Where to find sweet Secret Santa gifts for under $30

We know, we know. Trying to find something excellent for your best pal while staying within the agreed-upon budget is just a big ol’ holiday can of worms. Lucky for us, Toronto is stocked with affordable and locally made treasures that cater to just about any hobby or taste. For this year’s gift exchange, check out these general stores, vintage spots, and specialty boutiques. [Photo courtesy of Northwood General]

Ransack The Universe

1207 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M6H 1N4

If you’re looking for some vintage art, art deco cocktail glasses, or retro Pyrex mixing bowls in cute pastel hues, head to this wildly affordable vintage shop in Bloordale. Two floors of home goods and eccentricities will make for one hell of a treasure hunt, and you’re sure to come out with something memorable that won’t wear on your holiday-tuckered wallet. Plus if you’re looking for a cool vintage piece to wear to an upcoming holiday party, check out the apparel-centric back room.


815 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M6G 1M1

One of TO’s classiest cocktail bars recently opened a general store and boutique across the street from its Bloor Street digs, and it’s stocked with tons of affordable finds. You know those golden pineapples making their way around Instagram? You can find ‘em here, tucked in some appropriate and so-cute tropical packaging. Jewellery selections, apothecary products, and cocktail accessories abound at the Bloorcourt shop, but don’t miss the selection of toques and other scarves, plus some very clutch traveller’s hats.

North Standard Trading Post

1662 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M6R 1B2

Got a Secret Santa with a beard or a great head of hair? North Standard duo Frank and Pam produce their own all-natural beard oil and pomade (lemongrass- and ginger-scented), both on offer for a cool $18. If you’re more in the market for a musky candle, this Parkdale Canadiana-themed lifestyle and apparel boutique can help with that too. Check out the Smells Like Canada handmade candle series, featuring scents like Yukon Yuletide, Saskatoon Wheat, and Toronto Smoke.

Soop Soop

1-1319 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON M6J 1X8

For the emoji-loving Secret Santa, may we suggest a tee emblazoned with a ☺, a ☹, or a :|? These made-in-house shirts go for just $25 (there’s some other cool graphics on offer as well). Accent ‘em with a few pins from Toronto cool guy No Fun Press, a Woodlot candle, or a Lip Smackers chapstick in hard-to-find Dr. Pepper flavour (allowing your giftee a much-needed trip back to the early 2000s). Note if your pal is literary minded, Soop Soop also carries a stirring selection of pulp publications and independent magazines.

The Paper Place

887 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M6J 1G5

For your pen-to-paper kind of pal, this shop across from Trinity Bellwoods carries almost any kind of notebook you can imagine. Alongside gorgeous paper products like origami supplies and wrapping paper, this spot is about more than just the pulp. Design-minded folks will love the striking oversized calendars and those looking to up the magic vibes in their bedroom (so, everyone) will fall for the paper and wire lamps (you can switch out the paper shade with a new colour and pattern whenever you like).

Outer Layer

577 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M5V 2B6

Pick up some planetary-themed socks or a few sassy bath and beauty products at this wacky Queen West gift boutique. If your goal is to gift your best pal something that will evoke some serious giggles, this is the place to go (the novelty finger puppets will charm the pants off of even the scroogiest holiday hater). Those looking for something a little more customary will be happy to know that Outer Layer also stocks everything from cool bike accessories, to retro-style aprons, to trendy Swell water bottles.

From second-storey terraces to canopy-covered courtyards, 2016 has been a good year for Toronto’s patio game. We’ve got the goods on the brand-new brewery on Roncesvalles and the Lakeshore’s most recent party-worthy spot. East to west, these resto-bar newcomers have created inspired outdoor spaces so you can start patio season off right. [Image credit: iStock.com/Sean Pavone] 
Looking for a bleach alternative that isn’t terrifying? Maybe an all-purpose cleaner that won’t make you bat an eye when you find your toddler licking the countertop? There’s no doubt that the demand for all-natural, biodegradable, and chemical-free cleaning products is on the rise in TO. Lucky for us, the city is home to countless markets and shops with a ton of sustainable goods on offer.
Searching for an antidote to Black Friday? Just look for the yellow balloons. Shop The Neighbourhood hits cities across Canada on Saturday, November 28, 2015. Local Toronto shops will offer exclusive deals, and a heap of them have showed up on our city editor’s radar. Check out a few of her highlights and for a full list of participants, download the YP Shopwise app to discover the best deals in your hood.
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