Beautiful, budget host gifts for friends with expensive tastes

Don’t show up empty-handed. But also, don’t break the bank.

Beautiful, budget host gifts for friends with expensive tastes

Just like that, the holiday season is in full swing. Your calendar is probably filling up with lots of dinners and parties that will take you from Thanksgiving to New Year.


Let’s face it. Your hosts and hostesses are stressed out. Not only do they have a demanding job, but they also have to cook for you. It’s a lot.

You don’t want to be just another run-of-the-mill friend who picks up a bottle of wine at the grocery store to bring to their house. Literally every other person at the party will be doing this. You want to stand out. You want to bring something memorable, beautiful, and useful–and importantly, something that won’t break your piggy bank.

We’re here to help. We’ve examined the latest products from our favorite brands to compile this list of affordable gifts for every friend who invites you over. Most of these items are from direct-to-consumer startups that sell their products online. We recommend stocking up on these items now and keeping them by the door so you don’t leave for a party empty-handed during the holidays.


For the chef

Spicewalla Spices

[Photo: Spicewalla]

If you’re visiting someone who loves to cook, consider bringing some fun, beautifully packaged, fresh spices. Spicewalla, a spice brand with a hip, vintage aesthetic, makes boxes of spices that your hosts will want to display on their counters, rather than hide away on their spice racks. You can buy sets of three spices that are thoughtfully curated to bring together different flavors. The $15 holiday collection, for instance, includes Pumpkin Pie Spice, Apple Pie Spice, and Mulling Spice. If that’s a bit too on the nose, there’s also the $16 “Masala” collection, which includes the three Indian spice combinations: Garam Masala, Tandoori Masala, and Madras Curry Powder.

Brightland Olive Oil

[Photo: Brightland]

At $37 a pop, this high-quality olive oil is a gift your friends will actually use. Brightland has two flavors: Alive, whose brighter, nuttier notes are perfect for salads and hummus, and Awake, whose grassier, complex notes are great for hearty stews and roast chicken. The oil is made in a family-owned California farm, but it also comes in a gorgeous bottle.

For The Overstressed

Life Elements CBD Bath Bomb

[Photo: Life Elements]

If you want to give your host a gift to help them unwind, consider these bliss ball bath bombs (between $14 and $20). They’re by a company called Life Elements, and they’re infused with CBD. I can attest that they do have an almost magical ability to elevate a simple bath by relieving aches, tension, and even chronic pain. They leave your skin with a tingly sensation that lasts for hours.


Brooklinen Silk Eye Mask

[Photo: Brooklinen]

This $29 eye mask that is 100% silk comes in two colors, white and gray, and is delivered in a blue giftable box. It’s the perfect, luxurious, relaxing gift for a host whom you know has been under a lot of stress lately and could do with a good night’s sleep.

For The Home

East Fork Pottery

[Photo: East Fork]

If your host happens to love interior design, I recommend you look at the North Carolina pottery brand East Fork. These pieces are made in America using clay from the Blue Ridge Mountains, but have a thoroughly hip, millennial aesthetic. If you’re looking for a small piece to bring to the party, check out these little $34 egg vases, which are wheel-thrown and glazed by hand, and look lovely holding a few blooms. For $28, the brand also offers a small candle available in two scents–tender earth and odd wood–that comes in a piece of pottery that can be reused as an espresso cup when you’re done with it. Handmade, locally crafted products don’t often come at such affordable prices.

Artifact Uprising Custom Calendar

[Photo: Artifact Uprising]

Another nice end-of-year present is this $30 walnut desktop calendar made by the minimalist photo gift startup Artifact Uprising. It comes with a wooden stand that features elegant little touches, like a brass-coated clip and peg stand. Your host will be able to design a calendar in the brand’s chic, modern aesthetic, allowing them to showcase 12 of their favorite photos in a year-round display.


For The Pet Lover

[Photo: Wild Ones]

If you’re visiting a friend who loves their dog more than they love you, consider bringing a beautiful gift for their furry friend. This $25 bowl from the pet startup Wild One comes in black and tan, and will look elegant in anybody’s home. It’s also incredibly functional, since it’s dishwater safe and comes with a nonslip base. If you’re into cheekier gifts, you can get this beautiful poop bag carrier for $12 (it comes in a wide range of fun colors) and even throw in some matching compostable poop bags for $10.

For The Sweet Tooth

Danconias Truffle Brownies

[Photo: Danconias]

These $24.99 truffle brownies come nicely packaged in gift boxes. Each box contains 16 mini brownies in a wide array of flavors, including cocoa creme brûlée, almond toffee, and chocolate orange (my personal favorite). The clever thing about these gifts is that you can buy several boxes and keep them in the freezer to whip out for any last-minute events you get to attend. In addition to being a beautifully packaged treat for your host, there’s a nice story behind Danconias treats: They are baked at Community Table Kitchen, a Colorado-based nonprofit that provides employment and housing to people getting back on their feet.


Dandelion Chocolate Bars

[Photo: Dandelion]

Dandelion, a brand founded by a former tech entrepreneur turned chocolatier, creates bars of high-quality chocolate that uses only cocoa and organic cane sugar, skipping milk and other fillings entirely. They’ve been a sensation in the world of artisanal chocolate, but at between $8.50 and $12 a bar, they’re a treat you want to give someone who will appreciate the subtle flavors of single-origin chocolate. Each bar comes wrapped in paper with vintage-inspired designs on it. Keep a bar or two on hand, and give it to your host wrapped in twine together with a holiday card.

They can enjoy it later, with 1 of the 12 bottles of wine that the other boring guests brought over.


About the author

Elizabeth Segran, Ph.D., is a senior staff writer at Fast Company. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts


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