There is only one thought that counts when it comes to gift giving: How much the gift recipient thinks the gift giver paid for the gift.
While that may seem a bit cynical, still there is a certain satisfaction that can come to both the gift giver and receiver when a gift seems to have a little more value than, well, it actually does.
Lindsay Sakraida at Deal News came out with a list of several items that fit the smaller bill. She recommends looking for designer products at mainstream retail chains. She refers to a Tory Burch Lunch Box that is only $19.99 at Target, for example, which could also make a nice makeup bag, she says.
Sakraida says pearl jewelry is a lot cheaper than it used to be, but "still exudes an air of class and elegance."
She also recommends Skullcandy Headphones (A Utah company), simple wallets made from leather, free gift cards available as promotions, quirky gifts that might be found at online stores such as ThinkGeek.com.
Sakraida recommends people give a nicely framed photograph of their family — to family members naturally.
And where better to get a good frame than a thrift store?
Max Wong at Wise Bread gives her own list of "great holiday gifts" that can be purchased at thrift stores.
Wong says a cashmere sweater for sale in a thrift store is still cashmere. "Since I live in pricey Los Angeles," she says, "100 percent cashmere sweaters cost a whopping $3.99 to $7.99 each at my local Goodwill store."
She also likes knitted items. Ugly art in nice frames can be replaced with better art. Fancy vases can punch up grocery store flowers to make a more impressive gift. Wong (who says she hasn't bought anything new in more than five years) says she buys nice vintage dinnerware. She loads up food on an interesting platter and leaves the cookies or whatever as a gift with the interesting plate.
For kids, people can create a dress-up bin full of fun clothes for the children to play in, she says.
But for family, there are gifts that are even better, Michael Lewis at Money Crashers says: "The best gifts for children are intangible, though substantial; they cost nothing in material terms, but have a value greater than any treasure."
Those gifts include unconditional love, confidence, imagination, determination, resilience and hope, Lewis says.
His recommended intangible gifts may cost the least amount of money, but require more thought than other gifts. And they are hard to wrap.