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10 Great Gifts Under $20


Want to wow your date without going overboard? Try one of these tokens of affection to hit just the right note for a new relationship.

By Celeste Perron

o you’ve been on a couple of dates of the wow-we-have-such-a-connection variety. Or maybe you’ve got two months’ worth of the more casual, gradually-getting-to-know-you times under your belt. The bottom line is, the holidays are here… what should you do? Of course, a big, pricey gift could come off as too serious (and create a tense situation if your potential mate doesn’t reciprocate), but you can’t ignore the season entirely. To the rescue: Our round-up of cool, inexpensive tokens of affection. One of these will bring a smile to your date’s face and say that you care but not that you’re pressing for a commitment… yet.

New tunes
If you aren’t yet confident in your command of your date’s taste, give something you
The holidays are here…what do you do? Allow this list of gifts to come to your rescue.
absolutely can’t go wrong with: An iTunes gift card. This little treat will fit into an envelope (no wrapping required!) and since songs are only $.99 each, a $15 gift card will give your sweetie a chance to cherry-pick fifteen faves that will remind him or her of good ol’ you every time they’re played. (iTunes Prepaid Music Card, $15, itunes.com)

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Chic sweets
If the object of your affection likes the sugary stuff, then candy is an obvious choice, but don’t come bearing just any old box of chocolates. The latest trend in high-end confections: mixing in savory ingredients and exotic spices. Vosges Haut-Chocolat laces their chocolates and caramels with unexpected tastes like sea salt, chili powder, wasabi and star anise. (Exotic Truffle Box 4 pc, $10.50, and Exotic Caramel Collection 4 pc, $9.50, from Vosges Haut-Chocolat, vosgeschocolate.com)

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A new favorite T-shirt
Ladies, give your man of the moment a spanking new tee in his favorite color. Sure, it’s the humblest of wardrobe staples, but you’ll score points for paying attention to his style preferences—and letting him go one more day without doing his laundry. Try American Apparel tees, which come in over 30 shades. (American Apparel fine jersey short-sleeve tee, $15, americanapparelstore.com)

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An author-autographed book
A simple hardcover becomes a collector’s item with the writer’s signature on the title page, so call your local bookstores to ask about upcoming signings, then hit one by an author you think your sweetie would like. Or you can find many author-signed books at alibris.com.

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Hot home accents
Plant the seed for future candlelit dinners at your date’s place by gifting him or her with a chic votive holder. These pretty-but-understated sea urchin votives will work with any décor—from a masculine, leather-couch look to a girlie, Shabby Chic-style lair. (Bone china sea urchin votives, $10, $14, $18, globaltable.com)

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Sexy suds
Show your gal she deserves to be pampered by giving her a selection of bath bombs from
Give her a simple silver charm she can slip onto a chain.
Lush, which release delicious scents and turn the water frothy and colorful when dropped into the tub. There are over twenty varieties to choose from—pair a few of the more innocently-named ones with the jasmine and musk-scented Sex Bomb in the hope she’ll invite you to join in at least one of those tub sessions. (Bath bombs, $4-$5 each, lush.com)

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Jewelry lite
Guys, if you like the romantic sentiment of jewelry but don’t want to get too heavy (or spend a bundle on a still-nascent relationship) give her a simple silver charm she can slip onto a chain or charm bracelet she already owns. She’ll be touched if you can find one that represents one of her passions (an instrument she plays, the breed of her pet pooch, a sand dollar if she’s a beach bunny), and Charms USA has an insanely wide selection. (Sterling silver charms, $10-$15, charmsusa.com)

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Words of wisdom
Show that you think your sweetie’s innermost musings are worthy of preservation by giving him or her a sleek and stylish place to write them down. The A to Z Subject Journal by Daisy Arts comes with an alphabet’s worth of subject headings (e.g., A is for Art, T is for Travel, X is for X-Rated) to help organize the writer’s thoughts, and these beautiful notebooks by Carrot and Stick Press are slim enough to be carried everywhere, in case inspiration strikes in an unlikely setting (and cheap enough that you can give three at a time). (Daisy Arts A to Z Subject Journal, $20, greerchicago.com; Notebooks, $6 each, carrotandstickpress.com)

Click here for more information on the journal.

Click here for more information on the notebook.

The latest game craze
In case you haven’t heard, the crossword-esque numbers game Sudoku is hooking legions of new addicts every day. If your steady loves video games, crossword puzzles or just trying the latest thing, give him or her a handheld electronic version of the game. One risk: If your gift is a hit, you may need to ban your date from bringing the game along on your get-togethers. (Haier Handheld Sudoku Game, $15, jr.com)

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A chance (or 20) to win big
Many people have money on their mind a lot of the time, so while $20 worth of lottery tickets may strike you as a crassly unromantic gift, your date’s face will light up when he or she finds them in your holiday card. Even if your sweetie doesn’t hit the jackpot, you’ll look like a game, fun-loving date for thinking of it.


Celeste Perron is the author of Playing House: A Starter Guide To Being A Grown-up.
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