gifts they might actually want

The Best Gifts Under $25

Photo-Illustration: Retailer

Sometimes you don’t want to spend a ton of money on a gift, but that doesn’t mean your gift can’t be thoughtful or covetable. Whether you’re looking for a present for a hard-to-please mother-in-law, a trendy teen, or a tasteful friend, I’ve curated a list of under-$25 options that will please everyone. Almost everything has been vetted by Strategist writers and contributors — like Kate Berlant’s favorite bug magnifier or the perfect cooking tool for the avid home chef that I found while sifting through our kitchen coverage. All of these are guaranteed to delight your giftees without breaking your budget.

For the co-worker who takes calls while walking their dog

Harry Litman, a former U.S. deputy assistant attorney general in the Clinton administration, told us that he prefers walking his dog with this waist-belt leash, so he can scroll, email, snack, and more.

For the mom whose dogs are always barking

This wooden foot massager is one of our favorite gifts for doctors.

For the roommate who has sworn off single-use plastic

DII Swedish Dishcloths
$13 for 3
$13 for 3

These Swedish dishcloths are “a game-changer,” according to Strategist contributor Ashlea Halpern, a self-described compulsive cleaner who “could plough through half a roll [of paper towels] in one cleaning session.” She uses them just as she would a paper towel and estimates that she’s cut down on her paper-towel consumption by at least 80 percent.

For the brother with a meat smoker

Add to his rotation this Japanese barbecue sauce, which includes notes of yuzu to add a zing of brightness to his barbecue.

For the brother who prefers a different kind of smoke

Singer Tei Shi is “pretty picky” when it comes to incense and swears by these sticks, which she’ll light up on tour buses.

For the friend with a competitive streak

‘Dutch Blitz’

Strategist contributor Lauren Guidry loves Dutch Blitz, which has been described as a kind of “very energetic solitaire.” Guidry calls the dopamine hit from a quick game “euphoric,” and says she’ll often persuade her husband to play a few hands between meetings when they are working from home together.

For the baby who’s cruising

While “baby socks are notorious for not staying on, these booties will stay on,” Dr. Frances Benedict, who works in pediatrics, told us, adding that they come with grips on the soles for “older, more mobile children, so kids don’t slip on slippery floors.”

For the grandfather who insists he can fix it himself

Photo: Retailer

This French folding knife will be perfect for when he does chores around the house and comes recommended by fourth-generation butcher Cara Nicoletti, who says she was shocked how often it “came in handy for small everyday tasks.” Plus, nine years later, “it’s still sharp.”

For the partner who triples the garlic in every recipe

“I’ve become even more shameless with my garlic use” since buying a Garliczoom, says Strategist writer Ambar Pardilla. “With knife skills and garlicky fingers out of the picture, there’s absolutely nothing stopping me from adding just one more clove (or two).”

For the kid cousin who loves throwing tea parties

Take a page out of Catbird founder Leigh Plessner’s book, who says she “bought a set for my 3-year-old daughter, Bluebell, but also for me.”

For the friend who always hosts …

Yuzu Kosho is made from yuzu zest, ground chile peppers, and sea salt and will add a citrusy, salty punch to anything you put it on.

… and the one who always brings dessert

This paste (known as “vanilla caviar”) comes recommended by pastry chefs from Gramercy Tavern to Sqirl.

For the sibling trying to make it big

Actress Annie Hamilton uses this stick for auditions and calls it “the best fake tears $17 can buy.” It’s perfect “for parties when no one’s paying attention to you.”

For the boyfriend who’s “swearing off coffee”…

According to Gabrielle Jammal, tea sommelier of Baccarat Hotel New York, this is “by far the most wonderfully delightful tea book filled with beautiful drawings,” so it might help them kick their coffee habit.

… and the one who has never been more committed

Strategist contributor Dinah Lenney dubbed these measuring spoons the Rolls-Royce of coffee scoops for their “heft, weight, integrity.” Available in rose gold, silver, and yellow gold, they will add gravitas and class to your morning-coffee routine.

For the college kid who studies only the night before the exam

A must for late-night cram sessions, this book light keeps “the blue-light blues at bay,” according to writer Molly McGhee.

For the person who runs hot

If they break out in a sweat when the temperature rises above 70 degrees, consider gifting them this mini handheld fan. Strategist writer Dominique Pariso says it’s “an essential, on par with my house keys and debit card” because it’s compact, and, more important, powerful.

For the neat freak with a grout vendetta

Strategist editor Maxine Builder calls the Drillbrush — a brush attachment for your power drill — the best thing that ever happened to her shower: “The drill did all the hard work, scrubbing faster and harder than I ever could by hand, and the results were noticeable even after the first pass. All the built-up grime had basically disappeared, though I did a second round just to be sure. The nylon bristles were gentle enough that I couldn’t find a single scratch afterward.”

