Real Simple's Holiday Gift Guide

Featuring 50+ gifts for $50 or less! (Plus a handful over $50 that are definitely worth it.)


By Stephanie Sisco
Photos by Aaron Dyer Prop styling by JoJo Li

PRETTY SWEET SNOW TUBE

This four-feet-across inflatable peppermint twist is a real treat for kids on snow days.
TO BUY: Giant Big Mouth Snow Tube, $30, alwaysfits.com.

SYRUP FOR SOPHISTICATES
Treat the Sunday-morning pancake fan to organic maple syrup. Each bottle is wood-smoked, barrel-aged, or infused with exotic fla-vors (lime leaf, cardamom).
TO BUY: Maple syrups, $17 to $20 each, runamokmaple.com.
CAT-EAR HEADPHONES
Purrfect for your tween and her current band crush (Twenty-One Pilots, anyone?), this cushiony, light-up upgrade lets her listen solo or with friends. The "ears" also act as speakers.
TO BUY: Brookstone Cat Ear Headphones, $100, macys.com.
MONSTER ICE POPS
Kids can fill the silicone molds with juice or softened ice cream, then freeze in the included tray to create devilishly good desserts. For ages three and up.
TO BUY: Tovolo Monster Pop Molds, $16, everything kitchens.com.
HOLIDAY SPIRITS
An aromatic liqueur with notes of cinnamon and fennel and nothing artificial, crafted in-house at a family-run Portland distillery. Drink it straight up, or mix it with rum or bourbon for a spiced cocktail.
TO BUY: Bluebird Alpine Liqueur, $30, thomasand sonsdistillery.com.
VW VAN PET TOTE
Peace, love, and a padded strap! This groovy carrier accommodates cats and small dogs.
TO BUY: VW Pet Carrier (about 24 inches wide and 12 inches tall), $45, themonsterfactoryusa.com.
AMPED-UP SPEAKER
This desktop replica of a vintage amp hits the right note for a dorm room or a teen bedroom—and delivers high-quality sound at a low price. For laptops, smartphones, and MP3 players.
TO BUY: Toysmith Rock On! Retro Amp MP3 mini speaker (seven inches tall and six inches wide), $30, overstock.com.
BEADED TEETHER
Chic and chewable don't often go hand in hand, but this beautifully crafted maple-wood teether delivers on both. A fun find for the new mom who is always well accessorized.
TO BUY: Dove + Dovelet Titan teether, $25, design lifekids.com.
REVENGE ON RUBIK'S
Anyone who has conquered the iconic six-sided cube will delight in this riff on the classic: a dodecagon (that's 12-sided!) upgrade. It's a tricky, twisty challenge that doubles as Mondrian-esque art when perched on a shelf.
TO BUY: Skewb Ultimate, $20, mcachicagostore.org.
CUSTOM PET PILLOW
There will be a permanent place on the sofa for your friend's favorite fur baby. Bonus: No shedding!
TO BUY: Custom pet pillow, $80, broderpress.com. Allow two weeks.
WORLD'S MOST COMFORTABLE KICKS
Stylish wear-'em-anywhere sneakers for your sole mate (male or female). In breathable merino wool, they conform to the feet and can be tossed in the wash. Seriously, wearing these shoes feels as if you're walking on a cloud. In seven colors, including black, gray, and light red.
TO BUY: Allbirds sneakers, $95, allbirds.com.
FOXY NECK WRAP
For the den mother carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders, a spalike soother for spare moments. Heats in the microwave or oven and stays warm for 45 minutes, easing out the day's kinks.
TO BUY: Fox neck-warming pillow, $30, mcachicago store.org.
MANI-PEDI HEAVEN
Stumped when it comes to your hard-to-please niece? You'll nail it with this pretty pack of fast-drying polishes.
TO BUY: Julep #Coveted Nail Set, $48, ulta.com.
DINNER DEMYSTIFIED
A confidence-building collection of easy recipes by food writer and recipe developer Julia Turshen that's full of insidery tricks (grilling a foil packet of tomatoes to make a sauce, ricotta as meatball lightener, and more).
TO BUY: Small Victories, $35, chroniclebooks.com.
CHEESE PLEASER
From a small, award-winning shop in Colorado, a generous trio (⅓ pound each of sheep's milk, goat's milk, and blue Cheddar cheese) plus crackers and your choice of either pepper or fig jam. A grand gift at a low price.
TO BUY: Cheesemonger's Choice, $42, curedboulder.com.
FRINGE ELEMENT
Give your artsy pal a wearable hit of the "loom" trend: a handmade woven pendant stitched to a gilded stoneware base. In 14 colors.
TO BUY: Ice necklace, $48, shoptwentytwowest.com.
MARBLE BOARDS
These versatile, weighty objets are perfect for the frequent entertainer. They can be used as small servers or large coasters.
TO BUY: Marble cheese servers, $15 each, cb2.com.
MUSHROOM KNIFE
A particular tool for the particular cook. The boar-hair brush dusts away soil; the blade folds down for storage.
TO BUY: Opinel mushroom knife, $30, momastore.org.

