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Secret Santa gifts under $25

After moving to NYC, I made very little money and had to maximize every dollar I earned. That lifestyle taught me many different techniques on how to save for the things I wanted.

Spread joy this holiday season with well-thought-out gifts that won't break your budget.

christmas presents under the tree

Movie tickets or a DVD and popcorn

  • Check your company discounts for movie-ticket discounts.
  • Buy popcorn on sale or look for coupons online or in your Sunday paper.

An ice cream scoop and a gift card to an ice cream parlor

  • Ice cream scoop (use a 20-percent-off coupon at Bed Bath & Beyond or a 20-percent discount at Kohl's) or ice cream bowls (from Target, Christmas-tree shops or Wal-Mart)
  • Gift card to an ice cream store near your giftee's house (You might get a free cone with the purchase of a card.)
  • If you are buying two $15 cards, Cold Stone Creamery is offering a free bonus $5 eGift with a purchase of $30 or more.

A pizza stone, pizza cutter and apron

  • Pizza stone and cutter (Use two 20-percent-off coupons from Bed Bath & Beyond or get both items on sale as a set at Macy's with an extra 10 percent off.)
  • Apron (all under $10 at Target, Chefsuniforms.com and restaurant-supply companies)

Wine gifts

  • Wine from a local winery (Trader Joe's also has delicious, affordable wine.)
  • Depending on how much of the $25 is left, wine icicles, wine stoppers or wine tags/markers/charms (from Wine.com, Bed Bath & Beyond, Marshalls, T.J.Maxx or a local winery or supermarket)

Candles and a throw blanket

  • Candles (Yankee Candle is on sale at Bed Bath & Beyond and on clearance at Pottery Barn)
  • Throw blanket ($13 at Uniqlo and on sale for $15 at West Elm)

Running gear

  • Yurbuds ($25-$30 at Best Buy, Target and Amazon)
  • Leggings (from Old Navy, Target, H&M or Uniqlo), KIND bars (two for $3 on sale at a supermarket) and an iTunes card

Ski equipment

  • Smartwool socks (from Athleta, EMS or REI) and hand warmers (from Wal-Mart, ski shops, REI, EMS or eBay) with a note saying, "To keep you warm..."

A book and something cute to go with it

  • The Essential Scratch and Sniff Guide to Becoming a Wine Expert (from Overstock.com, Wal-Mart, Amazon or BN.com) with wine stoppers, a bottle of wine or wine charms
  • The World Cheese Book with cheese cutters (from Worldmarket.com, with a coupon from Real Simple or Martha Stewart Living)
  • Cupcake recipe book from B&N bargain books (10 percent off if you're a member) with fun cupcake wrappers

Board games

  • Bananagrams (on sale now at Barnes & Noble, with an extra 10 percent off if you're a member)
  • Various board games (from Kmart, Target or Wal-Mart; look for Hasbro coupons)

Treats for teachers

  • Local restaurant gift certificates (from Restaurant.com or Groupon)
  • Massage or spa gift certificates (from Groupon, Amazon Local, Living Social or Tippr)
  • Volunteering to grade papers (this one is free)
  • Emergen-C, hand sanitizer and Tylenol or Advil (from CVS, Walgreens or Rite Aid)

Some things to keep in when you're shopping:

  • Bed Bath & Beyond has 20-percent-off coupons in most women's lifestyle magazines, and they also send coupons when you subscribe to their emails. Some of you might even get $5-off-$15 coupons delivered to your house.
  • Make sure to check your employee benefits (for example, Plum Benefits or Working Advantage) for further discounts.
  • Gift cards are nice, but only if you know the person definitely will use them. Otherwise, they become a burden. Look to your local drug store and supermarket for further discounts on them. For example, Gap gift cards were recently on sale in some markets at CVS, which gave $25 ExtraBucks Rewards with the purchase of a $100 card. Some retail stores also offer "shop later" gift cards with a gift-card purchase.
  • Make a list of your memberships (for example, at Barnes & Noble) so you don't let any discounts go to waste!
  • Make a note of your credit cards' retail partners so you can maximize your points or miles.
  • Ebates. No, they don't pay me — they pay you! Before all online purchases, check for promo codes and see how much you can get as cash back from your purchases.
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