General Purpose Gifts Under $8?
December 18, 2014 5:51 AM   Subscribe

What low cost item has changed your life recently? I'm looking for gifts that you could give to anyone; male or female, 20 to 60 years of age. Preferably in the $5-$10 range.

I'm hoping to build a box of useful gifts that I can keep on hand for last minute Christmas and birthday gifts. So far I have phone battery chargers, package openers, keyboard cleaning putty, and handheld desk vacuums.

I'm not fond of giving decorative gifts, especially since I feel like that is up to personal taste.
posted by royalsong to Shopping (46 answers total) 171 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know how well it would go over as a gift, but Fresh Wave room spray is the only deodorizer that doesn't set off my allergies.

I got it for $5 a can at Tuesday Morning
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:59 AM on December 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

I gave out mini first aid kits as stocking stuffers a few years back. I got tiny pouches from muji, and did sets of two- one with pepto, immodium, painkiller of choice, benadryl, and a second one with assorted bandaids & antiseptic wipes. I did pay a bit up front to get the individually wrapped meds, but the cost does get spread out a bit across all the kits. You can get a lot of gifts out of one round of shopping, and the clear muji bags keep everything ship shape.

They went over really really well with everyone, and were really cheap to assemble. I had a few sets left over, and distributed those among all of my own backpacks/bags. It's super nice to rediscover them in your bag when you need them. (and hey, even a slightly expired peptobysmal is better than no peptobysmal when you're on a 5 hr busride and desperate)
posted by larthegreat at 6:01 AM on December 18, 2014 [7 favorites]

I was given the UK equivalent of the P-38/P-51 army issue can opener when I was 18 and still have it on my key ring. Everyone says cans all have ring pulls now but I have used it often enough that I know this to be untrue. It is also pretty good as a substitute bottle opener and occasional flat head screw driver. You can get them for under $2.
posted by biffa at 6:02 AM on December 18, 2014 [7 favorites]

Those little air cans for cleaning keyboards. They clean a lot more than keyboards.

If you're willing to go a little over your price range, an infrared thermometer is a very nice tool, and most people don't already have one. It's useful for cooking, energy auditing, assessing home safety, and about a zillion other things. And the sighting laser can be used as a cat toy.
posted by pie ninja at 6:03 AM on December 18, 2014

Silicone spatula
posted by JackBurden at 6:04 AM on December 18, 2014 [8 favorites]

These specific nail clippers.

The Ove Glove

omg peptobysmal is officially my favorite misspelling ever. If you're feeling abysmal then try peptobysmal!
posted by phunniemee at 6:05 AM on December 18, 2014 [22 favorites]

There are several cheap CREE LED flashlights on - like $5 or so, and many have free shipping. From China, so it might take a few weeks to arrive. But they're surprisingly nice flashlights. A nice piece of kit to drop into the glove compartment of one's car, for instance.

A locking carabiner clip makes a very nice key ring. I've seen them for less than $10. You wouldn't want to use it for actual rock-climbing - but for keys? Theyre rather nice.
posted by doctor tough love at 6:18 AM on December 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

We picked up one of these bottle openers in a restaurant supply store and it is now the only one we ever use. It's that good.
posted by DrGail at 6:19 AM on December 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

LED flashlights.
posted by bondcliff at 6:23 AM on December 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Kaufman Mercantile has many interesting and useful gifts under $10. I like the key chain screwdrivers and the tweezers, but there are many more.
posted by 724A at 6:24 AM on December 18, 2014 [4 favorites]

Cool Tools recently listed their best gifts of 2014 for under $10. Here's the 2013 guide as well.
posted by melissasaurus at 6:28 AM on December 18, 2014 [3 favorites]

Cable organizers. I have these specific ones which I love.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 6:28 AM on December 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you want to take a DIY approach and have several of the same thing, try DIY spice mixes. One I've made in the past is a four-spice baking mix - you just need equal amounts of ground ginger, ground cinnamon, ground cloves, and ground nutmeg. Mix 'em together. Decant into pretty jars. Done.

