I come from a large extended family, and every year, in order to prevent ourselves from going broke buying holiday presents for three dozen relatives, each of us draws three or four names from a hat to buy family gifts for, with a suggested cap of $30 per gift.

Needless to say, we exchange a lot of gift cards. Like a lottttttt of gift cards.

But here’s the thing: I love these people, my aunts and uncles and cousins. I really, truly love them. And this year has been, shall we say, not so great. So even if next year I revert to my old habits of buying everybody gift cards again, this year I want to level up my family gifts. I want to give something thoughtful—something they probably wouldn’t have bought for themselves, but which will improve their lives in some small but appreciable way.

So I started researching thoughtful, affordable family presents, and here’s what I’ve found so far. If any of these can be helpful for your own family gift search, it is my humble hope that this list means a little less gift-carding and a little more “oooh, I love this!”

Here are 18 affordable family gifts under $30 that are sure to please!

wooden tablet stand

Yamazaki Home


Wooden Tablet Stand

With all my baking, movie-binging and online puzzle-playing, my tablet and I have gotten unexpectedly close these past couple years…in a way that’s probably not great for my posture or my neck. That’s why this sleek and stylish tablet stand is a perfect gift for anyone else in your family who’s been having a lot of quality time with their iPad: It’s got eleventy thousand everyday applications but it still feels luxurious enough to give as a present.

cookies in a box

One Girl Cookies


Classic Tea Cookie Collection

Delectable bite-sized “tea cookies” from a small, woman-owned Brooklyn bake shop have been my go-to gift for years. Each cookie in the One Girl Cookies Classic Tea Cookie Collection is named for a long-ago relative (or at least, they sound like they are) and is absolutely delicious, from the hazelnut with cinnamon chocolate ganache to the oat cookie with crystallized ginger.

snowman chocolates

John & Kira's


Holly Jolly Ornaments Chocolates

You love edible gifts. You have no baking or candy-making skills. You also do not have the PhD in Pinterest required to make “cookie dough mixes” or “hot chocolate mixes” look like anything other than what they are, which is a bunch of powder in a plastic baggie. Here is your solution: a beautifully packaged set of toothsome chocolates made by a small confectioner in Philadelphia. Special, affordable, tasty. Done.

christmas tree night light

Vermont Country Store


Christmas Tree Nightlight

I love old-school, vintage-y holiday decorations, and The Vermont Country Store always comes through with holiday knick knacks I could swear I saw last at my grandmother’s house. This charming hand-painted ceramic nightlight makes a cute present: all the festive flair, none of the guilt of buying yet more festive flair for yourself.

handwarmer mug



Clay in Motion Handwarmer Mug

A little ugly, a little chunky, a little cozy…like your favorite sweater, or your elementary school art teacher, and destined to be just as beloved. Picture your gift recipient on a wintry morning cupping a hot bevvie in this handmade handwarmer mug, and you already feel a little bit like a benevolent elf, right? And for us left-handed coffee addicts, there’s basically nothing more exciting than a left-handed mug designed just for us.

bird shaped hand sanitizer



Hydrating Hand Sanitizer Clip-On Multi-pack

I might as well admit these sweet-smelling, adorably chonky bird-shaped hand sani dispensers are on this list because I really want one myself. But at $15 for a pack of three with hydrating hand sanitizer included, this is one of those practical holiday presents that still feels thoughtful, and that your gift recipient will get a ton of use from.

grey library code tote bag

Out of Print


Library Card Tote Bag

Each library card-inspired tote bag purchased helps support literacy programs for communities in need, so this gift will please the book lovers in your family while also giving back. And if you or your intended recipient aren’t old enough to remember actual library cards, consider this one a throwback gift, like, you know, concert or movie tickets. Or a dinner party.

four colorful coasters

Society 6


Mid-Century Coasters

I admit that even when I (finally) became a grownup, with non-IKEA furniture I actually wanted to protect from damage, I never really “got” coasters…until someone gave me a set of coasters that I like a lot, and now I use them all the time.

