Everybody likes a good deal for Black Friday or getting a shiny new toy on Christmas morning. But I also know that between the economy, the government shutdown and just the regular old bills of everyday life, this might not be the year to spend too much on the holiday season. And maybe that can be a good thing! If we’re not putting all our focus on just buying gifts there’s more time to really think about the holiday season, family and our communities. Here are three ways to really get into the holiday spirit and pay it forward this year:
1. Make a Charitable Donation in Someone Else’s Name
Making a charitable donation to a cause you know someone cares about is a great gift. Check out JustGive.org, which has a database of 1.8 million charities to choose from. You can also buy a Charity Gift Card from them, which allows the recipient to choose the charity of their choice so that they can feel good about paying it forward too. It doesn’t have to be expensive: donation levels start at $10 and they’re also tax-deductible. Read More
Lots of people blog, of course, but some of them take it more seriously than others. So here’s our gift guide for anyone who wants to blog professionally, or at least seriously, and for bloggers already out there creating posts.
Nespresso Coffee Maker: $199 & up
You’ve probably seen those single-cup coffee makers. This is the same idea, but for espresso. And it’s delicious. And bloggers love coffee (maybe even more than normal people).
Nespresso’s currently running a promotion, so you get $100 credit toward the disposable cups of espresso. They come in many different styles, so there are many to pick from starting at $199.
If you’d like to get a gift for someone aspiring to take their blog to the next level, try a gift certificate to Moo Cards. Moo Cards are affordable business cards that look like they cost way more than they actually do. The paper’s nice, you can do rounded edges, and you can use your own photos or their design. My favorite business card source out there. 50 double-sided cards in full color starts at $19.99.
Flash Drive: $28.99
Another thing you can’t have too many of, especially when there are photos or videos involved. Usually you see flash drives in smaller amounts, like 4GB or 8GB. And those are useful, but not nearly as useful as gigantic one, like this 16GB model from Staples. They make prettier models, but when you choose function over form you get a lot more bang for your buck.
Blue Snowball USB Mic: $60.88
Podcasts and interviews are a great way for bloggers to create interesting material to engage readers. This Blue Snowball mic will let just about anyone create professional-sounding audio with just a mic and their computer. The mic works just by plugging it in via USB, with no extra setup or software.
Yes, the idea that bloggers work at coffeeshops is a stereotype. But there’s some truth to it. If nothing else, bloggers need the flexibility to work whenever and wherever. This keyboard is great for anyone doing a lot of traveling and/or mobile typing, since it rolls right up to save space, but still gives you a full keypad so you can actually write. It pairs via Bluetooth, recharges via USB, and is especially great for tablet users. $60 from Brookstone.
Frequent flyers and road warriors already have a lot of the essentials, like a light, portable laptop and most likely a tablet. But they can’t have everything, so here are a few great ideas for gadgets and accessories to make a traveler happy.
In my mind, stocking stuffers are small(ish) gifts that aren’t going to set you back more than say, $30. These are great gifts to if you have a Secret Santa or White Elephant at work, or if you just need to get a little something to say thank you to someone. Let me know what you think, and definitely leave any suggestions for additions in the comments! Also make sure to check out my other guides! I’ve got great tech gifts under $50 and great tech gifts under $100.
Have you seen this stuff? It’s blowing up on Pinterest right now. It’s kinda like the magic putty from those as-seen-on-TV commercials, except that it works and people LOVE it. Basically it’s a soft putty you can use to fix all kinds of stuff (it sticks to most metals and plastics) that will then dry and keep its shape. They call it a “self-setting rubber” but it also seems kinda like magic. From sugru.com
Foldables: $8 with holiday discount
Maybe you’re thinking, “What the heck is this thing?” and you’re right, there’s no real point other than that it’s cool. Basically, it’s like a cardboard action figure that looks just like you (or someone else). You design it, and can either present it to someone already assembled, or let them have some crafty fun putting it together. From foldables.me
Chocomize: Starting around $5
Customized chocolate bars!? Yeah, I can think of a COUPLE people who’d like to get this. You pick a chocolate bar (milk, dark, white) and then add custom candies, nuts, flavors and toppings, even gold flakes! You can make it festive, too, with Santa faces and a Merry Christmas message if you want. Best part? You can order one for everybody, or several of the same if you need a gift for lots of people (say, in your office). From chocomize.com
Tattly Temporary Tattoos: $5 and up
For the kid in your, your friends, or maybe even your actual kids. Created by amazing blogger and designer Swiss Miss, aka Tina Roth Eisenberg, Tattly.com specializes in fun, designy, temporary tattoos. Many of them are hand-drawn, and they’re all fun. They start at $5 for a set of two with free shipping anywhere in the United States. There are also gift sets done up in paper and ribbon that are $25 and come with 12 different designs. More from tattly.com
Robot Headphone Splitter: $14.50
OK, speaking of robots, there’s this headphone splitter. A headphone splitter just lets you plug 2 sets of headphones into one device, so 2 people can listen AND watch at the same time. This is a standard headphone jack, so it will work with just about any device, from your laptop to your tablet to your smartphone. Comes as a keychain to make it hard to lose! It’s $14.50 from FredFlare.com.