The jars you can also get cheap at Ikea - they have four-packs of jars in a couple different styles that are under five bucks for the four-pack, and are perfect for this. And you can get the spices bloody anywhere.

There are a ton of "spice mix" recipes out there too if you want to try a different one. Mulling spices (which you can use for cider or wine) would also be a good one, and that's a bunch of similar spices, except they'd be the whole spices.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:31 AM on December 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

The all-wool socks from this Turkish eBay seller. Terrific socks, wash up well, toasty warm, no better price for wool socks anywhere, sold in lots so easy to divvy up for gifting.
posted by kmennie at 6:32 AM on December 18, 2014 [21 favorites]

I got 4 Utili-Keys for people this year after having one on my key chain for years and loving it.
posted by Captain_Science at 6:37 AM on December 18, 2014

A citrus peeler. You can also give an orange so you can show them how to use it / they can try it right away.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 6:39 AM on December 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Do they drive a lot? What about a seatbelt cutter/window hammer combo? (There are some for even cheaper.) It can save a life!

Also, USB drives are cheap and useful too. You can get some cool looking ones that are more fun also.
posted by Crystalinne at 6:50 AM on December 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

A manual spiralizer for making zucchini pasta. I love mine and use it several times a week.
posted by hazyjane at 6:53 AM on December 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

The Oxo Good Grips Cord Catch. Keeps my phone charger cord on my desk! No adhesive or screws.

It's 14 bucks at Amazon, but it's 8 bucks at the Container Store.
posted by Jahaza at 6:58 AM on December 18, 2014 [3 favorites]

They're less useful, but lottery tickets make pretty well-received cheap gifts.
posted by craven_morhead at 7:04 AM on December 18, 2014 [7 favorites]

I bought the stainless version, which is a couple dollars more, but the True Fabrications Double-Hinged Corkscrew is on sale for $10 and is awesome. I'd been struggling with various cheap and expensive corkscrews for many years, and this one is just easy.
posted by jaguar at 7:05 AM on December 18, 2014

Head lamp! I keep one in the car for emergencies and another on my coat hook at home in case of power outages. Costco sells packs of three sometimes for about ten bucks.
posted by futureisunwritten at 7:09 AM on December 18, 2014 [6 favorites]

I bought an LED safety light recently for about $10. You clip it on to your coat or bike, and it keeps you visible when you're out on a dark night. Good for winter commuting.
posted by chickenmagazine at 7:14 AM on December 18, 2014

We have the bottle opener that bondcliff mentioned, and we give it out a LOT - also this specific waiter's corkscrew - smoothest operation, and the foil cutter is the easiest blade I've used.
posted by ersatzkat at 7:26 AM on December 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

The Container Store often has a pretty good selection of small, unique, useful gifts.

I love my GoGear travel tubes. They are much nicer than plastic travel bottles - easier to fill, clean, and squeeze.

I recently got this cosmetics organizer thingy and use it to keep my lip balms and other small thingies in place at my work desk. It's stylish and sturdy and currently marked down to $5, which is a ridiculous bargain. It seems pretty unisex to me, but the box does say "cosmetics" - this is the unisex version.
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:28 AM on December 18, 2014 [6 favorites]

These SUCK UK bottle openers are useful and good-looking. I've had the first one on my keyring for many years.

Microfiber cleaning cloths for glasses, smartphones, etc. (like this) are always handy.

Tweezerman nail clippers are the best I've ever bought, and reasonably priced.
posted by neushoorn at 7:31 AM on December 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Equipment for cleaning eyeglasses. Sunglass Hut sells packs of wipes that are portable, which are great to carry in a purse or briefcase.
posted by carmicha at 7:50 AM on December 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

I second the silicone spatula suggestion. I have given this three-piece set multiple times and will again.
posted by aabbbiee at 7:58 AM on December 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

I used these as Quonsar gifts last year:
Banana saver! lifesaver for anyone who packs a lunch.
The best pizza cutter ever! You'll never go back to those wheel-on-a-stick types.
posted by Fig at 8:00 AM on December 18, 2014 [3 favorites]

