This is not your typical gift-giving guide. Those tend to be centered around specific holidays whereas I wanted to do one which was date agnostic. I plan to continually add to this one. I have a number of products which I’m testing and a few which are on pre-order. Also, keep in mind that these prices fluctuate during the year so they may not be in the category I specified. Typically, prices go down unless a new model is introduced.
My Selection Criteria
For these ideas, I was looking for items that met these criteria:
- I’ve tried the product. This isn’t to say I’m an expert on gift-giving. Instead, I just thought it important to have bought and used the item.
- The gift has to enhance your life in some way. It either makes you more productive, organized, healthier, or removes some sort of pain point.
- It shouldn’t have a big learning curve.
- It can be easily purchased online.
- The item can be gift-wrapped. In other words, no email gift certificates or online services.
There are some gift-types I have omitted. The reason is they are tough to give unless you know the recipient really wants that type of gift. For example, I like my Quip toothbrush. It’s made me change the way I brush my teeth and I think it would be great for travelers. But, would I give it as a gift? Not likely.
I also wanted to mix things up a bit by breaking the recommendations into price ranges. And I also explain what type of person might appreciate the gift.
Where to Get these Gifts
You’ll notice below, the link to the items go to the Amazon website, but sometimes these products can be found elsewhere. There were a couple of reasons why I chose Amazon. Because I’m an “affiliate”, I can get access to their API. This allows me to dynamically pull in prices, review counts, and images. This makes the format standard across products. It should also dynamically update so I don’t have to check prices.
If you’re not familiar with the term “affiliate”, it means that if you make an Amazon purchase from a link on this page, I may make a small commission. This doesn’t impact your price.
The readers here are from different countries. For most, there is an Amazon site for their location. However, I’ve also included alternate links for people.
warning In some areas, Amazon has something called “lockers”. These are storage lockers in various locations where you can have your package delivered. For example, your local supermarket. While this might be great for gift delivery, they can pose a problem. On several occasions, Amazon hasn’t been able to deliver to the lockers because they were full. People don’t always pick up their packages in a timely fashion. The problem is that you don’t know when the package will get back into a locker. I had to cancel my orders and place new ones to my home address. Pain in the butt. Just something to consider if time is an issue.
Creative Whack Pack
Best for: Creative thinkers, tinkerers, & lifelong learners
Think of a deck of cards that spawns ideas. Each of the 64 cards has a specific strategy, drawing, lesson, and questions for you to ponder. You can take one card or as many as you like. The premise is that sometimes you need a “whack on the side of the head”. Like a normal card deck, there are 4 suits: explorer, artist, judge, and warrior.
Why I like It
It’s too easy to get stuck in our thinking and not see other possibilities and perspectives. This may happen as we get older and lose our sense of creativity that we had as kids. I love to stick this deck into a travel bag and get away for “idea” days. Or, if I’m in a rut, I’ll pull random cards out and see what pops to mind. These cards are also a good tool for engaging others.
Tile Style or Tile Mate
Best for: People who lose things, people with valuables
Tiles are small tracking devices that allow you to locate items. The items can be anything from keys to bikes. You attach the item to your device and link it via an app for your smartphone. It works with either iPhones or Android phones, but you’ll want to check for compatibility. Most newer phones should work fine. And these devices can also be used to find your phone. What’s appealing is that even if the lost item isn’t near you, the tracker leverages the signal from other Tile users to find your device.
Why I like It
I’ve been a Tile user for a long time and did a product review on the first & second generations. During this time Tile has continually improved the hardware and software.
Over the years, they’ve introduced models with replaceable batteries and louder tones. They’ve also managed to maintain a huge user base that can help you locate your lost article. Even though I have a routine where I hang up my keys, I’ve still misplaced them.
I also remember being at the ATM and someone left their keys on the top ledge. Because I’m a Tile user, my app reported to the owner the keys had been seen. The nice part is this is transparent as I don’t know the owner and vice versa.
There are a number of Tiles, but I like the two below. My preference is the Tile Mate as it’s smaller and has a replaceable battery. But, some people may prefer the stronger Tile Style. I’ve not tested the company’s Slim product or new tags so I can’t comment.
Alternate Link: https://www.thetileapp.com/en-us/
The High Performance Planner
Best For: Goal setters, planners
This planner was developed by Brendon Burchard and is based on science and his testing. Each journal lasts 60 days or 2 months. You can also buy a yearly bundle with 6 books. The planner comes in multiple colors so be careful when making your selection. I thought I ordered green. Oops.
The product image below reminds me of those black boring yearly planners. The good news is the inside is radically different. Each day has two sections with one called “Morning Mindset” and the other “Evening Journal”. Within each section, you have a list of prompts or questions that help you structure and evaluate your day. It’s quite unique.
URPOWER Essential Oil Diffuser
Best For: people who work from home
This is a small stand-alone aromatherapy device that vaporizes essential oils to make your work environment more pleasing. It also allows you to set the light color and time duration.
