This is not your typical gift-giving guide. Those tend to be centered around specific holidays, whereas I wanted a date agnostic one. I plan to revise this one continually. 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 how 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 that the link to the items goes 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 pull in prices, review counts, and images dynamically. 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 I may make a small commission if you purchase from a link on this page. This doesn’t impact your price.
The readers here are from different countries. For most, there is an Amazon site for their location.
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, it 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 at my home address. Pain in the butt. Just something to consider if time is an issue.
Thinkpak: A Brainstorming Card Deck
Best for: Creative thinkers, tinkerers, & lifelong learners
Like the Creative Whack Pack, this card deck also spawns ideas. The idea is to take an existing idea and change it to make a new one. Each of the 56 cards has a specific strategy based on one of nine themes.
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.
The author of this deck, Michael Michaolko, has written several books on creativity. My favorite is called Thinkertoys. The book and card deck work well together.
Rocketbook Beacons – Reusable Whiteboard Stickers
Best for: Brainstormers, Teachers, Meeting Leaders
These are a small set of 4 reusable plastic stickers that you apply to the corners of a whiteboard. Using your smartphone and the Rocketbook app, you convert the whiteboard content to searchable PDFs. You can direct where you want the content to go, such as Google Drive, DropBox, Slack, Email, and so on.
Why I like It
Whiteboards are a great tool for capturing ideas. But what if you need to share those ideas with a colleague or wish to save them? It’s not like you can put a “Do Not Erase” sign and hope it’s honored. And simple photos rarely work. Instead, you can use this app and be assured that your notes and images are retained. There is also a feature where you can “cast” your notes. It’s not a streaming service, but you do get a shareable URL that periodically updates.
I should also mention that I don’t have a typical whiteboard. Instead of being hard, it’s a 6′ x4′ vinyl sheet that clings to my wall. These are less expensive than the ones you secure to a wall. However, they take patience to apply, so you get the air bubbles out without tearing. This is especially true of large ones like mine.
Tile Sticker 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 other Tile users’ signal 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 several Tiles, but I like the two below. My preference is the Tile Mate as it’s smaller and has a replaceable battery. I’ve not tested the company’s Slim product or new tags, so I can’t comment.
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 boring black yearly planners. The good news is the inside is radically different. Each day has two sections: “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 unique.
Vornado 460 – Whole Room Fan
Best for: Home Office
This is a compact 3-speed fan that can cool your home office in no time. The design pushes more air than any other fan I’ve bought. It’s also extremely light and relatively quiet.
Why I like It
I realize a fan doesn’t sound like an exciting gift. But when you’re sitting in a home office with one, you’ll consider it a luxury item. I’ve bought 3 of these in the past year for friends and family. They are extremely efficient and well made. There is also a slider that allows you to adjust the angle.
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.
This is the simplest of the Hue Wake Up lights. They have a whole range of products that have additional features.
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 simultaneously.
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 difficult to ruin the food.
Why I like It
I could make an economic argument for buying this device. I have overcooked items throughout the years through poor planning (multi-tasking) or gotten interrupted at the wrong time. The results were inedible and wasted food. When I first saw these devices, they were in the $300 range, which 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 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 caused by someone who self-published their book. After calling support, they pointed me to an area to see if the book would work on a specific device.
Another tip is your local library may have Kindle books. I subscribe to a free newsletter at https://www.wowbrary.org/ that alerts me to new books, movies, and music.
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 to intercept 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 move my DSL router. The 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.
Best For: Anyone above 8 years
While I don’t have many Apple products, the iPad has been a staple for me over the years. Lots of years. I’ve tried countless Android tablets, and they don’t match up when you factor in durability. This includes Amazon’s Fire Tablets. Granted, the iPads come with a price premium, but you can find good deals and specials if you’re patient.
Why I like It
As many of you know, I’m a big online learner, whether it’s LinkedIn Learning, Udemy, or even YouTube. I like that I can grab this device and go someplace else. Granted, it might not be my library or favorite cafe these days. I find that a venue change can help me focus.
More recently, I had to lend my iPad to a close friend in hospice. Her relatives and friends couldn’t visit, but Facetime helped fill an important need. It synced up nicely with the facility’s wi-fi system, and all the staff was familiar with how it worked.
The App Store has countless apps that fit many of my needs. In comparison, I’ve had several Android and Amazon Fire tablets. In the case of Amazon, they run their own version of Android, and far fewer developers build apps for that device. Don’t get caught thinking these are a budget version of an iPad. Now, if you’ve got young kids who are hard on electronics, wait till they get older.
The iPad comes with its own ecosystem. Once you get someone an iPad, there are many add-on gifts ranging from keyboards to pencils. And that ecosystem goes beyond the Apple brand. You don’t always have to use their accessories.
These are items that are under review. I like to give items enough time to show their strength and weaknesses.
I pre-ordered these $49 true wireless headphones when they were announced. While I think they are very nice, I can’t get the microphone to work with my Windows 10 setup. My goal was to use them when I record screencasts, but it doesn’t look like they will work for that application. I have an open support ticket.
I also didn’t recognize how difficult it can be to test headphones. There are more criteria than I imagined after listening to Lauren Dragan on a Marketing Over Coffee podcast. She’s a WireCutter reviewer and has lots of good info.
Disclaimer: Images from Amazon Product Advertising API. I may receive an affiliate commission on these products if you buy. Updated: 2021-01-14