Buying smart in this economy can mean spending a little more on the people you love, but there's no need to sacrifice your non-nuclear world if you stick to $50 or less. Some ideas as you wrestle your gift list to the ground:
Men (and the other gender, too)
• Personalize iPhones or iPads with a Zagg skin using the custom image uploader at Zagg.com, starting at $19.99. Starting at $29.99, choose a chic leather skin in black or brown. For $34.99, make the handheld of a sports freak look like a baseball or a football in textured leather, complete with bumpy stitching and adhesive that doesn't leave a mark.
• Even if your giftee already has a watch, or doesn't think he needs one, he may love one as a gift, especially a less expensive one he can bash up without worry. Enter Timex's Metal Field watch at $50.
m Please his palate with a bottle of his favorite wine. Or go for a music-inspired bottle at Wines-that-rock.com, where you'll find Mendocino-made Rolling Stones' Forty Licks Merlot, Pink Floyd's the Dark Side of the Moon Cabernet Sauvignon, Woodstock Chardonnay and the Police's Synchronicity, a red blend. The site has two bottles in a gift box for $49.99 and three-bottle boxes for $50.97. Very cool labels.
Women (and the other gender, too)
• Consider limited edition art. 20by200.com offers a great selection from working artists. Prices range from $20 to $5,000. The site features new prints every week and includes photographs and illustrations.
•Chocolate: Can you really go wrong? Every town has a sweet shop with a few nice bites in a fancy box.
n Gardening gear is easy to find at $50 or less. There's another unusual planter scheme, this one from Australia. They're terra-cotta pots called Down Under Pots. Plants go in at the open bottom but the pot is hung rightside up and the plant grows around the outside as it seeks light from above. Hanging wires included. In a variety of colors.
Kids (toys and books)
• One toy popping up on lists this year is WowWee's Paper Jamz guitars. They're paper-thin and have no actual strings. For $25, the battery-operated guitars rely on hidden touch sensors to play music. Each is loaded with three classic rock songs that can be played in different modes.
m Looking for plush? Small Ugly Dolls can be had for $10.
• The Land of Nod sells a good-looking classic magic set for $35. Velvet bag, magic box, wand and more.
• Board games: Among holiday picks from the consumer guide Toy Insider is Pressman Toy's Diary of a Wimpy Kid Cheese Touch Game, for three to six players who travel through categories that include guessing how others answered such questions as, "If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?" $24.99.
Scrabble Flash, $29.99. Players move around five electronic tiles to make as many words as they can in a minute. Letters change from game to game.
Monopoly Revolution, $39.99. No more paper money in this round-shaped electronic edition with new high-tech pieces, sound effects (hear the door slam behind you when you go to jail) and music.