Shopping for the holidays on a budget: places to go and items to buy

By Jennifer Ives
Staff Writer

Have a Yankee Swap you just did not plan for? A Secret Santa you don’t really know, or maybe just a friend or family member that’s hard to shop for?

Most online gift listicles seem to think that you need to either spend tons of money that you do not have, or be resigned to giving ‘nifty’ key chains or can openers to everyone. And while I am personally a devout lover of anything that can hold my keys, AND do something else, here are a few actually useful holiday gift ideas, all for under $15.

For The Stressed Out or Super Zen Friend—A mindfulness coloring book and a set of nice pens are something almost everyone can appreciate. This gift works great as well for distant cousins, and significant others of family members that you might not know well yet.

The Simmons Bookstore has a great mindfulness coloring book on sale right now for about $8, and a ten pack of colored ballpoint pens for $6, perfect for coloring in those little nooks and crannies.

If you want to go on a bit of an adventure, Brookline Booksmith right next to the Coolidge Corner stop on the B line, carries Johanna Basford’s gorgeous Secret Gardens 20 postcards coloring book for $10, and an amazing if slightly pricier selection of coloring pens and pencils.

I own both of these coloring books, and both are beautiful and perfect presents, small enough to fit easily into my purse for a quick me time decompression.

For The Foodie Friend—David’s Tea, a five minute walk from Park Street, is the perfect place to grab a gift for a friend that loves tea, or perhaps an older family member.

I stopped here myself when I wanted to bring something to meet my partners extended family, and the tea infused chocolates I got there were a big hit with everyone. Tea is the perfect gift, since it’s useful, I’ve never heard anyone ever complain about getting too much tea, and if they don’t like it for some strange coffee loving reason, it is quickly enjoyed and gone.

You can get a set of three caffeine free bagged teas for $10, a single “rainbow tin” in a variety of loose leaf flavors for $15, or tea infused chocolate bars from between $4 to $6 a piece.

The employees all LOVE tea. They are more then happy to walk you through every single flavor they carry; with samples aplenty of whatever they happen to have brewing at the moment.

For the Art Obsessed Friend—Novelty Socks are an amazing gift, mostly because they are useful, creative, and if you know the slightest thing about someone, they like Monet; they love “Legend of Zelda”; they are into classic books; etc, it can be a very thoughtful and original gift.

I would personally recommend gifting two pairs of socks, as one pair is a bit more of a stocking stuffer, but that is up to your digression and budget.

Newbury Comics on Newbury Street has a great selection of fun socks at $9, while Brookline Booksmith also carries a collection of art inspired socks. has a more colorful and oblique selection for between $8-$12, and has a huge selection for between $6 to $10 a piece. Novelty socks are really one of those things you can find in a ton of places, so if you have a personal favorite bookstore, tiny cafe, or art supply place, try poking around and seeing if they have any.

Now once you have your amazing gift for someone, how are you going to wrap it? My personal favorite is the old classic of wrapping it in the comics section of a newspaper, since it’s thrifty, fun, and a great childhood throwback.

Other ideas include wrapping it in a fun scarf that they can then wear, or decoupaging a shoebox with some memories like ticket stubs, photos, magazine clippings, or maybe just some really good jokes you know.

Don’t let your budget, or your imagination, stop you from giving the perfect gift this year. Happy Holidays.