Here for some puppy cuteness? Meet Olive and Bernadette.

We love our woolly bullies...even when they flooded our house!

Budget Gift Ideas

I'm told Sexy Nerd and I (okay, maybe it's just me) are impossible to shop for. If there's something we want, we buy it. Didn't buy it? Don't want it! For all you frustrated Christmas shoppers out there, brainstorming about the perfect gifts for hard-to-shop-for bosses, far away relatives, and friends who already have it all, there's a solution.

You have to choose a gift your recipient doesn't know exists!
(And therefore has not been able to already buy for themselves.)

With that in mind, this year's annual holiday gift guide features presents from companies you may not have heard of. I've shopped with them all and highly recommend any of them. There's also a few stores you definitely have heard of, like Cost Plus, whose gift ideas were simply too splendid to leave out. It's my best holiday gift guide ever!

holiday guide

Holiday Gift Guide
(With Coupons! And Free Giveaways!!)

Nordic Tea Light Trough
UncommonGoods $40
*Enter below for a chance to win an UncommonGoods gift card

With completion of our mountain dream home still nearly a year away, (and with our budget in shambles!) I'm trying hard to stick to my rule of not buying things for the house until the house actually exists. But I can only resist so much, hence my beautiful UncommonGoods Nordic Tea Light holder, which will one day adorn the mantle in our living room. For now, it casts a warm glow from the wooden buffet in our kitchen (which, incidentally, was also purchased for my future dream home. I'm really having a tough time with this rule!). When I received this candle holder, I was surprised by how substantial it was - it's quite the showpiece, even unlit. The WOW factor is especially clear when casting shadows of trees on the wall, doubling its already large size. It reminds me of camping and I love the cozy, romantic vibe it creates.

Something Handmade (but Nice!)
Fox and Rose 
etsy recommendations

Fox and Rose is my favorite Etsy shop. You'll find high-quality items with clever designs, including tote bags and jewelry, plus 10% of all sales benefit the ASPCA. The super-cute and completely unique hair clip above? It's FOUR DOLLARS! (!!!) If you email the shop owner, she can even custom-make a pair of sparkle shoes for you (I love mine!) just like the Kate Spade Keds everyone goes crazy for.

Adopt an Olive Tree (and Get Delicious Olive Oil!)
Pomora $12.25 per can with discount, including shipping
*Save 25% with promo code LAMB25

I'm excited to have discovered this olive oil company. It's so much better than what you can buy in stores! My favorite variety is Al Aglio, (the "Vampires Beware!" garlic oil) which is irresistible drizzled over angel hair pasta with parmesan. Pomora does things a bit differently, in that you aren't just purchasing olive oil, but are actually adopting an olive tree. There are two farmers to choose between, Antonio and Carmelo, and the oil you receive is from your tree! How cool is that? Due to the growing conditions, you can actually taste a difference between the two oils, even for the same variety. Plus, with the promo code, the price can't be beat (so maybe support Antonio and Carmelo). A couple years ago, Sexy Nerd and I toured an olive mill in Arizona. Their price for the same amount of oil was more than double what Pomora is charging. The cans come in a nice box of 3, perfect for gifting as-is, or you can create a gift basket, say with a can of oil, some crusty bread, a package of nice pasta, and a wooden spoon. If you're feeling especially generous, you can have multiple packages sent throughout the year, similar to a gift-of-the-month subscription.

Novelty Socks
Dr. Jay's $0.50 and up (Fifty cents! Really!)
*Save an additional 4% or more with a free eBates account
The site doesn't exactly have a classy vibe, and the first time I placed an order with, I was skeptical as to what I'd actually receive. I'm pleased to report everything purchased was as-advertised, not to mention a heck of a deal! Those "Stylish Kitty" socks, by the way, are even cuter in person. 

Chalk Ceramic French Press
Cost Plus World Market $19.99
*Save an additional 4% or more with a free eBates account, plus receive an additional $10 off coupon code through my referral link

This price for a french press can't be beat, plus this is the only one I've found that's attractive enough to leave on the counter 24/7. To make this gift even more special, I recommend throwing in a milk frother (Cost Plus has a colorful set of 3 for less than $9!) and a bag of coffee. If you buy the coffee from Cost Plus on a Wednesday, they'll double your coffee reward points, meaning you get a free bag for every 3 purchased. It's quite the deal!

Geneva Nautical Anchor Watch with Chevron Print
Tradesy $11.50 with Free Shipping
*Save an additional $20 off your first $50 purchase through my referral link

 I absolutely love, love, LOVE Tradesy. I've found so many bargains on this site. Just yesterday, I received the most gorgeous designer coat I've ever owned, made in Italy from 100% virgin wool. The price? $17.50, shipped! With the ability to limit your search to new items with tags, it's a great place to find quality gifts at a steep discount. To really stretch my budget, I sell items I no longer use on Tradesy and limit my purchases to only the amount I have earned.

Clearance Merchandise
Sierra Trading Post $0.18 and up (EIGHTEEN CENTS!?)
*Save an additional 2.5% or more with a free eBates account, plus use promo code ALGRAVY5 to take off an additional 15% and pay 1/2 price shipping

I'm still in disbelief about some of the deals I've found in the Sierra Trading Post clearance section. A Lands' End leather belt for eighty cents? High quality Dylan shorts for under $4? Crazy! To top things off, I checked the website a week after the above order was placed and discovered my socks, shorts, and hat had each dropped an additional $1 in price (because they couldn't sell these things at the prices shown?!) and when I inquired about having my prices adjusted, they apologized and sent me an additional FOUR PAIRS of Terramar All Sports High Performance Socks (which, by the way, are the most comfy socks ever) for free! Just when I thought it couldn't get any better, Sierra Trading Post blew my mind with above and beyond customer service.