I really love the Quirky Wrapster which keeps your earbuds from getting tangled. It's cheap but comes in cute/trendy looking packaging so it makes a good gift.
posted by tinymegalo at 8:01 AM on December 18, 2014

A little box filled with ten crisp new $1 bills made into different origami shapes! More fun than a gift card.
posted by cecic at 8:29 AM on December 18, 2014 [3 favorites]

A handheld milk frother from IKEA: $3 and it did, actually, change my curmudgeonly life. It only lasted 6 months or so, at which point I bought a more expensive version but knew it was worth it, as I use it daily.
posted by Dashy at 8:37 AM on December 18, 2014 [5 favorites]

Everybody needs a spork!
posted by The Toad at 8:40 AM on December 18, 2014 [3 favorites]

I picked up a Head Massager at Family Dollar for $3, boy does it feel good. Amazon has them too.
posted by just asking at 8:42 AM on December 18, 2014 [4 favorites]

Portable battery chargers can be had in this price range--this one is relatively well-reviewed, and under $8. I'd be delighted to get one as a gift, and I suspect others would, as well.
posted by MeghanC at 8:56 AM on December 18, 2014

Ice scraper is a classic, if you live in a place that gets ice. You can buy a good one for $10.
posted by smackfu at 9:07 AM on December 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

This links to a good price -- five bucks -- on two pair of those utility pliers that have a bunch of different uses. (Think "Leatherman" knock-offs.) I picked up two of these sets and they seem to be good quality, I've read some other peoples experience online with them and they seem to be happy with the quality. I bought them as gifts, haven't opened the package, so I'm not positive on that, but I do know tools well and these look well made.

I "know" I'd be happy to get these things, esp if I didn't have many/any tools, and there's two of them, so one in the house, one in the car -- sweet. I bought a bunch of these things for five bucks last year, only it was one small tool rather than two -- larger and smaller -- and people really love them.

They sell in-store only, to drag you in so you'll buy other things they sell, but they can be purchase ahead of time and picked up at the service desk, which is what I did, in and out in less than five minutes.
posted by dancestoblue at 9:52 AM on December 18, 2014

Oh man, I'll second those GoGear travel tubes mentioned above. I travel a lot for work and these were (slight hyperbole notice) life changing. They give and flex in response to cabin pressure changes, so I've never had one blow out in my bag like more rigid bottles do. Plus the bigger ones have suction cups that stick to shower tiles and bathroom mirrors, so they're incredibly handy to keep from cluttering up counters. I got them as stocking stuffers for most of the traveller-people I know this year!
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 10:48 AM on December 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

This is the best ice scraper ever. When it's really ice on the windshield, I find that plastic ones make a few tiny parallel lines. This thing is a dream.
posted by advicepig at 11:33 AM on December 18, 2014 [4 favorites]

JarKey jar openers are magical - comically easy to use, and for anyone with weak hand/arm muscles, genuinely life changing! No more forlorn looks at that jar of pickles you'd so desperately like to eat, but just can't get open, to the point where you're contemplating how easy it'd be to pick shards of glass out of pickles :-D
posted by brushtailedphascogale at 1:33 PM on December 18, 2014 [4 favorites]

Mexican wrestler bottle opener
posted by biscuits at 4:12 PM on December 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Seche Vite for the ladies. It will give you a perfect shiny manicure in less than 10 minutes. No more waiting an hour without touching anything for polish to dry. It has literally changed the way I take care of my hands and nails since I discovered it.

Very well received as a gift to girlfriends and family.
posted by Karotz at 7:31 PM on December 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

I uh, know I am pointing out the obvious but, Mefi account!
posted by yoHighness at 3:28 AM on December 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Karotz isn't wrong about Seche Vite. Total game changer for any self-manicure-loving person who hasn't tried it before. Also: glass/crystal nail files are a great inexpensive, practical gift.
posted by EXISTENZ IS PAUSED at 7:12 AM on December 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

bear claw extendable back scratcher The scratch is just right.
posted by txtwinkletoes at 8:41 PM on December 22, 2014

How about the best ice cube trays in the world?
posted by camerasforeyes at 2:50 AM on December 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

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