reusable tote



Céleste Wallaert Night Night Bag

As plastic bags have fallen out of favor, reusable totes that pack up small and light have proliferated, and Loqi makes some of the very best. Sturdy, machine-washable and designed to hold over 40 pounds of stuff—while still lightweight enough to pack up into a small 4-inch-by-4-inch zipped square—they come in a variety of cool modern designs. This is the very definition of a practical, helpful, affordable gift that will be used and reused until it literally disintegrates.

alleyoop card game



In the Loop Card Game

There’s nothing more priceless than the gift of connection. Like a more refined (and grown up) version of Truth of Dare, this clever deck of cards from Alleyoop is made up of 100 bond-inducing prompts that are either questions or actions. Whether you’re playing with people you’ve known for decades or only recently met, be prepared for hilarity, insight and fresh perspectives.

jar of vanilla



Pure Vanilla Paste

Chances are, they’ve been perfecting their at-home coffee game all year. But if you really want to give them a treat, the pure vanilla paste from Heilala is the key ingredient in the most amazing vanilla latte ever. Just add a tiny bit along with milk, mix with a frother and they might even delete the Starbuck’s app before they finish.

memento journal

The Happiness Project


Memento Keepsake Journal

From concerts and vacations to piano recitals and everyday adventures, every family has scraps of memories worth holding onto. But assembling them all in one place can be overwhelming to say the least. That’s why we love this simple and sophisticated Memento Keepsake Journal from The Happiness Project. It’s got plenty of pockets to tuck in ephemera with space on each page to add notes, photos, stickers, etc. to easily create a priceless family heirloom.

flock together art print

Jacqueline Schmidt


Flock Together Art Print

Artwork always makes a stellar gift, but especially so when it brings a message of togetherness. This gorgeous minimalist print from illustrator Jacqueline Schmidt features silhouettes of birds in flight and brings a pop of color that’s as uplifting as the sentiment itself.

bottle of sparkle maple syrup

Runamok Maple


Sparkle Syrup

What’s sweeter than the gift of maple syrup? How about sparkly maple syrup? Turn any breakfast into a David Bowie approved spread. Mixed with pearlescent food-grade mica, the all-natural Vermont maple syrup from Runamok Maple is a treat that is sure to delight the entire crew.




Banangrams Word Game

Take away the complicated scoring and unwieldy board aspects of Scrabble and you get portable, fun and easy-to-play Bananagrams. Whether playing with kiddos who are just learning to spell or fellow word-nerds like myself, it’s a family hit!

silicone popcorn bowl

W & P


The Popper

Make their next family movie night healthy and delicious with this clever silicone popcorn popping bowl. Unlike air poppers which take up more than their fair share of space, this collapsible bowl acts as the popper and the serving bowl. Just drop in some kernels and microwave!

peanut butter scooper

Uncommon Goods


Peanut Butter Spoon

If their love of peanut butter is equal to their frustration at leaving any trace in the jar, this is the gift to give. Part spoon, part spatula it gets in there to get the job done lickety-split.

soft pretzel and beer cheese kit

Farm Steady


Soft Pretzel and Beer Cheese Kit

This gift kit seems custom-made for my family: If there’s beer cheese involved, we Midwesterners are in, all the way. But even if you’re not a native of our nation’s fine heartland, a surprisingly easy weekend afternoon cooking project makes for a thoughtful and delicious present. (And if you’ve never had beer cheese before, here’s a lovely way to join our dark army…)

plantable pencils

Sprout Pencils


Plantable Pencils with Flower, Herb and Vegetable Seeds

Pencils may not seem like the most exciting gift, but hear me out. The super cool eco-friendly pencils from Sprout are more than just a way to jot down notes. The green tip is actually a seed capsule! When the pencil is too small to use anymore, just stick it in a pot with soil and watch it come to life. This particular pack includes one of each of the following: sage, thyme, carnation, chia, coriander, daisy, forget-me-not and basil.

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