The Recessionista’s Holiday Gift Guide

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The Recessionista’s Holiday Gift Guide 2012

It’s time for our annual holiday gift list.  Our staff  (me, myself and I) loves the holiday season!  We love to shop, and now we use our time to shop for others instead of just ourself.  It’s brilliant.  Throughout the year, The Recessionista has unique opportunities to shop and review products from leading retailers via products sent for evaluation or special shopping events.  In evaluating items for the gift guide, I look at quality and price.  Many products are reviewed, but not all are included.  I don’t take the time to write about items to stay away  from, I just don’t include them on my pick list.  Here’s a few of my brilliant ideas on gifts , evaluated and tested by The Recessionista.

 Fashionable Gifts for Women

Cashmere Sweaters and Scarves: If you are interested in a good deal on a luxurious cashmere sweater, I highly recommend the Philosophy by Dane Lewis cashmere sweaters at Nordstrom Rack for women. The sweater I tried  was a gorgeous color and a great style, although very traditional a crew neck sweater will always be a wardrobe staple. The Rack price for the sweater was $49.97 the retail price was $218.00. That is a substantial savings. For more great cashmere, check out Enzo Mantovani sweater at Costco.  For a holiday look, check out Topshop’s beaded collar sweater. This sweaters marries  jewelry to the sweater via a beaded collar that will give you plenty of holiday sparkle.

Designer collections at discount retailers: Some of the designer collections at retailers right now are really good.   My favorites are the Narcisco Rodriguez Collection at Kohl’s and some of the JC Penney designers like Nicole Miller and their MNG Mango collections.  Check out these low budget designer items for a fraction of their high-end line costs.

Handbags and fashionable accessories for less. The new collection of Lulu Guinness “LULU” handbags at  JC Penney offers beautiful replicas of her high-end line. Enjoy all of the savings and none of the guilt.   The LULU luggage tags from JC Penney are on sale for $5.00.  These make great gifts/stocking stuffers. I also like the JC Penney Jenny Packham accessories. These are very good looking and affordable. The collection didn’t get anywhere near the hype of the Target Neiman Marcus Holiday collection, but this collection is not all hype and the price point is just right! 🙂  For more upscale handbags from designers, go to Neiman Marcus Last Call or Nordstorm Rack where you’ll find Marc Jacobs, Tory Burch, and many more. Until Dec. 11th, check out the Kate Spade handbag event on eBay.

Scarves and wraps:  Check out Jones New York’s colorful wraps at Macy’s. The rich colors are amazing from teal, to ruby red, to simple ivory, they are like jewels.  JNY wraps are  ultra comfortable and the prices are extremely affordable. Nordstrom Rack also has great cashmere scarves from English Laundry.  If you’re in the UK, New York or Asia look for Orla Kiely Scarves at Uniqlo.  They are simply amazing!

Fashion Jewelry: Check out J. Crew’s jewelry on sale.   Also take a good look at White House Black Market’s flower rings and pendants.  Their styles are similar to Chanel’s classic Camellia flower jewelry but for much less. Look for more great accessories at H&M, Zara and Topshop.  Neiman Marcus Last Call has amazing jewelry for under $100.00 including Kendra Scott and Devon Leigh.  For a complete surprise, check out the Paula Abdul fashion jewelry from Avon.  The teardrop earrings for $25.00 are surprisingly good looking.  Of course, my favorite costume jewelry for class and affordable price is the Jacqueline Kennedy collection from QVC.  You can’t go wrong with pieces chosen by Jackie Kennedy!

If you want to upgrade beyond costume jewelry, have a look at Tacori.   They have some beautiful earrings.

Fashionable Gifts for Men

You know that the men in your life probably wouldn’t buy these items for themselves, that’s why you need to give them as gifts.

Cashmere scarf :  (Macy’s, Amazon, Loehmann’s, Nordstorm’s & others all have great choices.) Nordstrom Rack has gorgeous English Laundry men’s scarves for $39.97.
Cashmere or Merino Wool Sweater: Check out the deals at Costco for the cashmere and Merino Wool sweaters by Italian designer Enzo Mantovani.
Watch: A good watch or timepiece. You can find these at Nordstrom’s Rack, TJ Maxx and Macy’s. Sometimes we can all be a bit absent minded, so I find gifting a watch can be helpful to them and me!
Shirts and Ties:  My personal favorite is Ted Baker shirts and ties. They brighten up any wardrobe.  But you can find  designer ties at budget stores like Loehmann’s,
Good blazer or sports jacket. Check Loehmann’s, TJ Maxx, Brooks Brothers or Nordstrom Rack for good quality items. Online, check out Gilt Groupe for items from leading designers.

 Gift Cards– The Recessionista’s Top Picks

iTunes Gift Card. You can’t go wrong with the gift of music. The recipient gets to pick their favorite tunes and you get to pick up a convenient and economical gift from the grocery, the drugstore or even online for sending via email. It’s easy and a great way to avoid last minute shipping snafus.