Why I like It
Did you roll your eyes when you saw this one? If you did, you might be interested to know that various scents can improve your mood and increase your productivity. I first got a diffuser when I got a nasty cold and wanted to use some eucalyptus oil. I figured I would just use it until the cold left. It’s now part of my daily ritual.
While that first mister worked, it had some faults. It gurgled and I had to keep refilling it. The URPOWER model is quieter and I don’t have to keep refilling the basin. I also appreciate that it has a timer. This can be important when you first start using essential oils you should start with a small-time duration to see how you react to the smell. It does come with a number of light settings and colors, but I turn them off.
Anova Sous Vide Cookers
Best For: People who like to cook, perfectionists, and people who believe they can multi-task.
Sous vide is a French term for “under vacuum”, but that doesn’t fully explain this kitchen tool. It’s basically a cylindrical water circulator that controls the temperature of a water bath. The device lets you cook food in a precise and consistent manner. The food is sealed in a container, like a Ziploc or maybe a mason jar. You don’t need a vacuum sealer. And because the water is at a constant temperature, it’s very difficult to ruin the food.
Why I like It
I could make an economic argument for buying this device. Throughout the years, I have overcooked items through poor planning (multi-tasking) or gotten interrupted at the wrong time. The end results were inedible and wasted food. When I first saw these devices, they were in the $300 range and that was cheap compared to commercial ones. All the same, I waited until the prices dropped to the $100 range.
Since buying one, I’ve experimented more with recipes. There are countless ones out there and even YouTube has channels dedicated to sous-vide. Regardless of your cooking skills, there are plenty of things you can cook with these devices ranging from meats to yogurt.
And while I didn’t buy the Joule (works only with an app), I do love the videos the folks at ChefSteps produce. They are as informative as they are entertaining.
Best For: Readers
This is the latest edition of the Kindle Paperwhite. I don’t get the name though – “All-new Kindle Paperwhite”. It seems to me it should have a better name than that. I traded in my Kindle Gen 3, which pre-dated the Paperwhite devices. I know a lot of people are excited about it being waterproof. That wasn’t a big factor for me.
I like the form factor. It can fit into my back jeans pocket. I also have a Kindle Fire HDX, but there is something about this new one that makes reading easier (especially when the power goes out). The only issue I’ve encountered so far was a Kindle Unlimited book that was a “print replica”. That book worked fine on the Kindle Fire HDX, but not this new device. It shows in my library, but it fails when downloading. However, I think this is a rare format that might be caused by someone who self-published their book. After calling support, they pointed me to an area where I can see if the book would work on a specific device.
Philips Wake-Up Light
Best For: People who don’t like to wake up to alarms.
This is a popular “go-to” gift for friends and family. At first, I’m greeted with the usual skepticism because people don’t think they can wake up to a gradual light queue. You can see their gears spinning and thinking, “who can I regift this gizmo too”? They’ve been conditioned to use an artificial sound. However, in all but one case, people have raved about the gift and how it has helped their sleep.
Why I like It
Well, because I hate alarm clocks or even the watches that vibrate. This is much more civilized because the light gradually gets brighter as it simulates a sunrise. And you can do the reverse and have it simulate dusk as you go to bed.
And if you need an audible alarm, it has options including the radio. You can’t add your own music though.
Fitbit Charge 3 Fitness Tracker
Best For: People who want to track their fitness, but aren’t obsessed.
This is a mid-tier fitness tracker. It combines many of the features you’d expect on a tracker and puts them into a small watch form factor. While it doesn’t have all the bells & whistles of more expensive trackers, it has a definite sweet spot. It’s not too fancy and yet offers qualitative data on various exercises, heart rate, and sleep. It can proactively alert you to inactivity, phone calls, and SMS messages.
Why I like It
I think fitness trackers fall into the Goldilocks scenario. Everyone has different needs. Some people are competitive athletes and like to have very precise data. Others just want to find out how many steps they took. The Fitbit Charge 3 wouldn’t be the best fit for either of those groups. It’s for people who don’t need to know everything but want to maintain their personal health. I’d say it’s best suited for walkers and runners but you can add other exercises.
There are a couple of features I like about this tracker. As an office worker, I like being able to set an alert for inactivity which is defined as less than 250 steps per hour. The tracker gently vibrates 10 minutes before the hour and displays how many steps you’ve taken if it’s less than the 250 threshold. And, it then alerts you when you’ve met that goal. For me, it’s ideal as I like to work in 45-minute blocks.
I also like with this version, I can swap out watch bands. I’ve had a number of trackers where the bands were difficult to get on and as a result, you didn’t use the tracker as much. The other scenario was bands that required a special tool to replace the existing band. Fitbit seems to have fixed these issues with this model. And while many people like the bigger watches like the Apple Watch and FitBit Versa, I find them too big for me.
