8 Affordable Last-Minute Gifts That Aren’t Cash

Young woman drinking green tea.
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It may be the merriest time of year, but for many, it’s also the most stressful — and costly. We’re dishing out heaps of money on gifts, decor, travel and more. Amid all the spending sprees and holiday hubbub, it can be easy to push certain purchases off until the last minute — particularly if that purchase is a gift for someone you don’t know too well or someone you simply weren’t expecting to see this season. 

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If you’ve ever been in a situation where you need to get someone a present at the last minute, you know all too well that the pressure can be enormous. You may find yourself running into the store — any store — and purchasing whatever item seems acceptable, even if that means going wildly over budget.

Make Your Money Work for You

When you’re in a pinch and need to get someone a gift in the nick of time, consider these charming, sweet and affordable gift ideas that Julie Ramhold, consumer analyst at DealNews, recommends.  

Cake Truffles From Milk Bar

“These come in a few different varieties including b’day, chocolate b’day, peppermint bark, and apple cider doughnut for $26 for a dozen,” Ramhold said. “These are great for any foodie that is all about the fun treats Milk Bar regularly comes up with, and isn’t too expensive, relatively speaking. If you can afford to spend a little more, you can also opt for The Holiday Truffle Trio, which goes for $44.”

Note that you’ll need to select a delivery date at least three days before you need them.

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A Fancy Gift Card  

“If you have someone who appreciates a smooth nightcap, consider giving them a gift card to ReserveBar,” Ramhold said. “You can get them in amounts as little as $10, but the thing that’s really appealing about these is that they’re available in all states, so if you’re buying a gift for someone long distance, this is an excellent option. Not only can these be sent to all 50 states, but also the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam and Puerto Rico, which makes it one of the most versatile alcohol-related gifts we’ve seen”

Make Your Money Work for You

Bear in mind that ReserveBar carries more than just alcohol, including glassware, mixes and bitters, accessories, candy, and cocktail kits — “so the odds are good they’ll be able to find something they like and can spend the gift card on,” Ramhold said. 

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Tea Subscription Service

“If you know an avid tea drinker, consider giving them a subscription to Sips by. They’ll get four teas every month that make at least 16 cups of tea, or 48 if they re-steep. It’s $16 per month, and if you opt to gift a subscription, you can choose from 3, 6, 12, or 24 months. If you aren’t exactly sure what kinds of teas they’ll be interested in, it’s best to gift the subscription so that they can create their own profile and take the quiz to determine their tea interests.

Personalized Message From Their Favorite Celebrity

“The time frame and cost will vary depending on which celebrity you’re looking at but this is such a cool gift idea, and there are a variety of services though Cameo may be the best known one,” Ramhold said. “Even better, this is an excellent gift for kids as you can book calls with Santa on Cameo this holiday season for as little as $15. If you’re having trouble figuring out what to get some of the children in your life, this is a surefire way to score major brownie points.”

Make Your Money Work for You

A Month’s Subscription to a New Service

“Most of the streaming services, whether they’re for TV or music, have pretty affordable monthly plans, so you can easily gift someone a month of the service for around $10 or so,” Ramhold said. “These are great for letting them try out a service — especially if it’s one you’ve been trying to get them to try — without them having to commit. And if they do end up liking it, they can pick up the subscription themselves, or if it’s within your budget, you can gift them a whole year of it.”

Remember that you don’t have to go the entertainment route, you can also buy them service to a mindfulness app such as Headspace and Calm.  

Read: The Best Type of Store To Shop For Holiday Gifts by Age Bracket
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Book Scratch Off Poster

“If you’re shopping for an avid reader who’s been trying to work their way through several classics, consider the book scratch off poster,” Ramhold said. “You can grab it for around $25 on Amazon, and it features 100 different books that your recipient can scratch off to reveal icons once they’ve read the title. Books include things like ‘Slaughterhouse Five’ by Vonnegut and ‘Crime and Punishment’ by Dostoyevsky, but also things like ‘The Stand’ by Stephen King and ‘Fight Club’ by Chuck Palahniuk.”

Pour Over Coffee Maker

“Pour over coffees have become something of a morning ritual for some coffee lovers so if you have a caffeine fiend in your life, consider giving them a pour over carafe to help them start their mornings on a more relaxing foot,” Ramhold said. “Chemex models are well-known but can also be a little pricey depending on what size you buy, but if you’re looking for an affordable one, Bodum offers a 34-ounce pour over maker for around $20 on Amazon. Bundle it with a bag of their favorite whole bean brew and you have a thoughtful gift they’re sure to appreciate.”

A Mini Waffle Maker

“For the breakfast lover on your list, you can’t go wrong with a Dash Mini waffle maker,” Ramhold said. “They’re around $10, come in a variety of colors, and can be found at stores like Target. If you aren’t sure whether or not your recipient will like it, consider gifting them some luxurious waffle mix but also be sure to inform them you can have a standing weekend date to waffle all the things.”

Ramhold pointed out that these little appliances don’t take up a ton of space and are great for crispy hash browns as well as waffles, and even waffled grilled cheese sandwiches.

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About the Author

Nicole Spector is a writer, editor, and author based in Los Angeles by way of Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in Vogue, the Atlantic, Vice, and The New Yorker. She's a frequent contributor to NBC News and Publishers Weekly. Her 2013 debut novel, "Fifty Shades of Dorian Gray" received laudatory blurbs from the likes of Fred Armisen and Ken Kalfus, and was published in the US, UK, France, and Russia — though nobody knows whatever happened with the Russian edition! She has an affinity for Twitter.

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