BALLOON-ANIMAL NIGHT-LIGHT

It looks like a Jeff Koons sculpture but is actually a silicone lamp, sure to please parents who love Pop Art. Stays illuminated for 30 minutes when you give the hind legs a squeeze.
TO BUY: Balloon Dog night-lights, $25 each, uncommongoods.com.

PRIMPING KIT
The buzzy beauty company Glossier assembled this set of universally flattering eyeliner, lip gloss, cheek glow, and nail polish. Your in-the-know sister-in-law will be impressed (and thrilled).
TO BUY: The Black Tie Set, $50, glossier.com.
SUCCULENT GARDEN
The lid lifts off to reveal a cheerful trio of robust mini plants—ready to be put in a sunny window and add life to any room. Clincher: No green thumb required.
TO BUY: Jewel Garden, $35, lulasgarden.com.
VR GOGGLES
The future is here: This virtual-reality viewer attaches to an iPhone, turning VR videos and apps into a mind-blowing immersive experience.
TO BUY: Pocket-VR, $50 (use the code RS20), speckproducts.com.
STATEMENT EARMUFFS
Faux fur and an outsize satin bow make these just right for your little glamour girl (they come in kid sizes) or that friend who never met an accessory she didn't like.
TO BUY: Girls' earmuffs, $28; women's earmuffs (shown), $78: katespade.com.
GAMES IN DISGUISE
Those who adore organized shelves as much as they love game night (yesss) will appreciate the sleek storability of these redesigned titles—sturdy volumes of Monopoly, Scrabble, and Clue, to live neatly alongside your books.
TO BUY: Bookshelf Games, $35 each, llbean.com.
MAN IN THE MIRROR
Face wash, shaving cream, and aftershave moisturizer with aloe and shea butter have the clean scent of eucalyptus to help the go-getter master mornings.
TO BUY: You Dirty Dog premium grooming set, $50, owenandfred.com.
CHARGING WALLET
Know a guy whose phone is always dying? (Do we ever.) This supple leather billfold with a thin battery pack for recharging is the answer to our—er, his—problems.
TO BUY: Orbit wallet by HButler, $110, findorbit.com (available in December).
POM-POM POUCH
Sized just right to hold makeup (or pens), this sparkly faux-suede number won't go missing at the bottom of her giant tote.
TO BUY: Dreamland cosmetics case, $45, deuxlux.com.
FANCY FRUITS
The poetry of this fruit-and-nut bar (made with California pineapple, strawberries, coconut, and more) lies not just in its stained glass–like appearance but also in its dense texture. Pair it with a block of Manchego to delight a hostess. Each delicious fruit "loaf" comes with its own bamboo cutting board—making it easy to slice and devour.
TO BUY: Fruit & Nut tortas, $15 each, graceandi.com.
LUXE PORTFOLIO
The executrix in your life will put this finely crafted vegan-leather case to work: It holds paper files and a tablet and bestows understated authority on she who brandishes it. In blush, navy, and olive.
TO BUY: Minimalist folio, $48 (medium), poketo.com.
ULTIMATE COOZIE
For the guy who has dreamed of owning the cult-favorite Yeti cooler ($250 and way up), this iteration for one bottle or can delivers the same double-walled insulation and sleek profile at a handsomer price.
TO BUY: Yeti Colster, $30, yeti.com.
LEGO LAPTOP COVER
Lots of fun for anyone who lives in a home overrun with bricks. The lucky recipient can use Lego blocks, Mega Bloks, or KRE-O to create a custom click-on protector— then change it up anytime.
TO BUY: Brik Book Build-On MacBook cover, $50 (use the code RS2016), thinkgeek.com.
A BETTER BATTER
This gourmet cookie mix (from a pastry pro turned Seattle food blogger) transforms into delectable Salted Chocolate Chip or Cherry Chocolate Chip cookies. Just add an egg and a stick of butter.
TO BUY: Cookie mix, $16, notwithoutsalt.com.
DESKTOP SKEEBALL
Give him an arcade moment during a busy workday with this addictive man toy. You'll score major points.
TO BUY: $35, uncommongoods.com.
ELIXIR MIXER
Impress your fitspo-focused friend with this "clean" cocktail mixer from a high-end organic-meal delivery service. Made with rosewater, beet sugar, and hibiscus, it gives you a boost of antioxidants even when blended with vodka or other spirits.
TO BUY: Beauty Water cocktail mix (24 ounces), $49, sakara.com.
YETI SNOW MOLD
There's a new (snow) man in town, and he's abominable! Your kids can pack this 18-inch mold full of snow, then unhinge to release their version of the legendary Himalayan creature.
TO BUY: $30, llbean.com.

DISCO NUTCRACKER

For that person who is simply impossible to shop for, a shiny, pretty thing to illuminate a bookshelf or a bar cart. While beaming rays of light around the room, it works just like its classic red wooden brother to…you know, break open nuts.
TO BUY: $50, cb2.com.

"LUKE, I AM YOUR BACKPACK"
Your second grader will be the envy of the elementary school with Darth Vader by his side.
TO BUY: Star Wars galaxy backpack, $50, loungefly.com.
RETRO GAME CONSOLE
An 80s-style video-play system to make grown-up gamers jump (like Mario!) for joy. Includes an old-school controller and all the classics (Donkey Kong, Pac-Man, and more). Compatible with any HDTV.
TO BUY: Nintendo Entertainment System: NES Classic Edition, $60, nintendo.com.
DECORATING BOOK
For the person who loves prints, patterns, and home decor, a new bible by textile designer Rebecca Atwood. Deliciously photographed, it offers inspiration for anyone feathering a nest.
TO BUY: Living With Pattern, $33, rebeccaatwood.com.
3-D PEN
The big draw here: What-ever you write comes out in 3-D (melted plastic, which quickly cools to the touch). Skilled sketchers can "build" little structures. For ages eight and up.
TO BUY: 3Doodler Essentials Pen Set, $50, target.com.
BRAIDED BIKE LOCK
Basic but better, this thick, woven security system with a four-digit code keeps your cyclist's precious wheels safe. In red or blue.
TO BUY: $15, cb2.com.
ADULT ADVENT CALENDAR
Why should kids get all the goodies? Every day contains a new artisanal, all-natural treat (vanilla-bean caramels, real fruit lollipops, creamy chews), making the monthlong ramp-up to Christmas all the sweeter.
TO BUY: Quin Candy Countdown calendar, $20, quincandy.com.
GLASS CANISTERS
These vibrant treasure boxes hold jewelry, paper clips, hair ties—you name it. Buy multiples and stash them away for coworkers, neighbors, and hosts.
TO BUY: HAY Bits & Bobs Bowls, $9 (mini) to $19 (large), momastore.org.
MAGIC MAKEUP
A trio to help your young teen glow: This lipstick, gloss, and cheek stain start out green (weird!) and mix with her pH to turn to a just-right rosy hue.
TO BUY: Lipstick Queen Frog Prince Story, $45, lipstick queen.com.
DESIGNER LIPS
A gorgeous spectrum (nude to burgundy) of long-lasting mini Burberry lipsticks. One set for your glam friend, one set for you. (Come on—treat yourself!)
TO BUY: Burberry Beauty Lip Velvet set, $40, sephora.com.
COFFEE PEN
Domestic baristas will like this a latte. It's a "pen" for drawing milk-foam art with cocoa or cinnamon (artist's choice).
TO BUY: Spice Pen, $29, cinnibird.com.
CONFETTI CLUTCH
Filled with water and lots of glitter, this sartorial snow globe begs to be shaken all night long.
TO BUY: Glitter Box clutch, $35, charmingcharlie.com.
ONE-OF-A-KIND EARRINGS
For the middle schooler who loves to challenge the status quo, a "pair" of mismatched enamel studs. In three styles.
TO BUY: Fruit earrings, $24, blueribbongeneral store.com.
TASSEL CHARM
This 11-inch handmade gem clips on to help her bag (and her) stand out.
TO BUY: $28, verloop knits.com.
DOGGONE-COOL COLLAR
A leather-collar/badge combo that snaps to attach. Choose from 48 words, including Fluffball and Snugglebutt—or create your own.
TO BUY: Honest collar, $40 to $46; badges, $8 each: espaciohandmade.com.
POUR-OVER CARAFE
If you have a pal who cares as much about his coffee as he does about design, this sleek set manages to take pour-over brewing to a whole new level.
TO BUY: Toast Living carafe, $50 (use the code RLSIMPLE), amazon.com.
ANIMAL CARRYALL
For your little ruffian, a cute, cinchable bag for lugging chalk and snacks to the park. Comes in a cat face, too.
TO BUY: Dog Back Pack, $24, sundayincolor.com.
DAY-GLO AQUARIUM
This futuristic tank feels like a fish nightclub—it cycles through 16 colors of LED lights. Minimum assembly required; decorative pieces (and fish!) sold separately.
TO BUY: biOrb HALO 15, $99, biorb.com.
ACTIVITY BOOK
A charming, old-school interactive book that prompts prereaders to find Grandpa's missing items (shoes, smartphone, et al.) hidden in the intricate illustrations.
TO BUY: The Lost House, $19, penguinrandomhouse.com.
CAN'T BELIEVE IT'S NOT BUTTER
It's not—it's ghee. Ghee is made from butter (it has the same creamy taste) but is lactose-free. Food-forward adults like to smear it on vegetables, meats, and bread. In five high-end flavors, like White Truffle Salt and California Garlic.
TO BUY: From $14 each, fourthandheart.com.
TOY HIGH CHAIR
The mod lines will only make your house look better. And your little one who totes her "baby" everywhere gets to give her companion a spot at the table. Seat is 20 inches high.
TO BUY: $49, landofnod.com.
CLASSIC PLAID SCARF
This handsome, generously proportioned accessory works for just about any male—especially those you have no idea what to buy for.
TO BUY: Zara green plaid scarf, $30, zara.com.
UNICORN HOODIE
A lucky gift for your kindergartner and for you—because in her new, cozy fleece, she'll fly out the door each morning. How elusive: A rainbow and a unicorn on one jacket!
TO BUY: Cat & Jack unicorn hoodie, $20, target.com.
DAWG SWEATSHIRT
Some edgy apparel for the too-cool-for-school canine, emblazoned with any phrase you choose, in sequins or embroidery.
TO BUY: The Pet Sweatshirt, $39, bowanddrape.com.
BABY CROWN
Hand knit of the softest material on the planet—baby alpaca—this gently stretchy headband won't pinch or bind. Extreme adorableness for wee boys and girls.
TO BUY: Hortensia baby crown, $30, elmercadoperu.com.
FOOTIE SWEATPANTS
These comfy camo-print sweats are lined with fleece, and the feet are convertible. Your couch potato can fold them up if he has to, say, step out to pay the pizza-delivery guy. Also in solid colors and plaid.
TO BUY: Feejays, $40 (adults) and $30 (kids): feejays.com.
KNIGHT CAP
A crocheted winter hat for the young adventurer. The "face shield" slides down for protection against icy winds. Awesome.
TO BUY: Character hat, $48, garnethill.com.

AND NOW FOR SOME STOCKING STUFFERS!

DIY DROID
Make your own R2D2. The pieces pop out from two steel sheets. Connect them by their holes and tabs— no gluing needed.
TO BUY: R2D2 3D model kit (2¾ inches; ages 14 and up), $15, momastore.org.
MESSAGE IN A ROCK
This novelty item cracks open to reveal a crystal interior—and a fun fortune.
TO BUY: Crystal Geode Surprise, $9, topsmalibu.com.
BADGE OF HUMOR
Know a selfie expert or a coffee addict? Celebrate their quirk with a magnetic patch. Eight options.
TO BUY: Merit Magnets, $7 each, shop.designideas.net.
SCENTED TATTOOS
A watercolorist's version of temporary tats, with the special addition of a flowery fragrance (notes of pink poppies, ylang-ylang, and poplar wood). Slide a sheet into each stocking.
TO BUY: Perennial temporary tattoo set, $18 for eight, tattly.com.
TEENY VACUUM
The dorm-room dweller will appreciate this mini crumb catcher. It is only six inches long but truly pulls its weight. Plug into any USB port to use it.
TO BUY: World's Smallest Vacuum, $15, papersource.com.
GOURMET CHOCOLATE
Great to stash for emergency gifts, these handcrafted organic bars in cheery graphic wrappers come in imaginative flavors—donuts and coffee, biscuits and honey, etc.
TO BUY: Chocolate bars, $10 each, compartes.com.
EGGCELLENT CODDLER
A sculpted porcelain piece for the cook who values old-timey genius. Butter the inside, sprinkle in some cheese (or not), crack in an egg, and plop in boiling water.
TO BUY: Äggcøddler "Gullvei," $21, aggcoddler.com.
XMAS-LIGHT CHARGER
Mundane, meet Merry: This smartphone lifeline just happens to be a happy string of blinking lights. Works on iPhone 5, 6, and 7.
TO BUY: DCI Merry Charger, $10, ae.com.
PLAYFUL PADS
Tear-out games—including Tic Tac Toe and Dots & Boxes—for plane rides, dinners out, and any other time you want the kids unplugged.
TO BUY: Fredericks & Mae Paper Games, $19, amazon.com.
STANDING PEN
A colorful, sculptural ballpoint that stands tall—ideal for jazzing up an office desk or a student workspace.
TO BUY: $15 each, areaware.com.

EVEN MORE STOCKING STUFFERS

FOOFY SLEEP MASK
A faux-fur bedtime indulgence for she who demands her beauty rest. Available in seven colors.
TO BUY: Kashmir faux-fur mask, $16, rhteen.com.
EMOJI NAIL ART
Tweens who practically speak in emojis will go "heart eyes" over this sparkly set that puts lips, smiley faces, and other icons right on their fingertips.
TO BUY: Nailmoji nail polish, $8.50 each, colorclub.com.
MATCH GAME
A meditative challenge: Find the identical wood print. Kids will enjoy the fun of hunting for pairs; adults will love the neutral natural art and display-worthy box.
TO BUY: Woodcut memory game, $19, amazon.com.
MADE TO MEASURE
For design devotees, this edgy unisex leather bracelet not only looks cool on the wrist but also takes stock of centimeters and inches. It (ahem) rules.
TO BUY: Wrist Ruler, $20, ilovehandles.com.
PET MOOD CHARM
A color-changing pendant that clips onto a dog's collar—to keep the canine lover in touch with his best friend's feelings.
TO BUY: Mood Stone dog tag, $20, notyers.com.
BRASSY BAR TOOL
Reward his hosting efforts with this trophy-shaped jigger engraved with drink-mixing measurements.
TO BUY: Umbra Shift Trophy jigger, $20, museumstore.sfmoma.org.
WILD-CAUGHT CAVIAR
It's confirmed: Good things come in small packages. This intensely flavored black domestic roe has a shockingly palatable price.
TO BUY: Amia Calva caviar, $12 for one ounce, khavyar.com.
SMART STICKY NOTES
Sized to fit the back of an iPhone (brilliant!), these adhesive sheets are for grocery lists, random reminders, or just generally staying on task. Available for iPhone 5, 6, and 7.
TO BUY: Paperback notes, $8, ilovehandles.com.
FURRY PHONE RUG
Is someone in your home forever losing her cell? Answer her call for help with this petite faux-sheepskin landing pad.
TO BUY: Revolution Design House Snoozz phone rug (5½ by 8½ inches), $12, madeherepdx.com.
GO-TO SCREWDRIVER
Take the frustration out of Christmas morning: a multihead tool adaptable for all toy screw sizes—for whoever is in charge of assembly and battery insertion.
TO BUY: Toydriver, $10, thetoydriver.com.
PUPPY LOVE
Enamel charms meant for a dog and his human, engraved with a term of endearment (Soul Mates, Life Saver, and more).
TO BUY: My Better Half charms, $20, emilymcdowell.com.