Vacation to Iceland
Wow Air $99 each way
*Save on lodging with Airbnb. You get an extra $20 off through my referral link. On top of this, you can get an additional $50 off your Airbnb stay when you pay with a participating American Express card

You knew I'd purchased the wool hat and wool coat mentioned above for a reason, right? Recently, Sexy Nerd and I had a conversation that went like this:

"We need a vacation."
"Yeah, but we need to save money to build our house."
"We could go to Iceland."
"No, really. It's like $400 for both of us, round trip."

How thrilled/shocked/in love with you forever would your family be when surprised with a vacation for Christmas? We were able to get to Boston on the cheap using Southwest points and we even added an extra stop in Copenhagen for just a little more. Why Iceland, you ask? They have tiny, fluffy wild ponies that run right up and let you pet them!

Meaningful Mug

Let's be clear. These days, mugs are given away by businesses and as part of cheap gift sets so often that no one wants another garbage mug to cram into the cupboard. However, everyone also has a beloved, favorite mug that reminds them of warm memories every time they use it. This is the mug you're seeking. You can even build a gift around it, by including fancy tea for a tea lover, gourmet cocoa for a chocolate lover (bonus points for including a unique recipe card - the cocoa you see here is spiced with cardamom) and so on. The mug above is Sexy Nerd's favorite, but I don't necessarily recommend smoking, peeing frogs for your gift recipient. Unless they're into that sort of thing, of course.

On a side note, how cool is my Nana for picking out this mug?

Christmas Cookies
Cheryl's Cookies from $0.83 each, delivered
Get free 2 day shipping at this store and others with ShopRunner. Most American Express cards qualify for a free account!

Before the internet, shipping gifts to friends and family out of state ate a chunk out of gift budgets every year. Now there are free shipping opportunities for just about anything you might want to purchase, baked treats included. My workplace recently used ShopRunner to deliver Cheryl's holiday cookies as a thank you to referring businesses all over New Mexico. It cost much less than paying an employee to drive around making deliveries. (And it saved soooo much hassle!)

Bat on a Branch
UncommonGoods $40
*Enter below for a chance to win an UncommonGoods gift card

 UncommonGoods is one of my favorite places for unique gifts (just look at all their great items on Pinterest) and when I saw this charming metal bat, I couldn't believe the price. I've wanted one of these for years! There's a shop in the Albuquerque airport selling bats like these for much, much more. Plus, the ones from UncommonGoods come signed by the artist!

It's a great company to support. The starting wage for their lowest-paid, seasonal workers starts at 50% more than minimum wage. According to UncommonGoods, "We make it our mission to support and provide a platform for artists and designers; in fact, half of what we sell is made by hand. Most of the products we carry are created right here in the USA, and about one-third of our entire collection incorporates recycled and/or upcycled materials."

Antique Silver Beaded Cake Stand
Lamps Plus $29.95 with Free Shipping
*Save an additional 3% or more with a free eBates account, plus use promo code 36AFFDC6 to take off an additional $10 from a $150+ purchase
 I love the crystals! This top-rated stand can be used for much more than serving cake. My silver stand is in the guest room with a note card to welcome visitors.

Exotic Truffle Collection
Vosges $45 for 16 pieces
*Save an extra 15% with promo code OCT14...which, oddly enough, is good through November 20th

 No, these are not exactly budget friendly. But they're the best truffles I've ever had! Before these, I didn't even think I liked truffles. But the flavors - curry! wasabi! black sesame seed! ginger! banana! chili! candied violet! - are worth the cost. Really, it's only $2.39 per chocolate after the coupon, still quite a bit for one little chocolate. But it's so worth it! You'd think the sad photo of them above, all melted and oily in the middle of August, would be a bad thing, but the melted ones still tasted darn good and receiving my order damaged just meant Vosges sent me a replacement box for free. Score!

Comfort Classic Memory Foam Pillow
Amerisleep $84.99 and up - or win one below!
*Receive an extra 10% with coupon code SAVE10, plus receive a referral discount by emailing Amerisleep after your order is placed to let them know you found them on my website
Memory Foam Pillows AND Cheryl's Cookies. Don't you wish you were my guest?

Also, have you read my Amerisleep mattress reviews?
We all know the importance of a good night's sleep for health and happiness. This Christmas, treat your loved ones to a more comfortable rest with what I'm certain is the world's most comfortable pillow. Sexy Nerd and I have 2 of these for our bed and like them so much we now have them for our guest bedroom too. Guests rave about our pillows! Unlike other memory foam pillows, the ones from Amerisleep don't get hot. You ever-so-gently sink into them, cradling your head and neck in a cushy embrace. We've been sleeping on these for years and they're just like new. We actually have another memory foam pillow from Tempur-Pedic, which I paid much more for before I heard of Amerisleep, and it's so thick and bulky that neither of us can use it without waking up with neck pain. At least, I think we still have it, taking up space in one of our closets somewhere.

Which leads me to...

Amerisleep and UncommonGoods Giveaway
Win an Amerisleep Memory Foam Pillow or a $25 UncommonGoods gift card!

 And now, the part you've been waiting for - the chance to win some of these amazing holiday gifts for yourself! Simply enter via Rafflecopter, below. This giveaway has TWO LUCKY WINNERS (!!!) who will be chosen randomly. The first winner selected will have their choice of prizes, Price is Right-style, and the second winner will receive the remaining prize. You don't have to be in the USA to win the UncommonGoods prize (a gift card can be used anywhere in the world) but the Amerisleep pillow can only be shipped within the continental USA. The giveaway ends at midnight on Saturday, December 12th.

Good luck, everyone! :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway


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