Thoughtful Holiday Gifts That Are Equal Parts Unique & Affordable

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The season of gift-giving can be hard on your psyche and your wallet; the struggle is staying on-budget while finding the perfect present for everyone on your list. But after all, it's the thought that counts (as they say), so with a little creativity — and a bit of planning — you can give thoughtful holiday gifts that'll show you care without breaking the bank.

"Most people don’t expect or even necessarily want extravagant gifts," notes Cara Price, head of marketing at Social Print Studio. "What they want is to feel loved and valued. The good news is, you don’t need to spend a lot of money to do this." Her biggest tip for gifting like a pro? "It’s all in the planning," she says. "I take the same approach to gift-giving as I do my to-do list: If you organize who you need to buy for and what to buy them ahead of time, then you can purchase them way before Christmas (because let’s face it, who has spare cash at the end of the year?)."

This advice is backed by Julie Kenney, founder of The Gifting Experts as well as Jewels and Pinstripes, a celebrity gifting company. "Pick up hints of what your loved ones like throughout the year and put in notes section on phone," she says. "It is so easy nowadays to go into any store or online to purchase a gift card, [but] I am a huge fan of personalized gifts."

But if you've just begun thinking about holiday gifting, don't worry; there's still time. Ahead, experts share tips for finding affordable gifts that are full of meaning, nonetheless. Whether you're searching for something sentimental, tokens of appreciation, or the chicest presents for picky recipients, these clever ideas will turn you into a gifting guru. With seasonal festivities just around the corner, the time to start shopping is now.

Personalize It With Pictures

Price says there's no better way to show you care than by incorporating thoughtful photos into your gift. And thanks to services like Social Print Studio, which puts your photos on goods galore, it's easy to get super creative. "Take time picking out photos that will make someone’s day," she recommends, mentioning that a custom-made calendar is both sentimental and useful. Alongside those meaningful images, you can "put pen to paper and let the recipient know what the memories mean to you and why you wanted to share them."

Other photo-centric ideas include scrapbooks, metal ornaments, magnets, or Tiny Books (these mini albums make perfect tokens for those you appreciate, like your kids' teachers or your boss). Another crafty option? "Use an old window frame or picture frame to create your own photo collage," Price says. "This can be styled any way you’d like, but simple string and clothespins let the pictures speak for themselves."

Opt For Artisan-Made

In search of something unique? You can't go wrong with artisan-made goods, which are usually better quality — and far less common — than their mass-produced counterparts. "My favorite way to shake off the stress of the season is to give my loved ones something handcrafted," says Katie Harnetiaux, Global Head of Amazon Handmade. "Because it’s made by hand, I know they will treasure it, meanwhile I can feel good about supporting a small business."

What's more, made-to-order items are often customizable, making them failsafe choices for those on your list who already have everything (or are exceptionally picky). "My favorite gifts, from thoughtful keepsakes to hard-to-shop-for friends, is always something personalized," says Harnetiaux.

Encourage Self-Care

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For many, spending money on a self-care routine seems like an extravagance. That's why Jaclyn Johnson, founder and CEO of Create & Cultivate, suggests treating loved ones to indulgences they wouldn't normally get for themselves. (Johnson is also a proponent of women empowering women and is a spokesperson for ROAR Organic, an electrolyte-infused beverage with a mission to celebrate innovative females through its ROAR Models campaign.) "Encourage your loved ones to practice self care with a DIY self-care kit," she says. "Pick a box or basket of your choice and customize its contents to your gift recipient — face masks, essential oils, gym credits, salon/spa gift cards, books, cocktail recipes, eye masks, vitamins, etc. Give the kit a cute, personal name, or even do a theme."

Not only does this show friends and family members you know they deserve a break, you can choose items that fit within your gift-giving budget.

Upgrade Their Office Supplies

Trendy office supplies are another example of items someone might not splurge on, but would love receiving. (Plus, nothing says "let's get this done" like some stylish stationary, trendy notebooks, or a beautiful planner that also looks great on a desk.)

"We [at Create & Cultivate] just launched our own line of office tools and essentials for the modern woman making moves, and I personally think they make the perfect gift for that person who has everything," says Johnson. "Think of it as a motivational pick-me-up for a friend: You’re encouraging them to kick off the New Year with a killer action plan for their career. They’re available exclusively at Target so they’re easy to purchase online and they’re all under $20."

Get Creative With Cards & Wrapping

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Of course, creative gifts deserve a creative presentation, and thoughtful touches in cards and wrapping are the cherry on top. Kenney says she's always equipped with clear cellophane and ribbon during the holiday season, and tucking bells and holly under bows, or going all out with fairy lights, makes packages extra festive. When it comes to reusable packaging, "I am a fan of buying baskets and containers at places like the dollar store and [stuffing them with] crinkly paper," she says.

Price adds that the wrapping is another way you can incorporate personalization through pictures. "Photo stickers are an easy, neat way to personalize gifts (for both kids and adults)!" she says. You can even slip a photo strip beneath the ribbon for "a fun, retro look" that doubles as a sweet momento.

Last but not least, skip the generic gift tags for something a little more memorable. "We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention our Tiny Cards, which make the perfect gift tags," Price says. "Choose a different photo for each card, and boom, 24 custom gift tags coming at you."