For years now I've done gift guides around this time of year. I always hope to get them out earlier, but much like my Christmas shopping, it seems to drag on until just about the last minute.
When I first started creating gift guides, I struggled with whether to recommend the $400 GPS or the $2000 42" "flat-panel" television (remember when called them that?). It's a lot of money. For a website focused on growing your money for financial freedom, buying technology is difficult to recommend. It's an immediate step backwards towards the goal. However, I recommended them anyway, because I believed in the value.
I got every penny's worth out of my GPS. It probably saved me hundreds in productivity as I can get lost on my own street (joking... a bit). I like to think that I got every penny's worth out of my 42" plasma as well. I used it for a few years until it failed and capitalized on a generous policy at Costco (which no longer exists) for a replacement, which lasted another few years.
Ahh, memories of the way things were.
Enough of that, let's get today. My annual gift guide is always going to be skewed towards technology. It's not like a fork is going change... unless you get the HAPIfork Bluetooth-Enabled Smart Fork. Short of that, the fork you have probably does its job reasonable well and there's little need for me to recommend the gift of forks this year.
One could make a case that I could recommend fashionable items. Fashion changes every year, which would lead to new recommendations. I'm not big on fashion. There's a lot of financial freedom to be gained by freeing your mind from the expense of keeping up with the latest fashion. If works for Macklemore it works for me.
I've struggled more with this year's gift guide than previous years. Aside from the TV stick, there seemed to be fewer "innovative" new products my radar this year. Over the last couple of years tablets have gone from the $400 GPS that is exciting, to the low-priced commodity that is everywhere. Even my recommendation for Best Cell Phone/Plan Savings hasn't changed in a year.
- Anker 5-Port USB Charger - If you have a lot of USB gadgets like I do, this is a must have. You can charge multiple phones, tablets, bluetooth speakers and more. Last year I recommended a very similar product. In that
- Urge Basics Soundbrick Ultra Portable Bluetooth Stereo Speaker - Did I mention a Bluetooth speaker above? Yep. I got one of these a couple of years ago and it is perfect for streaming Pandora, or any music around the home. Since it includes its own battery, it is good for outdoors (beach, picnics) too.
- Online Subscriptions - This is a dangerous one for me to recommend. It's very easy to have a ton of subscription services that you don't use and have it drain your wallet. Netflix, HBO, Spotify, Amazon Prime... the list doesn't end. So giving someone one of these services may lead them to lifestyle inflation. On the other hand, if you know that a friend uses Netflix, perhaps getting him a few months free is a smart way to give something that amounts to cash.
While on this topic, I want to mention LastPass, a password manager. In the last 24 hours I've signed up for it. I started with the free version and it is very good. I noticed some advanced tools that I could use on the subscription version so I upgraded. This is my first experience using a password manager like this, so I don't want to say that LastPass is better than the others (it might be), but I want to say that even the free version is worth using.
In my world of dorkdom, I would have appreciated the gift of a subscription to protected passwords. I think I'm probably alone on this one, so unless you are Amy Farrah Fowler don't get this for your significant other.
- SanDisk Sansa Clip+ MP3 Player - Stop checking your calendar, yes, I'm recommending an MP3 player in 2014. This is ideal for those who work out as it is very small like an iPod Shuffle. However, it takes memory cards, so you can scale it to hold huge amounts of music for very little money. There are a still a lot of phones that cost hundreds of dollars that can't say that.
- TV Sticks - You remember my article from a couple of days ago, right? If not here you go: Things I Like: Amazon Fire TV Stick.
- Fitbit - I have to include my Product of the Year from 2012 the Fitbit. I still like the original Fitbit Ultra that is very cheap on Ebay. The newer models have a few bells and whistles but at nearly double the price, I'll go old school. And then there's the thing about earning a bit of free money with it. I just got my first $50 check earlier this week!
- SodaStream - I have written about it enough. I love the product. It saves me money and makes me healthier. I even bought the company's stock.
- Cheap ASUS X205TA Laptop - I got one of these for $100 at Staples' Black Friday sale. I had very low expectations, but it's been a very good, light-weight, long-battery laptop. The reviews on Amazon are very good. I don't know if I'd pay $200 for it because it's been around on many sites for $150, but that's a good price for spare/travel laptop. If my kids were a little older, I'd give it to them, but with the oldest being 26 months he's not quite composing masterpieces with the keyboard, yet.
- Shark Tank Products - Everyone loves Shark Tank, right? I have bought the Plate Topper and Scrub Daddy. We use them both almost every day. This year, I'm thinking of adding the Drop Stop. Seems like $20 is too much for it, but everyone else seems to find great value in it. I certainly feel like I have a need for it.
- LED Desk Lamp - A desk lamp doesn't seem that amazing, but collectively nearly 300 people have giving this 4.8 stars on Amazon. That's a decisively amazing product. Originally priced at $120, it is currently $38. I'll even say that it is gasp fashionable. Also, I need a desk lamp, so this is on my Christmas wishlist.
So what are your favorite gifts/gadgets to give this year? Let me know in the comments.
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