Touchscreen Glove Kit: $9.99
We showed you a pricier pair of touchscreen-compatible gloves in our Guide to Tech Gifts Under $50. This kit is $20 cheaper, but it’s designed to let you make your own! It comes with one pair of gloves, conductive thread, and needles to do your own sewing. Plus there’s enough thread to do a pair of gloves you already own, so it’s almost like a 2 for 1 deal. Great for someone who likes a little bit of entry-level DIY crafting. $9.99 from Brit + Co.
Here’s another completely NOT practical BUT super fun gift. Carbots are the new version of race cars! You can drive or race them, but there’s no battery-powered controler. Instead you control them right from your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch or Android phone or tablet. There’s also battle and shooting mode, if racing isn’t enough for you. Plus the cars recharge by USB, so you don’t need to buy a lifetime supply of AAA batteries. $30 or 2 for $50 from Brookstone.
This is my roundup of great gifts under $100. I hope there’s something here for everybody. And if you find this inspiring, or have questions, feel free to ask in the comments – I’m happy to try to help!
Instacanv.as: $39.99 & up
A great way to take your Instagram photos offline, either on canvas, as a framed print, prism, greeting card or iPhone case. Custom-designed iPhone cases start at $39.99, while a 16″x16″ stretched canvas is $60. If you want to give a personal, thoughtful gift, you really can’t get any more personal than this!
If you don’t feel 100% on your artistic choices, you can also choose from the photos of others as a great way to give custom art at a very reasonable price. More at instacanv.as.
Amazon Kindle: $69 & up
Most of the big-ticket gadgets, like tablets and e-readers, are well over $100. Amazingly, the basic Kindle model starts at $69 for the model with special offers, or $89 without, so it’s a great way to gift the latest tech without spending a fortune. The basic model has built-in Wi-Fi with no light, but if you want to go a little over, the Paperwhite illuminated Kindle starts at $119. Either way, you get access to all of Amazon’s ebooks, and many libraries are beginning to provide ebooks too. For more, see my hands-on video with e-readers or compare at Amazon.
Duracell Powermat: $99
The Powermat is a charging system that does double duty. First, it’s a mat you can set your phone on so it will charge wirelessly. But second, it’s a backup power source you can take with you to charge your phone. We like it so much that we hosted a party with Powermat! This is a great gift for anyone with an iPhone (prior to iPhone 5) or Samsung galaxy Siii. Trust me, they’ll use it. The complete charging system is $99 from Duracell directly.
iPad Kitchen Cabinet Mount from Belkin: $49.99
If you know anyone who cooks from their iPad, this is a great gift! There are tons of awesome cooking apps for the iPad, but if you’re in danger of getting sauce on your iPad it’s not worth it! The cabinet mount keeps your iPad up off the counter, safely and securely, at a height that makes it easy to use to the tablet as a cookbook. It’s $49.99 from Belkin, a company know for their great tech accessories. You could also pair it with these $20 iPad sleeve protectors from Brookstone that repel liquid for the whole tech-cooking package!
Eye-Fi Wireless Memory Card: $99
Sometimes it’s the little things really make you feel like you’re living in Star Trek or something. These memory cards work just like a normal SDHC card you’d put in your camera, but they use wireless connectivity to automatically send your images to your laptop, phone or tablet. In turn, that frees up more space on the memory card for more photos and videos. The Pro model is worth the slightly higher $99 price for increased storage space (16GB) and additional features like geotagging and RAW file uploads. Make sure to double check camera compatibility with Eye-Fi’s camera checker.
