If someone invites you to a BBQ or a dinner party, the mature thing to do is to make everyone else attending the event look like garbage when you show up bearing hostess gifts! Just because you’re broke doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be classy! Besides, it’s really fun to shop for people based on the fact that they like to provide food, beverages, and entertainment for you. It’s like saying, “Here, use this to show me a better time next time” or “You should have had this before I got here.” Except in our case, all of these host & hostess gifts are actually really amazing, clever, unique, and useful – not insulting in the least!
There’s no altruism in my gift giving. I enjoy every step of the gift-giving process all the way down to making my own wrapping paper, so I jump at any opportunity to force people to accept things that I think are cool. Luckily, these gifts are very affordable. For birthday presents and hospitality gifts like these, I probably wouldn’t spend more than $20 – maybe $30 if it’s for someone you don’t see very often, or it’s a special occasion. Be careful, though – you might end up keeping some of these for yourself!
13 Unique & Awesome Gifts Under $30
Beautiful Briny Sea Salt Trio
$22 at UncommonGoods
Salt is, like, really good. If you’ve never tried the weird, artisanal salts that you see at co-ops and fancy grocery stores, you are truly missing a bougie experience that everyone should have. These three salts from Beautiful Briny Sea (such a good brand name) are totally different from one another, and will make an awesome and unique gift for the salty bitches in your life.
Let’s talk about the blends: Magic Unicorn Salt is actually extremely savory and combines herbs and citrus with sea salt. It would be really good on probably everything. Santa Salt (these names are getting weird) is a blend of rosemary and peppercorn, named for its red and green appearance. Last but not least, Friends Forever Salt (whatever) is pure sea salt combined with crystallized honey which makes it good for sweet applications like fruit or even ice cream.
Old Dutch “Fez” Hammered Copper Cocktail Shaker
$17.99 at Amazon
Time to force your friends to recycle their Playskool cocktail shaker with the drink recipes on the side. Sure, this hammered copper model might not glow in UV light, but it’s time to try to be an adult. Tell your friend that they can make their Everclear-laden hippie juice in this! Deal with it!
Booze Bottled Up Decanter
$19.99 at Perpetual Kid
Now this is how you prove you’re an adult. A decanter? For your alcohols? That’s about as mature as you can get. This lovely glass decanter has the word “Booze” etched in gold so you don’t mistake it for your similarly shaped Diet Dr. Pepper decanter.
Gold Alligator Salt & Pepper Shakers
$14.95 at CB2
Can you believe these over-the-top salt and pepper shakers are less than $15? They look like something you’d see in an opulent swamp castle. These are the perfect gift for a BBQ because, as a host, you never have enough salt & pepper shakers to go around. Plus, these alligators are begging to be placed on a garish red and white gingham tablecloth. Using them is probably a weird feeling considering where the holes are, but let’s be honest, these salt & pepper shakers are table candy more than a functional part of a meal.
Cutting Boredom “Chopsky” Banksy Cutting Board
$30 at Cutting Boredom on Etsy
Cutting Boredom has dozens of clever and inventive cutting boards. This one has a parody of a famous Banksy art piece but with a spatula instead of a bouquet of flowers. “Chopsky” is a stretch, but they do good work over there at Cutting Boredom, so I’ll let it slide.
The nice thing about giving someone a cutting board is that you’re giving them something they can use for cooking you food and serving you food. Either way, you get food.
RackPack Convertible Wine Rack
$24.99 at UncommonGoods
When I hit age 25, about half of my previously shotglass friends became wine glass friends. A couple of my buddies even took off to become vintners. Now I feel like I have to know anything at all about wine and that… is… not going to happen.
In lieu of rich and compelling conversation about the “vintage reds” or whatever, I can provide clever and cool wine-related gifts like this convertible wine rack. Not only is it cool looking, but it also folds out to accommodate 3, 6, or 12 bottles of wine! While everyone else brings bottles of wine to the party, you can bring the much-needed wine rack to accommodate them all. Honestly, this is a pretty clever hostess gift, if I do say so myself!
Guy Fieri Prayer Candle
$14.99 at Celebrity Prayer Candles
Now here is a cultural subject I can intellectualize for hours: Guy Fieri. Where did he come from? What does he mean?
For your most flippant friends, this is an excellent host or hostess gift. Celebrity Prayer Candles has a ton of different options as far as celebrities go, so if Guy isn’t your speed, pick up a Carrie Fisher, Bruce Springsteen, or a classic Kim Kardashian. Don’t even think about questioning the adultity of this gift. These celebrities are rich anthropological and philosophical symbols of our generation. And Carrie Fisher is Carrie freaking Fisher!
Umbra Hammered Head Bottle Opener
$16 at Amazon
Here’s another item that party-throwers can have enough of: bottle openers. Moreover, novelty bottle openers. This one is a chromed out hammerhead shark, but there is no shortage of animal-shaped bottle openers out there, so if you need your bottle opener to be represented by a specific member of the animal kingdom, chances are good you’ll find it.
The Bathroom Guestbook
$15 at UncommonGoods
Is this not the best goddamn idea you’ve ever heard? A guestbook for your bathroom is the most genius host or hostess gift because it’s more than just a hilarious bathroom accessory – it’s actually a certifiable keepsake! If you’re the type of person who always wishes that they took more pictures at parties, you and all of your friends need one of these. In fifty years, you will be having a legitimate LMAO in your rocking chair while you remember that time that Dave fell into the bathtub while trying to pee because he forgot he took Dramamine earlier in the day. (That is a real story that I wish was recorded in a bathroom guestbook.) If your friends use your bathroom, you need this!
Beautiful Briny Sea Beautiful Dreamer Rose Sugar
$10 at Perpetual Kid
Okay, back to the booze. Well, okay, this isn’t actually booze, it’s sugar. But! It’s sugar that I feel would be best suited for use on the rim of a cocktail glass. This rose sugar is just pure cane sugar and rose petals which would be unbelievably delicious in a variety of uses. Rose goes really well with berries (raspberry, especially!) but would also pair really nicely with a dry vodka martini or a vanilla-scented cocktail.
Or, OR… you could just eat it. You could sprinkle this on glazed berries, or just on top of your ice cream, brownie, cake, toast, face… The possibilities are endless! Also shoutout to Beautiful Briny Sea for making it onto this list twice!
Animal Head Shot Glasses
$16 at Foodiggity
Did you think we were done with the alcohol-themed personification of animals? Think again! These little figurines look like majestic forest creatures (and a rhinoceros) when they’re upside down. Flip them over and they are perfectly balanced two ounce shot glasses made out of unusual opaque, black ceramic. Better yet, they come in already-great packaging, so when you give these as a gift to your burliest mountain friend (that’s me in my social circle FYI), it’ll be as impressive as possible.
Jar of Happy
$14.99 at Perpetual Kid
Here’s the gift on this list that will actually make you look like really, really good friend. The Jar of Happy is full of positive and uplifting activity ideas that you can pull when you’re feeling bored or blue. They’re written on cute pastel popsicle sticks that could easily be reused or passed on to other friends. Actually, this would be an incredible re-gift because even after you use it entirely, it’s still as good as new. Hello, perfect gift!
SunnyLife Ice Cream Marquee Light
$19.99 at Perpetual Kid
Is it weird to buy someone an ice cream shaped marquee light when you come to their house for a BBQ or dinner party? Should you do it anyway? Yeah, probably. Does it belong on this list? Errr… Maybe… not?
This thing is less than a foot tall, though, so it’s not that weird. It’s just a little ice cream! It would be very, very cute on a vanity or in the kitchen, or especially cute on a bar next to a hammerhead shark bottle opener and a rose sugar-rimmed shot glass shaped like a moose.