It's that time of year again. The time where I'm out shopping and running around with my head cut off. (Who came up with that expression by the way? Running around is just one of the many things you CAN'T do when your head is cut off. Should be "running around to avoid getting your caught off.") However, I'm putting forth my best effort to get a gift guide out there. Please bear with me if there are some typos as I rush to get it out. I realize it's a little late already as there are just a few more shopping days left. If you want to buy online you have to make your decision right away to avoid paying extra shipping charges.
Before you dig into this list, I encourage you to learn what not to give: the worst gifts we have ever gotten. While it is a personalized article, there are a lot of generic tips in there.
General Gifts Ideas
- SodaStream - This is one of the best products I've used. In my review, I called SodaStream the Product of the Year for 2010 (no definitive 2011 product yet, except for maybe a $99 TouchPad). The reason is that it actually encourages me to drink less soda, saves spaces, helps the environment, and finds homeless puppies new homes (note: SodaStream does not find homeless puppies new homes).
- Blu-Ray Player - I've been suggesting them for the past couple of years. They were a couple hundred dollars, then a hundred, finally this year, you can usually get them for around $60 and get some extra features like Netflix streaming. I'm usually an early adopter, but I just upgraded to Blu-Ray this year.
- Thin Wallet - I use a very unconventional wallet. I put more hours into researching my thin wallet than I care to admit. It's not the normal bi-fold or tri-fold that most people are used to. It's designed to be double the height of a normal wallet so that credit cards and other identification can be spread over a whole back pocket. Need more reasons on why to buy a thin wallet? I wrote a review of thin wallets over at Lazy Man and Health. (Note: I'm not keeping up with that website anymore).
- Roku - I'm mentioning this largely to give the company credit on their outstanding marketing efforts. I can't seem to turn my head without having a Roku ad in my face. Essentially, this little device works as a mini-computer to bring you tons of Internet entertainment such as Netflix, Hulu, HBO Go, Amazon Instant Video, Pandora and more. That's the Lazy way to get a lot of streaming media to a television. I should also mention that that the Roku gets a CNET Editor's Choice award. Alternatively you could do what I did and pay nearly 10 times as much for a real computer in an attempt at a digital media overhaul: music, movies, and television any time, any place. At least it's helped me ditch my cable box rental fees.
- AmazonBasics Rechargeable Batteries - Everyone needs stocking stuffers and perhaps I'm alone on this one, but I actually like rechargeable batteries. Admittedly they are not one of the most exciting gift ever - but they are practical. I used to think that all rechargeable batteries were the same. However, after buying a lot of cheap batteries from Hong Kong, I've found that they don't last very long. I had been getting some Sanyo Eeneloops, which are great, but they are expensive. I haven't tried the AmazonBasics version, but most of the reviews on Amazon compare them to the Eneloops and they are cheaper. Pair it with a high-end charger like the La Crosse Technology BC-700 or the Maha Powerex MH-C801D. (Nothing says sexy like a MH-C801D.)
- Gifts that Save, Time, Money and/or Space - Four years ago, I wrote a post about products that save time, money and/or space. Most of the items are still relevant and useful today. Some, like GPS Navigation have come done dramatically in price, making it available to a larger audience.
A Note about Tablets
For many, this is the year of the tablet gift. I personally would wait before buying anyone a tablet - unless you were able to snag a few $99 TouchPad for giving. Apple's iPad is too expensive for what it is with a few Android competitors giving similar functionality at a lower price point. In addition, Apple looks to be gearing up for a iPad 3 launch in April. Buying an iPad 2 now is like buying an 2011 model car now, but paying full price. The Amazon Fire is interesting, but there have been concerns about the performance. While Amazon says that they will fix it with a software update, the hardware itself is on the lower-end - hence the $199 price tag.
There's an old adage in the stock market to not catch a falling knife. It means to avoid buying while prices are fall. Why? Because prices will likely drop even more. When I look at how much the market has matured in just a year, I'm salivating at the likely hardware and prices we will see next year.
For the Grandson, Niece, or Nephew
I have a niece and a nephew and each year I give a contribution to a 529 plan a tax-advantaged account to helping with college expenses. I'm not contributing a lot of money... I am hoping it buys books at MIT someday. In addition to this, I spend about $20 to $25 in toys each so that they don't miss out on that experience. Looking for the right 529? Here's my guide to choosing a 529 plan.
For the Last-Minute Giver
You don't have time to have a product shipped to someone? The stores are too crowded? What if you waited until Christmas and everything is closed? No need to worry, an Amazon Gift Card can get you out of the sticky situation. You can email a gift card in just a couple of minutes.
Sure your friend or loved one likely knows that you didn't spend time and with you "it's not the thought that counts", but you risked that anyway by being a last-minute giver. At least you can give something of value. If that person on your list can't find anything they want on Amazon.com, they are not human. I can't imagine that they are animal either since even my dog wants tons of things on Amazon.
Alternative almost as good as cash option: Ebay gift cards.
Use the comments to tell me what you are looking to give and receive this year.
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