Little Pocket Book for iPhone 5: $59.99
The idea is pretty simple: an iPhone case combined with a wallet that works for men or women. The outside looks like a notebook, while the inside has leather in custom colors, depending on what you like. It’s handmade of leather and wood in Minnesota by Pad and Quill, and while it’s not cheap at $59.99, that’s actually not bad for a wallet AND an iPhone case in one!
Oregon Scientific Weather Station: $99
Weather stations are serious fun and are great for anyone with some outdoor space that geeks out over the weather. This weather station is advanced enough to give you plenty to fiddle with, but at $99 it costs way less than similar pro models. It does rainfall measurement, barometric pressure readings, atomic time, moon phases and more. It’s a high enough level that your lucky recipient can even become a weather station for weather underground.
Apple Magic Trackpad: $69
This is great for relieving mouse fatigue! It’s so easy to use, and takes a lot of the stress of your hands at a desktop or laptop. Generally Apple recommends these for use with desktops, but there’s no reason not to use it with your laptop too, since it easily pairs with both. A great way to avoid carpal tunnel, or at least those hand cramps.
Logitech T650 Trackpad for Windows 8: $59.99 at Staples
No reason for Mac people to be the only ones who get to skip the mouse! This trackpad is great for Windows 8, makes using the new tiled interface even easier, and recharges via USB so you can stay wireless most of the time. A really nice trackpad really is a great experience that beats even the nicest laptops, and the Logitech is one of the nicest. A great upgrade for the laptop power-user in your life.
Sony Sport Headphones: $89.99
Headphones are crazy, because you can spend anywhere from $15 to $300 on a pair. But what I like about these Sonys (the XBA-S65) is that they are water and sweat-proof! After you work out with them you can actually wash them to get the sweat off! And they’re designed to stay put, so your don’t have to spend all your workout time trying to put your earbuds back in. They may not sound quite as great as a $300 ear-covering model, but they’re still noise-canceling and are a great choice for anyone who likes to exercise.
When it comes to tech, less expensive gifts may be less obvious than the big-ticket items like laptops and tablets. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t tons of great gifts out there! Here are a few of my favorite gifts that won’t break the bank:
iPhone Cable Trigger
Here’s why this is cool: you don’t have to touch your phone to take a photo. That means if you’re taking a picture in low light, the extra stability will make the the photo less blurry. And if you’re taking a video, you won’t have the initial shakiness when you start or stop recording. And it’s only $23 from PhotoJoJo, a great price for a fun gift. Plus you can use it with the fam over the holidays!
iHome Rechargable Mini Speaker
This speaker is small, but surprisingly loud for its size! It’s rechargeable from USB, and can be used with anything that has a headphone jack, like your laptop or smartphone. It’s not going to power your home theater setup, but it’s great for both portability and price: it’s on sale right now for only $14.99 from Staples.
Custom-Printed Book from Blurb.com
Blurb specializes in helping you bring anything and everything you can imagine to life as a book. But what’s cool is that you don’t have to get 10,000 copies: you can get 1 printed as a special gift, or print up a cookbook for everybody in the family. Books are hardbound with as many pages as you like, and there’s even a feature for Instagram or Facebook photos. PERFECT for newlyweds, the grandparents, dedicated bloggers or aspiring photographers. There are tons of configurations, so the price will vary depending on what you choose, but you can make a hardcover 8×10 book starting at only $19.95.
Dual USB Outlet
So it can be hard to buy something for a gadget geek who has everything. Or seems to. That’s why this gift is great: everybody’s got devices that can charge with a USB port, but almost nobody has one built into the wall. With the right cable (that a gadget lover will already have) you can charge almost anything with this wall outlet, without a special adapter. Installation isn’t rocket science, and it’s only $24.95.
Rogue RFID-Blocking Wallet
Many credit and debit cards now come with RFID chips that let you touch to pay instead of swiping. Problem is, RFID tech is vulnerable to scammers who use special scanners to steal your credit card info from inside your wallet. So the hot new accessory is a wallet that will block those scanners, like this made in Maine Front Pocket Rogue Wallet for $40. Yes, you could just wrap everything in tin foil, but a roll of Reynolds is probably not the best holiday gift choice!
Agloves Touch Gloves
These gloves are special: they have silver in them. Thanks to the magic of physics, that means these gloves will work on any touchscreen. Plus they have small textured rubber grips to help you hold on that fancy touchscreen device so you’re not DROPPING expensive tech. The gloves are $29.99, but that’s way cheaper than replacing an iPad Mini with a busted screen!
