December is absolute mayhem for holiday shoppers: Store prices rise and fall, bouncing up and down like a high-speed yo-yo—likely leaving you with a bad headache. It may seem like all the good gifts are getting snatched off the shelves before you can even set a foot in the aisle.
When all hope feels lost, turn to the Internet. Daily deals websites are a good place to start. Long-time favorites among consumers include DealNews.com, FatWallet.com, and Offers.com. These sites keep tabs on thousands of retailers and track the day's best bargains. If you're looking for a particular item or brand, you can set up an alert on a site such as Pronto.com so you'll receive an email when the product goes on sale.
A testament to the online shopping market: This year's Cyber Monday marked the biggest shopping day in history, with online sales growing more than 30 percent over last year, according to the IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark.
But with Cyber Monday behind us, it may take some creativity to find the perfect present. Here are seven under-the-radar websites to look for clever gifts, where you can easily search by price—and all feature a large number of items priced at less than $50:
ASOS.com. This British online retailer offers stylish clothing at reasonable prices. The site shares style advice for people aiming for a particular look, such as this tip for dresses: "Vintage references come in the form of '50s inspired, waisted summer dresses, while the '90s reigns with neon lace dresses and mini dresses emblazoned with punchy graphic prints." Many of the sunglasses are less than $25, including silver aviators ($14). Fans of the brand include Michelle Obama, who wore an ASOS printed pencil skirt in the November issue of O, The Oprah Magazine. And don't worry about the shipping cost, since standard delivery is free worldwide.
PerpetualKid.com. Items on this site are sure to please children—or adults who are young at heart. Products include the Buff Baby Dumbbell ($9), a light-weight rattle toy that will keep junior busy pumping iron. Adults not afraid to display their undying affection for children's games may enjoy the iPad Etch-A-Sketch Case ($42). Grillers can spice things up with the BBQ Guitar Spatula ($22). And don't overlook the self-proclaimed World's Largest Gummy Bear ($31.50), which weighs in at more than 4 lbs and is the equivalent of 1,400 regular-sized gummy bears.
MoMaStore.com. Shoppers hunting for gifts for people with a sense of style can find special items at the online store of New York's Museum of Modern Art. Sushi will taste a whole lot better—or, cooler to eat—with a set of rainbow chopsticks ($35). Cutting cheese is easier with the two-handled cheese knife ($26), designed with wooden handles on both ends for better leverage while slicing. And transporting paperwork to and from the office in an accordion document holder ($40) will, at the very least, turn heads. All items are marked down for MoMa members.
ThinkGeek.com Young Star Wars fans will enjoy a Darth Vader-shaped lunch box ($15); it comes, of course, with a sound box to mimic the heavy breathing. A problem solver will be thankful he or she can sip coffee out of the Rubik's Cube mug ($13). Or purchase someone a Doctor Who screwdriver toothbrush ($15), so they can maintain their pearly whites while showing allegiance to the British time traveler. Think Geek is fully stocked with these kinds of items, which turn a person's shameful favorites into awesome gifts.
UncommonGoods.com. You can find unique gifts for the entire family on this website. Its products include creative items such as a set of four love letter napkins ($48), a fortune keeper bracelet ($49)—for people who don't want to part with their favorite cookie prophecies—and bookends made from recycled records ($40). There's even a DJ cat scratching pad ($35) that will hopefully keep the receiver's feline from tearing up the couch.
FredFlare.com. This site features an array of cool items designed to surprise gift recipients. Travelers can show off with the Where I've Been Scratch Map Travel Edition ($22), a metallic-glazed diagram of the world that works like a lottery ticket: The recipient just scratches away where they've been. Let them lick on some bacon- or pickle-flavored candy canes ($6.50 each) until their taste buds are content. Or make cleaning off the table easier with the help of a battery-operated mini robot vacuum ($18), which sweeps up crumbs as it's moved over the surface.
MarblesTheBrainStore.com. This site serves as both an information resource on how the brain works and a retailer of products designed to improve one's memory, critical thinking, coordination, visual perception, and word skills. Its collection of fun, expert-tested products includes Splickety Lit ($25); as the site explains, "Each question has words or phrases that have their beginning fonsonants clipped (consonants flipped … you pet the gicture)." Another best-seller designed to improve hand-eye coordination is the Ogosport Mini Disks ($30)—two 12-inch, portable mini trampolines that bounce balls up to 150 feet. (They're also waterproof, in case the person wants to impress others at the beach.)