Nifty Gifts on a College Budget

This year, don’t resort to a last-minute gift card. Buy something unique while avoiding the dreaded mall crowds by shopping for presents online. These Web sites offer original and affordable gifts, from beautifully crafted baubles to downright wacky knickknacks.
Etsy.com is a treasure trove of handmade goodies. This is the perfect place to order gifts that cannot be found anywhere else. Because many items are vintage or handmade, sellers often have only one of each in stock. For example, the seller “dugshop” has pomegranate-scented soap shaped like a human heart, the perfect gift for an aspiring surgeon ($6.50). Majestyinc sells vinyl key chains shaped like mustaches for $3.00. Etsy has “Geekery,” a whole category devoted to eccentric finds like these. If you are shopping for a more traditional present, however, look no further than Etsy’s handmade jewelry and housewares.
Etsy’s Gift Guides help shoppers browse gifts by other categories like “environmentally friendly,” “steampunk,” “dark arts” and “nostalgic whimsy.” You can also narrow gifts by recipient, price range and even the location of the seller.
FredFlare.com also helps you shop by theme and price range. The site has a plethora of gift themes from Audrey Hepburn (which includes ladylike sweaters and “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” eye masks) to Star Wars (an R2-D2 backpack and astronaut ice cream). FredFlare carries something for everybody, from cute jewelry to funky flash drives and other gadgets. Presents for the home include Juno’s hamburger phone ($26), a mini fondue kit ($10) and an ice cream-shaped lamp ($48). You’ll find tons of fun and affordable presents for girly-girls and nerdy friends alike.
Speaking of geeky gifts, ThinkGeek.com is heaven for the easily amused. ThinkGeek carries what could arguably be the coolest t-shirts ever. The Electronic Drum Kit shirt has an embedded speaker that plays seven drum noises when you tap spots on the shirt’s drum graphic. The Wi-Fi Detector shirt displays the Wi-Fi signal strength in fluctuating glowing bars. Both shirts are $29.99 and will surely entertain the Rock Band lovers and computer geeks on your list.
ThinkGeek also has some obscure gifts that could entertain your zaniest friends, like the R2 Fish Training School Kit, which is exactly what it sounds like. For $39.99, you get an instructional DVD, an instruction manual and more accessories that will help the lucky recipient teach his or her goldfish “over 10 amazing tricks.” For the ultimate useless present enthusiast, order a box of LOLMagnetz to make captions for your very own “Lolcat,” cat images juxtaposed with humorous statements in broken, Internet slang ($19.99). I can has?
Even higher up on the crazy gift scale are presents from Edible.com. Edible is not for the faint of stomach. Have you ever tried oven-baked tarantula, scorpion-infused vodka, or barbeque worm crisps? What about Thai green crocodile curry? Edible carries all these things and more. The England-based Web site carries food that you would never think can be consumed, but happen to be delicacies in certain countries. Edible even explains the nutritional value of its products and describes their tastes. For example, did you know that Mopani worms, a snack enjoyed by South African natives, have a texture that’s similar to tofu, but taste like dried fish?
Those who don’t want gifts made from animals might enjoy food made with the animals’ help, like tea picked by specially trained monkeys or coffee that has been regurgitated by weasels.
In Edible’s “aphrodisiac” section, you can find “the ultimate extravagance”: a champagne-flavored lollipop that contains flakes of 24-karat gold. The Aphrodisiac Pearl Lollipop, made with real ground pearls, raw cane sugar and wild Madagascan vanilla essence, sounds genuinely yummy.
Whatever you choose to buy from these Web sites, one thing is guaranteed: a holiday shopping experience that has never been this memorable.