The best buys for people who appreciate practical gifts
Genuinely useful products for the pragmatic people in your life.
When you’re a kid, practical gifts are the worst. Sure, you needed those pens for school, but you asked Santa for Nintendo or a Ninja Turtle, not office supplies. They might as well be vegetables. But, things are different when you’re an adult. Practical gifts become pretty great. You get useful gadgets that improve your life without having to shell out your own hard-earned cash. This carefully curated collection of products will turn you into Santa’s much more sensible brother, Tom, who brings useful, handy presents to the people in your life, as long as they appreciate the value of a good pair of tube socks.
Anker 10 Port USB Data Hub
It’s like a bus for thumb drives. Amazon
Computers are getting slimmer, but that means they’re also getting stingier with their USB ports. This 10-port dock has seven high-speed USB-3 data and charging ports, as well as three high-power 2.1 Amp charging-specific ports for faster top-offs. Not bad for a device the size of a candy bar. Note: Actual candy bars also make good gifts, but they’re not very practical.
Google Home Mini
Smarten up a stupid, idiot house. Target
Once you’re addicted to bossing around a digital assistant, you want it in every room of your house. The Google Home Mini has a built-in speaker, so it can play music, answer questions, make whale sounds, and control your smart home without taking up a lot of space on a nightstand or dresser.
Lifx A19 Smart Light Bulbs
These light bulbs have 16 million different colors. How many do yours have? One? Oh. Sorry. Amazon
There are lots of smart light bulbs on the market, but the Lifx bulb simplifies the process of upgrading. They don’t require a hub like most of the other Wi-Fi bulbs, they throw out the equivalent light of a 75-watt bulb, and best of all, they work natively with all of the different smart assistants, like Google Assistant, Alexa, and Apple HomeKit.
MagicFiber Extra Large Microfiber Cleaning Cloths
If you had to wipe Diet Coke spots off your screen to read this, probably get some for yourself, too. Amazon
Honest question: How much gunk is stuck to your computer or smartphone screen right now? It’s a lot, isn’t it? That’s OK. We’re not here to judge. We can help, though. These extra-large microfiber cloths are about the size of a hand towel and can clean the crud off just about anything with a screen or lens. It may seem like a lame gift until your recipient sees their screen in brilliant, soy-sauce-speckle-free clarity.
Maxboost tempered glass phone screen protectors
Keep your blood inside your thumbs. Amazon
There’s a specific, visceral terror with dropping your phone and picking it up only to find a fresh crack across your device’s beautiful face. These tempered glass protectors can absorb those impacts and save the giftee from obscured texts and bloody thumbs until the end of their contract. They’re self-adhesive, so applying them is simple, and you get them in packs of two so once one gets the spiderwebs treatment, you can scrape it off and slap on a new one.
Adventure Medical Kits ADS Me and My Dog First Aid Kit
You don't want to have to MacGuyver a bandage out of chewing gum and Chinese food menus. REI
Have you ever given the gift of not bleeding to death? You can with this compact, 1.5-pound first aid kit made for you and your pooch. It includes all the stuff you want in an emergency kit, including bandages, meds, and tape. But this kit also includes dog-specific stuff like a tool for removing ticks.
Mophie Charge Force Powerstation Wireless
Wireless charging works by creating a community of small magic trolls that carry the electricity from the battery to your device. Amazon
One day, we’ll all have giant battery banks built into our bodies that can wirelessly charge our gadgets using power harvested from our own movements. Until then, we’re reliant on portable battery backup. This 10,000-mAh pack—that’s about three to four times the juice in your smartphone battery—has a standard USB port, but it also has a wireless charging coil inside so you can set a compatible phone on top and let it power up without the need for a cable. That’s especially handy for people who can never find anything in their bag.
Native Union Smart 4-Port USB Charger
Everything you own needs charging. Amazon
The number of devices we need to charge each night is growing all the time, which makes boring old outlets woefully unprepared with their measly pair of AC sockets. This stylish gray box adds four high-speed USB charging ports as well as a pair of AC outlets so it can charge an entire arsenal of gadgets at once. Plus, it looks a whole lot swankier than most power strips.