American Express or Retailer/Store Gift Cards give you something nice to put under the tree or in a stocking. You can find American Express cards at just about any grocery or drugstore. The nice thing about the Amex card is it is fee free. That means if you paid $50.00 for it, your giftee gets to use $50.00 worth of your gift. There are no service charge fees added in. Amazon Gift Cards are also readily available at stores oronline. If you give an Amazon card, you are allowing your giftee to select from thousands of great items are hard to beat prices. Remember, if you have a credit card with a points program (like American Express Membership Rewards, you can cash in points for gifts online and print out the gift card from your PC to include under the tree or in a stocking.) Gift cards to shop H&M,, Anthropologie, TJ Maxx, Marshalls, White House Black Market, Nordstroms, Gilt Group, Ruelala, HauteLook, Ideeli (see my top picks on the right nav for links) and other retailers also make great gifts. Remember, the money on the gift card will go farther at the after Christmas sales.

Spa Gift Cards:  Give the gift of pampering to your partner, best friend, mom, co-worker or even yourself.   In Los Angeles, I recommend treatments from Burke Williams (hot stone message),  Thibiant (amazing facials and massages), VeraBella (get her facial or give it as a gift, it’s unbelievable.)  For more spa deals, check out the SpaWeek website for deals in your area.

Spaphile gift card. If you’re in the Los Angeles, area, check out the new Spaphile gift card.  This is a great gift for a special co-worker or girl friend. Spaphile Membership Card provides member-only discounts at top spas, salons and fitness centers, priority access to VIP beauty events (like the Night of Beauty), and free package of spa and beauty products. Present your card at top spas and salons and receive discounts every time you go (check Spaphile offers to see all that local businesses that accept Spaphile cards)! If  have a friend that regularly goes to spas, salons, or fitness centers, this is something that will pay for itself – talk about a gift that keeps on giving! Get a deal with Holiday promo code “gift2012” for a $50 Spaphile Membership card (comes with a package of spa/beauty product samples from Sonya Dakar Skin Care, NYX Cosmetics, Skin Owl, Nick Chavez Beverly Hills, Burke Williams Spa and much more (over $200 value)! The retail price for a Spaphile membership card is $79

Beauty Gifts:

Neiman Marcus Last Call: Looking for Estee Launder and leading cosmetic brands at Neiman Marcus Last Call.  They have gorgeous gift boxes from leading cosmetic companies.  Many great gifts under $50.00.

Nordstrom Rack:  Look for products from Bliss Spa, Dr. Perricone and others.  One of my favorites, Bliss Spa Beauty Butter in Vanilla Bergomot, is just $12.97.

TJ Maxx: They have lots of perfumes, including Burberry for much less than retail. Look for the Molton Brown bath gels. Occasionally you can find one offs for great prices.

Avon: They have all kinds of cute stocking stuffers for under $10.00 and under $20.00.  Look for their holiday assortment of lip glosses. Look for the Be Jeweled Mini Lip Gloss Set for just $5.99. The Anew products are fantastic for anti-aging.  They make great, and luxury looking, gifts.

Rimmel London: I had the opportunity to try their make-up during a special suite at London Fashion Week. I had heard of their mascara, but I hadn’t use their lipsticks or foundations.  Both are fantastic and offer terrific value.  Their foundations are packed with sunscreen which is essential to protect your skin.  I like the Rimmel London Match Perfection Foundation BB Cream with SPF 25  is reasonably priced at  approx. $12.00. The  Kate lipsticks come in wonderful colors and actually have flavors, so they taste great on your lips.   As for the Mascara, it really is the best for the price.  My favorite is the “Scandal Eyes Show Off .”  An easy and inexpensive gift idea is to make a holiday stocking filled with Rimmel Beauty Products for your favorite girlfriend for the holiday.  The products are inexpensive but perform like high-end luxury cosmetics.  You can find them at any drugstore  (Walgreens) and online at ASOS and


A good bottle of wine makes a great holiday gift.  Look for some of my cheap and cheerful  wine favorites like FlipFlop Wines, Cameron Hughes at and Costco.   Click here to check our The Recessionista’s favorite holiday red wines these frugal wines well priced at under $20.00.

  • 2005 Ercavio Roble La Mancha: A delicious red wine produced from 100% Cencibel (Tempranillo). This full bodied wine has overtones of blueberries and blackberries. I am eager to get a few bottle of this approximately $8.00 bottle of vino onto my wine rack.
  • Navarro Correas Colección Privada Malbec: A nice rich, spicy red that would go well with turkey or beef.
  • Cameron Hughes  236- 2007 Clear Lake Syrah, winner of the San Diego Wine International Gold Medal.  With its notes of Blueberry this wine is delicious alongside lamb, beef or even seafood.
  • The Flip Flop Pinot Noir is my pick for best cheap and cheerful Pinot Noir.  Like Miles in the movie Sideways, I am always on a quest for the perfect Pinot.  Flip Flop’s Pinot is a medium bodied wine, not too heavy with just the right hint of cherry.  Flip Flop also makes a good Chardonnay and an award-winning Moscato, which is a sweet wine.

For more gift ideas, check out our Holiday Tech Gift Guide featuring Microsoft’s technology picks and tech accessories from leading retailers.  Check out The Recessionista’s Pinterest board for pictures of some of our picks!


Since 2008, Mary Hall has been the author of The Recessionista Blog, which is read by thousands of regular readers in over 160 countries. An internationally recognized expert on the art of the living the good life for less, she has been a commentator on local, national, and international radio and TV shows. Her advice has been featured in over 2,000 media outlets, including The New York Times, Reuters, Life & Style magazine, ABC News, NBC News and now The Huffington Post, among many others.

1 Comment

  1. Steve Galindo

    December 23, 2012 at 7:16 pm

    Love it ! Great selection. S.