Something’s gotta give

15 gift ideas for under $15

Val Callahan will help you make your own candle at Flicker.

Val Callahan will help you make your own candle at Flicker.


We just can’t help ourselves. All year we’ve tried to save money. Then suddenly Christmas comes upon us imploring us to blow what remains. But one good thing this stubborn economy has done during this season of giving—and spending—is it’s given us an excuse to scale back. After all, everybody’s doing it. For those who truly know the concept of hard-earned money, a gift, even a small one, means a lot.

That said, don’t expect a pair of socks to leave the recipient jumping for joy, unless, of course, that person is barefoot in the cold. But for $15 or less, there are some things you can find at local, independent businesses—and helping them helps all of us—that still live up to that word, gift. Here are 15 of them, in no particular order.

The first three gift ideas fit with the do-it-yourself ethos. When you make something yourself, the fact that it’s small or didn’t cost much money doesn’t seem to matter. In a way, you’re stretching your $15, since the time and care you put into it can mean more to the receiver than the money you spent.

Fuzz that Wuzz stuffed bears at EcoReno

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DIY candle. Make your own candle at Flicker, 3594 W. Plumb Lane. Choose among four shapes under $15, pick out a scent, like apple pie or spruce; select your colors, then sit down for 30-45 minutes at one of Flicker’s work tables to make your candle gift. Three-year-olds can do this, so the technique isn’t difficult, but employees are there to help. The candles, which are paraffin wax, need two to three hours to dry, so you can pick it up that day or the next. Or get a gift certificate so you and your giftee can make candles together.

Homemade ceramics. Clay Canvas, 550 W. Plumb Lane, has been helping people glaze their own ceramics for 12 years. Unglazed mugs, plates, bowls and figurines line the walls around the large, central work space. The studio fee for supplies and firing is $9 for adults, $6 for kids. That may not leave much with only $15 to spend, but you could make a personalized ornament for $5 or small mug for $6. And keep an eye out for discounted days on Your piece is usually ready about a week after making it, so keep that in mind if you need it by Christmas.

Be a knit wit. A skein or two of yarn and some basic knitting skills can let you make a scarf or hat for under $15, even using organic cotton. One place to find great yarn is Jimmy Beans Wool, 5000 Smithridge Drive.

For the kids. I’d always considered Baboo, 131 California Ave., to be a high-end baby boutique for kids who look like Suri Cruise. So I was surprised at some of the pretty onesies and shirts hiding in their $10 bin. Raid it, is all I can say. For budget- and eco-friendly toys, EcoReno, 1095 S. Virginia St., carries cuddly, bamboo-stuffed bunnies and ducks for $15, and their Fuzz that Wuzz stuffed bears ($15) are made from recycled water bottles. For moms, their stylish “yuck sacks”—three words I never thought I’d see together—make diaper disposal somehow look cute and contemporary, but they’re $16 if you can spare the dollar.

Lotion at Lavender Ridge

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Bath and body. Lavender Ridge, 7450 W. Fourth St., carries a gold mine of gifts for under $15. Their lavender products are all made by owners Kristen and Mike Harris, who grow the sweet smelling herb at their idyllic farm and turn it into products sold in their onsite gift shop. To name a few: shea butter ($12.75), moisturizer ($11), shower gel ($10), aftershave ($9), hand soap ($9.50), cuticle cream ($11), soy candle in a glass votive ($15), a variety of culinary goods and more, some of which could be combined for a little gift package.

For locavore gourmands. Nevada Store, 3362 Lakeside Court, features a hodgepodge of locally made gifts for under $15. A few standouts: natural handmade soaps ($5), local honey ($6.75), Tahoe Toffee Brittle ($10), a box of Davidson’s organic tea ($3.25), all of which seems to scream “gift bag.”

Chocolate. Let the chocolatiers at Dorado Chocolate, 1296 E. Plumb Lane, hook you up with a decadent gift that should be savored rather than stuffed down the throat like so much stocking candy. You can get four truffles for $13, toffee for about $10 or a bag of chocolate almonds for around $8.

Join the club. Give a membership to the Great Basin Community Food Cooperative, 542 1/2 Plumas St. Doing so helps support local foods and local farmers, as well as gives the receiver the chance to get reduced prices on fresh, sustainably grown foods. A yearlong membership costs $15. Print out a membership application at, and bring it to the store.

Personal ceramic art at Clay Canvas

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Cups and cups of coffee. There are few people who couldn’t use a warm drink during the winter. A gift certificate at a local coffee shop is likely to please. A few suggestions: Bibo Coffee Company, 680 Mount Rose St. and 50 Liberty St.; Java Jungle, 246 W. First St.; The Hub, 32 Cheney St.; or wherever your friend or family member loves to go.

Books. You don’t have to go online or to a megabookstore to get a good book. Sundance Bookstore, 1155 W. Fourth St., has been supplying a great selection in a comfortable setting for more than 20 years. A gift certificate at one of Reno’s used bookstores would go far, too. Suggestions: Dharma Books, 11 N. Sierra St.; Zephyr Books, 1501 S. Virginia St.; Grassroots Books, 660 E. Grove St.; Book Gallery, 1203 Rock Blvd., Sparks.

Yoga class. Give the gift of stress relief with a class pass to a yoga studio. Most yoga classes—from hatha to bikram to laughing yoga and acroyoga—cost less than $15. It could kickstart a New Year’s resolution. There many worthy yoga studios in town, so do some research, but I can personally vouch for Yoga Loka, 6135 Lakeside Drive, and the Yoga Center, 720 Tahoe St.

Ornaments, ornaments, ornaments. Most of these are under $15. Whether you choose one that commemorates a special occasion or moment or just one you find attractive, your giftee can hang this each year and think of you. They’re sold everywhere, but a wide assortment is typically found at garden and nursery centers. I’ve found luck at Moana Nursery, 1100 W. Moana Lane, and Rail City Garden Center, 1720 Brierly Way, Sparks.

Frame a memorable photo. This is always a good, affordable gift. Professional developing and a selection of frames can be found at Gordon’s Photo Service, 5067 S. McCarran Blvd.

Music. If you know someone who loves to peruse music aisles and come up with unexpected finds, give them a gift certificate to Recycled Records, 3344 Kietzke Lane. If there’s something specific you’re looking for, find it or order it from Discology, 11 N. Sierra St., No. 100, which is now inside the Truckee River Gallery along the Riverwalk, or at Sundance Bookstore, 1155 W. Fourth St., where the music selection is small but good.

Snowshoe or ski rental. Give some fun on the slopes by wrapping an I.O.U. slip for a one-day snowshoe or cross country ski rental. At Reno Mountain Sports, 155 E. Moana Lane, one-day snowshoe rental costs $14 with poles, $12 without, and for cross country skis, it’s $15 for skis, boots and poles.