Find the Perfect Gift…

Thoughts That Count

You may not love them. Heck, you might not even know them that well. There are people, however, you simply cannot face empty-handed this season. Here, inexpensive gifts ($25 or less) that are anything but cheap.

For Good Listeners
Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats self-titled vinyl album, $24.99, available at Twist and Shout, 2508 E. Colfax Ave., 303-722-1943

For New Acquaintances
Rosy Rings Anjou Pear tin candle, $18

For Secret Santas
Sage 8 Studio Colorado pine ornament, $10

For Foodies
Merfs Condiments Hand Grenade Sriracha, $6

For Hostesses
Jen G Studios Colorado mountain range cotton muslin kitchen towels, $18 each

For Outdoor Imbibers
What We Love The Winery refillable 187-milliliter Decadent Saint Mulled Wine pouch with portable heating element (similar to hand warmers), $8

For Four-legged Best Friends
Kong treat-dispensing Duets Kibble Ball, $7.99 for size medium, available at Simpawtico, 4500 W. 38th Ave., Suite 110, 720-381-6819

For Hip Kids
Moore Collection kids lantern tee, $22

4 Local Greeting-Card Makers We Love

The easiest (and most cost-effective!) way to spread holiday cheer? Through the USPS, of course. This year, skip Hallmark and Shutterfly in favor of cards from these local makers. Simply find your personality type below.

For 26 years, the Gathering Place has sold cards handmade by the women, kids, and transgender individuals experiencing poverty or homelessness who use the daytime drop-in center’s services. Amplify your impact by placing bulk orders of cards (which can be customized with your company name) printed with their original artwork—like this acrylic painting called “Gold Trees”—through the nonprofit’s year-old Art Restart program. Starts at $150 for 50

These cards from Denver’s Handmade by Steady Radiance Design may look crass at first glance (e.g., “YOU’RE A BIG FAT MAN”), but once your recipients read between the lines—“YOU’RE my wish for Christmas, so don’t panic if A BIG FAT MAN sneaks into your room and puts you in a sack”—they’ll get the real message you’re sending. $24.99 for 10

Colorado Fanboy
Showcase your love for where you live with this Denver skyline snow globe illustration from Monkey Mind Design. Make your home outside the borders of the Mile High City? Opt for the “Peace and Joy From Colorado” Volkswagen bus version. $14 for six

Green Freak
Artifact Uprising’s custom three-in-one photo cards are printed on 100 percent recycled paper and include perforations so they can be easily repurposed as next season’s gift tags and year-round fridge pics. $45 for 25

Presents With Presence

Whether you’re getting together with your family or celebrating the holidays with your closest friends, these items—from as little as $33 up to a cool $85—will secure your reputation as the consummate gift-giver.

For Cocktail Sippers
Strongwater herbal bitters sample box (one ounce each of Amores Melipona, Sweet Riza, Fire Tamer, and Golden Ichor flavors), $35

For Dear Old Dads
Spinster Sisters Co. shaving kit, $45

For Yogis
Kind Design U.S.-made Red Rocks Topo fashion leggings, $70

For Top Chefs
Savory Spice monthly Spice Club (a one-ounce handcrafted seasoning and a half-ounce herb or spice, plus a recipe, per delivery), $49 for six months, multiple locations

For Old-School Gamers 14er-opoly game, $39.95, available at I Heart Denver Store, Denver Pavilions, 500 16th St., 720-317-2328

For Nostalgia-Lovers
Christopher & Co. 16-by-20-inch giclee Beaver Creek ski print, $85

For Soul Sisters (Or Mothers)
Storytelling Strands copper, sterling silver, and 14-karat yellow-gold-fill bracelets, $33 to $43 each

For Stylish Campers
Winter Session cotton natural canvas log tote, $85, 2952 Welton St., 303-975-6115

4 Meaningful Group-Gifting Options

When you want to avoid receiving yet another hand-crocheted Broncos sweater from Aunt Edith—or are simply fed up with the commercialization of the season—try these more meaningful group-gifting options.

$1 and up: Challenge your friends or family to dig up the coolest item they can find (think vintage concert T-shirts, old-school action figures, and funky costume jewelry) at one of Colorado nonprofit Arc Thrift Stores’ 23 locations, which employ approximately 200 people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Set a price limit to ensure an even playing field, and unveil the gifts in a white elephant exchange format.

$50: Pool your money to pick up one of Colorado Lottery’s new-for-2015 Granted Wishes holiday scratch-off tickets ($50) for the chance to score up to $3 million—the highest payout in the game’s history. Win or lose, you can feel good about the fact that the state lottery has given more than $2.8 billion to groups that protect wildlife, enhance natural spaces, and fund school improvements in the Centennial State.

$50 and up: Make a list, check it twice, and still get your shopping fix as you select items for struggling Coloradans through Denver Human Services’ annual Adopt-A-Family holiday drive (plan to spend $50 to $75 per person; single teens and seniors are available to sponsor as well). Provided names, ages, and preferences—favorite colors, sports teams, brands—of the people you’re shopping for will help your kids find common ground with those in need and learn that it really is better to give than to receive.

$360: Adopt a lion, tiger, or bear (oh my!) at Keenesburg’s Wild Animal Sanctuary—which cares for more than 400 rescued animals, many of which were formerly abused, on its 720-acre spread on the Eastern Plains—for a year. You’ll get a framed photo and an adoption certificate with your animal’s story to put under the tree.

Grand Gestures

You can’t put a price on love—but if you could, it would start at $119.99 and go, well, way up from there. These splurges are a great place to start when you need to go far beyond simply checking someone off your list.

For Adventurers

Hala Straight Up inflatable stand-up paddleboard (a repair kit, wheeled backpack, electric car pump, hand pump, and fin are included; three-piece Grafik travel paddles are $259 each), $1,359

For Kids With the Force

Sphero app-controlled Star Wars BB-8 Droid, $149.99

For Watch-Aholics

Vortic Watch Co. timepiece (the Boston model has a repurposed railroad-era pocket watch inside a 3-D printed steel case with a handmade leather band), $1,995

For Fashionistas On the Run

SVN Jackets hand-sewn running jacket made with moisture-wicking polyester-blend fabric, $215

For Road Warriors

Co.alition tech-friendly 22-liter Federal P Smartpack with a built-in power supply (charges your phone and tablet) and rainfly, $299, 4405 W. 43rd Ave., 303-750-6100

For Discerning Palates

Arta Extra Añejo five-year-aged tequila, $119.99, available at Argonaut Wine & Liquor, 760 E. Colfax Ave., 303-831-7788

For Work-From-Homers

DENY Designs 47-by-23-inch desk with Geomaze Grayscale design by Boulder artist Debbie Clapper (aka Gneural), $399

For Downhill Racers

Zeal Optics HD2 camera goggles (which wirelessly transfer photos and videos to your smartphone), $499

Year-Round Deals on Big-Ticket Items

Trip Advisory: Sure, the Denver International Sportsmen’s Exposition in January is a great place to find discounts on fly-fishing rods and four-wheelers (not guns, though; they’re not sold here), but it’s also a surefire scene for travel deals—from fishing trips to Alaska to hot-tub-filled weekends in Vail Valley. January 14–17; Colorado Convention Center

Going Low: The marquee names you see on the back nine on Sunday (Nike, Ping, Callaway) also post low numbers at the Denver Golf Expo in February by offering deals on drivers, irons, and putters. February 19–21; Denver Mart

Labor Day Party: Think of your family over Labor Day weekend—by ditching them and heading to Colorado Ski & Golf’s Ski Rex sale. The company’s six Front Range locations have last year’s skis, snowboards, boots, and clothing marked 30 to 75 percent off. Quick tip: The Aurora location has the best selection, what with the company’s warehouse right next door. September 2–5; multiple locations

Nearly Free Samples: Every September, regular people get golden tickets into the (typically) forbidden realm of high design during Denver Design District’s Sample Sale, when studios like CAI Designs, Grange, and Phoebe Mars cut up to 70 percent off the prices of their floor models—everything from art to rugs to sofas. Traditionally held the week after Labor Day; Denver Design District

What The Etiquette Expert Says About…

Office Gift-Giving: “The best thing offices can do is either the secret Santa or white elephant deal. You create a limit, $20 or less, and then you have a holiday drink or a lunch. But if there’s not some formal structure in your office, don’t give gifts at all. Because if you give someone a gift, they’re obliged to do the same.” —Debra Fine, Denver-based business etiquette expert

Buying Gifts For Your Parents: “There’s nothing worse than when my kids, no matter their financial situations, spend money on me. I have more money than they do, as it should be. What I want is an IOU—I want a gift certificate for dinner out with them or a card that says when I visit their city, they’re going to take me to a special place.” —Fine

Gift Of The Month Clubs “You can do fruit of the month, you can do wine, beer—whatever. If you can afford that for someone really special, then I just think it’s the gift that keeps giving.” —Fine

—Photography by Paul Miller