several cards at once and to pay attention to the price. Men generally focus on buying one card for a specific occasion, and are unlikely to consider cost a key purchasing factor.
  • Greeting card prices can vary from 50 cents to $10. The cost of a typical counter card, however, is between $2 and $4. Cards featuring special techniques, intricate designs and new technologies are at the top of the price scale.
  • There are more than 3,000 greeting card publishers in the United States, ranging from individual studios and small family-run companies to major corporations.
  • There are two categories of greeting cards – Seasonal and Everyday.
  • Total card sales are split approximately 50-50 between the Seasonal and Everyday categories.
  • The most popular Everyday cards are birthday cards, which account for more than half of all Everyday card sales, followed by wedding/anniversary, get well/sympathy, and friendship/encouragement cards.
  • The most popular Seasonal cards are Christmas and holiday cards, which account for more than 60% of all Seasonal card sales, followed by Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Graduation cards.
  • Electronic greeting cards (e-cards) are popular with Americans of all ages because they are casual, fun and spontaneous. Worldwide, an estimated 500 million e-cards are sent each year.
  • More than 2 billion boxed and individual Christmas cards were sold in the U.S. last year.
  • The card publishers belonging to the Greeting Card Association account for nearly 95 percent of U.S. industry sales.
  • Greeting cards can be purchased almost anywhere. Approximately 100,000 retail outlets around the country sell greeting cards.
  • Giving a greeting card creates a lasting impression and emotional bond between sender and receiver. In a national survey for the Greeting Card Association, nearly one-third of respondents said they keep the special cards they receive “forever.”
  • E-cards often supplement traditional card sending, and are frequently sent as a spur-of-the-moment gesture or for an occasion too informal for a traditional card. Because consumers rarely send e-cards in place of a traditional card, the availability of e-cards has expanded overall card-sending.
References: