4 nifty gift ideas that won’t break the bank

You've made your list.

You've checked it twice, yet somehow you still have nearly a dozen people still unaccounted for with nary an elf in sight.

While gift cards are always a great option, they can sometimes prove to be a pricier option.

Since the value of each gift card is visible, you might end up spending more than you can afford because you don’t want to look cheap.

To help you avoid lapses in judgment with your credit card, we've come up with four nifty gift ideas to keep you under budget and in everyone's good graces.

Nifty Gift 1. Custom food baskets

Everyone loves a delicious food or fruit basket, but the store-made ones can be surprisingly pricey and filled with, well, filler. So why not assemble your own?

Buy an inexpensive box or basket at the 99 cent store, fill it with goodies you know they’ll love, wrap it all up in clear plastic, and you've got a personalized gift for $20 or so.

Take, for example, the health nuts on your list.

You can start with Wholly Guacamole ($2, www.eatwholly.com for store locations) individual guacamole packs, GoPicnic ($4.99, http://www.gopicnic.com/Hummus-Crackers) ready-to-eat vegetarian meals and a smattering of fruit & nut Orchard Bars (12 bars are $15.95, www.orchardbar.com/buy.html).

If you really want to splash out, consider adding Borba Skin Balance Gummi Bears ($14.99 www.borba.com), which are tasty, chewy vitamins containing antioxidant, skin-enhancing ingredients.

For a few finishing touches, throw in some small packs of crackers, Pop Chips air-popped potato chips ($20.40 for a pack of 24, www.amazon.com) or Pirate’s Booty baked puffed snacks ($21 for 24 snack size bags).

If you need to make your basket a little more lavish, throw in a cookbook. My suggestions would be The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Vegan Cooking (Alpha, $18.95) or The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Vegan Baking (Alpha, $16.95).

Nifty Gift 2. Books that appeal to their passions

Though we live in an increasingly e-everything world, there are times when only a book will do. That's especially true if the topic goes right to the heart of a favorite interest or hobby.

For those who really treasure their homes, consider Design Sponge at Home by Grace Bonney (Artisan, $35).

It offers an extended glimpse into some of the stunning condominiums and houses featured on the popular blog. Best of all, there are craft projects included to help you to achieve similar results at home.

Another alternative for the do-it-yourselfer out to boost their equity is What’s a Homeowner to Do? by the DIY Network host Stephen Fanuka and columnist Edward Lewine (Artisan, $17.95).

It offers practical advice on everything from painting a room to fixing the bannister on your stairs.

Nifty Gift 3. Lots of beauty booty

One of the best things about the holiday season is the flurry of beauty and fragrance gift sets.

Expect to spend about $10 to $25 for small stocking stuffers from mass-market beauty brands and up to $100 or more for huge gift sets from prestige brands.

Some standouts this year include:

Nifty Gift 4. Memorable drinks that brighten the season

When spending time with friends, family or loved ones, a hot, cold or bubbly beverage of choice can make all the difference. Invite them to create new memories with a notable, potable holiday gift.

“Coffee gives the people on your gift list a wonderful way to connect over the holidays,” says John Curry, the roast master at Buona Caffe Artisan Roasted Coffee, where a 12-ounce roast of Midnight Oil blend is a steal at $11 (http://shop.buonacaffe.com).

Bring the café experience home with the Hawthorne & Wren Café Gift ($45, www.hawthorneandwren.com), which includes a signature French press, organic French roast coffee and four heavenly sea-salt caramels in a signature tin.

Looking for something special for the mixologists on your list?

Q Ginger is made with organic agave in place of corn syrup and real ginger, which adds bite to mixed drinks ($48 for a 24 pack of 8-ounce glass bottles, www.amazon.com).

For the experimental oenophile, the Tasting Room (www.tastingroom.com) offers mini themed wine samplers with six small bottles for an average price of $30.

Prefer something slightly more unusual?

For the same price, you can get a Sake Starter kit at Sake Social (www.sakesocial.com).

Unwilling to choose their tipple for them?

The Corkcicle is an ingenious new way to keep wine cool from inside the bottle ($22.95, http://corkcicle.com).

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