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ShopSmart finds feel-good gifts for under $50

Posted Friday, November 11, 2011

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Where to buy unforgettable presents that give back

Yonkers, NY — Buying the right present for everyone on your holiday list can certainly be a challenge. The December 2011 issue of ShopSmart magazine, from the publisher of Consumer Reports, has gift ideas for less than $50 from sites that donate to charity, protect the planet, promote fair trade, or all of the above.

“The truth is it’s hard to buy gifts for dozens of folks during the holiday rush,” said Lisa Lee Freeman, editor-in-chief of ShopSmart. “We found lots of great sites where you can buy reasonably priced and unique presents for everyone on your list, and proceeds from their sale support good causes like music charities and animal-rescue groups.”
This nonprofit teaches job and life skills to low-income women in Denver, and every purchase helps further its mission. You can also buy a single sleeve of bean-soup mix – a yummy stocking stuffer – for just $4.50.

Order by: Dec. 13
Gift wrapping: No
Shipping: Starts at $5
Returns: 30 days from purchase
All of the stylish housewares at this site are earth- and people-friendly. Shop for presents by recipient, occasion, and price. The under-$50 section has lots of great hostess ideas.

Order by: Dec. 20
Gift wrapping: $6.95
Shipping: Starts at $4.95
Returns: 30 days from receipt
This business aims to do good and make wine that tastes good. The organic vintages are grown sustainably and harvested with tractors using 50 percent biodiesel fuel. Buy single bottles, a gift set, or an annual membership.

Order by: Dec. 14 (East Coast), Dec. 19 (West Coast)
Gift wrapping: No, but wine sets come in a custom box
Shipping: Starts at $25
Returns: Anytime if flawed or damaged
This company’s slogan is “We don’t hire people to bake brownies. We bake brownies to hire people.” It gives “hard to employ” people a living wage and more. The decadent desserts are a bonus.

Order by: Dec. 15
Gift wrapping: All gifts come in a reusable gift box
Shipping: Starts at $7
Returns: For errors, notify within two days of receipt
The groovy glassware on this site is all made from recycled glass, like old soda bottles. You’ll find lots of serving pieces (pitchers and carafes), decorative items (vases and candleholders), and drinkware (wineglasses and tumblers).

Order by: Dec. 19
Gift wrapping: No
Shipping: Starts at $7
Returns: 30 days from shipping
The music lover you love will adore a gift from this site, where you’ll find unisex bracelets made from old guitar and bass strings. Choose a bracelet made of strings from musicians like the Bacon Brothers and Carlos Santana, and sales help their favorite music charities.

Order by: Dec. 15
Gift wrapping: Starts at $3
Shipping: Starts at $4
Returns: 30 days from receipt
Organic candles for dogs sound wacky, but these are designed to provide aromatherapy for the four-legged and two-legged alike, and a portion of the sales benefit animal-rescue groups. Scents include Splendor in the Grass, Day in the Hamptons, and the dog owner’s true friend, Fart & Away, to neutralize odors.

Order by: Dec. 16
Gift wrapping: No
Shipping: Flat $10
Returns: 7 days from receipt
Handmade is the name of the game for this nonprofit, which links women’s groups in Sudan, Iraq, Peru, Bolivia, and other countries to help them advocate for social justice and change. Proceeds from sale of the clothing, jewelry, and home products help the women advance their families and communities.

Order by: Dec. 13
Gift wrapping: Free
Shipping: Starts at $2.50
Returns: 30 days from receipt
The supersoft T-shirts on this site feature the covers of classic (and sometimes out-of-print) books. For each shirt purchased, the company donates a book to communities in need via another charity organization, Books for Africa.

Order by: Dec. 15
Gift wrapping: No
Shipping: Starts at $6
Returns: 14 days from receipt
Shop here for baby and kid toys and essentials. At checkout round up your order to the nearest dollar, and the change will benefit one of three children’s charities: Healthy Child Healthy World, Prevent Child Abuse America, and Childhelp.

Order by: Dec. 18
Gift wrapping: Free
Shipping: Starts at $5.99
Returns: 30 days from purchase; store credit after
This site donates 25 percent of its net profits to various charities. Its brightly colored wrap bracelets are popping up on celebrity wrists all over Hollywood. Each features empowering messages.

Order by: Dec. 16
Gift wrapping: No
Shipping: Starts at $8
Returns: 90 days from purchase

About Consumer Reports:
Consumer Reports is the world’s largest independent product-testing organization. Using its more than 50 labs, auto test center, and survey research center, the nonprofit rates thousands of products and services annually. Founded in 1936, Consumer Reports has over 8 million subscribers to its magazine, website, and other publications. Its advocacy division, Consumers Union, works for health reform, food and product safety, financial reform, and other consumer issues in Washington, D.C., the states, and in the marketplace.

About ShopSmart magazine:
Launched in Fall 2006 by Consumer Reports, ShopSmart draws upon the publication’s celebrated tradition of accepting no advertisements and providing unbiased product reviews. ShopSmart features product reviews, shopping tips on how to get the most out of products and “best of the best” lists. It’s ideal for busy shoppers who place a premium on time. ShopSmart has a newsstand price of $4.99 and is available nationwide at major retailers including Barnes & Noble, Wal-Mart, Borders, Kroger, Safeway and Publix. ShopSmart is available by subscription at

ShopSmart is available 10 times a year. Subscribe at

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ShopSmart finds feel-good gifts for under $50

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