Leuchtturm 1917 Hardcore Medium Dotted Journal
Maybe your friend just needs a place to practice writing the cursive Z. Boy, that thing is tricky. Amazon
It would be great if we could give our friends gifts that explicitly say, “please get your life in order,” but it’s better to do it subtly. This 249-page notebook has dotted pages, perfect for taking notes, making schedules, sketching or whatever else a person needs to organize their thoughts. It comes in a litany of different colors and lays flat so it’s easy to write in any situation.
Energizer Rechargeable AA Batteries
They're food for robots and toys. Amazon
Batteries have always been the perfect stocking stuffer, and these rechargeable AAs can power everything from a camera flash to an Xbox controller. The included charger pumps the cells full of juice in roughly five hours, and it’s compatible with AAA batteries, too, if you need something slightly smaller.
Be honest: How stiff do your muscles feel right now that we mentioned it? Sorry. Amazon
It’s not technically a gadget, but this foam tube can start the long process of undoing all the device-specific damage that your body has endured over the years. Throw this tube on the floor—it comes in lengths from 12 to 36 inches—and roll around on it, letting your tense muscles melt over it. The process hurts, but it’s a good hurt. So, the person receiving this gift will alternate between cursing your name during the stretches, and thanking you when they walk around without the laptop-induced hunching.
Do you know where your keys are now? Any chance you know where ours went? It's been like three days since we've seen them. Amazon
Not since the fart-sounds keychain from Spencer’s Gifts has a keychain been this good for giving. Tile Pro has a built-in Bluetooth connection and an alarm inside, so you can trigger it from up to 200 feet away with the app. It has a replaceable battery and is both waterproof and rugged, so it won’t break like your poor farting keychain, which worked for three days and then you sat on it. If you’ve lost your phone, you can also push a button on the Tile Pro to make your phone beep.
Shedrain Wind Pro Umbrella
It can keep you dry, but it's also good for dancing with. Amazon
Buying an umbrella when you’re already soaking wet from a rainstorm is the worst, which is why they make such great practical gifts. This hydrophobic canopy folds down to less than a foot, so it can sit in a bag or a car or desk drawer with no problem. When it’s open, however, it provides a sweet 43-inch cover to keep your giftee and that fancy new coat they got from Santa safe from the elements. A sturdy internal structure, wind vents, and a lifetime warranty make it a gift that lasts forever.
Lifeproof Lifeactiv USB-A to USB-C Cable Lanyard
Have you ever had to buy a USB cable with your own money? It's terrible and that's why it's a good gift. Amazon
That drawer full of old USB cables you and everyone else who buys a lot of gadgets has acquired is all but obsolete now that USB-C has rolled into town with its oval connector and smugly fast transfer speeds. But buying a USB cable is about as exciting as putting your money in a wood chipper, which is what makes this 15-inch cord such a great gift. It’s waterproof, dirt proof, and snow proof, so it will last forever, and it converts into a handy lanyard when it’s not in use. 3 Amp charging also promises to fill your giftees’ gadgets with juice fast, so they won’t be late next time you’re supposed to hang out because they’re waiting for their phone to charge.
Velcro One Wrap Thin Ties
The back of a desk shouldn't look like a bowl of delicious fettucini alfredo. Amazon
Most computer desks are a lot like the world of Stranger Things. On top, everything is nice and tidy, but look underneath and you’ll find a shadowy nightmare world of tangled wires and random, unplugged USB connectors. These half-inch-wide Velcro straps can get that spaghetti mess cleaned up and organized without resorting to a bunch of hard-to-cut zip ties that you’ll regret down the road.
Western Digital MyPassport Ultra Portable Hard Drive
It's like the trap from Ghost Busters, only it holds your photos and music instead of Slimers. Amazon
External hard drives are the quintessential boring useful gift. Everyone needs them to store all their photos, music, and what have you, but buying them is about as fun as paying your monthly insurance premiums. Western Digital has gussied up the outside of its MyPassport Ultra drives with a slick design that holds up to 4TB and connects via USB-C. They don’t require an external power supply, so they go anywhere. Your giftee may not specifically thank you for saving all their cherished memories when their computer crashes three years from now, but they will think it.