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Fun and practical gift items that won’t break your budget

After two years of sickness, worry and uncertainty, consumers are expected to resume the traditional holiday shopping spree for  2022. The National Retail Federation projects shoppers will spend anywhere between […]


After two years of sickness, worry and uncertainty, consumers are expected to resume the traditional holiday shopping spree for  2022.

The National Retail Federation projects shoppers will spend anywhere between $942 to $960 billion this Christmas season, making it likely one of the most profitable periods in recent memory. A NerdWallet survey a few weeks ago found that 84% of Americans plan to buy gifts for family, friends and loved ones, or an average of $823 per household.

Every year there are more handy dandy gifts and gadgets to entice and delight even the most discriminating person. Gifts cards are always popular. This year, the Gen Z generation tends to dominate the category for holiday purchases and are expected to spend an average of $290 per person. Here’s a brief list of some of the most popular items that won’t break your budget and are available online or at many brick-and-mortar outlets:

Tile Mate is for the person who is always losing their keys. It’s a tracker that slides into any keyring and syncs up to an app, so you never have to worry about misplacing your things. You can get it on Amazon for $18.

For the cozy couch potato, how about a Winthome Wearable Blanket? No weekend streaming binge is complete without a warm blanket. But what about snacks? Where to keep the phone handy? With the Winthiome blanket, you have a specific place for your phone and other gadgets, plus you can keep it on all day, eat and drink in it, and not worry about permanent spots and stains because it’s scotchguarded and machine washable. Plan on spending $26 at Amazon.

If you’re interested in the Winthome blanket, you may want to consider Joomra Pillow Slippers. These comfy foot warmers became popular recently on Tik Toc for their thick, pillow-soft sole and ergonomic design that cradles your foot in comfort. There are a variety of fun colors to choose from. Available at Amazon for $24.

For the streamer “on the go,” the Roku Streaming Stick 4K is much faster and more powerful than ever. It’s a streaming player with twice the speed and long range of traditional WiFI. Amazon has it for $32.

Here’s a fun item you may want to purchase for yourself during the hectic shopping frenzy: Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty Holiday trio set can be squeezed, shaped, stretched and slathered to help ease away stress. The set includes three pretty putties, including five golden Rings, Shiny Silver Bells and Christmas Holiday Lights. “No stress” price on Amazon is $20.

Let’s face it: What woman doesn’t like a little pampering once in a while? Nature’s Beauty Orange Ginger Detox Bath Bomb Gift Set hydrates the skin with coconut oil and witch hazel while relaxing the body with the aromas of citrus and patchouli. The pack comes with two canisters filled with 10 bath bombs each. That’s enough for at least a month of relaxing baths. The price is right at Amazon for $27.

The “word” is Wordle. This little game has become a phenomenon in the past few years. It’s a great way to start your day and “stretch” your brain cells after your morning workout. Wordle the Party game turns the classic word puzzle into a competitive bout with four different ways to play. A great gift for Wordle fans and board game fans alike. Amazon has it for $20.

Artcome Japanese Zen Sand Garden is for those who practice meditation. You’d be surprised just how calming a simple distraction can be. Raking sand in this mini desktop gadget is an easy way for giftees to flex their creative muscles while adding a good bit of Eastern personality to any setting. Amazon sells it for $26.

Are you a “tea snob”? If so, Tang Pin Ceramic Tea Cups (set of two) is not your ordinary novelty mug. For the coffee, tea or cocoa obsessed, these ceramic tea cups add a touch of class to any afternoon caffeine break. They’re handcrafted and lovely enough to display when not in use, and come in a myriad of styles and colors. They’re available on Amazon for $20.

It’s winter, but you want to make use of your “green thumb.”  If someone you know loves to garden, how about the Spade To Fork Organic Home Garden? It’s perfect for people with smaller kitchens and little outdoor space. Add a piece of nature to their living space with everything they’ll need to start an indoor garden with biodegradable pots, soil and five non-GMO herb seeds. Good price at Amazon for $23.

In Southern California, most everyone is a fan of Mexican cuisine. But sometimes you may not have the right cooking vessels to prepare your favorite dish. The Imusa Granite Molcajete (8 inch) is one of those kitchen items you may not realize you’re missing until you have one. Prepare homemade salsa, guacamole or fresh pesto like a pro in this ancient tool fundamental to Mexican cooking. Purchase it at Amazon for $25.

Whether you know someone who just moved into a new home, or have some friends who like to throw parties, the Royal Craft Wood bamboo cheese board makes a great gift. It has slots for crackers and nuts, as well as an area set aside for fruit and cheeses. It comes with four stainless steel knives that hide away when not in use. Find it at Amazon for $35.

Air fryers are all the rage. You eat healthy with less oil, and the cooking time is far shorter than an ordinary gas oven. Instant (the company that makes the Instant Pot) has a 6-quart air fryer with a nonstick basket and a digital touchscreen for under $100. It’s large enough to cook chicken wings, veggies and, of course, fries. Go to Best Buy and find it for $90.

Need a new case for your IPhone or Android? Casetify offers a wide variety of cases not just for your phone, but for MacBooks, headphones and more. You can select from one of many designs available, or you can opt to customize a case with your name, initials, favorite colors and so on. Anywhere from $40 to $90 at