For the mom who’s still overbrewing her Lipton

Shifting gears from tea bags to loose-leaf teas is simple with a good infuser. “My favorite infusers are made by Finum. They last forever and can be thrown in the dishwasher,” says Tony Gebely, owner and founder of Tea Epicure.

For the co-worker who makes a list for everything

Former Strategist contributor Molly Young refers to this notebook as “organizational ecstasy.” As she puts it, “This is a keepsake, not a utility.” Each of the 144 pages is printed with a variable grid design. You progress through the notebook not knowing which grid design will greet you on the next page.

For the roommate who lets leftovers spoil …

Here’s a compost bin nice enough to leave out on the counter. When Strategist editor Maxine Builder went on a hunt for a stylish model, she described this one as “much more attractive than the pale-brown city-administered food-scraps bin.”

… and the one who never takes out the compost

Venus Flytrap

This plant should help keep the kitchen’s fruit-fly population under control.

For the co-worker with the pristine gallery wall

Consider this book by interior designer Nina Freudenberger, writer Sadie Stein, and photographer Shade Degges. It features envy-inducing personal libraries stacked with books from floor to ceiling.

For the dad who is really into fire…

Strategist contributor Regan Stephens recommends these low-smoke charcoal logs, made from the wood of the rambutan tree, which are his secret to “the most tender, wildly delicious poultry I’ve ever tasted.”

… and for the one who uses a cast-iron pan

This red silicone grip makes his favorite pan much easier to grab.

For the sister who curls her hair heat-free

Consider gifting this Emma Chamberlain–approved towel wrap to replace their blow-dryer. “My mom and I saw it at CVS, thought it was smart, and bought one, and I’ve used it ever since,” she says, adding that it keeps her sopping-wet hair off her neck after bathing. “With this, I can just walk around my house after a shower without dripping water everywhere,” she says.

For the aunt who always has hand lotion

“It’s so nourishing and keeps my skin really hydrated,” drag queen Shea Couleé told us of this cult-favorite oil. It’s recommended by dermatologists because it’s fragrance free and contains antioxidants like vitamin E and vitamin A, along with herbal extracts such as lavender, chamomile, and sunflower oil.

For the parents already planning their next road trip


This is a game the whole family can enjoy at home and on road trips. Contributor Steven John, who travels frequently with his family, says it provides a great learning opportunity for kids because it’s a mix of probability, luck, and being able to read your opponents. But he and his wife play it often “with a glass of wine or plate of snacks ten times more often that with kids” because it’s “genuinely fun.”

For the new grandparents fighting over time with the baby

Read from one way, this book tells the story of what grandmas do best, and from the other, what grandpas do best. The two-for-one design means both grandparents can then read their respective half of the book to their new grandchild.

For the grandmother who insists on handwritten thank-you cards

This affordable, classic fountain pen is a favorite of Strategist staffers, André Aciman, Lisa Brennan-Jobs, and Sid Mashburn (and was a top scorer in our 100-pen ranking.)

For the partner whose nails are chronically too long

Green Bell Nail Clipper

An excellent addition to their Dopp kit, these nail clippers “slice through nails like a santoku through a tomato,” according to former Strategist editor Jason Chen.

For the girlfriend who can’t find a shoe that fits

If their feet run wider, here’s a shortcut to broken-in shoes. Strategist writer Ambar Pardilla, who has used these shoe-tree stretchers on clogs, mules, flats, and other footwear, says they give her “the extra space to stand a little taller and not shuffle around uncomfortably.”

For the friend who’s always running late …

Here’s a subtle (and stylish) reminder for the friend who says they’re almost there but really just left their house. Dimepiece’s Brynn Wallner told us she was struck by how surprisingly cool this retro, unisex Casio looked on Timothée Chalamet in Call Me by Your Name.

… and for the one who just started running laps

A foam roller helps athletes at any stage prevent injuries and makes you feel good both before and after working out. Experts say this particular roller is great for beginners because it’s simplem, highly effective, and lowers the risk of injury and bruising.

For the girlfriend who always loses one sock

Maggie’s Organics cotton crew socks are a favorite among Strategist staffers. As Strategist contributor Ruby Redstone explains, “The socks are knitted on old machines that create a heartier, more durable product that stays remarkably fresh-looking and tight at the ankle even after several wears.”

For the kid cousin who loves critters

This catch-and-release-style bug magnifier will let them (humanely) explore the outdoors. “I’m equally terrified and fascinated by insects,” says comedian Kate Berlant. “I’ll capture a spider, freely stare at it for as long as I want, and then safely release it outside. It has a long handle, so I can open the window and flick it out. I don’t have to be a murderer.”

The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best notebook, black T-shirt, fashion-editor-approved jeans, toothbrush, and apartment décor. Note that all prices are subject to change.

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The Best Gifts Under $25