Little Black Book iPhone Case
It’s kind of amazing that the big selling point of iPhones is how well designed they are, but then we cover them up with these cases that are anything but aesthetically pleasing. That’s why I love the Little Black Book iPhone case: it’s got the right level of design-savvy and quality to match the iPhone, and I love the Moleskine look. Plus there’s the convenient interior pocket option, plus customizable colors. It’s just NICE! $39.99 from Pad & Quill.
Streaming media in HD for under $50? Yeah, obviously a great gift, right?! The Roku Box hooks up to your TV to let you stream Hulu, Netflix, Amazon instant video, Pandora and more right to your TV. Normally the HD model is $60, but right now Roku is offering the HD box for $49.99. Unless you know somebody already has a Roku, or doesn’t have a TV, this is a great gift that can work for anybody, and doesn’t require them to pay extra fees once they have the box!
iFrogz Near Field Speaker
This speaker is another portable and affordable option that runs off either AAA batteries or USB. But what’s really cool about this particular speaker is that it uses Near Field to work wirelessly with your speakers, so all you have to do is set your phone or tablet on the speaker to play music. It’s faster and easier than bluetooth, because you don’t have to pair the device to the speaker. It’s only $24.04 on Amazon, and eligible for Amazon Prime, so no worries about this one getting here on time!
Lightning Port Adapter
Know someone that was NOT HAPPY when Apple updated their dock connector? Given how angry people were, you probably do. A great gift for that person is a Lightning to 30 Pin Adapter to make new iDevices compatible with old accessories. Think of like the tech equivalent of buying someone socks and underwear: it’s practical, it’s useful, and you can never have too many. And some people LIKE getting socks and underwear for Christmas! It’s $29 from Apple.
Cyber Monday means shopping from the comfort of your own home, without any 4AM craziness or the threat of actual physical harm. Those same stores that were offering doorbusters a couple of days ago are still offering great deals, only online.
But what’s really great about Cyber Monday is discounts from online-only retailers pressured into competing on price. They can’t do Black Friday doorbusters, so they really have to make Cyber Monday count. Make sure you check these online-only retailers: we’ve highlighted a couple of great deals from each to give you an idea of what they have to offer.
This is a great source for tech deals year-round, but the Cyber Monday deals are even better, especially laptops & monitors. Unlike a lot of retailers offering “cyber deals” all week, these sales really will end at Midnight tonight, so make sure you don’t put it off. Best bets include a 13″ Lenovo IdeaPad for $599 and a 14″ HP EliteBook for $699.
Another big name online tech, NewEgg is a great source for some of the less flashy computer needs, like peripherals, accessories and components for upgrades (like memory). It may be the tech equivalent of buying someone socks, but some people like that! Practical gifts for the tech obsessed can also be an upgrade someone would love, but wouldn’t necessarily buy for him (or her) self. Think $200 off an Acer home theater projector (now $649) or a computer speaker upgrade, like the Creative GigaWorks for $90 (usually they’re like $150).
Sure, this probably surprises no one. The thing to know here is that Amazon is running specials all week. With Amazon, always make sure to research a price, since many times Amazon is not actually the least expensive option, especially if you can find free shipping from the manufacturer or another retailer. Plus for today only, the Kindle Fire is $129, instead of $159, with code FIREDEAL. Check out our tablet buying guide if you need help deciding whether the Fire is a good bet.
Flash Sale Sites
There are a ton of these to choose from these days, but they can be a great way to find unique and interesting gifts, tech and non-tech! Some good choices include Fab, Gilt, OneKingsLane, and Woot. These sites already offer a discount on merchandise from clothing to home goods, but also have Cyber MOnday specials to compete with other more traditional retailers.
Direct from Retailers
Cyber Monday is the day to go direct to the source for deals: I covered this in article for AT&T, but basically you want to make sure you check a manufacturer’s website no matter what you’re shopping for. A good example is the Dell website, which has laptops up to 30% off the usual price and is announcing new sales every few hours as a way to recreate that “doorbuster” feeling. Accessories are discounted too – the Duracell Powermat wireless charger is 20% off with free shipping using code CyberMonday20. Lots of retailers are offering discount codes, so if there’s a product you’ve had your eye on, do a quick web search to see if you can find any bonus coupons.