UPS Backup System
Best For: People with computers, monitors or sensitive electronics
This isn’t the prettiest (or lightest) of gifts, but your recipient will “thank you” when their critical document isn’t lost when the power goes out. In a nutshell, this tower sits between your wall outlet and your critical electronics. If the power goes out, the tower will switch to its battery backup. This unit also conditions the power so it intercepts any spikes that come down the line, which might harm your electronics.
Why I like It
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized how important it is to have the proper power setup. Many years ago, I lost a hard drive when the power was abruptly shut off. And now I have to contend with California’s unpredictable power supply. This unit offers a lot. It has 10 outlets with surge protection and 5 of those can use the battery backup. I can also see my estimated run time for the battery although that varies based on what you have hooked up to your unit. When the power fails, I hear an audible alarm and the power shifts to the backup batteries. It gives me enough time to save my documents and safely shut down the equipment.
I also like that the alarm isn’t blaring. It’s enough to get your attention, but not jolt you like a smoke detector.
NETGEAR Orbi Whole Home Mesh WiFi System
Best For: People with wi-fi weak spots
Let’s start by indicating this is a Mesh system and not a wi-fi extender because there are big differences. Wi-Fi extenders are pretty cheap and split and repeat your signal. It can be like “robbing Peter to pay Paul”. They also create a new SSID. Mesh networks can use the same SSID as your existing router and work with satellite units that efficiently distribute the signal and reduce weak areas.
Why I like It
My wi-fi setup was fine in my home office until we installed some Blink security cameras. Long story short, I had to upgrade my plan to accommodate the cameras and this involved moving my DSL router. The end result was my bandwidth dropped in the office a lot. I first tried a Wi-Fi extender, but that made things worse.
I bought the Orbi system with 2 satellites and have been very pleased. The throughput is significantly better and almost gets the advertised carrier speeds just about everywhere. The system comes with a phone app that makes the setup very easy. I decided to create a new SSID and split my traffic. Now, I have the security cameras and “Internet of Things” devices like Alexa go through the original network. I then put the computers on a separate SSID. The phone app also gives you options for controlling specific devices or setting up parental controls.
These are items that are under review. I like to give items enough time to show their strength and weaknesses.
Anker PowerCore 26800 Portable Charger
Best For: People who need portable power.
This isn’t your typical battery pack. It’s a beast both in terms of build and capacity. For starters, its capacity is 26800mAh which is probably a multiple of the small portable ones you own. This also means the size is bigger (about “7”) and heavier (1.1 lbs) than most portable chargers.
Why I like It
When it comes to accessories and gadgets, I’m an Anker fan. I’ve owned everything from their USB cables to diffusers. I have to say they excel in the power category. This device has 2 inputs for charging the battery and 3 outlets to charge your devices. In other words, you can recharge this external battery twice as fast.
I think I’ve mentioned, my power situation has been a bit unstable lately. When the power goes out, it’s nice to know I have enough juice to keep my devices running. I always have this charged and ready to go. Instead of recharging one device, I can hook up multiple ones.
Things to Consider
This is a battery pack so you will need to get your own cables and wall plug. It does include 2 USB micro cables. I’m guessing most people already have cables. Also, this unit doesn’t do pass-through charging, which would allow you to charge the unit and charge another device at the same time.
Asus C302CA-DHM4 Chromebook Flip 12.5-Inch Touchscreen Convertible
Best For: students, road warriors
This is a sleek, versatile, and powerful Chromebook that fits the sweet spot for many users. It doesn’t offer all the bells and whistles of the Google Chrome Pixelbook, but the ROI is better. Like the Pixelbook, it was one of Consumer Reports’ top recommendations.
These newer versions are aluminum and efficient. The questions you’ll need to ask is how you plan to use the device and whether there is any required software that doesn’t run on the Chrome OS. If you’re already used to Google’s suite of products, this should be an easy and productive transition.
Why I like It
I wasn’t the first person on the Chromebook bandwagon. In fact, it took years before I gave them a serious look. The first versions were under-powered, clunky and “plasticky”. Is that a word? And then Google came out with its own hardware but the price was expensive. Now, there are a number of manufacturers that have quality devices at good prices.
I bought one for work several months ago and it’s been enjoyable. So much of what I do can be done in the browser. The newer devices are much sturdier and touch screen enabled. I find that feature enjoyable as I don’t always like a trackpad. The battery life is outstanding and it uses USB Type C.
Based on the time of year, the morning sun can be too much in my office. There isn’t an easy way for me to reduce the light without applying window film. Instead, I abandon my desktop and just pick up the Chromebook. I’ll move to a better location and instantly power on the device and resume my work, which is usually browser-based.
Although this is a flip device, I don’t really use it in tablet mode. The other thing I don’t really use are the Android apps. I know I can run them, but few developers have made effective use of the screen. I suspect that will change.
Overall, I’m very pleased with the device.
Disclaimer: Images from Amazon Product Advertising API. This site may receive an affiliate commission on these products. Updated: 2020-07-10