25 life-improving Christmas gifts for under $10


If you’re like me, you’re always looking for ways to give cheap but meaningful Christmas gifts for under $10. Yes, I’m a cheapskate, but I’m a happy one.

I’ve always been into improving my life, and if I can help the loved ones in my life do the same, without spending a lot, I’m very happy.

I asked my Zen Habits readers for some suggestions for inexpensive gifts, and boy did they deliver. 

Read on, then choose the ones that your loved ones will like best, for an inexpensive Christmas (unless you have six kids like I do … then Christmas is never cheap).

Christmas gifts for under $10

1. Service

This is actually free, unless you consider your time worth something. Anything that you can do to help someone out, give them some free time, make their life better, reduce their stress: cleaning, chores, errands, garden work, fixing things, cooking, anything you’re good at. One of the best gifts ever, in my opinion.

2. Ebooks

There are some good ones out there, some for under $10 … my own Zen To Done and Bron’s Screen Freedom are good examples of course. 🙂

3. Baked goods

Ingredients don’t cost that much, and if you make a few batches and give them to a bunch of people, the costs will definitely be under $10 per person (even if you have to buy a few cookie tins or something). Try one of these suitably festive recipes:

A new classic: Raspberry rum balls #rumballs #Christmscooking #Christmasrecipes

4. Moleskine notebook

I don’t know anyone who owns one of these who doesn’t love them. I love mine. They’re so beautiful, tactilely wonderful to write in, and useful. There are many choices (I recommend one of the pocket notebooks so you can carry them around everywhere).

5. Self-improvement books

I love to read books of all kinds, but self-improvement books seem to be a great choice this time of year. Buying books in ebook form will keep the costs down. Eat to Live by Dr. Joel Fuhrman (recommended by a reader), Getting Things Done by David Allen, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective PeopleSimplify Your Life. These might be slightly over $10, sorry.

6. Pedometer

Encourage the loved ones in your life to get healthy this coming year. A pedometer is one great way to do that … most are over $10, but you can find some for under. 

7. Homemade salsa

Make your own salsa, can it, wrap the jar in some photos printed from your computer. Recipe from Zen Habits reader Matt Q:

Kirk’s Killer Kickin’ Salsa

1 29 ounce can diced tomatoes
1 8 ounce can tomato sauce
4-6 cloves garlic or to your taste chopped fine
1 handful or more of crushed red chili also to your hot taste
¾ large chopped onion
1 tablespoon of olive oil

Stir this good and add a little water if too thick. Tomatoes have lots salt so check before adding , then add to your taste. If you like oregano or cilantro that can be added, I don’t care for it. Make ahead of time as it s flavor will be much better in 2-3 days. Good on eggs and corn chips.

8. Healthy cookbook

Great way to get someone to eat healthy while trying out some new delicious foods. Unfortunately most good cookbooks are over $10 (like my favourite: Vegan with a Vengeance : Over 150 Delicious, Cheap, Animal-Free Recipes That Rock), but if you try a used bookstore, you should be good to go.

9. Mixed CD

How will this improve someone’s life? It can be a relaxing CD, or one that picks them up in the car … music is always a great gift! Or try making them a wellbeing podcast list or create a playlist just for them.

10. Movie night gift basket

Purchase items in bulk and divide them into multiple baskets. Items for a movie night: popcorn, lollies and a download gift certificate ($5).

Movie night Chrismas gift ideas for under $10

11. Scrapbook

Make it yourself… great memories that will last a lifetime. Be creative and have some fun! This is a priceless gift.

12. Massage

Do it yourself… free, wonderful, relaxing, and… well, wonderful. You can find amazing massage tutorials on YouTube – like this one. If you’re not keen to DIY, get your friend a massage ball.

13. Babysitting

Another service, but I mention it here specifically because as a parent, I know how awesome this gift can be. We parents need a no-obligations night on the town sometimes too!

14. Yoga mat

Great way to start the new year… with the peace and fitness of yoga. Get them started with a mat (it’s possible to find them under $10 … here’s one for $4.50) and an introduction to Yoga with Adriene.

15. 10 Reasons I Love You

Framed. One of the most special gifts you can give, I think. Of course, I’m very sentimental, so if this is not macho enough, go for something like Nos. 23 and 24 below.

16. Homemade cloth grocery bags

You can buy them for under $10, but if you’re handy with the sewing machine, recycle some old sturdy material and make it yourself.

Drawstring bags are also useful


17. Moneyband

I’ve been using this minimalist wallet myself and love it — just a rubber band, really, but sized perfectly to hold your cards and cash. That’s all I carry around. Check it out here.

18. Tao Te Ching

Several readers suggested this classic of Eastern philosophy, and I recommend it myself. There are many versions … here’s one for under $1. You might also try Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

19. Build an emergency kit

Buy a container bag, put in it whatever other small items you’d normally forget to pack for a trip. Tie with ribbon. Print out some instructions to expand the emergency kit.

20. A care package

Keep it simple: a favourite magazine + a mug + real chocolate (or someone’s favourite tea). That’s a great little way for a friend to spend an evening at home.

21. Spend time with them

Absolutely free. You can’t beat this gift. Shower first. Alcohol optional.

Spending time with friends is a great gift

22. Homemade cookbook

Find your favourite recipes on the internet (or ones you made up yourself), format them up real nice, print them out. Bind them in a nice cover. Voila, instant customised cookbook.

23. Towels

Random, but as we all know, towels are the most massively useful thing you can have. Discount stores like Big W and Kmart have cool towels that cost less than $10.

24. Relaxing soak

Don’t underestimate the power of an old favourite like Radox for melting cares away. Cheap is very cheerful in this instance.

25. Jar of Gratitude

A beautiful idea, from reader Lyn:

A few years ago I made a jar of thank yous for my parents, and that could easily be adapted to a Christmas gift.

I just typed all the things they’d done over the years that I was grateful for in point form on the computer, then printed the sheet out on coloured vellum.

From there I cut them into individual stripes and gently curled then before putting them into a glass jar that I’d decorated with ribbon.

I think you could just as easily do a Christmas memories jar, recalling all the silly/strange/memorable times from Christmases past.

Reckon they’ll know we got these Christmas gifts for under $10?

Feature image by Brigitte Tohm; Movie night image by S O C I A L . C U T; friends image by Misunderstood Whiskey

Written by Leo Babauta

Articles are shared on Mumlyfe under Leo Barbauta's uncopyright philosophy. Thanks Leo. Zen Habits is about finding simplicity and mindfulness in the daily chaos of our lives. It’s about clearing the clutter so we can focus on what’s important, create something amazing, find happiness. It has over a million readers. Leo Babauta lives in Davis, California with his wife and six kids, where he eats vegan food, writes, runs, and reads.

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