Scrambling for a gift exchange present? 14 great options for under $25 (or so)

Every year, buying presents for a gift exchange gets more and more difficult, especially if there’s a lower price limit. As inflation soars and the cost of goods rises, it can feel nearly impossible to find a gift within the typical $25 budget.

Some folks will use a gift exchange as a means to get rid of the strange or unwanted items they’ve received during the holiday season. Others will want to bring the top-notch gifts that are sure to be snatched by envious colleagues, friends and family members.

Below, we’ve put together some of this year’s best gifts for anyone who wants to bring the most coveted present to the party.

For the functional crowd

Some gift-givers want to buy an item that a person is guaranteed to use, but the fun of a gift exchange is buying the items that your friends and family may never purchase for themselves. These function-forward gifts are sure to catch the attention of even the pickiest players.

Whether working from home or in the office, no one likes when their coffee goes cold. Thankfully, with a portable coffee mug warmer, every beverage will stay hot regardless of how busy the workday is. Anyone fancy a cuppa joe?

A white mug on a black, electric coffee warmer

Mr. Coffee electric mug warmer, $21.99, available at

Every kitchen should be equipped with beeswax wrap. Perfect for protecting lunch and leftovers, this eco-friendly product is the ideal alternative to Saran Wrap. Once it dirties, it can even be washed by hand and left to dry so it’s ready for more use.

Beeswax- food wrappers in many colours.

Set of 4 beeswax food wraps, $24, available on

Who doesn’t like waffles? Available in 15 different prints and colours, this mini waffle maker is sure to catch the attention of every player in the room. If your budget is a touch higher, you could even pair the device with a bottle of real Canadian maple syrup.

A mini waffle maker in pink.

Mini waffle maker, $19.99, available on

For the self-care enthusiasts

Everyone deserves to treat themselves. And while most self-care-centred gifts may be too personalized to include, there are ways to appeal to everyone’s desire to pamper. With any of these gifts, someone is sure to take home a little wintertime TLC.

No matter who you are, your skin deserves a treat. Thankfully, The Ordinary makes high-quality, affordable and ungendered skin-care products for all. Complete with a cleanser, acid and moisturizer, this kit is bound to be stolen over and over again during the exchange — but of course, only one person can take home this skincare gold.

The Ordinary box set of three items

The Daily Set from The Ordinary (Squalane Cleanser, Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5, and Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA), $20, available at Sephora.

The wintertime is tough on everyone. That’s why this portable humidifier is the perfect item for the person always on the go. Powered by a micro-USB cable, this product promotes breathing, relaxation and sleep, now from utterly anywhere.

A blue portable humidifier.

Portable humidifier, $14.99, available at Indigo.

Potpourri is really trendy on social media right now. Instead of buying candles or harsh-smelling plug-ins, products like this simmering potpourri kit are boiled on the stovetop to fill your home with a sweet, indulgent fragrance. This particular set of potpourri contains dehydrated orange slices, dehydrated cranberries, rosemary, cloves and cinnamon sticks.

A bag of dried fruits and herbs.

Simmering potpourri, $14.95, available on

For the funny friends

The true beauty of a gift exchange is all the strange, unexpected gifts. Every player is going to get a laugh out of these products, whether they have the opportunity to take them home or not. If you’re looking to buy the item no one even knew they needed, look no further.

There’s no denying that Nicolas Cage is an icon. After all, only a real superstar could have their face printed on a sequined mermaid pillow. Slightly larger than 40 x 40 centimetres, all of your friends are going to be imagining the perfect spot for this throw pillow as soon as it’s unwrapped.

Nicolas Cage's face on a sequined red pillow.

Nicolas Cage mermaid pillow, $16.90, available on

This small potato lamp is perfect for setting the mood. With three light settings, all activated by touch, this mildly discontented potato is both cute and functional. It is completely portable and charged with a USB cable. Keeping the name Smoko is optional.

Smoko potato light.

Smoko potato light, $24, available at Urban Outfitters.

There’s usually at least one (if not several) The Office fans in a room. That’s why this replica of Jim Halpert’s iconic Jell-O prank on Dwight Schrute is guaranteed to get a couple of laughs. While Dwight may not have been excited to find his stapler jellified, your gift recipient will be thankful for the completely edible, strawberry-flavoured treat.

The office stapler gummy, in package.

‘The Office’ edible stapler gummy, $19.99, available at Retrofestive.

No one likes Cheetos dust on their hands. With these attachable chopsticks, your fingers will be safe from snack residue as you game, work, or perform any other task. Available in a set of four, these chopsticks are made from food-grade plastic and are totally safe (and fun) to use. No real chopstick training is required.

Finger chopsticks.

Finger chopsticks, $12.98, available at

For those who ignore budget

In every gift exchange, there are always folks who ignore the assigned budget entirely. Whether it’s because they were swept up by the excitement of a specific gift, or simply couldn’t find something to their liking, it’s bound to happen. These presents are perfect for the gift-giver who goes above and beyond, but only slightly.

Nowadays, portability is everything. That’s why this collapsible drink tumbler is ideal for someone always on the go. Be it water, coffee, smoothies or alcohol, this compact 16 oz (455 ml) cup will transform the way someone drinks with its stash-and-go capabilities.

A collapsible mug and lid.

Collapsible drink tumbler, $32, available at

Fun, indoor activities are a must during the cold winter months. For anyone bored of traditional puzzles, this 500-piece murder mystery jigsaw puzzle is bound to feel like a breath of fresh air. Players must solve a crime piece by piece in order to complete this whodunnit mystery. The finished puzzle will provide all the clues necessary for solving the case.

A murder mystery puzzle

Murder mystery puzzle, $27, available at Uncommon Goods.

A little living room karaoke makes everyone feel like a pop star. With this wireless Bluetooth karaoke mic, you can rock out to a limitless number of your favourite songs. With adjustable music, volume and echo settings, whoever goes home with this gift is going to live out their full concert fantasy.

A pink wireless karaoke microphone

Wireless Bluetooth karaoke microphone, $40.99, available on

If anyone is going to have the cure for the munchies, it’s Snoop Dogg. From Crook to Cook: Platinum Recipes from the Boss Dogg’s Kitchen is a culinary smoke show. From soul food like baked mac and cheese and fried bologna sandwiches to weekday staples like soft flour tacos, there’s bound to be something for every type of eater.

A green cookbook.

‘From Crook to Cook: Platinum Recipes from the Boss Dogg’s Kitchen,’ $35.95, available at

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