415-221-4720, www.cheappetes.com), where sizes, styles, and colors vary but prices stay, well, cheap.
Does someone in your life need a little hope, love, or luck? Show 'em you've noticed by getting a charm from Scarlet Sage (1173 Valencia, SF. 415-621-1287, scarletsageherb.com), an independent herb shop in the Mission. For less than $5, you can get a shiny quartz, lucky stone, or adorable heart-shaped rock. Find a pretty sash or detailed handkerchief from a second-hand store, wrap up your purchases and, for an extra personal touch, add a little note explaining what you hope these stones will bring their new owner.
SEEDS FOR GARDEN
The rule of green-thumb for giving plants is to choose your giftees wisely. Ideal candidates are newly nesting lovebirds with a backyard (first comes a plant, then comes a pet, then comes the lovers with a baby carriage). Start the honeymooners off with seeds to make their own miniature garden with choices like lavender, California poppies, sweet peas, and cosmos. Flora Grubb (1634 Jerrold, SF. 415-626-7256, www.floragrubb.com) and Cole Hardware (3312 Mission and other locations, SF. 415-647-8700, www.colehardware.com) are your go-to spots for a variety of different seeds, depending on the love-birds' personalities. (If you're shopping for a recent college grad or on-the-town bachelor, consider something that requires less commitment and attention, like impossible-to-kill succulents or easy-to-move-to-17-apartments hanging vines.)
THE MIGHTY PEN
You know the art of writing is nearly extinct when you text your parents to thank them for the care package they sent you. But that means a hand-written note is particularly special now, in this age of e-cards and Facebook messages. In lieu of gifts or store-bought greetings, try sending distant loved ones a heartfelt, personal letter written (in cursive?) on beautiful homemade stationery. Find the right choice for every recipient at Flax (1699 Market, SF. 415-552-2355, www.flaxart.com), where you'll have more than 7,000 unique paper options. Then add some extra flair with creative stamps ($5$15) that (bonus!) you can use again next year. Just don't be upset when your friends and family show their gratitude with a simple "thx for yr letter" message sent from their iPhones.
You know those people with cats or dogs (or ferrets, or whatever) who say they're not one of those people who's obsessed with their pets? You can bet they're the same people who, behind closed doors, will stay in an uncomfortable position on the couch for an hour so as not to disturb a purring kitten or who'll argue all night that their dog's habit of licking the bottoms of their feet is cute, not gross. Yes, almost all pet owners are also pet lovers. Which means they'll appreciate a gift for their furry friends as much as they'd appreciate one for themselves. Find such treats as catnip, dog bones, and all kinds of toys and grooming products at Pawtrero Bath House & Feed Co. (199 Mississippi, SF. 415-863-7297, www.pawtrero.com). At the very least, your friends will agree that their life is easier once you've pleased the beasts.