Struggling to squeeze all your usual giving into the holiday budget despite 6.2 percent inflation? Good news: Thanks to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ list of consumer price index subcategories, we know that not everything has gotten more expensive in this era of surging consumer demand and dysfunctional supply chains. Instead of giving Aunt Diane an even more costly fruitcake than usual (“fresh cakes and cupcakes” are up 6.6 percent), consider purchasing some of the following items from categories whose prices have stayed stable, by which we mean fell or increased by less than 1 percent. Some of them, to be clear, are even things that one might actually want to receive as a gift.
Frozen corn (frozen vegetables were down 0.3 percent between October 2020 and October 2021). A 12-ounce sack of frozen corn only costs 58 cents on Walmart.com at the moment. Did someone say corn for every meal during each of the 12 days of Christmas?
Hot dogs (down 3.3 percent). The BLS technically lists these under the old-timey name “frankfurters,” which means that they’re best suited to be given to an octogenarian with a name like Merle or Buck. $10.39 for a 5-pound family pack of “Jumbo Jumbos” on Instacart. Hey, does anyone want me to chop a Jumbo Jumbo into their lukewarm corn porridge?
Lettuce (down 0.6 percent). What else is there to say about lettuce, and the beloved tradition of giving it as a holiday gift? What else but yes, please! It’s $1.49 for a romaine head on Amazon, or $9.99 if you want to pay to have it delivered in two hours, should you really need that single head of lettuce so urgently that you want to pay five times its value for a local community college student to bring it to you in their Nissan Sentra. What a world we live in.
Dishes and flatware (down 1.3 percent). Hey, finally it’s something you could actually give someone without being perceived as insane! Yes, dishware has managed to weather the storm of everyone being at home more, as has its traditional companion, flatware. The most extravagant 20-piece set listed on the Crate & Barrel website costs $249.95—buy a dozen and stuff them in every stocking on the hearth! (More affordably, the first item in this Slate guide to gifts under $30 is a $13.11 olive spoon recommended by on-staff food and drink sophisticate J. Bryan Lowder.)
Women’s suits (up 0.2 percent). Lots of people are returning to offices at the moment. Perhaps you know one of them who might like this $328 double-breasted, plaid “lady blazer” (their words, not mine) from J.Crew?
Smartphones (down 20.7 percent). Phones are one of the biggest droppers in the whole CPI, and wireless plans are actually down 0.5 percent too. Here’s the Verge’s guide to the best phones that are not exorbitantly expensive; consider adding on the extra-long iPhone charger from this Slate stocking stuffer guide.
Prescription drugs (down 0.7 percent). There’s no time like the present, apparently, to load up on generic Propecia purchased from an offshore website that ends in something like .xyzzq. (Don’t do this.)
Books (down 2.1 percent). Sure, the fact that books have somehow fallen in price this year probably has something to do with Amazon’s death grip on the marketplace for paper-based reading material, but don’t let that get your Christmas spirits down. It’s just $15.64 for the paperback version of my wife’s second novel on Bookshop.org! (By the way, my wife is not the novelist in this Dear Prudence letter—in our household you can write whenever you want as long as you’re bringing in the cheddar.) If literary fiction isn’t your speed, you could also try these family-friendly mystery/puzzle books.
Toys (down 0.4 percent). Our daughter loves this colorful $87.99 llama from Maisonette that you can ride around on and put stuff in. I just checked and they can still deliver it (to the eastern U.S., at least) well before Christmas.
Headphones (down 7.3 percent as part of the audio equipment category). According to my editor, these Sony noise-canceling headphones, currently on sale for $248, are “very, very good noise-canceling headphones.” In fact, he insisted I put them in this post. Possible pay-to-play kickback situation going on.
Dental floss (up 0.3 percent as part of the hair, dental, shaving, and miscellaneous personal care products category). The largest amount of dental floss available on Amazon from a reputable-seeming supplier is 1,728 dispensers for $550.99. The floss in question is said to have a “pleasant mint flavor.” (More useful recs: the lip gloss, lip crayon, and body cream here.)
Airline tickets (down 4.6 percent). Fly your special someone on a surprise getaway to Europe, and leave your concerns about inflation behi … nope, never mind.
State motor vehicle registration and license fees (up 0.6 percent). Is buying a vehicle license for someone illegal? Seems like it could be mail fraud, something of that nature. There’s only one way to find out, though, and it costs $86.50 for a background clearance that allows for the addition of a Hazardous Material Endorsement to a commercial driver’s license in the state of New Jersey. Give your loved one the gift of a side hustle in waste management!
Blu-Rays (down 3.6 percent as part of video discs and video rental category). A Blu-Ray of The Fugitive goes for only $11.90 on Amazon and is the perfect thing to bring to the home of a parent or grandparent who might not have joined the streaming revolution. No one doesn’t like The Fugitive. It’s the perfect film to watch while sharing a big platter of Jumbo Jumbos ’n’ corn porridge with Grandpa Buck.
We hope this list has been useful! (Or at least a slightly fevered reminder that, when you see the inevitable wave of articles about how inflation is taking a toll on Christmas shoppers, it’s actually the case that popular gifts including toys, headphones, books, and smartphones are cheaper than before). Incidentally, some of the things the inflation-minded shopper should not purchase as gifts this season include motor oil, coolant, and fluids (up 11.3 percent); raw beef roasts (up 24.9 percent); and used trucks (along with used cars, up 26.4 percent). This isn’t the year to give your spouse a used truck that you’ve tied in a gigantic red bow as if it were in a Lexus commercial, nor to put a raw beef roast wrapped in its own little beef roast bow in the front passenger seat of that truck. Fingers crossed, though, that it’s an idea you can use in 2022!