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Holiday Gift Guide: cheap gifts

Holiday Gift Guide: cheap gifts

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holiday gift guide lead
holiday gift guide lead

Let’s call it the "thoughtful" gift — the one that thinks outside of the box. It’s not the typical "game console" or "off-contract smartphone" that loved ones expect you to buy. No! It’s something else entirely. It’s the tacit acknowledgement that you shouldn’t be burdened to lock a friend or family down into one ecosystem or another. That’s not your job, that’s a very, very personal decision that requires deep soul-searching.

Instead, maybe you know your friend just upgraded to an iPhone 5 but has a ton of long 30-pin connectors that will now go unused. An Apple Lightning adapter shows that you care, that you listen. Or maybe your friend’s phone keeps dying at inopportune times and that’s why he or she totally couldn’t call you about the party that seems like everyone else went to — buy him or her a portable battery pack so that it never. happens. again. These are the thoughtful gifts that show you care, that you’re listening.

But more importantly, they’re cheaper than the average present.

Apple Lightning to 30-pin adapter

Price: $39.00

After nine years on the market Apple decided to leave the venerable 30-pin dock connector behind, turning a thriving ecosystem into an island of deprecated, misfit accessories almost overnight. While Apple’s Lightning to 30-pin Adapter doesn’t solve all of the problems introduced with the change, it’s a safe bet that the connector — or its cabled variant — will be welcomed by anyone with a new iPhone 5. Or an iPod touch. Or an iPad mini. Or…

Mophie Juice Pack Powerstation Pro

Price: $99.95

The Mophie Juice Pack Power Station Pro is a brick of an external battery that can charge virtually any mobile device available on the market today. Featuring a basic USB input, Powerstation Pro can even charge power hungry devices like an iPad or Nexus 7, and you can expect 2-3 complete charges for your average smartphone before it needs to be recharged itself. It’s also been tested against dust and water, so it should be able to outlast most of your gadgets.

Tonx subscription for 2 months

Price: $76

Finding great coffee beans can be a chore, especially if you don’t live in an area with good local coffeeshops and roasters. Tonx takes the pain out of it by doing all the leg work, and then shipping the fresh roasted beans direct to your door every two weeks. The company will source the beans and then roast them, so all you have to do is grind ‘em up and get brewing. A two-month standard subscription runs about $76 and should get your coffee-loving giftee suitably addicted to the service.

10-foot USB cable for iPhone

Price: $15.00

Think of all the times you’ve sat on the floor next to an outlet while your phone charges. Or the times when you had to get up in the morning and race across the hotel room to turn off your alarm, because your phone’s plugged into the outlet. These longer cables are cheap, and they’re lifesavers — just swap it for your existing charger and enjoy being able to roll over, smack your phone to shut it up, and go back to sleep. They’ll thank you every time they snooze.

Capture Clip DSL Mount

Price: $79.99

The Capture Clip is an alternative way to tote around your DSLR. Instead of a neck or shoulder strap, it’s a small module you can clip onto your bag strap or belt, and then “holster” your camera directly on to it. It launched on Kickstarter originally, but it’s available for everybody now. It’s quite secure, but beware that the camera mount isn’t compatible with off-the-shelf tripods.

Old Calgary wool felt gadget cases

Price: Assorted

Old Calgary’s wool felt sleeves for your gadgets are handsome, protective, cozy… and even fire-proof. They’re a bit pricy, but are exactly the kinds of things you’ll want to get caught carrying to your local independent coffee shop.

Cara McGee’s Adagio teas

Price: $10 for 3oz

These fandom blends from Adagio aren’t your everyday cup of Earl Grey. Using characters from popular series like Game of Thrones, Doctor Who, Harry Potter, Borderlands, The Avengers, and Sherlock, fans have blended collections of deliciously nerdy teas. We personally recommend the Tardis Blend, Bilbo Brew, Bruce Banner, and #BelieveInSherlock from Cara McGee, though it’s worth exploring the whole site to find the perfect match. If you’re looking to give something both unique and thoughtful, you can also create and purchase your own blends. Tea solves all problems. It’s a fact.

My Keepon

Price: $64

I’ve been in love with the Keepon since 2007, when it danced to Spoon’s “I Turn My Camera On” and the more polished “Don’t You Evah” video. Keepon Pro robots are used to for therapeutic purposes and scientific research, but My Keepon is the “toy” version, with dance mode — and more importantly for some, it’s fully compatible with Arduino. It’s cute, it dances, it’s hackable, and a percentage of every purchase goes “to the distribution of Keepon Pro robots to researchers and practitioners in the field of autism.”

Buddha Machine III

Price: $25

The Buddha Machine III is the connoisseur’s white-noise machine, with fans ranging from Brian Eno to Daft Punk. Of course, it’s more fun if you’ve got two or more, so you can play different pitch-wheel settings against each other. But at $25 a pop, that’s not too hard to manage.

Postalco Notebook

Price: $30

Writing in a notebook is a pretty anachronistic thing to do at this point, so we usually prefer ones that look like they dropped out of a Delorean, like this $30 Postalco model. It only seems expensive until you lay hands on the pressed cotton cover, which will age just like a great pair of jeans.

Adidas Originals Sennheiser CX 310s

Price: $69.95

For a long time, Sennheiser CX300s were the go-to recommendation for cheap (sub-$100) in-ear buds that sounded great. These CX310s go one better, but not just in model number — the tasteful "Adidas Originals" shade of blue is the perfect look for the winter.

Logitech wireless performance mouse MX

Price: $99.99

The world is moving in a touchscreen direction, but sometimes there’s nothing quite like having a mouse. We’re losing the subtle joys of spinning a scroll wheel through massive articles, mapping buttons to repetitive tasks, or death gripping for epic Minecraft sessions. Keep the dream alive with Logitech’s Wireless Performance Mouse MX, which is comfortable as can be and offers a solid mix of customizable buttons.

Leatherman New Wave Multitool

Price: $61.89

Some people like multitools for outdoorsy stuff. Not us. Whether you’re in a house in the country or a tiny studio in the city, you’ll be shocked how often you still need a screwdriver or boxcutter, or even need to strip or cut wires in a pinch. The Leatherman is small enough to fit next to your keys, but sturdy enough that its knives, locked in place, makes cutting things open with your keys seem like a joke.


Price: Assorted

Whether you think it’s a novelty or a revolution, the semi-anonymous digital cryptocurrency Bitcoin is fascinating. Bitcoins for Christmas makes it easy to set your loved ones up with a little Bitcoin investment of their very own, and the site will deliver festive instructions for how to redeem the coins. Especially good for geeks and Libertarians.

Photo of coins courtesy of Tax Credits via Flickr

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